A four-year investigation into the 2007 death of a 19-year-old Columbia man has culminated in the arrest of the man's twin brother for murder, Howard County police announced Thursday, Sept. 15.
Wael Ali, 23, who has been living in Marietta, Ga., was arrested by the Cobb County sheriff's office Thursday. Two Howard County police detectives were there to witness and assist in the arrest, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.
Ali's brother, Wasel Ali, a 2006 Wilde Lake graduate, was found dead from a neck injury Aug. 27, 2007, on a secluded dirt path behind the 12000-block of Green Meadow Drive in Hickory Ridge, in woods that the brothers frequented as kids, said Llewellyn..
"They hung out there together," she said.
Ali's body was discovered by a passerby several feet from a path behind a playground near the Club Merion condominium. A preliminary autopsy led police to believe Ali was beaten to death, according to a Howard County Times article from the time.
The case was "never set aside" in the last four years, Llewellyn said, though the police department's cold-case unit did assist detectives.
The arrest was the result of long standing efforts to collect evidence, not on a single breakthrough in the case, Llewellyn said.
"This was a culmination of months and years of gathering information, talking with people, finding new people who were willing to talk, people who talked before but who were willing to be interviewed again and offered new information," she said.
"It wasn't like there was one new fact that culminated in the arrest."
Police did not give a specific motive for the alleged murder, but included details about two separate incidents in the brothers' lives on Aug. 22, 2007 — the day Wasel Ali went missing — that paint a picture of conflict between the two.
That morning, county police had searched the brothers' home on Warm Granite Drive in connection to an Arlington, Va., case in which both brothers were arrested on Aug. 17 for possession of a stolen handgun and impersonating police officers, police said.
Later that day, the brothers were at the Banana Republic in The Mall in Columbia, where Wasel Ali worked and where he allegedly admitted to his and his brother's involvement in a scheme to steal $1,300 worth of clothes after a manager confronted and fired him for it.
According to police, the brothers were last seen on mall surveillance videos at around 6:45 p.m. that day, when they separated and exited at opposite ends of the mall.
Wael Ali then called a friend "distraught" about 25 minutes later, saying his brother was "missing," police said.
Witnesses said Wael then arrived at a friend's house "frantic" and "in a panic," police said in a statement.
He then "asked friends to help him look for his brother, but said he already searched the area where Wasel Ali's body would later be found," a police statement said.
The Ali family reported Wasel Ali as missing approximately four hours after he was last seen on mall surveillance video, police said.
Llewellyn stopped short of connecting the events of Aug. 22 to a motive, but said when "a crime like this occurs, it is important to look back at the hours just prior to the incident."
Llewellyn said the family connection in the case is not as surprising as how the connection played out.
"Certainly we do see domestic incidents from time to time between family members that can become violent," she said. "But this was unusual because it happened between family, but not in a home, and not in a way that made it immediately obvious that another family member was involved."
The arrest comes in the same week that suspects in two other homicides in Columbia were taken into custody.
Dominique Davon McDonald, 21, of Columbia, is accused of shooting and killing bail bondswoman Nichole Bernadette McNair, of Baltimore, on Monday, Sept. 12, in Long Reach, and Anthony Patrick Parker, 53, of no fixed address, has been charged in the fatal stabbing Tuesday, Sept. 13, of Phillip Edward Wise in Harper's Choice.
"We always prefer to close a case quickly if possible, and in our recent two homicides we were able to make those arrests within 24 hours," Llewellyn said. "In this (2007) case, the arrest didn't come quite as quickly, but we took the time that we needed to be meticulous, so that at this point, although it had become a cold case, we were finally able to make this arrest."