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The Justice Department logo (via DOJ)

A 29-year-old man from Mount Vernon could face life in prison after pleading guilty to transporting a teen for sexual purposes, the Department of Justice announced yesterday.

Apipat Vutipawat pleaded guilty last Thursday (Nov. 10) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to charges that, from May 29, 2020 through June 2, 2020, he transported an unidentified minor from Virginia to Pennsylvania “with the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

According to the Observer-Reporter, Vutipawat was arrested on May 14, 2020 in Pennsylvania’s Richhill Township after police found him in a vehicle with a 14-year-old girl who said he was her boyfriend. He had allegedly met the girl through a dating app and faced multiple local assault charges.

Vutipawat pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assault in Washington County Court and was sentenced to over three years in prison on Jan. 14, according to court records.

Vutipawat was indicted on three federal charges in March 2021, including traveling with the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct, transportation with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and obstruction of justice.

With his guilty plea, he faces a total sentence between at least 10 years and life in prison, a fine of up to $750,000, or both, according to the DOJ.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on March 16, 2023.

“Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant,” the DOJ news release said. “Pending sentencing, Vutipawat remains detained.”

The department says the case was part of its national Project Safe Childhood initiative, which started in May 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. The Fairfax County Police Department joined the investigation with federal, state and local law enforcement in Pennsylvania.

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Kimball Bryant Winn, arrested for possession of child pornography (photo via City of Falls Church)

(Updated 4:25 p.m.) The City of Falls Church Police announced earlier this week that they’d arrested a man on five counts of Possession of Child Pornography.

Kimball Bryant Winn (64) was arrested on Sept. 9 as the result of an investigation by a task force comprised of Falls Church police and Virginia State Police, according to the release.

“The City of Falls Church Police Criminal Investigation Division began investigating the suspect after receiving a cyber-tip from the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC Internet Crimes Against Children (NOVA-DC ICAC) Task Force about possible crimes involving child pornography. During the execution of the search warrant at the suspect’s residence on August 31, 2022, multiple digital devices were forensically previewed and child pornography was located,” the release stated.

The items were seized and the investigation into the suspect’s online activities is ongoing.

Anyone with information related to the investigation is asked to contact the City of Falls Church Police Department at 703-241-5050.

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The Fairfax County Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A man who sexually abused children for years at a home day care in Annandale has been sentenced to life in prison, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced today (Friday).

Elwood Lewis Thomas, a 38-year-old man from Alexandria, will serve four life sentences and an additional 36 years in prison after being convicted last year on multiple counts of rape, aggravated sexual battery, and sexual penetration with an object, according to Descano’s office.

“We asked that Mr. Thomas be sentenced to life in prison because of his abhorrent history of sexually abusing children,” Descano said in a statement. “My thoughts are with these children and their families as they begin the journey of healing.

Fairfax County police arrested Thomas in September 2019 and charged him with abusing three kids while they attended Happy Land Daycare from 2006 to 2010. The day care operated in the 6400 block of Holyoke Drive from approximately 1999 to 2012, the police department said at the time.

According to police, Thomas had been employed at the day care and was living in the house between 1999 and 2012. The children were between 4 and 8 years old at the time of the abuse, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney says.

Thomas had previously been arrested for molesting a girl at the day care in June 2012. The girl, then 14, alleged that Thomas had inappropriately touched her on multiple occasions when she was 11 or 12, The Washington Post reported at the time.

For that case, Thomas was convicted in 2013 of aggravated sexual battery of a child under 13. The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney says he was sentenced to eight years in prison, but seven years were suspended, and he was ordered to spend 20 years on probation.

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A Fairfax County police car with lights flashing (file photo)

(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Fairfax County police arrested a 22-year-old man yesterday evening (Wednesday) after he allegedly tried to abduct a kid in Lincolnia’s Crystal Woods apartment complex.

Identified as Kevin Moran-Perez from Centreville, the man approached three kids playing near an apartment building in the 5000 block of Caryn Court, the Fairfax County Police Department reported today (Thursday).

According to police, the man showed a knife and grabbed one of the kids, a pre-teen, by the hand. The kid was able to break free, and all three ran away with no injuries.

The FCPD says officers who responded to the scene at 4:23 p.m. found Moran-Perez nearby and arrested him. Charged with assault and possession of a drug, he’s currently being detained without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

The father of the girl who was grabbed told WUSA9 that she had just returned home from school when the man approached the group and took her by the arm and backpack.

The police department is still investigating the case. Community members can contact its detectives at 703-256-8035 or through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

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Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

A counselor at Glasgow Middle School in Lincolnia has been fired after Fairfax County Public Schools officials learned he was convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor, Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a letter to families.

While not named in the letter, which went out on Aug. 18, FCPS identified the counselor in a statement to media as Darren Thornton, as previously reported by FOX5, NBC4, and WTOP.

“Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been informed that while Darren Thornton was working at one of our schools he was convicted of solicitation of prostitution from a minor outside of Fairfax County,” the school system wrote. “He was already an FCPS employee at the time of his arrest and subsequent conviction. He has been relieved of all duties, dismissed, and will not be returning.”

A spokesperson told FFXnow that the statement had been shared “with media” who requested one on July 28. FCPS didn’t immediately respond to follow up questions about when exactly Thorton was fired.

It’s also unclear how long he was employed by FCPS, but he was mentioned by Glasgow’s student newspaper in a February 2021 post expressing appreciation for the school’s counselors.

FCPS didn’t confirm where the crime and conviction occurred beyond that it was not in Fairfax County.

There’s no indication at this time that any Fairfax County children or students were involved, according to Reid.

In her letter, Reid says she and the Fairfax County School Board took action to dismiss Thornton as soon as they learned about the situation. FCPS is now petitioning the state to revoke his license, and Reid has commissioned an outside legal counsel to conduct an independent investigation.

The school board has directed Reid to deliver an “accountability report with a timely corrective action plan so that this never again occurs within FCPS,” she said.

“There is no higher priority than the safety of our students and, on behalf of the School Board and myself, I want to make this very clear: this entire situation is unacceptable from any perspective,” Reid said. “We are deeply concerned about how this happened in one of our schools.”

Reid said anyone with concerns or information can contact the FCPS Office of Safety and Security’s safety tip line or the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131.

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Morning Notes

Sun shines through tree leaves in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Man Dies After Fairfax City Crash — “A 32-year-old Maryland man died from injuries he received when the motorcycle he was riding Monday afternoon collided with an SUV on Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax City, according to a police release.” [Patch]

Suspect in Fatal Springfield Stabbing Extradited — “This evening, Jose Heber Hernandez Mejia was extradited back to Fairfax County from South Carolina. He’s charged with 2nd degree murder for the July 17 domestic-related stabbing in the 5200 block of Rolling Rd. Hernandez Mejia was held on no bond.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Arrests Made in Child Solicitation Sting — “Six men ranging in ages from 26 to 43 were arrested by Fairfax County Police as part of an online sting to identify and apprehend predators seeking to exploit children using the internet, according to a police brief.” [Patch]

Food Stolen From Mount Vernon Daycare — “Officers were called to the KinderCare at 4287 Buckman Road early Monday morning for a burglary that occurred over the weekend. When officers learned thousands of dollars worth of food was stolen from the center, they quickly jumped into action to ensure the kids wouldn’t go hungry by purchasing breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Virginia Sees Bump in Pro-Choice License Plates — “Pro-life and pro-choice license plates aren’t new to Virginia: The commonwealth has issued ‘Choose Life’ plates since 2009 and ‘Trust Women. Respect Choice.’ since 2010…Since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, though, more people are buying pro-choice plates.” [Washingtonian]

Fire Department Enlists Starbucks for Backpack Drive — “#FCFRD is partnering with select local @Starbucks stores to collect backpacks for underprivileged children. Backpacks will be given to local schools in #FairfaxCounty for distribution. Backpacks will be collected until August 12. Please donate a new backpack today!” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Metro Seeks to Add More Trains — Metro is seeking permission to operate more of the 7000-series trains that were sidelined late last year after a derailment in Arlington, according to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. The transit agency is currently permitted to run 64 cars, or eight trains, per day, as long as their wheels are inspected daily. [The Washington Post]

State Legislators Consider Changes to Recall Process — “Activists in Virginia are increasingly turning to the state’s court-driven recall process to try to take out their frustrations on local officials they feel have done something wrong…The fact that the recalls almost never work doesn’t seem to be stopping the trend, but it’s causing some lawmakers to rethink a system that empowers judges, not voters, to decide when politicians deserve to be kicked out of office early.” [Virginia Mercury/Inside NoVA]

“American Idol” Winner to Take Wolf Trap Stage — “Her victory on Season 3 of ‘American Idol’ made her a household name. Now, Fantasia Barrino is bringing her signature sound to Wolf Trap in Virginia on Aug. 19.” [WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Rain starting in the afternoon. High of 88 and low of 77. Sunrise at 6:19 am and sunset at 8:11 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Police leave the Fairfax County Courthouse (file photo)

(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) A Fairfax man who once served as a youth leader at the Saint Matthews United Methodist Church in Annandale has been arrested for multiple alleged sexual assaults of a teenager, the Fairfax County Police Department said today (Thursday).

Thomas Weaver, 61, was arrested yesterday (Wednesday) and has been charged with five counts of indecent liberties of a minor by a custodian as well as 20 counts of possession of child pornography, the FCPD announced.

According to police, Weaver led youth activities at Saint Matthews periodically since joining the church at 8617 Little River Turnpike in 2001, but he hasn’t held that leadership position since 2020, when the assaults allegedly occurred.

“On multiple occasions since 2020, Weaver coerced the victim to meet him in a secluded area in Annandale,” the FCPD said. “Once there, Weaver sexually assaulted the victim.”

Per the news release, police were alerted to the assaults last month by a family member of the victim. Fairfax County detectives deployed a search warrant for Weaver’s residence yesterday and found “numerous images of child pornography,” leading to his arrest.

“Saint Matthews United Methodist Church has been fully cooperating with the police on this matter,” police said. “The church also notified the Fairfax County Child Protective Services with concerns about Weaver.”

The church contacted CPS about Weaver about 10 days ago, according to St. Matthews spokesperson Paul Steidler, who sent a statement to FFXnow:

St. Matthew’s UMC is saddened and deeply troubled by this event. Our fervent prayers and heartfelt concerns go out to those directly impacted by the situation and for whom this is a troubling, triggering event.

St Matthew’s UMC is fully cooperating with law enforcement on this important matter. We urge anyone who may be able to aid law enforcement on this case, or who knows of any inappropriate actions towards children, to immediately contact law enforcement.

St. Matthew’s UMC has rigorous child protection policies and is completely committed to having a safe and secure environment for all children.

The FCPD says detectives haven’t identified Weaver’s previous sites of employment yet, but they believe there could be additional victims, since he might have worked as a youth leader at other churches in the past.

The department asks anyone with information about the case, including if they or their child could be a victim, to call its Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be sent anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

Weaver is currently being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond.

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Morning Notes

The front entrance to Capital One’s headquarters in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

What to Know About Covid Vaccines for Young Kids — If recommended by the CDC and Virginia Department of Health, COVID-19 vaccines will be available from the Fairfax County Health Department with no appointments needed. Parents should contact their medical provider to see if they will carry the vaccines, which may be harder to find at pharmacies due to a state law that prohibits pharmacists from giving vaccinations to kids younger than 3. [FCHD]

Friends Stunned by Fair Lakes Shooting Deaths — “Now those who knew them are left to reconcile the image of three bodies with memories of an outwardly cheerful trio…who seemed to be always up for a boisterous evening out, for the karaoke nights they enjoyed at Fairfax bars, at Fat Tuesday’s and the Auld Shebeen.” [The Washington Post]

Mosaic District Restaurant Helps Worker After Crash — The Greek restaurant Our Mom Eugenia is helping share a fundraiser for an employee after her daughter was critically injured in last week’s fatal crash in Oakton. The business operator says Katya is “doing well” after being hit by a car while walking home from Oakton High School with her cousin and friend. [NBC4]

Annandale House Fire Started by Lights — Fairfax County fire investigators have determined that a house fire in the 3900 block of Terrace Drive on Saturday (June 11) was started accidentally “by an electrical event involving outdoor string lights” on the backyard deck. The fire displaced seven people and caused approximately $125,000 in damages. [FCFRD]

Victim Says County Prosecutors “Pressured” Her Into Plea Deal — “Julie, not her real name, said she’s been traumatized. First, by a manipulating online predator. Then, by the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.” [ABC7]

Prepare for Change at Springfield Town Center — “PREIT CEO Joe Coradino said his eye is on reshaping the property into something that more closely resembles its title as a town center, with a greater mix of uses. The introduction of additional components, including the planned Lego Discovery Center and seven-story hotel will help further that aim, he said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Historic Reston Distillery Gets Spotlight — “Thank you Virginia Department of Heritage Resources for promoting #Reston landmark A. Smith Bowman Distillery on #NationalBourbonDay! Read about the only legal whiskey distillery in Virginia in its day, which operated until the 1950s” [Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Restaurant Crawl Coming to Fairfax City on Saturday — The Old Town Fairfax City Summer Crawl is a timed, self-guided tour through participating restaurants, which will offer exclusive small plates and drinks from their menus. The free event will unfold from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., letting patrons “support local restaurants…while enjoying a variety of bites and beverages.” [Fairfax City EDA]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 85 and low of 69. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Passing the pedestrian bridge over Route 50 in Seven Corners (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Victim of Bailey’s Crossroads Crash Identified — Gladis Suyapa Deras, 54, of Falls Church died in a two-vehicle crash outside Skyline Plaza on Tuesday (May 24), police confirmed. Investigators say the occupants of the other vehicle initially ran from the scene, and one of them was arrested for allegedly being drunk in public. [FCPD]

Herndon Man Arrested for Sexual Battery of Minor — “Town of Herndon Police arrested a 53-year-old Herndon man in connection with the aggravated sexual battery of a juvenile victim who was known to him, according to the weekly crime report. Police arrested Jenaro Alberto Hernandez Jovel on May 6 for an incident that occurred in the 500 block of Florida Avenue, according to police.” [Patch]

FCPS Releases Data on New TJ Class — Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s Class of 2026 will have 550 students as the second accepted under the revised admissions process. Asian students ticked up to 60%, as did low-income students (33%), while Hispanic students dropped slightly (8%) and white and Black students stayed level (21% and 6%). [The Washington Post]

Fairfax Senator Drops Support for Football Stadium — State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34) doesn’t intend to vote for a $1 billion plan that he supported in January to bring a new Washington Commanders stadium to Virginia. He says he no longer believes the NFL team “will be good for business,” citing sexual harassment and financial misconduct allegations as well as its name change. [WUSA9]

Kingstowne Chick-fil-A Opens — “The Chick-fil-A in Kingstowne will be opening Thursday morning, the restaurant has announced…The restaurant is near the intersection of South Van Dorn and Kingstowne Boulevard, at 5808 Kingstowne Center. Hours will be 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.” [Alexandria Living]

Firefighters Meet People Helped in Route 7 Crash — “On April 2, a serious two-car crash occurred on Leesburg Pike. 2 adults and a child were trapped in back of one car w/serious injuries. Recently, units who responded to the incident had the pleasure of hosting them. #FCFRD are happy they are doing well & were grateful for visit.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Park Authority Summer Hiring Underway — The Fairfax County Park Authority will offer a few new benefits this year to summer employees, including $100 sign-up and retention bonuses and free access to all rec centers for the season. Hiring events are scheduled at The Water Mine in Reston and the Providence Rec Center in West Falls Church. [FCPA]

Dinosaur Encounter Opens in Centreville — “Dinosaurs are returning from extinction with The Jurassic Encounter in Northern Virginia. The outdoor walk-through dinosaur exhibit is the first of its kind at the Bull Run Events Center, home of the Annual Bull Run Festival of Lights, now through May 30 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.” [WTOP]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 70 and low of 59. Sunrise at 5:50 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The Lake Accotink dam in Springfield (staff photo by David Taube)

A 42-year-old man from Lorton faces criminal charges after allegedly sexually assaulting a kid at Lake Accotink Park, the Fairfax County Police Department announced today (Wednesday).

According to police, Louis C. Allen approached the victim at a playground in the park (7500 Accotink Park Road) around 6 p.m. on Saturday (May 21). He “unlawfully touched” her multiple times, first while talking to her in the play area and again after following her into the water when she left to avoid him.

“The victim advised family members of the assault,” the FCPD said. “When family members confronted the man, the suspect got into a vehicle and left the area.”

The assault was reported to police that day, and the family was able to provide identifying information on the man using cell phone footage, including the registration number for his vehicle, according to the FCPD.

FCPD detectives obtained a warrant for aggravated sexual battery and arrested Allen yesterday (Tuesday) with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service. Allen was also served with three outstanding warrants: two counts of failure to appear and one for simple assault against a family member.

Allen is currently being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond.

The FCPD says anyone who might have information about the case or any other incidents of inappropriate sexual contact involving Allen can contact its Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted to Fairfax County Crime Solvers.

“Victim advocates from our Major Crimes Bureau’s Victim Services Division have been assigned to this case to ensure the victim’s family is receiving appropriate resources and assistance,” the police department said.

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