“In cold blood.” Those were the first words spoken Tuesday to the jury on the opening day of a murder trial expected to continue late into next week.
Michel Moreno, 59, is charged with first-degree murder and felony hit and run in the July 21, 2018 death of his sister, Nancy, whom he struck with a vehicle as she was walking along the shoulder of Rt. 28.
“In cold blood. That’s what we used to call it,” Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jason Faw said to the jury during his opening statement in the case. If prosecutors can prove to a unanimous jury that Moreno acted willfully, deliberately and with premeditation in causing the death of his 54-year-old sister, Moreno could be sentenced to spend 20 years to life in prison.
Moreno’s attorney, Robert Vernail, told the jury that few elements of the case would be in dispute as dozens of witnesses provide testimony in the following days, but he indicated that Moreno ultimately would take the stand and tell them what was going through his mind that day.
Faw said that Moreno and his sister had a “complex” relationship that became further
strained when their mother, Anna, was diagnosed with cancer. It started with a disagreement over her treatment options.
Moreno, who lived with his mother in Sterling, wanted her to undergo holistic treatment, while Nancy favored conventional medical treatment. A close friend of Nancy’s testified that while Anna was ill, he had to mediate a disagreement among the three Morenos after Nancy called him in a panic.
The friction continued during Anna’s stay at the StoneSprings Hospital Center. On Tuesday, two nurses testified that Moreno often was confrontational about the treatment, resulting in his removal from the hospital on some occasions.
After his mother died in March 2018, Moreno blamed Nancy, and later also blamed the hospital’s nurses, Faw said.
Nancy then moved from her Sugarland Run home to live with her brother at their mother’s house nearby. As she took control of his finances, pressed him to get a job and become more responsible, Faw said, their friction increased as Moreno continued to blame her for causing Anna’s death.
On July 21, 2018, Nancy was planning to travel to Cleveland for her job at the Federal Trade Commission. Her brother was on course to drive her to Dulles Airport. They didn’t make it that far.
Near the Innovation Avenue interchange, he pulled over on the shoulder and Nancy got out, taking her suitcase with her. She walked away, continuing on the shoulder toward the airport.
Faw said at least two drivers passing by would testify about seeing Moreno drive into his sister and then drive away with her suitcase dragging underneath the front of the Toyota RAV4 all the way to the area of Frying Pan Road in Fairfax County, where it was later recovered by investigators.
Nancy was taken to a hospital, where she died five hours later.
Moreno kept driving. He was arrested in a Maryland casino by Anne Arundel County policeafter investigators used cell phone pinging to find his path and location.