Body found in D.C. is that of missing woman

A 42-year-old Manassas dump truck driver fatally stabbed his wife Marissa Lara, who was found dead on the backseat of her 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse in a Northwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood Tuesday, Sgt. Bill Goodman, Manassas police spokesman said Thursday night.

Her estranged husband, Gerardo Lara, was arrested at the intersection of Cannonridge Drive and Old Hickory Road in Manassas while on his way home.

Officers were tracking Lara’s movements — standard practice for a suspect in a murder investigation.

Gerardo Lara told authorities he was the last person to see his wife before her disappearance, claiming she was picked up at his Cannonridge Drive home the morning of May 13 by two men and two women in a Honda Accord with Washington, D.C., license plates.

Police have been unable to corroborate Gerardo Lara’s story, but according to a search warrant they allege Lara was killed Tuesday morning and never left her husband’s house.

The search warrant for the town house Gerardo Lara shared with the couple’s two teenage sons at 8954 Cannonridge Drive suggests that the corpse was placed in the car after death.

“The victim’s body was stored in a location either within the residence or within a vehicle initially, undetected by the original responding officers,” the warrant says.

The 41-year-old mother of two died of multiple stab wounds, Manassas police and officials with the district’s medical examiner’s office, said.

Police would not say whether they had recovered a murder weapon. They also searched Gerardo Lara’s red, 1994 Mazda RX-7 for forensic evidence. Search warrant inventories listing the items seized were unavailable Thursday.

Lara was found inside her black Mitsubishi Eclipse by a parking enforcement officer at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The condition of the body made it difficult to identify, according to Officer Quentin Peterson, a spokesman for the District of Columbia police.

The car had been ticketed a number of times, and was there at least a few days. The parking enforcement officer noticed an odor and notified police. Lara went to the house every morning and afternoon to see her middle school- and high school-aged sons off to and home from school.

Lara’s boyfriend Eric Jones reported her missing. He could not be reached Thursday.

Gerardo Lara has a history of domestic abuse, according to court records; he was accused in 2001 of assaulting his wife at the Old Country Buffet on Sudley Road, according to Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court records. Lara worked as a night waitress there.

Arrest warrants report he tried to force his wife out of the restaurant at approximately 3 p.m. on June 9, 2001. He put her in a head lock, slammed her into the glass door and tried to force her into a van, records show.

The restaurant manager was punched, kicked in the groin and in the face when he tried to intervene, according to arrest warrants. Court records also show that Gerardo Lara successfully completed a domestic violence program mandated by a Juvenile and Domestic Relations judge.

A protective order was taken out against him, the recent search warrants state, but there is no date.

Lara’s car is still at the forensic sciences unit in the district, Peterson said. He would not comment on any evidence found inside.

Police also searched the room Lara rents from a woman in the 9500 block of Cannoneer Court in the Battery Heights area of Manassas. It was unclear what evidence, if any, surfaced in that search.