Fairfax County

‘Fairfax County's Most Wanted': Woman Missing, Ex-Boyfriend Sought

Fairfax County police said they believe Hannah Choi, 35, was killed by her ex-boyfriend, Joel Merino

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Police believe a 35-year-old woman who disappeared from her home in Fairfax County, Virginia, more than a week ago was killed by her ex-boyfriend, who is now sought on a murder charge. The search for her body and her alleged killer are ongoing. 

The alleged killer is “Fairfax County’s most wanted,” Police Chief Kevin Davis said at a news conference Tuesday.

Hannah Choi was last seen in Kingstowne area on March 5. She was reported missing the next day. 

Joel Mosso Merino, 27, is wanted for second-degree murder and disposal of a body. He stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 230 pounds. He may be using a different name, and police received a tip he was in the Atlanta area. Anyone who knows of his whereabouts should call 911, as he may be dangerous, police said. 

Police in D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland, are involved in the investigation. Crews searched Piscataway Park for evidence for two days without results.

Choi was reported missing after she failed to arrive to appointments and friends began to worry, police said. As police began to investigate, their fears grew. 

“What initially started as a missing persons investigation a little more than a week ago turned into a homicide investigation,” Maj. Ed O’Carroll said. 

Officers searched Choi’s home in the 5300 block of Jesmond Street. The home was in order with the exception of bedding missing from a bedroom, O’Carroll said. 

Choi and Merino were seen in the community the night of March 5 and “may have had an argument,” O’Carroll said. “Detectives do believe at some point, something happened.”  

Merino is believed to have taken Choi somewhere, the major said, citing “mounting and compelling evidence.” He was known to have spent time in Piscataway Park.

Officers searched the park and found a car they believe was driven by Merino in D.C. 

Merino has no criminal history, and police had no record of calls for service to Choi’s home. 

Police said it’s rare to charge a suspect with murder without having recovered a victim’s body but said it’s possible when the evidence is overwhelming. 

Choi was a “bright, caring, amazing young woman with the world at her reach,” O’Carroll said. 

“This case is active until we find Hannah and we find that person, Merino,” he said. 

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