Surprising defense in slaying of Va. woman in Ivy City Hotel room

A D.C. man accused of stabbing a Virginia woman more than 30 times in a Northeast D.C. hotel room in March will remain behind bars as his first-degree murder trial continues, a judge ruled Friday.

The judge’s decision came after attorneys on both sides argued their case to D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Okun — with the defense attorney for George Sydnor making the bold claim the evidence indicated the attack wasn’t random and that his client was attacked first.

On March 31, D.C. police officers responded to the Ivy City Hotel, where they found 31-year-old Christy Bautista stabbed to death. Officers found Sydnor, 43, inside the room, sitting on the bed smoking a cigarette with a bloody knife inside his jacket, according to charging documents.

Bautista’s family told NBC Washington that the Arlington, Virginia, native was in town from Harrisonburg to see a concert in D.C.

A medical examiner found Bautista was stabbed with such force that her lung, liver and spinal column were pierced, indicating she could have been paralyzed during the attack.

In the bold move, Sydnor’s defense attorney Jesse Winograd argued to Okun that, in his view, the evidence showed Sydnor was cut first, citing deep wounds to Sydnor’s hand. Prosecutors contend Sydnor cut himself inadvertently while carrying out the brutal attack.

Winograd also said the evidence shows Bautista let Sydnor inside the room before she was killed, indicating that, in his view, the meeting could not have been random.

During the hearing, Winograd played CCTV video from the Ivy City Hotel on March 31, showing Sydnor riding up on a bicycle up to Bautista’s room and pausing outside the door before entering.

Prosecutor Sarah Santiago said during that moment of hesitation, Sydnor was “turning over in his head an opportunity of what he could do.” She went on to point out the improbability of Bautista, who stood just over 5 feet tall, successfully attacking Sydnor who stands 6 feet, 4 inches in height.

“He would be towering above her,” Santiago said. “And the force that he used not only broke the knife, but he managed to injure himself on his dominant hand, the hand that he would have had the knife in.”

Winograd pushed back on the prosecution’s narrative that the meeting was not planned.

“The theory that he went and found a random person and randomly went into her room doesn’t hold up,” Winograd said.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge ultimately rejected the defense argument, deciding there was probable cause that Sydnor killed Bautista.

Judge Okun also found Sydnor too dangerous to release, citing Sydnor’s eight prior convictions and that he was pending sentencing at the time of the crime, combined with the nature of the crime at hand. His next hearing is in September.

Even after the new evidence presented Friday, however, it remains unclear how Sydnor got inside Room 116 of the Ivy City Hotel. The defense attorney pointed out that there was no damage to the door or any other signs of forced entry.

According to charging documents presented by prosecutors, after listening at the door, Sydnor leaned back and then stepped inside.

A spokesman for the Ivy City Hotel told WTOP in a statement in April that, “All guest rooms are equipped with door viewers, door safety latches and modern, tamper-proof RFID locks with 1” safety deadbolt,” which would lock when closed.

There is no evidence in the charging documents that the two knew each other, and there is no evidence Sydnor attempted to rob Bautista.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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