Police: Person of interest in Jholie Moussa’s death is in custody

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Jholie Moussa was a 16-year-old sophomore at Mount Vernon High School.  (Images from the Justice for Jholie Facebook page)

A 17-year-old juvenile had been identified as a person of interest in the death of Jholie Moussa, the Fairfax Police announced during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. 

Major Richard Perez, the FCPD’s Commander of the Major Crimes Bureau, said police became aware of a previous unreported assault against Moussa during the course of their investigation into her disappearance. The juvenile was arrested and charged with felony assault on Jan. 18, and remains in custody. He has not been charged in Moussa’s death, which police are considering a homicide. 

A source with knowledge of the case said the juvenile is an ex-boyfriend. Because the person of interest is a minor, he was not named by police. 

Moussa, 16, left her home on Sonia Court in the Mount Zephyr area on the afternoon of Jan. 12 and was not seen again. Her body was discovered last Friday by officers searching Woodlawn Park, which is less than a mile from her home.

Moussa’s mom and community members have been critical of the police’s investigation into her disappearance, sharply disagreeing with the initial classification of Moussa as a runaway. Perez and Lt. James Bacon pushed back against those allegations at the press conference. 

“We have been concerned from the onset. We remain concerned,” Perez said.

Bacon outlined a timeline of the police’s investigation, saying that after Jholie was reported missing by her family on Jan. 13, officers conducted interviews and searches that day, and the following two days. On Jan. 16, Bacon said the police met with the FBI and representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and upgraded her status to an endangered missing juvenile due to that fact that Moussa was completely off “the electronic radar” — no texts, calls or social media posts.

“This case took a lot of turns, with a lot of incoming information, with a lot of leads to followup,” Bacon said. “It continues to have just an enormous amount of leads.”

Asked why Jholie was initially listed as a runaway, Perez said police were working with “the best information that we had at the time.”

Perez also said that Jholie did not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert, which requires someone being abducted.

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