A 24-year-old man brutally killed a 27-year-old woman who was walking a dog in Northwest D.C., prosecutors said. After hearing the evidence against Eliyas Aregahegne, a judge has agreed the case should proceed to a grand jury.
Sitting quietly in an orange jumpsuit, the defendant slumped forward, his gaze fixed across the room as the lead detective on the case testified to what he heard Aregahegne say just hours after Margery Magill’s fatal, and seemingly random, stabbing on Aug. 27.
D.C. police Det. Chad Leo said Aregahegne told investigators that “dark forces were speaking to him from inside his head,” and that “things got out of hand.”
In the courtroom, Leo reviewed surveillance footage taken from a nearby home in which he said a man matching the defendant’s vague description is seen in a white T-shirt and dark pants, running from the scene just seconds after Magill can be heard screaming, “No, no, no!”
Leo then recounted for D.C. Superior Court Judge Ronna Beck that neighbors were trying to help the dying woman when police arrived just after 8:45 p.m. and discovered she had been stabbed multiple times.
Magill was attacked on Irving Street Northwest, not far from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where she later died.
Police have said that Magill was being paid by a couple to walk their dog while they were out of town, and she was seen by several witnesses in the area before the stabbing.
However, there are no witnesses to the attack. There is also no evidence of a robbery or sexual assault, Leo said. He told the judge there is no clear motive for the killing.
Leo testified that about 50 feet from the stabbing scene, a blood trail led detectives to Aregahegne’s father’s apartment door.
Inside, the defendant was sitting on the couch nursing a bleeding finger. On the kitchen floor, Leo said detectives found the empty package for a kitchen knife and found a bloody white T-shirt in the bathroom.
The defendant’s father told Leo that they did not keep knives in the home; however, Argahegne’s fingerprints were later detected on the empty knife packaging. DNA results have not yet come back on the blood trail or the T-shirt.
Defense attorney David Knight called the investigation against his client weak, and said that it was “lazy” and “offensive” that the government would assume the person responsible for the killing had mental health issues.
Prosecutor Gauri Gopal fired back, making the case to the judge that no one went looking for someone with mental illness — it was a blood trail that led detectives straight to Aregahegne’s door, where they found him inside.
Aregahegne was valedictorian of his high school class, and Knight pointed to some of Aregahegne’s former teachers who, alongside his mother, were in the courtroom to show their support of a young man who Knight said is very bright.
The defendant was in college on a full scholarship, pursuing a career in engineering, when he started experiencing mental health issues and had to discontinue his education, Knight said.
Two weeks before the stabbing, Aregahegne left his mother’s house to live with his father. It is unclear from what mental health condition Aregahegne suffers.
Beck found that Aregahegne is a danger to the community, and he will be held until his next hearing in December on the second-degree murder charge.