Human remains discovered by a drainage ditch in Tysons over two decades ago have been linked to a teen who went missing back in 1975, Fairfax County police announced today (Monday).
With help from the private forensics lab Othram Inc., cold case detectives have identified the remains found behind the Post apartments in 2001 as those of Patricia Agnes Gildawie, a Fairfax City resident who disappeared when she was 17.
Also known by the nickname “Choubi,” Gildawie was last seen on Feb. 8, 1975. At that time, she had been dating an older man who worked at an upholstery store near the intersection of Church Street and Lawyers Road in Vienna, the Fairfax County Police Department says based on information shared by her half-sister.
According to the department, Gildawie was born in France in February 1958 before coming to the U.S. when she was 8 months old. She moved to Fairfax in the early 1970s and was known to drive a white Cadillac Eldorado with red interior.
The skeletal remains now identified as Gildawie’s were found on Sept. 27, 2001, in the 1500 block of Lincoln Circle by a construction crew, according to police:
A construction crew found the remains behind an apartment complex along with some clothing. The remains were recovered and reviewed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and an anthropologist. This initial review determined the female died from a gunshot wound to the head. This report further indicated the remains were like that of an African American female in her late teens to early 20s.
Detectives partnered with Othram on the case earlier this year, thanks to funding from anonymous donors through the site DNASolves.
Othram’s advanced DNA testing and forensic-grade genome sequencing determined that the remains, in fact, belonged to a Caucasian woman and identified Gildawie’s half-sister as a possible relative, according to the FCPD.
“Identifying this young woman solves a mystery that has been more than 47 years in the making,” Ed O’Carroll, FCPD’s Bureau Commander of Major Crimes and Cyber and Forensics, said. “Our community should take comfort in knowing that our detectives never stop working these cases. Advancements in technology have given my Cold Case detectives an opportunity to pursue fresh leads and bring some relief to families that have been long suffering with the unknown.”
The department says its detectives are continuing to investigate Gildawie’s case using the new information provided by her family.
Information about the case can be submitted anonymously to police through Fairfax County Crime Solvers.
The FCPD has partnered with Othram to investigate several cold cases recently, including the mystery of the “Christmas Tree Lady” who died by suicide in Annandale in 1996.
Huntington House Fire Displaces Six — Fairfax County and Alexandria City firefighters responded to a house fire in the 2500 block of Massey Court at 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday (July 6). Started accidentally in “an electrical event involving the attic fan,” the blaze displaced six residents and caused approximately $134,500 in damages, though no injuries were reported. [FCFRD]
Body, Possibly of Missing Man, Found in Newington — “Fairfax County Police say they found a body inside a car thought to belong to a man missing since May. According to officials, 53-year-old Juan Ward from Woodbridge, Virginia, was last seen on May 24…Police said Ward disappeared under unusual circumstances.” [WUSA9]
Dulles Airport Lands Funding for New Concourse — “Dulles International Airport will receive $49.6 million to help fund a new regional airline concourse, among 85 airports receiving part of a nearly $1 billion grant stemming from last year’s infrastructure bill approved by Congress…The funding puts Dulles one step closer to construction of a new Concourse A, which serves United Airlines’ regional flights.” [WTOP]
Supervisors Approve Extra Taxi Surcharge — “As fuel prices remain high, the Fairfax Board of Supervisors in late June approved a temporary uncodified ordinance that provides an emergency $2-per-trip taxicab fuel surcharge through Dec. 29.” [Inside NoVA]
Fairfax County to Overhaul Development Process — The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on July 19 to consider changes to its site-specific plan amendment (SSPA) process, which is used for development proposals that require altering the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Proposed revisions focus on shortening the timeline and taking a more targeted approach to public engagement. [Annandale Today]
Superintendent Michelle Reid Makes Introduction — “After several months of preparation and a six-day, cross-country drive, I wanted to reach out and share again how excited I am to be here in Fairfax County and to be part of the Fairfax County Public Schools family!” [FCPS]
What to Do in the Town of Vienna — “Vienna sits in the shadow of its bigger neighbor Tysons Corner. But don’t let the town’s low profile fool you: Its cornucopia of shops, events, and restaurants make Vienna a worthwhile day-trip destination.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Frying Pan Fair Returns — Fairfax County’s 4-H Fair and Carnival will be back at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon on Aug. 7. The event will feature carnival rides, games, food trucks, a Big Truck Night and farm demonstrations. A list of food vendors and other details will be released in the coming weeks. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 85 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:52 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]
Criminal Case for Bijan Ghaisar Shooting Ends — The Justice Department won’t reopen a federal investigation into two U.S. Park Police officers who fatally shot McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar in 2017. Ghaisar’s family called the decision “a betrayal,” but it will allow their civil lawsuit that has been pending since October 2020 to move forward. [WTOP, The Washington Post]
Police Look for Man Reported Missing — “53YO Juan Ward last seen at 12:47pm on May 25 in 12500 blk of Dillingham Sq. in Woodbridge. 5’11”, 185lbs, black/grey hair, brown eyes, wearing a long-sleeve grey sweatshirt. Missing under unusual circumstances. Call 703-691-2131 w/info.” [FCPD/Twitter]
Two Rescued from Vehicle Crash on I-95 — “Approximately 3 a.m. [Saturday], units were on scene of a one vehicle crash, I-95 NB prior to Telegraph Rd. Rescue Squads 426 and 411 extricated two patients who were heavily entrapped in a pick up truck. Fire Department, City of Alexandria, VA assisted. Transported w/ non-life-threatening injuries.” [FCFRD/Facebook]
Seven Displaced by Annandale House Fire — “At 3:09 a.m., units dispatched for a house fire in the 3900 block of Terrance Drive, Annadale. Units arrived with fire showing. Multiple occupants were removed or assisted from the home by #FCFRD. No reported injuries. 7 displaced.” [FCFRD/Twitter]
FCPD Continues Oakton Crash Site Investigation — “On Thursday morning, Fairfax County Police returned to the scene of a deadly crash involving seven Oakton High students. They said they came back to do more investigating to make sure they give the commonwealth’s attorney the evidence he needs to decide on charges.” [ABC7]
Armed Robbery Reported in Tysons — “1700 block of Tysons Central Street, 6/8/22, 2:44 a.m. Four men approached the victim when he exited his taxi. Two men displayed firearms, took property, and fled the area in a vehicle.” [FCPD]
Annandale School Starts Principal Search — “Annandale Terrace parents will soon have an opportunity to participate in the selection process for a new principal. The current principal, Lisa Pilson, will start a new job July 1 as director of early childhood curriculum and grants management with Fairfax County Public Schools.” [Annandale Today]
Lifeguard Shortage Not an Issue in Reston — As of Wednesday (June 8), Reston Assocation has managed to hire 186 lifeguards for its swimming pools, a number it didn’t meet last year until September. While many pools across the country have struggled to find staff, RA says it retained 71% of lifeguards from last year and will continue hiring through the season to prepare for next year. [Patch]
It’s Monday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 85 and low of 72. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]
Family of Slain Alexandria Man Urge FCPD to Resume Search — Family members and friends of Ahmed Hasheem Ebrahim called on Fairfax County police yesterday (Thursday) to resume searching for his body at a landfill in King George County. Police believe Ebrahim was killed in an attempted robbery in Lincolnia and have arrested and charged two people in connection with his disappearance in mid-January. [The Washington Post]
FCPD Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Allowed to Advance — “A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a lawsuit against two former police officers accused of protecting a sex trafficking ring in northern Virginia in exchange for sex can move forward…The lawsuit is filed on behalf of a Costa Rican woman identified in court papers only as Jane Doe.” [WTOP]
Local Groups Call for Lockheed Blvd Improvements — “Together, the leaders expressed appreciation for the county’s proposal to add standard bike lanes along the roadway near Huntley Meadows Park but insisted that protected bike lanes or a cycle track were necessary to ensure cyclist safety.” [On the MoVe]
New I-66 Express Lanes on Track to Open This Year — “Although VDOT has not given an exact date yet, spokesperson Michelle Holland tells 7 News that as long as the weather does not cause major construction delays, the new express lanes should open some time in December at the latest. Construction on the lanes has now been going on more than four years.” [ABC7]
Nearby: Landmark Mall Demolition Begins — “After two decades of Landmark Mall redevelopment being just out of reach, city officials and developers alike let out wild roars of satisfaction as the wrecking ball crashed into the side of the building…There’s still a long way to go before the first buildings of the new hospital and mixed-use development start coming online — currently slated for 2026.” [ALXnow]
Man Pushing Stroller Hit by Vehicle in Vienna — A pedestrian told police that he was knocked to the ground by a vehicle while pushing his child in a stroller past the Chick-fil-A parking lot at 538 Maple Avenue W on April 27. According to the Vienna Police Department’s weekly recap, the driver attempted to talk to the pedestrian, who left the scene but later reported the incident. [Vienna Police]
Local Foster Parent Awarded — “Congratulations to Sue Christenson! She’s been recognized as the 2022 Fairfax County Foster Parent of the Year by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). Sue has been a foster parent for nearly 15 years, and she is happily spending her golden years giving precious children a new beginning.” [Fairfax County Government/YouTube]
Lunar Eclipse May Be Visible Sunday — “The first of two total lunar eclipses visible to Virginia and DC residents in 2022 occurs Sunday night into Monday and will turn May’s full flower moon blood red. Oh, and it’s also a supermoon — depending on whom you ask.” [Patch]
It’s Friday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 58. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:14 pm. [Weather.gov]
Filler-Corn Ousted as House Minority Leader — Tasked with trying to retake a majority in 2023 — or this year, pending the outcome of a court case — the Virginia House Democratic Caucus removed former Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn as their leader in a secret ballot vote yesterday (Wednesday). Filler-Corn, who represents part of Fairfax County as the 41st District delegate, was the first woman and first Jewish person to serve as speaker in the chamber’s 400-year history. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Tysons Housing Project Lands Big Bucks — On Tuesday (May 3), officials from Fairfax County, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, and more will announce a $55 million investment in the Dominion Square West project. The county says the funds will allow APAH to construct two planned buildings, instead of just the one that has been approved, accelerating the delivery of over 500 units of affordable housing. [Fairfax County HCD]
Herndon Police on Lookout for Missing Teen — “Town of Herndon Police are asking the public’s help in locating a runaway teenager, according to a post on the department’s office Twitter account. Bryan Escalante Gomez, 17, was last seen by his family at 7:45 p.m., on Sunday.” [Patch]
FCPS Updates Covid Isolation Policy — “In a message to families Wednesday, Fairfax County Public Schools said that starting May 1, students who test positive can return to in-person classes, activities and sporting events after at least five days of isolation. Previously, 10 days of isolation were required.” [WTOP]
Vienna Lowers Tax Rate — “The Vienna Town Council voted [on Monday, April 25] to reduce the Town’s property tax rate by 1.75 cents to 20.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The new rate is .75 cents lower than the one cent reduction in the proposed FY2023 budget presented by the Town Manager in March.” [Town of Vienna]
Huntington Gets New Latino Supermarket — “There’s a new grocery store in the area. Juana Supermarket officially opened its doors on Saturday (April 23). The new store replaced the La Latina Market at 5838 N. King’s Highway in the Huntington Station Shopping Center.” [ALXnow]
Summer Music Series Schedule Announced — “Fairfax County Park Authority’s Summer Entertainment Series is back! This year the Summer Entertainment Series features more shows at 18 locations, a new global dance and music series Wednesday evenings in Falls Church, Starlight drive-in movies in Centreville Saturday evenings in August, plus 180 live performances to choose from.” [FCPA]
Peloton Instructor Plans Tysons Book Talk — “Beloved Peloton instructor Tunde Oyeneyin is launching a debut book titled Speak, and on May 3 — the day the book comes out — she’ll be hosting the first stop on her book tour at Tysons Galleria…Seats for the event are already sold out, but the event remains open to the public, and additional guests are welcome to join for standing room.” [Washingtonian]
It’s Thursday — Clear throughout the day. High of 56 and low of 33. Sunrise at 6:16 am and sunset at 8:00 pm. [Weather.gov]
Franconia Townhouse Fire Under Investigation — Fairfax County fire investigators are still working to determine the cause of a townhouse fire that occurred in the 6500 block of Gildar Street on Saturday (April 2). The blaze didn’t cause any injuries, but four people have been displaced, and there was an estimated $93,750 in damages. [FCFRD]
Fairfax City Police Search for Missing Woman — “Fairfax City Police are still searching for information Tuesday on the disappearance of Amanda Childress, 43, who may have also been the victim of an assault…Investigators said the assault may have happened in the 10400 block of Eaton Place on March 6.” [ABC7]
GMU Dedicates Memorial to People Enslaved by Namesake — “The Enslaved People of George Mason Memorial is located on the campus’s recently renovated Wilkins Plaza, named for the late civil rights leader and George Mason University professor journalist Roger Wilkins. On Monday, several hundred people assembled in Wilkins Plaza for the monument’s dedication.” [Patch]
ACLU Lawsuit Over Mask-Optional Law Continues — A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss a challenge of Virginia’s law making masks optional in schools. The Fairfax County School Board filed a brief supporting the 12 families with immunocompromised children, while the Fairfax County Parents Association, a community group that grew out of the Open FCPS campaign, has backed the state. [WTOP]
Reston Woman Wins Cherry Blossom Race — “Sunday marked the first Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run since 2019, and with it, a local became champion for the first time since 1983, according to race officials. Susanna Sullivan of Reston, Virginia, won the elite women’s race.” [WTOP]
County Police Recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month — “Pinwheels will be displayed outside Public Safety Headquarters and at our district stations throughout April in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Pinwheels are a reminder of the carefree spirit of children and symbolize the happy childhood every child should have.” [FCPD/Facebook]
It’s Also National Poetry Month — Fairfax County is celebrating National Poetry Month by having community members read poems “that showcase the diverse and compelling work of contemporary American poets” throughout April. The series kicked off with County Executive Bryan Hill reading “Crossing” by Jericho Brown. [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]
It’s Wednesday — Light rain in the morning and overnight. High of 65 and low of 51. Sunrise at 6:46 a.m. and sunset at 7:38 p.m. [Weather.gov]
Fairfax County police are still searching for the man they say killed 35-year-old Kingstowne resident Hannah Choi, whose body was found in Maryland by a passerby weeks after she went missing in early March.
Maj. Ed O’ Carroll, chief of the Fairfax County Police Department’s Major Crimes, Cyber and Forensics Bureau, called murder suspect Joel Mosso Merino, 27, of Kingstowne, the county’s “most wanted” person in a news conference on Monday (March 28).
According to a statement filed in court by FCPD Detective Jesse Thornton on March 24 as part of a search warrant, authorities believe his brother helped “in his escape from the area.” The statement says police are also trying to determine if others are helping Merino.
Choi’s body was found in Piscataway Park in Maryland on March 24. Her identity was confirmed by a medical examiner, police said.
A representative for the Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said today (Friday) that autopsy results are still pending.
Police say they still want the community’s help in locating Merino. Information can be shared with detectives by calling 703-246-7800, option 2. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text or online.
The FCPD is offering a $40,000 reward for information about Merino’s whereabouts that leads to his capture.
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.”
Police may have found the body of Hannah Choi, a missing Kingstowne woman who Fairfax County police believe was murdered.
Charles County Sheriff’s Office in Maryland notified the Fairfax County Police Department yesterday (Thursday) morning that a body was found in Piscataway Park, where the department previously had searched more than 800 acres looking for Choi’s remains.
Officers from the search and rescue team were going to return to the park today prior to the discovery, police said in an update to the media.
“Tentatively, detectives believe the body found is Hannah Choi,” the update said. “Detectives will continually work with the Medical Examiner to confirm the identity and manner of death.”
The department told FFXnow they may not have the information for a positive identification to update the public on until next week.
Police issued an arrest warrant charging her former boyfriend Joel Mosso Merino, 27, who is still at large. Anyone with information of his whereabouts is asked to call 703-246-7800, option 2.
“Unfortunately, not only was her life taken from us through a senseless act of alleged domestic violence, but her remains also have yet to be recovered, denying my family the ability to send her off to be at peace. Moreover, Joel Mosso Merino, her suspected killer, is still on the run,” the GoFundMe page reads.
(updated at 6 p.m.) Fairfax County police are searching for a Kingstowne man charged with murder after his former girlfriend went missing.
Hannah Choi, 35, was last seen in the 5300 block of Jesmond Street in Kingstowne, where she and her ex-boyfriend Joel Merino lived together, police said.
Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said this afternoon (Tuesday) the department believes Merino, 27, killed Choi in the house on March 5 and disposed of her body in a park in Prince George’s County, Maryland, based on evidence they uncovered at the home and in a vehicle.
“With an abundance of probable cause and an abundance of evidence, we worked with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and we secured these arrest warrants and now the search for Joel Merino is underway,” he said.
Obtaining the warrants before Choi’s body is recovered is something that maybe happens once in a decade, Davis said. The warrants charge Merino with second-degree murder and felony disposal of human remains.
Major Crimes, Cyber and Forensics Bureau Chief Maj. Ed O’ Carroll said Choi’s friends called the police March 6 to report her missing after she missed appointments and was not answering the door. “It was very unlike her and she could not be reached,” he said.
Police said the house was in order except for missing bedding. They then found the vehicle in D.C. that they believe Merino used, and discovered evidence indicating Choi was seriously injured before her disappearance, he said. The department is not releasing the specifics on the evidence.
“We know something bad happened, really bad,” O’Carroll said. “We have evidence and details that make us believe, firmly believe, without any doubt, that she is deceased.”
He said the two may have had an argument on Saturday, March 5. Police knew they were in the community together that evening.
Merino spent time the night after she was killed and into the morning in Piscataway Park, Davis said. Police and assisting agencies and teams have been searching the park looking for Choi, he said.
O’ Carroll described Choi as “a bright, caring, amazing young woman with the world at her reach.”
“This is tragic,” he said. “We are committed to finding Hannah and finding her killer. She is a victim of murder. For justice and closure we do need your help.”
Missing Endangered: 35yo Hannah Choi was last seen yesterday 7am in the 5300 blk of Jesmond St, Alexandria. She is 5’4, 125, blk eyes, bro hair. She has a tattoo of Chinese symbol on ankle. Unknown clothing. Endangered due to mental &/or physical health concerns. Call 911 w/info. pic.twitter.com/fDkpk1ekLx
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) March 7, 2022
O’ Carroll asked anyone who has information about her disappearance, knowledge of Merino’s whereabouts, or anything that could help with the investigation to contact the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-246-7800 Option 2, or to submit a tip anonymously through Crime Solvers call 1-866-411-TIPS.
Police believe Merino uses other aliases, and O’Connell said they did have information that he had fled at one point to the Atlanta area of Georgia in the last week. If anyone sees Merino, they should call 911.
Police said this is the sixth homicide of the year in Fairfax County, in comparison with three homicides at this point in 2021.