WASHINGTON - It's one of the district's most chilling unsolved crimes – the 2009 murder of U Street restaurateur Nori Amaya.
A 38-year-old free spirit found strangled to death inside her Northwest apartment. A case that has so far puzzled investigators and her family.
It's now been seven long years since Carlos Amaya discovered the body of his sister inside her 16th street apartment. It’s a shock that's left him with a swirl of emotions – enormous grief on top of simmering anger.
How could someone do this to Nori?
"There's time when I wake up and want to call her, I want to hear her voice, I want to have a drink with her, we always went out and had our wine together and you can't and there is nothing you can do, I am completely understanding of the fact she is gone, which I wasn't before,” said Carlos.
After Nori was killed Carlos struggled with his emotions. He closed the restaurant on U Street and moved to Houston. But it didn't last, something was pulling him back.
"In a sense I felt I didn't want to give up, but I needed a break, but it didn't work I had to get back to D.C.," Carlos explained.
He reopened their restaurant Coppi's, but this time on Connecticut Avenue. He kept calling police and prosecutors to see what was being done to close the case.
"Any updates? Where are we? Any developments? And it sort of went the same way for the last seven years," said Carlos.
On Halloween night 2009, a Saturday, Nori Amaya worked the early shift at the restaurant before slipping out for the evening. The self-proclaimed salsa queen of D.C. wanted to dance.
She went to the Rumba Cafe on 18th street where she had been dating the owner, before heading to the Russia House and then to Bravo Bravo where she met up with her regular dance partner.
But she didn't stay long and took a cab home.
In surveillance video you can see Nori walking into the Woodner lobby about 2:30 in the morning. She stops briefly to talk with someone at the front desk before checking her mail and walking down the hallway.
When Sunday goes by with no word from Nori, Carlos heads to the apartment Monday morning, but gets no answer and by Monday afternoon he feels something's wrong.
In video you can see Carlos and his younger sister Blanca checking in at the front desk.
When Carlos and his sister made it inside Nori's 11th floor apartment at the Woodner they found her in bed wrapped in a comforter, she was still dressed in her underwear, but she had clearly been murdered and when homicide investigators arrived and began to examine the body they found something chilling –something that shook the veteran investigators, they discovered all of her fingernails had been cut off, apparently in an attempt to keep the police from getting any DNA.
"To me it's just incredible to see and to really understand that there is someone that can do that – it is unique,” explained Carlos.
In just the first couple of days officials were able to conduct numerous interviews, but they did not arrive with a true suspect in the case, according to Lt. Anthony Haythe, with D.C. police. They continue to hope someone will come forward with information relative to what happened.
The Woodner apartment complex is huge and is protected by cameras focused on the front doors, side doors and back doors, but despite that investigators were unable to come up with a suspect – in part because so many people were in Halloween costumes.
As the investigation progressed, detectives were able to foil the killer’s wicked plan to cover his tracks. They were able to discover a DNA profile that has so far been used to rule a number of people out.
"A lot of the friends who knew my sister who are male have also been tested, have also been eliminated, everyone I know has given their DNA willing, including her boyfriend at the time.” Carlos explained.
So far no match has been found, but when a match is made, Carlos believes it will be someone his sister knew.
Now, seven years later Carlos and his younger sister Blanca honor Nori by running a cozy Italian eatery in Cleveland Park where every September 9th, her birthday, they invite friends in to celebrate her life.