On Saturday night, Sterling Plaza’s Safeway grocery store was quiet. Shoppers filed in and out one of the store's two entrances. The other entrance, the scene of Friday night’s triple homicide, was blocked off by security guards, yellow tape and shattered glass.
At 10:40 p.m. Friday, Sheriff’s deputies responded to 22350 Sterling Boulevard for a report of gunfire. Upon arrival, deputies discovered the bodies of Sterling residents Alexander Enrique Rivera-Moreno, 22, and Claudia Vanessa Ayala-Duron, 22, in front of the grocery store. A third victim, Christopher Lee Beech, 24, of Ashburn, was found behind the store, near a loading dock.
Kraig Troxell, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, said all three victims suffered fatal gunshot wounds.
The shootings were the result of a lovers' quarrel, Troxell said. Moreno met Ayala-Duron, his former girlfriend, and Beech outside of the grocery store. First, Moreno shot Ayala-Duron. Beech ran behind the store. Moreno followed him behind the store, shot and killed him. He returned to Ayala-Duron’s body, then shot and killed himself.
Ayala-Duron and Beech were friends and worked together at Bottom Dollar Foods, located in the same shopping plaza.
"There was some sort of friendship there," Troxell said. "All three victims knew each other in some fashion."
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the shootings as a possible double homicide and suicide, Troxell said.
"We want to make sure we have all of the information."
Troxell said there’s no indication the shootings were gang related.
"It was most likely a domestic dispute," he said.
ONE DAY AFTER the shootings, Donald Watchford, a Safeway employee, smoked a cigarette outside of the grocery store. He stood next to Ayala-Duron’s family.
"She left two little ones behind," he said.
Across the parking lot, Victory Ly loaded groceries into his car. Ly, who has lived in Sterling Park for more than 20 years, said he was shocked to hear about the shootings.
"My jaw hit the floor," he said. "This is typical suburbia. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen here. But they do now."
This is Loudoun’s first confirmed homicide this year. Last year, there were two homicides in the county, Troxell said.
In July, two teenage boys went on a shooting spree a few miles from the Sterling Plaza. Eric Pang and Joseph Trevilla, both 16 years old, allegedly shot at five homes in the area of Aster Terrace, Holborn Court and North Argonne Avenue; one man sleeping in his bedroom on Coventry Square was hospitalized. The pair are scheduled for trial Oct. 27.
Weeks after the drive-by shootings, Stacey Arthur, a Sterling Park resident, said her apartment complex staff sent out letters to tenants, advising them not to take walks at night.
Arthur lives only a few miles away from the grocery store. When she went shopping on Sunday, she said she was scared for the safety of her 5-year-old daughter.
"I’ve never heard of a bad neighborhood gone good. You only hear about good neighborhoods gone bad," she said. "I can’t even take walks with my daughter anymore."
STERLING RESIDENT Randa Johnson does not feel safe in her neighborhood anymore. In fact, she’s leaving.
Johnson is the mother of a 3-month-old girl and said she is moving to a different neighborhood in Sterling due to recent acts of violence.
"I don’t feel like it’s safe for her anymore," Johnson said.
Ayala-Duron’s family declined to comment.