FAIRFAX, Va. - Police offered prayers to the family of 16-year-old Jholie Moussa at a press conference Friday morning where they officially announced the arrest of a suspect in her death. Fairfax County Major Richard Perez told reporters that 18-year-old Nebiyu Ebrahim, Jholie's ex-boyfriend, was arrested and charged with her murder.
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. called her death "horrible and tragic" and said homicide detectives were searching for evidence related to her murder in a pond in the Alexandria area near Ebrahim's home.
"From the moment we got this call we did not stop to find Jholie," Roessler said.
Perez said Jholie died from asphyxia by smothering and blunt force trauma. He said that a dive team was also searching Friday for any other possible evidence in the case a pond near Pole Road and Pondside Terrace. Sources confirmed to FOX 5 that the dive team was searching for Jholie's cellphone.
Originally, investigators listed Jholie as a runaway saying they had no evidence she was in danger. On Jan. 17, the FBI joined the investigation in the search for Jholie.
Jholie's body was discovered on Jan. 25 partially buried in a shallow grave near a footpath in Woodland Park along Manor Drive in the Alexandria area.
Fairfax County police identified a 17-year-old boy as a person of interest in the case after he was arrested on Jan. 18 in connection to a prior alleged assault on Jholie before she was found dead.
That suspect, now identified as Ebrahim, has since turned 18 years old, according to officials. Perez said Ebrahim lived in the Alexandria area with his parents close to where Jholie's body was found and said the two were not strangers to each other.
Fairfax County police said a new law in Virginia that prohibits law enforcement from identifying a juvenile crime victim without written parental consent hindered their ability to get information out about Jholie sooner.
"This was a family who was suffering and for us to have to use this law that prohibits our transparency to find the suspect to bring justice to the family, we're in a position or retraumatizing families across our jurisdiction because of this law," Roessler said. "We used every resource to try to find her immediately but sometimes in cases where children are missing we need the name because we have social media and we can get tips and that's one of the things that hinders cases like this. The law needs to change."
Ebrahim, who was being held without bond, faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted, according to officials. He is scheduled to be back in court in October.