Amid concerns that a steady stream of anti-Muslim rhetoric from President Donald Trump has fostered an increased atmosphere of hate and a spike in Islamophobic attacks, police in Fairfax County, Virginia say they believe the female body found in a pond Sunday afternoon is that of a 17-year-old Muslim teenager who was assaulted and disappeared hours earlier while walking with a group of friends.
Outlets differed somewhat on the events leading up to the attack, but according to the Fairfax Times, the victim went missing just after 4am on Sunday "after leaving an overnight prayer event at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling."
On Sunday several outlets reported that police were investigating whether there was a "possible hate-crime motivation," but the Fairfax County Police Department issued a tweet Monday morning saying the case is "NOT" being investigated as a hate crime.
Twenty-two-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling, Va. was arrested Sunday in connection with the murder, the police announced. NBC Washington reports that he appeared in court Monday and has been charged with murder.
Police have not yet released the name of the victim, but she has been identified by community members and relatives as Nabra Hassanen from the town of Reston. At roughly 4am, NBC Washington writes, she
and her friends were headed to an all-night prayer session at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center after getting food when they got into a dispute with a man in a car. The man got out of his car, assaulted the victim, and she became separated from her friends.
A press statement from the ADAMS Center adds:
Community members came across the group and directed them to ADAMS Center. Immediately thereafter, the ADAMS' personnel notified both Loudon County and Fairfax County authorities who immediately began an extensive search to locate the missing girl.
"We call on law enforcement to investigate and determine the motive of this crime and prosecute to the full extent of the law," the center said.
The Washington Post reports on a heartbreaking scene Sunday night in Nabra's apartment, where, absent its normal laughter, sobs of 30 women were heard, including that of her mother, Gazzar. "I lost my daughter, my first reason for happiness," Gazzar said on the phone in Arabic to her brother and sister in her native Egypt.
Nabra, the news outlet reports, "didn't typically wear traditional Muslim clothes," but on Sunday morning was wearing an abaya, an outer garment worn by some Muslim women, that she borrowed from her mother.
The Post continues:
The night before, Gazzar had cooked a feast for Nabra, the oldest of her four daughters, who wanted to host a big iftar break-the-fast dinner for all her friends from ADAMS and South Lakes High School, where she just finished 10th grade.
The iftar was packed—Nabra was always popular and sociable. And when it ended, a friend's mom drove some of the teens to ADAMS for the midnight prayers that mark the last 10 days of Ramadan.
A crowdfunding page has been set up to help the family. As of this writing, it has raised $153,966, surpassing its $150,000 goal.
The attack occurred as a man in London plowed his van into a group Muslim worshipers outside a mosque, killing at least one person and injuring at least ten others.