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Police: Body identified as missing Kingstowne woman, $40K reward offered

Police are offering a reward for help finding the suspect in Kingstowne resident Hannah Choi’s death (via Fairfax County Police Department/Facebook)

The body found in a Maryland park on Thursday (March 24) was that of 35-year-old Hannah Choi, Fairfax County police confirmed today (Monday).

Police are still looking for Joel Mosso Merino, 27, of Alexandria, who was her ex-boyfriend and has been identified as the primary suspect in the murder investigation.

Choi’s sister, Minna Choi, said at the press conference that the family was relieved they can at least get some closure.

“I always knew my sister was a social butterfly,” Minna Choi said. “She had so many friends and connections and really the past couple weeks have really shown us particularly how much of an impact she had on…people’s lives around her.”

Amid tears, she said they will remember Hannah Choi as someone who was strong, brave, and dedicated to helping others.

“Merino needs to be caught,” Fairfax County police Maj. Ed O’Carroll said, adding that the suspect “fled like a coward.”

Police announced a $40,000 reward for information that leads to Merino’s whereabouts and arrest. The reward money is supported by donations from Choi’s loved ones.

The body was found by a passerby after a search by authorities of Piscataway Park, Maryland, which is across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon.

Choi was last seen March 5 at her home in Kingstowne and reported missing a day after, according to police. Since then, authorities have been trying to locate Merino, who was seen in Atlanta, Georgia, at one point.

The Fairfax County Police Department has obtained warrants for Merino with charges of second-degree murder and felony disposal of human remains.

Merino was supposed to be on a flight from Reagan National Airport on March 8 to California. Police waited at the airport, but the seat went unoccupied.

Police said they found evidence in a car in D.C. that suggested Choi was harmed. Search dogs helped canvass the park, and authorities searched more than 800 acres of the park on March 11 and 14.

People with information about Choi’s disappearance or knowledge of Merino’s whereabouts can contact detectives at 703-246-7800, option 2. Anonymous tips can be sent to 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text, or on the web.

“He could be anywhere,” O’Carroll said. “He could have left the country. All options are on the table.”

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