Alexandria teenager pleads guilty in killing of 2 Maryland high school grads

Virginia State Police are investigating a double homicide in Halifax County. (Courtesy Virginia State Police)

An Alexandria, Virginia, teenager has pleaded guilty to the death of two Maryland high school grads.

Mohamed Aly, 19, was sentenced to four consecutive life terms for the first-degree murders of Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, and Ayanna Maertens Griffin, 18, of Germantown, Maryland.

He was sentenced to an additional 18 years for related firearms offenses, a news release from the Halifax County, Virginia, Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said.

In February, Bianda agreed to drive Aly from Alexandria to Danville, Virginia. Griffin, who was Bianda’s girlfriend, went along for the ride.

Aly had with him a firearm, which he said he picked up from Alexandria. Aly, who was in the back seat, told prosecutors that he had “thoughts.”

“He said the thoughts were bad thoughts and good thoughts. He was having doubts about college and about his home life,” court documents said.

On the early morning of Feb. 8, Aly told Bianda to pull over. Aly said he knew the gun was loaded and the safety was off, and as Bianda was pulling over, Aly pulled the trigger and shot Bianda. A second later, he shot Griffin.

Aly opened the back left passenger door to stop the car with his foot. He was able to stop the car in the median on Highway 58 near Melon Road.

He pulled Bianda and Griffin out of the car and left their bodies in the grassy median, and then he took the vehicle and drove to Danville, where he picked up a juvenile friend M.B.

The two then returned to the scene to pick up the firearm that had been left with Bianda and Griffin. Aly then went through Bianda’s wallet and got rid of Bianda’s and Griffin’s cellphones in two locations.

Aly and M.B. took off again in Bianda’s car, where he eventually lost control of the vehicle, crashing into an embankment. They abandoned the car and ran into the woods near Melon Road. They got rid of the gun in the cutover, and threw the magazine and the firearm in different locations.

Aly and M.B. then called a cab to drive them to M.B.’s home, where they cleaned up and threw their clothes in a dumpster. Aly then hired another driver to pick them up to take them to Virginia State University, and called a friend from Alexandria to pick them up and drive them back to Alexandria, telling her he had been in a crash.

There, he returned to school, posted on social media, and generally appeared to resume normal life, a news release said.  

“One of the most painful aspects of this case is that the family may never know Aly’s motive to murder their loved ones. We are all left asking, why?” the Halifax County Commonweath’s Attorney’s Office said.

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