The murder of a 28-year-old Chantilly man — stabbed in his bed while he slept — happened 19 months ago, but his killer has not yet been brought to justice.
Now, though, a court date has been set for the man police believe is guilty of the crime — the victim's brother, Ahmed Deria of Franconia. Deria, 30, is slated for a jury trial in September.
The tragedy occurred five days before Christmas, on Dec. 20, 2001. The victim, Saeed Deria, was asleep in his Rockland Village apartment, around 5 a.m., when he was attacked. He died six hours later, around 11 a.m., at Inova Fairfax Hospital from a single stab wound to his upper body.
Ahmed Deria lived on Burdon Court in the Kingstowne section of Franconia and was visiting his brother at the time. Fairfax County police initially charged him with malicious wounding. But after his brother died, the grand jury indicted Deria, a month later, for murder. (No motive has as yet been revealed for the slaying.)
However, the case then took a tricky turn, and the suspect's unknown mental state forced everything to grind to a halt. After being placed in the Adult Detention Center, Deria exhibited bizarre behavior. He had visual and auditory hallucinations — and he refused to take medication or wear clothes. His actions so alarmed the authorities that he was given a psychiatric examination and was found incompetent.
Worried that he was becoming a danger to himself and to others at the jail, the county had him transferred, Feb. 13, 2002, to Central State Hospital. Dr. Eugene Gourley, a clinical psychologist, examined him there. During Deria's May 24, 2002, competency hearing in Circuit Court, Gourley testified that no one knew, yet, if Deria was retarded or simply lacked the education to understand what was happening to him.
Gourley said Deria had difficulty reasoning and comprehending the court process — especially the concepts of a jury trial and the differences between the various pleas he could enter.
"I don't think he'd be able to understand the [legal] process to help his attorney," said Gourley. "He seemed to understand what he was charged with but didn't understand the seriousness of it or of the consequences."
The doctor said Deria's psychiatric and medical history appeared to be consistent with schizophrenia. He also noted that a childhood head trauma caused Deria problems with thinking and memory.
"He couldn't complete school in Somalia and was never able to function as an adult, so we have some concerns about his cognitive ability, as well," said Gourley. He said Deria's learned some English — his native language is Somalian — but needed things constantly repeated to him.
Gourley also revealed that Deria had stabbed the same brother a couple years ago in California, but the doctor didn't know if he was punished for it legally. He said Deria told him the authorities "let him go." And he noted that Deria needs continued treatment and medication to keep from becoming violent and aggressive.
Judge Jonathan Thacher then ordered Deria sent to Central State Hospital for psychiatric treatment and assessment. Deria returned to court, Nov. 8, 2002 and, after being updated on his condition, the judge determined that he still wasn't ready to stand trial. Thacher sent him back to the hospital for further evaluation.
Now, though, according to Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who's prosecuting the case, the competency hurdle has been cleared.
"In June, [Gourley] filed a report saying that [Deria] is competent to stand trial," said Horan. "Deria is scheduled to have a jury trial, Sept. 22, in Circuit Court.