Police say Muslim girl's killing near Virginia mosque was not hate crime

A man accused of killing a teenage Muslim girl appeared in a Virginia court on Monday morning to face a murder charge, the court clerk's office said, as police said the killing was not being investigated as a hate crime.

Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, was in his car when he got into a dispute with the 17-year-old girl and a group of her friends before dawn on Sunday in Sterling in Northern Virginia, about 30 miles (48 km) outside Washington, according to the Fairfax County Police Department. Martinez got out of the car and assaulted the girl, police said.

The girl and her friends were to have their last meal at a nearby International House of Pancakes, a fast-food chain, before fasting for Ramadan, the Washington Post reported.

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Her friends sought help at a nearby mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), the mosque said in a statement. The mosque added extra overnight prayers sessions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when devout Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.

Police arrested Martinez after he was seen driving suspiciously, and found what they believe to be the body of the girl later Sunday in a nearby pond.

It was not immediately clear whether Martinez had a lawyer and whether he had entered a plea to the charge of second-degree murder during an initial court appearance. The county prosecutor's office did not immediately respond to questions.

Neither the police nor the mosque confirmed the identity of the girl, but an online fundraising page and local media named her as Nabra Hussein.

The girl and her friends were dressed in abayas, the robe-like dress worn by some Muslim women, according to the Post, prompting fears that the victim was targeted because she was Muslim.

Fairfax police said in a statement on Monday morning that they were not investigating the murder as a hate crime.

Police did not say whether Martinez and the girl knew each other.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)