Fairfax Co. police offer $40,000 reward for info. on suspect accused of killing Hannah Choi

Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, confirmed that they found the remains of missing woman Hannah Choi while searching a Maryland park late last week.

The body found in Piscataway Park in Maryland on Friday was confirmed to be Choi’s upon forensic examination, Maj. Ed O’Carroll said.

O’Carroll announced that donations from the Choi family have raised the reward to $40,000 for information leading to the whereabouts and arrest of ex-boyfriend Joel Mosso Merino, 27.

“Joel, if you’re listening to me, turn yourself in,” O’Carroll said. “Surrender on your terms, at a time and place of your choosing, or be arrested on ours. You can tell your story, and you enjoy a presumption of innocence.”

Police have charged Merino with second-degree murder and disposal of a body.

Choi’s younger sister, Mina, gave a statement on behalf of the family at the news conference.

“I always knew my sister was a social butterfly. She had so many friends and connections. The past couple weeks have really shown us that particularly how much of an impact that she had on the people’s lives around her,” Mina Choi said. “We will always remember her as someone who is brave, strong, independent, and someone who dedicated her life to helping others.”

The 35-year-old resident of the Alexandria section of Fairfax County was first reported missing on March 6 after spending the previous night with Merino.

When police searched her home, they noticed the house was in order, except for some missing bedding materials in her room.

Lt. Erin Weeks said that police believe something happened between Choi and Merino, and that Choi sustained a significant injury. Afterward, Merino is believed to have removed Choi and transported her body to Charles County, Maryland.

The car Merino used that night was found in D.C., and Fairfax County detectives reportedly found evidence that suggested Choi was harmed prior to going missing, according to Weeks.

Police also learned that Merino had a pre-planned flight to California booked for March 7, but Merino didn’t show up for boarding, according to Maj. O’Carroll.

A passerby found Choi’s body in Piscataway Park on March 24. The Medical Examiner’s Office in the Charles County Sheriff’s Office was able to positively confirm Choi’s identity over the weekend.

Police said that Merino was last seen outside of the state when he was spotted on video surveillance near Atlanta.

“We’re working hard, but we really need a break in the case,” O’Carroll said. “And that’s an anonymous call, someone that wants to be known — anyone that has a little bit of information — to give us a little bit more data.”

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Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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