Originally published in the Aug. 30, 2007 edition of The Howard County Times.
A 19-year-old Columbia man, whose body was found this week near a footpath in Hickory Ridge, was beaten to death, according to an autopsy performed Aug. 28.
Wasel Ali, whose body was discovered on Aug. 27, died as a result of injuries caused during a physical altercation, Howard County police said.
Police refused to disclose other details about Ali's injuries.
"This is an open investigation so we are limited in how much information we can make public at this time," said Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman, on Aug. 29.
Police do not know when or where Ali -- who a family member reported missing on Aug. 22 -- was killed, Llewellyn said.
The autopsy, which was performed by the state medical examiner, determined the body was somewhat decomposed when discovered by a passer-by, police said.
Ali, who lived in the 8800 block of Warm Granite, in Columbia, was a 2006 graduate of Wilde Lake High School.
On Aug. 23, the day after he was reported missing, Ali was charged with five counts of theft, according to District Court records. Further information on those charges could not be released because Ali had not been served with a criminal summons connected to them, said Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for Howard County State's Attorney Timothy McCrone.
In July 2007, Ali, and his twin brother, Wael, 19, pleaded guilty in Howard County District Court to carrying a concealed dangerous weapon. Both were sentenced to 18 months probation before judgment in the case. '
At about 5:44 p.m. on Aug. 27 a man was walking alone on a path behind a playground near the Club Merion condominium, in the 12200 block of Green Meadow Drive in Columbia, when he spotted Ali's body, Llewellyn said.
The body was discovered several feet from the pathway.
Tom Louden, a member of the Hickory Ridge Village Board, said village officials have received complaints about vandalism on basketball courts near the spot where Ali's body was found.
"It's been a troublesome area that has caused the residents a lot of concern, so much so that we have called police to our board meetings," he said.
Ali's charges in July stemmed from an incident in which he and his brother, Wael, were arrested after chasing a vehicle from Broken Land Parkway in Columbia to Route 40 in Ellicott City, according to charging documents.
The brothers had stolen a Dodge Stratus that belonged to the U.S. Army and that night had pulled over a man and falsely identified themselves as Army police officers to the man, the charging documents state.
The brothers were charged with several counts, including theft of a vehicle from the U.S. Army, falsely representing themselves as police officers of the Army, and possession of a concealed dangerous weapon, according to the charging documents.
Prosecutors dropped all of the charges against the brothers except for that of carrying the concealed weapon, according to District Court records.
Sgt. Leroy Lamb, a U.S. Army recruiter, said Aug. 29 that Wasel Ali had previously been a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, but declined further comment.
Friends in mourning
Jared Flagg and his mother, Linda Waters, as well as Jonathan LaFrisco and Erana Krankoski, who called themselves friends of Ali, visited the site where Ali's body was found on Aug. 28.
Ali had worked at the Banana Republic store in Columbia mall, they said.
Michelle Sibbitt, a spokeswoman for Gap Inc., which owns the store, confirmed that.
Flagg and LaFrisco said they attended Wilde Lake High School with Ali.
"He was into law enforcement," LaFrisco said. "He would do anything for anybody. He wouldn't hurt nobody."
Waters said Ali was like a son to her.
"This is such a loss to his friends, a loss to his family," she said.
Ali's friends created a tribute for him on Facebook, a Web service. More than 200 people had posted messages on the page by Aug. 29. Many described themselves as "shocked" to hear of Ali's death. Several described him as "smart" and a "sweet" person who looked out for his friends.
"You have always been a good friend to me, and hurts that you are gone," read one post.
Ali's family declined to comment.
Police are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case and are asking people who have information about Ali's death to call 410-313-3200.
Mike Santa Rita and Nate Sandstrom contributed to this story.