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New Charges Pending; Two Sentenced to Prison

Courthouse Proceedings

July 18, 2002

First it was malicious wounding charges staring Zaid Karim Bechara in the face. Now it's likely murder charges.

Bechara appeared in court in Alexandria for the first time on July 15, charged with malicious wounding in the death of his wife, 38-year-old Suzanna Bechara.

Zaid Bechara had been hospitalized at Inova Fairfax Hospital since the incident on July 1. He has now recovered from self-inflicted stab wounds and appeared in court to face the charges.

The incident began at around 5:30 p.m. on July 1. The victim, who was suffering from multiple stab wounds, escaped from her home in the Parkfairfax neighborhood of the city and went to a neighbor’s home for help. The suspect then barricaded himself in his home until police broke down the door approximately six hours later. They found Bechara and transported him to the hospital. The victim, who was transported to Washington Hospital’s Medstar Unit, died of her wounds hours after she was stabbed.

The warrant for malicious wounding was issued prior to the victim’s death. According to officials, Bechara will likely face murder charges now that his wife has died.

WILLIAM HAGGANS, 24, of Alexandria, was sentenced to nine years in prison for attempted murder and attempted arson for trying to blow up his parents’ home in February.

At the sentencing hearing on July 11, Haggans apologized to his parents. He told police that he attempted to destroy the home and to murder his parents because they were making him move out of their home.

According to court documents, Haggans became angry with his parents, asked them if they were prepared to die, turned on the gas in the kitchen of their home and began attempting to light a cigarette lighter. His mother left the home and called police from a pay phone. Haggans’ father, a paraplegic, was unable to leave the house on his own and was rescued by police officers.

“Maybe I should have gone out and gotten some air,” Haggans said to police and others, after the incident.

“A child born among many children in a home occupied by substance abusing parents who also abuse each other,” said Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Erik Barnet at the sentencing hearing, describing Haggans. “Certainly, it would be difficult for any person to function under those circumstances. Whether those circumstances result in the low IQ or associated cognitive difficulties is a question left for others far more qualified.

"What strikes as odd, however, and perhaps there’s a psychological reason for it, is that the home which was so abusive and the parents who were so mean, the neighborhood so violent: the defendant would not leave those things, even though he was asked repeatedly to do so by those very parents…”

Judge John Kloch sentenced Haggans to nine years in prison and to mental health and substance abuse treatment.

DWAYNE MILLER was sentenced July 11, to 20 years in prison for shooting Darrell Atkins in front of his children as they were returned to their mother after weekend visitation. Atkins is still unable to work as a result of the shooting.

Miller shot Atkins three times as Atkins’ two young stepdaughters watched. The incident occurred at around 7 p.m. at a busy gas station in Alexandria last December. Miller was convicted of aggravated malicious wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of that assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

“The victim’s significant injuries caused by the defendant, the inherent risk to others caused by the defendant and the defendant’s lack of candor and acceptance of responsibility merit such a sentence,” said Barnet, in a sentencing memorandum to Judge Donald Haddock.

The judge agreed with the Commonwealth’s position and reduced the recommended sentence from 25 years to 20 years in prison with nine years of post release supervision.