Virginia State Police

High School Student Charged in Death of Couple Found on Rural Virginia Highway

Ayanna Maertens-Griffin, 18, and Joel Bianda, 21, were found dead early Saturday on an isolated stretch of Route 58 in Halifax County

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A Northern Virginia high school student was charged Thursday in connection with the deaths of a young couple found shot to death Saturday on a rural Virginia highway hours from home, police said.

Mohamed A. Aly, 18, was arrested by Virginia State Police Thursday at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, sources said.

Friends of Aly's said they were stunned by the charges. They wondered if anyone else was involved.

"That can't be the Mohamed Aly I know," friend Kennedy Ntiamoah said. "It can't be him."

Aly had been focused on trying to win a college football scholarship, friends said.

A Northern Virginia high school student has been charged in connection with the death of a young couple found dead on a highway in Halifax County, Virginia. Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports.

Ayanna Maertens-Griffin, 18, and Joel Bianda, 21, were found dead early Saturday on an isolated stretch of Route 58 in Halifax County near North Carolina, Virginia State Police said. Their silver Nissan Maxima was nearby.

They both were shot once in the head, relatives said.

Police did not release information on a possible motive in the crime, or whether there are other suspects.

Family members said Bianda, of Alexandria, told them he and Maertens-Griffin were driving to Danville, Virginia, to pick up a friend. Maertens-Griffin's mother, Melissa Griffin, said she was unaware of any plans to visit the area.

Maertens-Griffin graduated from Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland, at age 16, her mother said. She took computer science classes at Northern Virginia Community College and had recently moved to Fairfax County.

"Even through the worst of days, she would light up, you know, anyone's face if they were having a rough day. Beautiful personality. Beautiful human. Everyone that encountered her loved her," her mother said.

Bianda's family previously declined comment, asking for privacy as they grieve.

Aly, who played football at T.C. Williams High, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other charges. He was taken to Halifax County for prosecution.

T.C. Williams High and late football coach Herman Boone inspired the movie "Remember the Titans."

The principal sent a letter to parents Thursday saying the arrest was handled safely and the school is complying with police. Counselors will be available to students and staff who need them.

A viewing for Maertens-Griffin will be held Feb. 21, on what have been her 19th birthday.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Virginia State Police. Anonymous tips are welcome.

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