Police: Man jumped into woman’s car at Fairfax shopping center

Police say the man is Hispanic and in his 20s or 30s. (Courtesy Fairfax County Police)

FAIRFAX, Va. – Fairfax County police are looking for a man who jumped into a woman’s car in the parking lot of the same shopping center where a 19-year-old woman was last seen alive in 2010.

Police say the man jumped into the passenger side of a 33-year-old woman’s car on Oct. 27 after she exited a store in the Fairfax Plaza Shopping Center in the 2900 block of Gallows Road at about 8:30 p.m.

The woman screamed and ran away, but then went back to her car because she had forgotten her purse. The man was still there, and fled as she came back. No one was injured.

The shopping center is the same site where Vanessa Pham was last seen alive in June 2010. Her vehicle was seen exiting the center just 10 minutes before she was found inside it and in a ditch near Route 50 and Gallows Road.

The Pham murder has not been solved.

Police have released surveillance video showing the recent incident. The woman can be seen walking toward her car before the man gets out of another vehicle and the incident occurs at about the one-minute mark in the upper left corner of the screen. The man then can be seen exiting the screen in the lower right corner, before the viewpoint changes to show him again.

“The driver of that car gets out of his car and jogs to the — we’ll call it a victim’s — vehicle, and it looks as if it’s extremely deliberate, so it could be simply a case of mistaken identity,” says Fairfax County Police spokesman Officer Don Gotthardt.

Video of Pham’s white vehicle leaving the shopping center in 2010 is below:

Police also have released a composite sketch of the man in the latest incident, describing him as Hispanic, in his 20s or 30s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing about 160 pounds.

Gotthardt says no crime was committed in the October incident, but police would still like to talk to the man. They also hope to speak with those in the vehicle that stopped to help when they heard the woman scream.

“We want to exhaust any investigative leads and we want to allay public fears,” Gotthardt says.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solvers by phone at (866) 411-TIPS/847, by email here or by texting “TIP187″ plus a message to CRIMES/274637. Those with information also can call Fairfax County Police at (703) 691-2131.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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