FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) - A northern Virginia man accused of killing a Muslim teen as she walked to her mosque was told Thursday that he'll have a new attorney now that he faces charges that could bring the death penalty.
Darwin Martinez-Torres, of Sterling, Va., is accused of the June killing of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen as she walked to a mosque with friends to attend Ramadan services.
On Monday, a Fairfax County grand jury indicted Martinez-Torres on eight charges including capital murder, rape an abduction, and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh immediately announced he will seek the death penalty.
As a result of those developments, public defender Dawn Butorac announced at a pre-trial hearing Thursday morning that she is stepping aside to be replaced by a defender that handles capital cases.
Fairfax County Circuit Judge Bruce White did not immediately name a replacement, but said he would do so at the next status conference in the case, currently scheduled to be held on Nov. 17.
The latest developments in the case come after a tense preliminary hearing on Friday attended by Hassanen's family and about 250 of their supporters and friends.
That hearing was temporarily halted after Hassanen's father yelled, “You killed my daughter” and lunged toward Torres. The girl’s mother also threw a shoe in the suspect’s direction.
On Thursday, Judge White said he would not put up with any further outbursts.
“Anyone who disrupts the court today will be removed immediately. That’s not going to happen,” he warned.
The crowded courtroom fell silent as a shackled Martinez-Torres was brought in. He wore a dark green jumpsuit and stood motionless as an interpreter translated the proceedings for him.
Prosecutors said Hassaden, and a group of 15 other teenagers were returning to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Sterling after an early morning meal on June 18, a precursor to their daily fast.
They say Martinez-Torres got into a road rage incident with one of the teenagers and then chase them with his car as they ran from him.
According to government, Martinez-Torres eventually confronted the group in a parking lot. He is accused of striking Hassaden with a baseball bat, loading her into his car, and then driving off with her.
He is charged with then sexually assaulting and killing her before dumping her body near his home.
He was taken into custody after police found blood on and inside his car. Prosecutors say Martinez-Torres later confessed to his crime and led detectives to her body.
His is the first death penalty case in Fairfax County is six years.
Since the attack, Hassanen’s father has told a variety of media outlets that he believes his daughter’s death should be classified as a hate crime and that Torres was incited to kill her when he saw her wearing a hijab, or head covering often donned by some Muslim women.
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