FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Police have confirmed that human remains found Thursday are those of a missing Virginia woman, allegedly killed by her ex-boyfriend.
A community member in the Charles County area found the body of 35-year-old Hannah Choi at Piscataway Park on March 24. Choi had been missing since Mar. 6.
The Medical Examiner's Office and the Charles County Sherriff's Office concluded Monday that the remains indeed were a match for Choi. The results of the autopsy are pending further examination, according to police.
An award of $40,000 is being offered to anyone who can provide information that can lead to the arrest of Choi's ex-boyfriend, 27-year-old Joel Merino. Arrest warrants have been issued for Merino, for second-degree murder and felony disposal of a body.
“We will always remember [Hannah] as someone who was brave, strong, independent and [as] someone who dedicated her life to helping others," said Mina Choi, Hannah Choi's younger sister.
Police say they are thankful for Choi's discovery and that it brings a sense of closure but are still actively searching for her suspected killer.
Choi was last seen at her home in Fairfax County on Mar. 5, after spending the evening with Merino. Police believe "something happened between Ms. Choi and Merino" and that "Choi sustained a significant injury." Detectives said Merino removed Choi from her home and transported her body to Charles County, Maryland.
The car Merino was driving the evening of March 5 was found March 8 in D.C., and detectives believe Choi was harmed prior to her disappearance based on evidence they found in the car.
Police say that Merino purchased a ticket in advance to fly to California on March 8, but never showed up to board the plane. Police do not know the whereabouts of Merino and Major Ed O’Carroll said "he can be anywhere."
“This is a case where a violent offender needs to be held accountable," said Lt. Erin Weeks, Assistant Commander, Violent Crimes Division.
Officials note they have interviewed many people during the investigation and the only person they didn't get a chance to speak with was Choi.
Police believe that there are possibilities that Merino could be in Virginia, California or Atlanta, but said they are still investigating.
FCPD and Choi's family are asking anyone who has any information to contact the police.
"Hannah has been taken away from us and from everyone who loves her. You know, present tense because we all still love her. I cannot begin to describe how much we're all going to miss her," Mina Choi said.
The money for the $40,000 award is comprised of donations from the Choi family, community members and the Fairfax County Police Department.
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