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Families mourn couple: ‘It’s broken all of our hearts’

South Boston News / February 13, 2020

The two young adults slain in Halifax County this weekend were graduates of the same Maryland high school and sweethearts with bright futures ahead — until making their fateful journey to southern Virginia.

“It’s completely broken all of our hearts,” Kassie Rich told WUSA9 in Washington, D.C. in a televised interview. Rich, aunt of 19-year-old murder victim Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, told the TV station that the families of both victims have no idea what brought them to Halifax County.

GoFundMe pages have been set up by the families of the deceased — Griffin and 21-year-old Ntombo Joel Bianda. The bodies of Grifffin and Bianda were found lying on the ground in the median of Route 58 early Saturday morning, Feb. 8, after police were called out to the Turbeville area to investigate a crash.

State Police have described Bianda and Griffin as close acquaintances. Those who knew both victims well have commented on their GoFundMe sites that they were boyfriend and girlfriend, and much beloved by family and friends.

“Joel’s dream was to make it big with his music and to be able to make enough money to take care and move others,” wrote his sister, Ariane, on the Bianda family fundraising page, set up to help with the expenses of Joel Bianda’s funeral. “He loved us with all of his heart. He died at the age of 21, just 16 days after his birthday. He was a hard headed stubborn man, but he was so caring and would gladly lay his life down for us.”

Kassie Rich, writing on the page established to help pay for her niece’s funeral, offered that Ayanna Griffin “was very loving and an extremely intelligent child who was a HUGE Goofball! She always had a smile on her face. She was studying Computer Engineering and was already in her second year of college at the young age of 18. Her whole future was ahead of her. I can go on and on about how great of a kid she was.”

Bianda and Griffin were graduates of Northwest High School in Germantown, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C. Griffin was a Germantown resident, according to Virginia State Police, while Bianda resided in Alexandria.

State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said Wednesday that investigators are continuing to probe the circumstances that led the couple to Halifax County. Police have appealed for information from anyone who may have been traveling in the vicinity of Route 58 and Melon Road between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, around the time the couple is thought to have been slain.

In her interview with WUSA9 TV, Rich also pleaded for tips from anyone who may have knowledge of what happened that night.

“Say something, if you’ve seen even the slightest thing, tell somebody,” Rich said.

Anyone with information can call the Virginia State Police 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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