DNA could clear defendant in Va. mother-son murder, says lawyer

LEESBURG, Va. — The lawyer for the man charged with the January 2018 murders of a Loudoun County mother and her adult son in their Aldie home told the judge DNA found on one of the victims could clear his client.

Brian Welsh, 38, of Herndon, Virginia is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 65-year-old Mala Manwani and her 32-year-old son Rishi.

In a brief motions hearing Monday, Welsh’s attorney Thomas Walsh told District Court Judge Charles Foley that “DNA found on the wallet on Rishi Manwani’s chest eliminated my client.”

Walsh told the judge a recently-received report from Virginia’s Department of Forensic Science showed DNA recovered from Rishi Manwani’s wallet, after he and his mother had been shot, “had a substantial similarity” to a person in the database for a Jan. 2, 2001 crime.

Welsh’s lawyer did not elaborate in court about the person whose DNA was allegedly similar to that found on Manwani’s wallet, but said, “I need time to investigate that report.”

Spokespeople for Loudoun County prosecutors and sheriff’s office declined to answer whether other DNA recovered at the scene matches Welsh’s.

Loudoun County prosecutors Sean Morgan and Eric Pohlner did not oppose a motion to delay Welsh’s preliminary hearing, which was rescheduled for Aug. 23.

Court filings show some of the evidence prosecutors intend to use in Welsh’s probable cause hearing.

A certificate of analysis from Virginia’s forensic lab showed seven bullet casings recovered near Mala and Rishi Manwani’s bodies had been fired from the Browning Arms Co. model Buck Mark .22 Long Rifle semiautomatic pistol that Welsh’s family had turned over to investigators.

Walsh’s attorney said prosecutors have not provided forensic testing of bullets recovered from the victims’ bodies.

Prosecutors and Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman have not provided many specific theories of why Welsh allegedly murdered the Manwanis.

In announcing Welsh’s arrest in March, Chapman said Welsh targeted Rishi Manwani over drug activity taking place in the home. They were involved in “narcotics purchases and distribution,” Chapman said at the time, but declined to elaborate.

The mother, Mala, was not believed to be an intended target, Chapman said, adding that in the past, Welsh had been in the Manwani home often.

In filings to ensure Welsh stays in jail until trial, prosecutors submitted a letter from his former employer, Learning Tree International, stating that he had been fired one week before the murders.

In the Jan. 25, 2018 confidential memo — written six days before the Manwani murders — company supervisors said after being notified by phone that he was terminated, Welsh told one supervisor, “I should be worried about him,” after she recommended he contact a counselor or seek medical attention immediately.

Despite being ordered to stay off company premises, witnesses saw him in the building, with a backpack, prompting a lockdown.

Police searched his car and found no weapons or threat.

Welsh’s attorney has said his client has provided several statements to investigators, has cooperated and never issued a confession.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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