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Arrest of student in Halifax County murders stuns Alexandria school

South Boston News
Mohamed A. Aly / February 17, 2020

An 18-year-old Alexandria student and aspiring college football player has been jailed in Halifax on charges of murdering a young couple in the Turbeville area, and acquaintances of the suspect in Northern Virginia are left to wonder what may have motivated the shocking turn of events.

On Thursday, Virginia State Police agents with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Appomattox arrested Mohamed A. Aly at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, where Aly is a senior.

He is charged in the Feb. 8 double homicide on U.S. 58 in Turbeville that left Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Md., dead of gunshot wounds. Their bodies were found lying in the grass in the median between four-lane 58.

Aly was incarcerated Thursday night at the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Halifax, where he awaits a preliminary hearing this Tuesday in Halifax County General District Court.

Described as a popular figure at T.C. Williams, with good grades and a friendly personality, Aly’s arrest came as a shock to the school. Days before his alleged involvement in the Halifax County deaths, Aly posted a message on his Twitter page, seemingly directed to college football recruiters. An unsigned senior, the 5’7” defensive back wrote that he is “looking for a home to showcase my motivation, dedication, and appreciation to the game.”

Contacted by The Washington Post, Aly’s football coach, James Longerbeam, directed questions to a school spokesperson who declined comment. But Longerbeam’s wife, Alette Longerbeam, posted on Twitter that she was “really at a loss, really feeling lost. I can’t wrap my head around this.” She previously likened Aly to a son on social media, The Post reported.

Kyla Janay, a 16-year-old schoolmate, told the newspaper that Aly is “a good spirit, a good soul . . . he was a person to light up the room with his smile.”

Investigators have not offered a possible motive for the shootings, nor identified evidence that led to the arrest on Thursday.

However, family members of the shooting victims have told Washington, D.C. media outlets that police recovered cell phones belonging to Maertens Griffin and Joel Bianda prior to Aly being arrested on Thursday. On Wednesday, state troopers and other law enforcement personnel concentrated their search efforts on Ashton Hall Road in the Elmo area.

According to family members, Griffin and Bianda had traveled to Danville to pick up a friend. How and why they continued to Halifax County has not been revealed.

“State police personnel have been working around the clock pursuing multiple leads related to this homicide investigation,” said Capt. David O. Cooper II, commander of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office, after Thursday’s arrest. “We cannot thank the public enough for providing the tips and information necessary to aid our special agents with effecting an arrest so quickly.”

The FBI Richmond Field Office, ATF and several other local law enforcement agencies assisted State Police with the homicide investigation. State Police has also been assisted with various evidentiary searches in Halifax County by K9 teams from the Virginia Department of Corrections and Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.

As the investigation remains ongoing at this time, the Virginia State Police is still encouraging anyone with information about this incident or individuals involved to contact the department at 434-352-7128 or #77 on a cell phone or to email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Anonymous calls are welcome.

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