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Body of Virginia woman found, reward offered for help finding her ex-boyfriend

Hannah Choi, 35, was reported missing March 6. Police believe her ex-boyfriend, Joel Mosso Merino, 27, killed her and disposed of her body in a Maryland park.

A body found in a Maryland park last week has been identified as that of missing Virginia woman Hannah Choi, and authorities are offering a $40,000 reward for tips on the whereabouts of her ex-boyfriend, now wanted for second-degree murder.

Choi, 35, was reported missing March 6, the Fairfax County Police Department said. She was last seen the day before at her home.

Friends contacted police after she missed several appointments, couldn’t be reached and didn’t answer the door of her home, officials said. 

Hannah Choi, 35, disappeared from her home in Kingstowne, M.d., on March 5, 2022.
Hannah Choi, 35, disappeared from her home in Kingstowne, M.d., on March 5, 2022. Fairfax Co. Police

On Thursday, Fairfax County police was alerted about a body in a wooded area in Piscataway Park in Maryland.

The remains were positively identified by the medical examiner as Choi over the weekend, Maj. Ed O’Carroll, the police department's commander of the major crimes, cyber and forensics bureau said at a news conference Monday. 

Autopsy results are pending, officials said.

Police are now searching for her live-in ex-boyfriend Joel Mosso Merino, 27, of Alexandria, whom they accuse of killing Choi.

Merino spent a "significant time" with Choi the day before she disappeared, police said.

Police believe something happened between Choi and Merino that day and Choi sustained a “significant injury.” Merino is believed to have removed her from the home and taken her body to Charles County, Maryland, officials said in the Monday news conference. 

During a search of Choi's home, detectives found everything in order, except “for bedding which appeared to be missing from a bedroom,” police said in a March 15 news release.

Detectives also located the car Merino was believed to be using the night Choi disappeared. It was found March 7 in Washington, D.C. A search warrant was executed on the car and detectives “discovered evidence to suggest Ms. Choi was harmed prior to her disappearance,” police said. 

Based on this evidence, police obtained a warrant for Merino for second-degree murder and the disposal of a body. 

“We are looking for Hannah’s killer … Joel is Fairfax County’s most wanted and he is on the run. We will not stop until we find Merino,” O'Carroll said Monday.

In the news conference, he addressed Merino directly: "Joel, if you’re listening to me, turn yourself in. Surrender on your terms at a time and place of your choosing or be arrested on ours."

Detectives learned that prior to the killing, Merino planned to fly to Los Angeles on March 8 but never arrived at the airport, where detectives were waiting for him, police said in a news release.

Detectives later learned Merino had traveled to Georgia instead.

The police department’s fugitive track and apprehension unit is investigating Merino’s whereabouts. The U.S. Marshals Service was also asked to help find Merino. 

Hannah’s younger sister, Minna Choi, spoke at the Monday news conference, pleading for the suspect in her sister’s death to come forward. 

“It doesn’t bring her back, but we are very relieved to have at least found her, finally, so the family can get a little bit of semblance of closure,” she said through tears. "We ask that you please come forward and please help us bring justice for my sister."