A man is facing the death penalty after he was charged with raping and murdering a Muslim teenager as she was heading to a mosque with friends.
Darwin Torres, 22, attacked 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen and a group of her friends in Sterling, Virginia, after they had eaten a meal together following a day-long fast during Ramadan.
Torres was indicted on charges of the abduction with intent to defile, first degree murder and rape of Hassanen in June.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh told reporters he intended to seek the death penalty, but declined to talk further as the case was pending, according to The Washington Post.
According to reports, Torres got into an argument with one of the teenagers in the group after they left IHOP, a pancake restaurant, and were returning to a mosque.
As the group of 15 fled, he chased them in his car.
In a car park, he got out and caught Hassanen, reportedly hitting her with a baseball bat.
Torres allegedly took Hassanen and drove away to the next county, where he assaulted her again, killed her and dumped her body in a pond.
When he returned to the scene of the abduction, one of the teenagers spotted him and called the police, who detained him just after 5am.
Torres led police to the place where he had dumped Hassanen’s body later that day,
Following concerns that Hassanen had been abducted due to her being a Muslim, local police said at the time: "Our investigation at this point in no way indicates the victim was targeted because of her race or religion."
Vigils for Hassanen were held across the US. Hundreds of supporters wearing "Justice for Nabra" T-shirts appeared at Torres’ preliminary hearing last week.
The hearing had first been delayed by about an hour as police reportedly had to restrain the victims’ parents from rushing at Torres, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
When the court resumed, Torres waived his right to a preliminary hearing. The case was sent to a grand jury, which returned with an eight-count indictment against him.
His trial is the first death penalty case in Fairfax County since 2011.
Torres had been reported to the police a week before he killed Hassanen by a woman who accused him of sexual assault, but she decided not to pursue charges.