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West Springfield KinderCare (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m. on 3/28/2024) Fairfax County police have arrested an Arlington man who allegedly shot two women, including his wife, at a day care center in West Springfield.

Officers were dispatched to the West Springfield KinderCare at 8518 Bauer Drive at around 2:14 p.m., according to the police scanner on Open MHz.

“Right now, all we have is an unknown suspect shooting outside, still trying to get more,” the dispatcher said.

Based on a preliminary investigation, police believe Julio Pascual Sejas, 41, of Arlington, approached the day care center in an attempt to speak to his wife, who works there, Fairfax County Police Department Deputy Chief Brooke Wright said at a press conference around 5:15 p.m.

When she declined to open the front door, Sejas fired three shots through the door, hitting his wife and another employee of the day care, Wright says. Both women were transported to a hospital with injuries determined to be not life-threatening.

There were more than 70 children inside KinderCare at the time of the shooting, but none of them witnessed it or appear to even have registered that it happened, according to Wright. The children were evacuated to the West Springfield District Police Station (6140 Rolling Road), where they have all now been reunited with their parents or guardians.

“I’m so relieved that kids were not harmed today, because we are talking too much about kids and gun violence that’s happening,” Wright said. “We want parents to know that we’re going to be protecting children as best we can.”

The FCPD announced at 6:37 p.m. that Sejas has been arrested. Detectives had obtained warrants charging him with two counts of aggravated malicious wounding, two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony and three counts of shooting into a school building.

The arrest occurred within three hours of detectives obtaining the warrants. According to a news release from the FCPD, detectives found Sejas at Dulles International Airport, where “he was attempting to pick up family members who were arriving in Virginia.”

At the earlier press conference, Wright said no protective order was sought against Sejas “to my knowledge,” but the nature of his relationship with his wife is still under investigation. He is currently in custody without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

KinderCare offers day care and after-school programs for kids ranging from toddlers to 12 years old, including programs that are available during school breaks.

Image via Google Maps

The community has kept VHC Health’s primary care office in West Springfield busy since it opened last June.

Officially welcomed by Fairfax County leaders with a ribbon-cutting and open house on Jan. 31, the practice at 5803 Rolling Road, Suite 110, started with one physician but added a second in October to meet the demand for services, according to Darryl Ernst, the senior vice president of VHC Health Physicians.

He says the nonprofit health system anticipates adding two more physicians into 2025, bringing the office up to VHC’s typical primary care staffing levels. With each physician usually seeing up to 2,500 patients annually, the West Springfield practice could ultimately care for as many as 10,000 to 12,000 patients.

“The office itself has gotten busy fairly quickly,” Ernst told FFXnow. “That’s been very encouraging for us because I think it reinforces why we’ve been asked to come and provide care in that community.”

Located in a brick office building south of the Kings Park neighborhood, VHC Health’s West Springfield facility provides primary care services to people 18 and older, including physical exams, wellness visits and other preventative care, lab testing and chronic disease management. Same-day urgent appointments and telehealth visits are available.

The practice may expand in the future to also offer cardiology services, but a definite decision on that hasn’t been made yet, Ernst says.

Decisions about what services to offer where are driven by community need and possible gaps in a given neighborhood’s health care network, according to Ernest, who says a lot of patients who get cardiology services at VHC Health’s hospital in Arlington live or work in the West Springfield area.

“We want to be in communities that don’t have many providers in a certain specialty,” he said. “So, we believe cardiology is the need in that community, and so, that’s one of the reasons we would do it, in essence, because there’s not the kind of access that we think it should exist for cardiology services.”

The West Springfield practice was among several new VHC Health facilities to pop up in Fairfax County over the past couple of years. Rebranding from Virginia Hospital Center, the nonprofit now also has facilities in Annandale, Tysons, McLean, Vienna and Kingstowne.

A digestive health center that focuses exclusively on gastrointestinal issues also opened this past Tuesday (Feb. 13) at 3025 Hamaker Court in Merrifield.

Ernst says VHC Health has been “very intentional” with its expansion into Fairfax County, which was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic but got temporarily slowed down as medical providers pivoted to virtual services.

In addition to seeking to give its existing patients a more convenient option, the nonprofit has gotten a “tremendous amount” of outreach from elected officials and business leaders requesting facilities in different parts of the county, including West Springfield, according to Ernst.

Though VHC’s offices have been concentrated in the eastern part of the county so far, it’s developing plans to expand to the western side. Ernst says they’re not at a stage yet where he can disclose specific details, but the focus will likely be around Fairfax City and its surrounding areas.

“We think [our facilities are] special, and we just really want them to be a resource for the community and for the residents,” Ernst said.

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A new District Taco has opened in the Old Keene Mill Shopping Center (staff photo by James Jarvis)

A new District Taco quietly opened its doors last fall in the Old Keene Mill Shopping Center.

The Mexican-inspired fast-casual chain began welcoming customers at its West Springfield location in September 2023,  according to a spokesperson for District Taco.

Spanning 2,043 square feet, the restaurant at 8432 Old Keene Mill Road is co-owned by Hicham El Abbassi and Isalmou Boussaa, who also launched a District Taco franchise in McLean last August. The West Springfield restaurant operates from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, according to District Taco’s website.

Originally from Morocco, the franchise owners started their journey in the food industry working at Five Guys before franchising several restaurants, including Five Guys.

In 2016, Abbassi and Boussaa approached District Taco with aspirations of running a franchise. Fast forward to seven years later, they now oversee 13 locations. Last August, they inked a deal to open five more outlets in Northern Virginia, including the Old Keene Mill and McLean locations.

“Their story mirrors the resilience and determination of our own CEO and co-founder of District Taco, Osiris Hoil who transformed his own opportunities and dreams into reality,” District Taco’s spokesperson told FFXnow.

District Taco, which started out as a food cart in Arlington over a decade ago, now boasts 16 locations throughout the D.C. area and Pennsylvania.

While the company says there are no specific expansion plans in the D.C. region that it can share, the spokesperson disclosed that 70 stores are currently in development nationwide, including northern New Jersey, Brooklyn, New York, and Tampa, Florida.

The menu at every District Taco offers customizable tacos, burritos, bowls, salads, and quesadillas, with vegetarian and vegan options available.

The West Springfield location, however, is unique in that the interior has more of an “industrial” design.

“We kept the existing brick infrastructure as is and it is exposed in the interior of the store in the front,” District Taco Director of Design Victoria Stratton told FFXnow. “It also has more of an open kitchen design where you can clearly see the prep area and the employees making guac right in front of you!”

So far, customer feedback for the West Springfield location has been overwhelmingly positive, according to the company.

“The new location’s success has exceeded expectations and has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from guests,” the company spokesperson said. “We hope to continue to deliver a delicious and memorable experience to our guests, and we look forward to creating a stronger relationship with the Springfield and McLean community in the New Year.”

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Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis holds a press conference to announce the arrest of a suspect in Robin Lawrence’s murder (via FCPD/Twitter)

Nearly three decades after she died, police say they know who killed Robin Lawrence.

Stephen Smerk, a 51-year-old man now living in Niskayuna, New York, has been charged with second-degree murder after recently confessing to killing Lawrence at her West Springfield home in 1994, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis announced this afternoon (Monday).

Detectives connected Smerk to the case with the help of Parabon NanoLabs, a Reston-based DNA tech company that created a composite sketch and family tree for him based on forensic evidence saved from the crime scene.

“What you’re about to hear is a remarkable, remarkable story with an unanticipated ending that just happened a couple days ago,” Davis said at the press conference.

Lawrence, 37, was found dead with multiple stab wounds in the 8600 block of Reseca Lane around 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 20, 1994, according to Fairfax County Police Department Deputy Chief of Investigations Eli Cory.

Her body was discovered by a family friend who had gone to the house to check on her after her husband was unable to contact her while he was away on a work trip, Cory said, describing the scene as “heinous and tragic.”

Lawrence’s 2-year-old daughter was in the house at the time but found unharmed, police say.

Officers collected DNA evidence from the scene but found no matches to a potential suspect. While cold case detectives continued to investigate, it wasn’t until 2019 that technology had improved to the point where they decided to resubmit the DNA, according to Cory.

This time, they got a match.

“Pictures of Smerk from 1988 and 1998 were found and compared to a digital composite image created by Parabon NanoLabs,” the FCPD said. “Parabon NanoLabs…specializes in DNA phenotyping and genetic genealogy analysis: processes that predict physical appearance and biological relationships from unidentified DNA evidence.”

The detectives traveled north to Niskayuna, where Smerk lives and works as a software engineer. Upon encountering Smerk while he was taking out his trash, they talked to him, and he agreed “willingly and without question” to let them get a DNA swab, Cory said.

The detectives were preparing to return to Fairfax County with the sample when Smerk called, saying that he wanted to talk.

After turning himself in at the local police station, “he fully described his involvement,” Davis said. “He talked about killing Robin and some details that I won’t go into, but it was a full confession.”

At the time of Lawrence’s killing, Smerk was an active-duty servicemember working for the Army at Fort Myer — now known as Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall — in Arlington, police say.

Married with two children in high school, he has no other criminal history, according to Davis. Though he didn’t elaborate on a potential motive, the police chief said there’s no apparent relation between Smerk and Lawrence.

“He chose her seemingly randomly,” he said.

Smerk is currently in custody in Niskayuna, awaiting extradition to Fairfax County, Davis said.

Lawrence’s best friend and several family members, including her daughter, husband, sister and a cousin, attended the press conference where Davis announced Smerk’s arrest.

“We’re really honored by the fact that the family has chosen to join us today,” Davis said. “Their presence is beyond meaningful, and ultimately, we do this for them.”

Photo via FCPD/Twitter

Fairfax County Police Deputy Chief Eli Cory updates media on an investigation into three shooting deaths in the 8500 block of Wild Spruce Drive (via FCPD/Facebook)

Updated at 2:20 p.m. on 4/28/2023Police are officially investigating yesterday’s shooting as a double murder and suicide case.

Based on a preliminary investigation, detectives believe that 47-year-old Tiku Berhane Gebreeyesus shot his wife, 38-year-old Meskerem Belachew Solomon, and her brother, 31-year-old Amanuel Belachew Solomon, before shooting himself.

Earlier: Fairfax County police are investigating a domestic shooting at a West Springfield house.

Three people — two adult men and one woman — were found dead in the basement of a house in the 8500 block of Wild Spruce Drive, the Fairfax County Police Department said.

A handgun was found near the bodies, FCPD Deputy Chief of Investigations Eli Cory said at a 6 p.m. media briefing. The woman and a man in his 20s had multiple gunshot wounds, while an older man in his 40s was shot once in the upper body.

A housekeeper who lives at the home called 911 at 3:47 p.m., reporting that she had found three people shot after hearing gunshots from the basement. She was in an upper level of the house with a 2-year-old kid at the time, according to Cory.

“We believe that everyone is accounted for and this is domestic releated. There’s no apparent threat to the public,” Cory said.

According to scanner traffic, officers arrived at the scene around 3:56 p.m. to find the three dead people in the basement. A medic was requested for an officer who cut himself breaking through glass into the basement.

When officers arrived, they met the housekeeper as well as a nanny who had apparently left the house and then returned. Cory said three juveniles live at the house, but only the 2-year-old was home at the time of the shooting.

The FCPD says anyone with information about the incident can contact its detectives at 703-246-7800.

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Eastbound Old Keene Mill Road at the Huntsman Blvd intersection in West Springfield (via Google Maps)

The driver in a crash that killed a 93-year-old man in West Springfield last month has now been charged with reckless driving, Fairfax County police announced yesterday.

Jessica Bonilla Alfaro, a 41-year-old Springfield resident, “was travelling above the speed limit and in a reckless manner” when she crashed into a 2017 Toyota Camry on Old Keene Mill Road at the Huntsman Blvd intersection on Nov. 7, the police department said.

When the crash occurred that morning, Bonilla Alfaro was driving east on Old Keene Mill in a 2016 Dodge Journey, while the Camry was attempting to turn left onto southbound Huntsman Blvd, according to police.

The Camry driver — 93-year-old John Rowley Jr. of Springfield — was taken to a hospital with injuries not initially considered life-threatening, but his condition deteriorated and he died that evening, police said.

The speed limit on Old Keene Mill at the Huntsman intersection is 45 mph, per the Virginia Department of Transportation’s speed limits map.

Bonilla Alfaro was served a magistrate summons for the reckless driving charge yesterday and is set to appear in court in February, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Rowley Jr. was the 16th non-pedestrian to die in a crash on county roads this year, though that death toll has now reached 19 people after a 19-year-old was killed on Prosperity Avenue in Merrifield on Dec. 6.

The victim in that crash, Chantilly resident David Mendez Hernandez, was on his way to work when he collided with a tractor-trailer. His family set up a Gofundme to help pay for the funeral expenses.

Image via Google Maps

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Kings Park Drive at the turn to eastbound Braddock Road (via Google Maps)

A 70-year-old woman died last week from injuries dealt by an SUV that hit her outside the Kings Park neighborhood in West Springfield half a month earlier.

On Nov. 15, Springfield resident Ly Tran was using the Braddock Road crosswalk to go from Kings Park Drive to the north side, which is the entrance to the Parkwood Baptist Church, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release today.

The crossing requires passing six lanes of traffic, plus three turn lanes with a crosswalk marked only by two parallel lines and a narrow grass median.

While Tran was crossing, the driver of a 2012 Toyota Rav4 turning right from Kings Park Drive onto eastbound Braddock Road struck her.

Tran was transported to a hospital with injuries that were not initially considered life-threatening, but she then died on Sunday, Dec. 4, according to police.

The driver, Willy Vaca Cardozo, 33, of Fairfax, was charged on Nov. 15 with failure to yield to pedestrians with the right of way.

“Speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash,” the FCPD said.

By FFXnow’s count, Tran is now the 30th pedestrian to be killed in a vehicle crash in Fairfax County this year. Virginia data shows 26 fatalities in 2022, but at least one death in November and the three deaths reported in December, including Tran’s, haven’t been counted yet.

In comparison, a total of 14 pedestrian fatalities were reported in 2021. No other year since the database begins in 2010 recorded more than 17 such deaths in the county.

Image via Google Maps

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Arnon Chapel Road and Arnon Lake Drive in Great Falls (via Google Maps)

A Great Falls man was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Friday (Nov. 11), Fairfax County police say.

Brian Christian Bernhart, 49, died after his Toyota Camry went off the roadway as he was driving near the intersection of Arnon Chapel Road and Arnon Lake Drive.

According to police, Bernhart “overcorrected” when he crossed a double yellow line and hit a tree.

He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“Detectives continue to investigate to determine whether speed and alcohol were factors in the crash,” the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release published Saturday (Nov. 12).

Here’s how to provide information about the crash:

Anyone with information about this crash is asked to contact our Crash Reconstruction Unit at 703-280-0543. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), and by web – Click HERE. Download the ‘P3 Tips’ App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars. Please leave contact information if you wish for a detective to follow up with you.

That same day, a 37-year-old Maryland resident was killed in a three-vehicle crash on Fairfax County Parkway near Whitlers Creek Drive in West Springfield.

The man, Noe Solis Espinoza, was traveling northbound on the parkway when he lost control of his car and hit two other cars on the southbound side of the median. The driver of one of the other cars was treated for injuries that are not life-threatening, according to the FCPD.

Bernhart is the 18th non-pedestrian to die in a crash on county roads this year, surpassing the 16 fatalities recorded at this point in 2021.

Photo via Google Maps

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Another driver has died after a vehicular crash on Fairfax County’s roads, bringing the non-pedestrian death toll up to 16 people.

The most recent casualty is John Rowley Jr., a 93-year-old Springfield resident who died Monday evening (Nov. 7) after an SUV crashed into his car on Old Keene Mill Road in the West Springfield area that morning.

The Fairfax County Police Department reported yesterday that Rowley was attempting to turn left from Old Keene Mill onto southbound Huntsman Blvd. The driver of a 2016 Dodge Journey traveling east on Old Keene Mill crashed into Rowley’s car as he was turning.

“Rowley was taken to a nearby hospital with injuries that were not considered to be life-threatening at the time,” police said. “Sadly, his condition deteriorated and was pronounced deceased at the hospital yesterday evening.”

The police department’s Crash Reconstruction Unit detectives are investigating the collision, including whether speed or alcohol were contributing factors.

Rowley is the second driver in the past week to die after a two-vehicle crash on a county road. Alexandria resident Rachelle Feth died on Nov. 2 after a car crashed into her sedan on Ox Road in Lorton while she was trying to turn out of New Hope Church.

This year’s non-pedestrian fatalities have matched last year’s total of 16 by early November.

As the investigation into Monday’s crash continues, police are seeking additional information about the incident:

Anyone with information about this crash is asked to contact our Crash Reconstruction Unit at 703-280-0543. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), and by web – Click HERE. Download the ‘P3 Tips’ App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars. Please leave contact information if you wish for a detective to follow up with you.

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Morning Notes

A flock of birds flies over Route 123 in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Real Estate Taxes Due Today — For Fairfax County property owners, it’s the final day to send in the first installment of your annual real estate taxes, which saw significant increases this year even with a 3-cent reduction in the county’s rate. Payments can be made to the Department of Tax Administration by phone, mail, drop box, mobile app and online. [DTA]

Springfield Man Convicted in 2020 Murder — A jury convicted Carlington Fitz Auther Campbell yesterday (Wednesday) for shooting and killing Anthony Sullivan outside a West Springfield apartment in November 2020, Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced. Campbell was found guilty of second-degree murder and a weapons charge, which carry possible prison sentences of five to 40 years and three years, respectively. [WUSA9]

Decision on Mosaic District Skating Rink Postponed — “Because of some public pushback, unresolved questions and a legal-advertising snafu, the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on July 13 deferred until September its decision on whether to allow temporary ice- and roller-skating rinks in Merrifield’s Mosaic District.” [Sun Gazette]

Fairfax City Veterinarian Helps Ukraine Animal Shelters — “Dr. Courtney Katsur chokes up when she describes what she saw while volunteering for two weeks in Ukraine. The veterinarian with Town & Country Animal Hospital in Fairfax tried for months to find a way to get to the war zone to help animals she was seeing in the news.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Clinics Available for Required Student Vaccinations — “Before students return to school in late August, families can check to ensure their students are up to date on immunizations required at Fairfax County Public Schools. The Fairfax County Health Department is offering appointments at upcoming immunization clinics.” [Patch]

Inova to Rebrand Urgent Care Centers With Partnership — Inova Health System will soon let patients make appointments, check wait times and more through the on-demand health care platform GoHealth Urgent Care. Announced yesterday (Wednesday), the joint venture will convert seven existing Inova Urgent Care locations in Northern Virginia into Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care centers later this year, with additional locations planned. [Inova]

Penn Daw Firefighters Help Mow Lawn — “Recently, Station 11, Penn Daw, B-Shift responded to a routine EMS incident for an elderly gentleman experiencing distress while mowing his lawn on one of the hottest days of the year. The #FCFRD crew assisted the gentlemen, and then completed mowing his lawn prior to leaving.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Park Authority Fall Registration Begins Next Week — “Fairfax County Park Authority registration for fall classes and programs opens Aug. 2, 2022. Fall classes will be in full swing with programs at Rec Centers, nature centers, historic sites, lakefront parks, golf courses and schools. Virtual classes are available for those who prefer or cannot attend in person.” [FCPA]

McLean Lidl Hosts Kids’ Drawing Contest — “Lidl is holding a drawing competition for children at its new McLean store as part of a benefit for the SHARE of McLean food bank. Starting Wednesday, children can participate in the drawing competition, with a chance to win a $100 Lidl gift card…Once the competition closes on Wednesday, Aug. 3, Lidl will narrow down the entries and ask McLean community members to vote for their favorite piece of art.” [Patch]

It’s Thursday — Humid and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:08 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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