A Northern Virginia teenager was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in in the deaths of a young couple shot to death Feb. 8 on a rural Virginia highway hours from home, police said.
Mohamed A. Aly pleaded guilty in Halifax County Thursday to the first-degree murders of 18-year-old Ayanna Maertens-Griffin and 21-year-old Joel Bianda.
Bianda had agreed to drive Aly from Alexandria to Danville to pick up a friend, and Bianda’s girlfriend, Maertens-Griffin, went along, prosecutors said. Aly took a 9 mm gun with him.
Aly told police he was having thoughts — bad and good — and said he was having doubts about college and his home life.
Early the morning of Feb. 8, Aly asked Bianda to pull over on Highway 58.
“I pointed the gun at his head,” Aly told police. “Without thinking, without saying anything, I pulled the trigger.”
Then he shot Maertens-Griffin, according to prosecutors.
He parked on the median and removed the victims’ bodies from the car, which he then drove to Danville where he picked up a juvenile friend, prosecutors said.
Aly told police he and his friend returned to the median, where he had left the gun. He took the victims’ cellphones, which he later left in separate locations, and recovered the gun. As he was driving away, he crashed into an embankment, prosecutors said.
He and his friend ran into the woods and got rid of the gun. They found a taxi to take them back to Danville, prosecutors said.
Aly told police he put his clothes in a dumpster and got another driver to take him to Virginia State University, where he had a friend from Alexandria pick him up and take him home, prosecutors said.
Police found the victims’ cellphones and tracked their movements from that night, prosecutors said. They found the gun near the scene of the shooting and interviewed people who had driven Aly after the murders.
Aly was arrested at T.C. Williams High School, where friends said he had been focused on earning a football scholarship.
Family members of the victims were in court for sentencing, giving statements on the impact of the crime on their lives.
“Most of the family members wanted to see Aly spend the rest of his life in prison, and the commonwealth agreed that multiple life sentences were appropriate to achieve justice in the case,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin said.
Maertens-Griffin graduated from Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland, at age 16, her mother said. She took computer science classes at Northern Virginia Community College and had recently moved to Fairfax County.
“One of the most painful aspects of this case is that the family may never know Aly’s motive to murder their loved ones.,” Quackenbush said. “We are all left asking, ‘Why?’”
Aly also was sentenced to 18 more years for firearms offenses.