News

JUST IN: Man sentenced to life in prison for 2016 killings of Springfield couple

Fairfax County Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Life in prison awaits the man responsible for the 2016 killings of 22-year-old Springfield residents Kedest Simeneh and Henok Yohannes.

Alexandria resident Yohannes Nessibu, 29, was sentenced to life in prison today (Friday) after being convicted of first-degree murder and manslaughter for shooting the couple during a drug deal, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced.

Nessibu was convicted on Aug. 31 of murdering Simeneh, a charge that resulted in the life sentence. He was also given a 10-year prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter in Yohannes’s death, for which he was convicted in March.

An additional 8-year sentence was handed down for two charges of using a firearm in commission of a felony. All of the sentences were the “maximum penalty for each of the charges,” according to Descano’s office.

“The families of Kedest and Henok have faced a great tragedy with the loss of their children and siblings at a young age,” Descano said in a statement. “Their trauma has only been exacerbated by the unusual length of this case, which progressed for seven years due to the need for international extradition, separate trials, and the pandemic.”

According to prosecutors, a group that included Nessibu and Simeneh went to Yohannes’s home in Springfield on the night of Dec. 22, 2016 to buy marijuana.

Prosecutors showed during trial that after a dispute over payment, Nessibu shot Yohannes twice in the back of the head, killing him. He then fled the scene with the same group and shot Kedest Simeneh later that night, leaving her body outside a Burke residence. Evading investigators, Nessibu flew to Ethiopia the next morning, where he remained until he was extradited in 2019.

A Fairfax County grand jury indicted Nessibu in March 2017, but police weren’t able to get custody of him until May 3, 2019.

Simeneh and Yohannes were dating at the time of their deaths and both attended Northern Virginia Community College. A health care worker, Simeneh was described by her family as “quick to give hugs, funny and generous,” while Yohannes had been “a soccer star” at West Springfield High School and aspired to open his own business, the Washington Post reported in 2017.

Descano called Nessibu’s sentencing today “a just outcome for the community.”

“Now that this case has come to a close, I hope that the families are able to begin the path towards healing,” he said.