Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Chief Kevin Davis said detectives believe they know the location of the man suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend and dumping her body in a Maryland park.
Joel Merino, 27, has been on the run since 35-year-old Hannah Choi went missing after the two shared a “good-bye dinner” at a restaurant on March 5. Her body was found in late March in Piscataway Park in Prince George’s County.
“We suspect we know where he is and we anticipate that he’ll be apprehended in the very near future,” Davis said on the WTOP podcast, “DMV Download,” hosted by Megan Cloherty and Luke Garrett.
“I can’t say everything that I want to say, because our detectives are working really, really hard to put Joel Merino in a set of handcuffs for that horrific crime,” he said.
There is a $40,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts and arrest of Merino, who was last believed to be in the Atlanta area.
Davis added, “We will get Joel Merino. I promise you that.”
Merino was charged with second-degree murder last month, even before Choi’s remains were discovered.
During a March 15 news conference, police said they believed there was an argument between the former couple the night Choi went missing. Though they were separated, they were still living together in separate parts of the same house in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.
Police said they believe Merino killed Choi in the house, then moved her body to the wooded area in Prince George’s County.
The following day, according to court documents, a friend noticed the leftovers from the restaurant, but Choi was missing.
Police said they discovered bedding was missing from one of the bedrooms.
Davis said that Merino was identified as a person of interest early on in the investigation into Choi’s disappearance, but that detectives had to work to get enough evidence to charge him with a crime. In the meantime, “He gets in his car and goes,” Davis said.
He continued, “We had to build a case carefully, and we had to work with prosecutors from the commonwealth’s attorney office to establish probable cause. So by the time we establish probable cause, he was on the run.”
“We’ve got to do the work the right way, or else it’ll get to a courtroom and fall apart, and then the killer remains free.”