Man Guilty in Murder of Bethesda Teen

Man Guilty in Murder of Bethesda Teen

Ricardo Thomas, 20, faces life in prison for shooting Gonzaga grad Bijan Nassirdaftari last July.

A Washington, D.C. man was found guilty March 2 of murdering 17-year-old Bijan Nassirdaftari of Bethesda last July.

Ricardo Thomas, 20, was convicted on one count of first-degree murder, one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon and two other charges following a four-day jury trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment plus 60 years. Sentencing is scheduled for June 28 before Circuit Judge Nelson W. Rupp Jr.

Nassirdaftari was a 2005 Gonzaga High School graduate, and lived on Plantation Lane, near I-270 between Montrose Road and Tuckerman Lane. He had planned to attend the University of Maryland in the fall.

ACCORDING TO police reports and the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office, Nassirdaftari and three friends met the three perpetrators — Thomas, Michael Manaugh, 18, of Silver Spring, and Ardele Monkkonen, 18, of Washington, D.C. — on the 10400 block of Rockville Pike with the intention of buying one pound of marijuana from Manaugh. He had borrowed close to $1,000 from friends to make the purchase.

It was a set-up.

The trio had "no intention" of providing the drugs, said Deputy State's Attorney Katherine Winfree, who prosecuted the case. "They didn't have any to sell. ... They had planned the robbery together."

Nassirdaftari rode with Thomas, Manaugh and Monkkonen to the corner of Alta Vista Road and Alta Vista Terrace in a residential area near Old Georgetown Road to make the transaction. His friends followed in a separate car.

When Thomas went for the money, a struggle ensued. Nassirdaftari escaped the vehicle, and began to run down the street. Thomas shot him in the side of the head with a handgun, according to Winfree. DNA evidence showed that Thomas took then took the money off of Nassirdaftari's person, she said.

All three were arrested the day after the murder. Manaugh pleaded guilty to an armed robbery charge in exchange for having other charges dropped and agreeing to testify against Thomas. Monkkonen pleaded guilty to robbery and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder on the same conditions. Both face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.

State's Attorney Doug Gansler decried the "truly senseless" killing, which he said was committed "execution-style, in a quiet, suburban neighborhood."

The murder also undermines the idea that marijuana is a "soft" drug that differs from drugs like cocaine and heroin, Winfree and others said.

"Kids kind of think that marijuana doesn’t kill. They think it’s safe. It isn’t, and this is a good example of that," she said. "I’ve made my kids read [about Nassirdaftari]."