Alexandria, VA

Virginia State Police have arrested a Danville teen and charged him with obstruction of justice and as an accessory after the fact in the deaths of two people, including an Alexandria resident. last month in Southern Virginia.

The 17-year-old was arrested on Thursday, March 12, by officers with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office.

This is the second arrest in connection with the murder of Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Maryland. The couple were found shot dead near their crashed car on Feb. 8 along Route 58 in Halifax County.

Mohamed A. Aly, an 18-year-old senior at T.C. Williams High School, was arrested at school last month and charged with committing the murders. The former varsity football player is currently being held in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Halifax.

The murders are being investigated by the Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney, FBI Richmond Field Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Danville Police Department.

The full press release from Virginia State Police is below.

As the investigation continues into February’s double homicide in Halifax County, a second individual now faces charges related to the case. On Thursday (March 12, 2020), the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office took a 17-year-old Danville, Va. male into custody. The juvenile has been charged in Halifax County with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of accessory after the fact.

The juvenile petitions are in relation to the Feb. 8, 2020 murders of two individuals on Route 58 in Halifax County near Melon Road. At 2:51 a.m., a silver 2009 Nissan Maxima was located in the median with Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, Va., and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Md., found deceased and lying in the grass nearby. Both had suffered gunshot wounds.

On Feb. 13, 2020, state police arrested Mohamed A. Aly, 18, of Alexandria, Va., on two counts of first degree murder and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of felony. Aly is still being held at the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Halifax, Va.

State police continues to work with the Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney, FBI Richmond Field Office, ATF, Danville Police Department, and several local law enforcement agencies on the homicide investigation.

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 us at 434-352-7128 or #77 on a cell phone or to email [email protected]. Anonymous calls are welcome.

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A 59-year-old Alexandria man has been arrested and is in a North Carolina jail for alleged sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl.

John DiGeronimo, an electrical engineer who worked at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is accused of dropping off packets of pornography — depicting the the 16-year-old engaging in sexual activity with a much older man in front of her high school — in front of her house and in front of her boyfriend’s house.

The packets were delivered on Feb. 28, and include handwritten links to a web page with more illicit images of the victim, according to police.

Additionally, DiGeronimo has been accused of breaking into the girl’s house and stealing gifts that he allegedly gave her.

DiGeronimo was arrested at home in the Landmark area on March 6, and the following day was transported to jail in York County, South Carolina. He has been charged with multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor and burglary.

“[T]he suspect in this case recorded and manufactured images/videos of he and the victim engaged in sexual activity at the victim’s residence,” according to the Alexandria police search warrant affidavit. “When outside the residence, the suspect would provide a tent for cover and would cover the tent with a tarp to prevent light from escaping.”

The victim told police that she knew the suspect as “George Smith,” that they met on Snapchat, began having a sexual relationship in 2018, and that they broke up this past January, according to documents. The suspect also allegedly bought the girl a number of gifts, including sex toys and jewelry, and is accused of filming their activities with his cell phone.

Police, after interviewing the victim, went to collect evidence at her house and found that it had been robbed.

“It was discovered at the time that someone had entered the residence and removed all of the items gifted to the victim with the exception of one of the necklaces,” notes the search warrant affidavit. “Victim advised the only other person who knew where the items were as the George Smith suspect. She was able to find one of the necklaces, which was left in her bathroom and appeared to match a necklace observed in one of the images.”

Police located DiGeronimo by linking the IP address for the Snapchat user George Smith. According to police, a search of DiGeronimo’s apartment yielded a bag with sex items, ziplock baggies with hair labeled in the name of the victim, letters and cards, journal entries, photos and notes.

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Morning Notes

Questions About Homicide Arrest at T.C. — “Because Aly’s arrest was part of an ongoing criminal investigation, Virginia State Police, the lead law enforcement agency on the case, haven’t released details about his connection to the crime. But some parents and students have sought answers to different questions: Why did the arrest take place at school, and what happened at the school that day?” [Alexandria Times]

Rec Registration Starts Next Week — “Registration for spring and summer classes and activities offered by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18 for City residents and Friday, March 20 for nonresidents. Spring and summer registration applies to classes, leagues and activities occurring April through August 2020.” [City of Alexandria]

Controlled Burn Leads to Hazy Sunday — Across much of the D.C. area Sunday afternoon, smoke from a controlled burn at Marine Corps Base Quantico led to temporary hazy conditions outside and a “campfire” smell. [ARLnow]

“Moonlight and Magnolias” at Little Theatre Until March 21 — “It’s Hollywood, 1939. Legendary film producer David O. Selznick is five weeks into shooting ‘Gone with the Wind’ when he realizes the script is awful and the director doesn’t have a clue. He has a few short days to replace them and restart shooting or the production will shut down.” [Gazette]

Nominations Open For Chamber of Commerce’s 40 Under 40 — “The 40 under 40 class celebrate 40 outstanding leaders and innovators who either live or work within the city of Alexandria. The nomination period closes March 13, 2020. Go to www.thechamberalx.com/young-leaders-network.html to nominate a leader for this honor.” [Alexandria Living]

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A grand jury has indicted Kenneth Whitcomb, a 62-year-old Alexandria resident, on a charge of reckless driving following a deadly pedestrian collision last November.

John Charles Thompson, a 75-year old Fairfax resident and retired Army general, was struck on Nov. 16 on Duke Street near the Alexandria Commons shopping center around 7:30 a.m. Police said that Thompson was in a crosswalk at the time of the crash.

“Mr. Thompson was walking across Duke Street when he was struck by a vehicle operated by Mr. Whitcomb,” Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter said in a press release. “Mr. Thompson was hospitalized after the crash and succumbed to his injuries.”

Porter said reckless driving, a class 1 misdemeanor and the most serious charge that could be lodged in the case, is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2500 fine, as well as a license suspension of not more than 6 months. Whitcomb is also charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian, punishable by a fine of not more than $500.

“The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation, his driver’s license was valid, and he was not under the influence of intoxicants,” Porter said. “Therefore, the appropriate charge is reckless driving.”

Maj. Gen. John Charles Thompson (ret.) was a West Point graduate and a 35-year Army veteran, recognized for valor in Vietnam, according to an obituary.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Half of Popular Duo to Perform at Birchmere — “On the evening of June 24, 1964, Washington was engulfed in Peter and Gordon-mania. Midway through the British duo’s performance at the Alexandria Roller Rink, a desperate Jack Alix, DJ at WEEL radio, halted the music and begged the crowd to please stop pushing. ‘I do remember it was a good gig, where the audience was crazy, with screaming girls throwing themselves at the stage and all that stuff,’ said Peter Asher, calling from his Malibu, Calif., home.” [Washington Post]

Alexandria Man Charged in Arlington Incident — “A 69-year-old Alexandria man is facing a felony charge after police say a minor, two-vehicle crash led to a physical altercation along Lee Highway… [The man] punched a window on the other car several times, then ‘produced a knife and allegedly attempted to strike the victim,’ according to Arlington County Police.” [ARLnow]

City’s Opioid Plan Finalized — “The City of Alexandria has finalized the Opioid Work Group Strategic Three Year Plan (2020 – 2023) to eliminate opioid misuse and its harmful effects in Alexandria. The plan, which is now available at alexandriava.gov/opioids, was formed through several years of extensive engagement and collaboration with community members and experts.” [City of Alexandria]

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(Updated at 7 p.m.) A T.C. Williams student was arrested at the school today (Thursday) and charged in the killing of two people on a rural Virginia Highway, NBC 4 first reported.

Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Maryland, were found shot to death along Route 58 in southern Virginia over the weekend.

The Alexandria Police Department confirmed to ALXnow that its officers were on scene at the high school for the arrest of a T.C. student. The case is being investigated by Virginia State Police, an APD spokesman said.

State police released the following press release about the arrest late Thursday afternoon.

An 18-year-old Alexandria male has been arrested and charged in Saturday’s double homicide in Halifax County. On Thursday (Feb. 13, 2020) morning, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office took Mohamed A. Aly into custody without incident in Alexandria, Va. Aly has been charged with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Aly will be held at the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Halifax, Va.

At 2:51 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 8), Virginia State Police responded to Route 58 in Halifax County near Melon Road. A silver 2009 Nissan Maxima was located in the median with Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, Va., and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Md., found deceased and lying in the grass nearby. Both had suffered gunshot wounds.

“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. “We cannot thank the public enough for providing the tips and information necessary to aid our special agents with effecting an arrest so quickly.”

Since Saturday, the FBI Richmond Field Office, ATF and several other local law enforcement agencies have been assisting 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 us at 434-352-7128 or #77 on a cell phone or to email [email protected]. Anonymous calls are welcome.

A student at T.C. Williams tells ALXnow that the suspect, Mohamed Aly, “was telling all his friends” about the slaying. That account could not be immediately confirmed by police.

Aly was a popular student and a player on the varsity football team, and a few of his T.C. classmates expressed support for him on Snapchat Thursday night.

Via Twitter, T.C.’s athletic director discouraged players from speaking to members of the media.

Just after 5 p.m., principal Peter Balas sent the following email to T.C. Williams families, acknowledging the arrest and saying that counselors will be available at the school “over the next few days.”

Dear T.C. Williams Parents and Guardians,

We are writing to inform you that a T.C. Williams High School student was arrested today for his alleged involvement in a crime that occurred outside of the City of Alexandria and our community. We are complying with authorities as they conduct their ongoing investigation, and we are referring all questions to Virginia State Police. It is ACPS policy to not comment on an active police investigation.

This situation was handled today according to protocol, and the safety and security of our students and staff were never at risk. Protecting members of our school community is always our top priority, and we take any matter relating to the safety of our schools very seriously. As a precautionary measure, additional security will be in place at the school tomorrow.

We should expect that there will be a variety of reactions to what has occurred, and the most important thing we can do is to be supportive and encourage an open expression of emotions. Counselors will be available for students and staff members at the school over the next few days. We encourage your child to reach out for support as needed. We will be monitoring students carefully over the next few weeks. If you feel that your child or family needs assistance, please contact the school administration at 703-824-6800, and we will do everything we can to help you.

Sincerely,

Peter Balas
Principal
T.C. Williams High School

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Bianda’s memorial fund. So far it has raised just over $7,000.

James Cullum contributed to this report

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