Suspect Pleads Not Guilty in Death of Mary Washington Student

A former University of Mary Washington student pleaded not guilty in the death of a fellow student and housemate.

Steven Briel was formally charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the slaying of 20-year-old Grace Rebecca Mann of McLean.

Mann was found in the Fredericksburg house she shared with Briel and two other housemates. At a hearing in June, one of Mann's female housemates testified in court that before she got home, she received a chilling text message from Briel asking when she and another roommate would be home.

He wrote that he had been in the room Mann and the other roommate shared, "and I made a mess," the roommate testified.

When the women arrived at the home, they found the door to that bedroom closed. The two knocked, and a sweaty, fast-talking Briel emerged, police said.

The roommates testified that Briel told them he strangled Mann after a disagreement.

The women then described finding Mann's body under a purple comforter. A plastic grocery bag was over her head and several were stuffed into her mouth.

The motive in the case is still unclear.

Mann's slaying has attracted heightened attention because Mary Washington has been accused of gender bias by campus feminists.

Mann had been active on campus, particularly with a feminist group that is seeking a federal gender discrimination investigation of the state university. Feminists United said that some of its members -- including Mann -- have been threatened on the social media site Yik Yak, and that the university didn't do enough to investigate the threats.


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Mary Washington President Richard V. Hurley has said there is no evidence to support a connection between the social media attacks and Mann's death.

A trial date has not been set.

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