The intersection of Mount Vernon Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue became a crime scene shortly after 10 p.m. on Oct. 25, when a woman was gunned down as she waited at a red light. After the fatal shot was fired, her 1995 green Ford Tempo lurched forward and struck a utility pole at the northeast corner of the intersection. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Inova Alexandria Hospital.
“The information that was developed by detectives that night was that she was targeted,” said Amy Bertsch, a public information officer with the Alexandria Police Department. “The subsequent information that detectives have developed reinforces the belief that she was targeted.”
On Thursday, police identified the woman as Bethlehem Ayele, a 34-year-old Alexandria woman. They say she was driving a car north on Commonwealth Avenue when an unknown suspect approached the car and shot her. No one else was in the car when police arrived.
“We encourage people to contact us if they have any information about the case,” Bertsch said. “There were several other automobiles in the area at the time, and someone may have seen something that could help us solve this crime.”
Bertsch said that anyone with information could call the Criminal Investigations Section of the Alexandria Police Department at 703-838-4444. Currently, the only description police have released of the suspect is that he is a black male. Investigators are pursuing a number of leads, including a theory that Ayele may have been killed in retaliation for her testimony against members of a D.C. gang known as Murder Inc.
Court documents from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia show that Ayele served as a witness in a complicated drug case that included five defendants who were facing 158 counts of indictment. In 2003 and 2004, federal prosecutors used Ayele’s testimony to help build a case that the men conspired to distribute cocaine. Some of the defendants were also charged with witness tampering and murder. Several of the defendants were charged with attempting to murder potential witnesses in the case. The jury eventually convicted the defendants on a majority of the counts brought by the federal prosecutors. Records show that Ayele testified that she saw Deon Oliver, one of the defendants in the case, sell drugs.
“Her testimony supported the government’s contention that defendant Oliver entered the conspiracy partly as a result of his relationship with other drug sellers because it described defendant Oliver’s early narcotics-related interaction with those persons,” wrote Judge Royce Lamberth in a May 2 opinion. “Specifically, Bethlehem Ayele’s testimony was admitted as directly relevant to the circumstances of defendant Oliver’s entry into the conspiracy and to his relationship with the organization.”