Arrest made in death of lesbian found shot in burning car

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ABOVE: Police Chief Peter Newsham said the victim knew two men who were also murdered on the same day. Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.

D.C. police announced on Sunday that they have arrested a 23-year-old District man for the Dec. 28 shooting death of a lesbian whose body was found in the trunk of her burning car located in the 800 block of Adrian Street in Southeast Washington.

According to a police statement, after obtaining a D.C. Superior Court arrest warrant, members of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force on Saturday, Feb. 10, arrested Ashton Briscoe of Northeast D.C. on a charge of first-degree murder while armed for the death of Hyattsville, Md., resident Kerrice Lewis, 23.

“I have been advised by officials overseeing the investigation that at this time, there is no reason to believe the issue of sexual orientation contributed to Ms. Lewis’ murder, however the case is still being actively investigated,” said Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the Metropolitan Police Department’s LGBT Liaison Unit.

A police statement released on the day after the murder said members of the Sixth Police District responded to the 800 block of Adrian Street, S.E. at about 7:21 p.m. on Dec. 28, 2017 for the report by nearby residents of a shooting.

“Upon arrival, officers located a vehicle on fire,” the statement says. “Once the fire was extinguished, an unconscious and unresponsive adult female was discovered inside the vehicle suffering from multiple gunshot wounds,” it says. “D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene and determined there were no signs consistent with life,” the statement says.

Fox 5 News reported a police source saying residents living near an alley where the car was found reported hearing gunshots before seeing the car covered in flames and hearing a woman’s screams from the inside of the burning car. Lewis’s family members later said the Lexus car in which Lewis was found was her vehicle.

Mercedes Rouhlac told ABC7 News that she was Lewis’s best friend and ex-girlfriend. Other news outlets also reported Rouhlac saying she and Lewis had been in a same-sex relationship.

“No matter what, she still loved me and my son,” Rouhlac told Channel 7 News.

The police announcement of Briscoe’s arrest doesn’t provide any additional details of the case, including whether investigators have determined a motive or other circumstance surrounding the murder. At least some of those details were expected to be released in D.C. Superior Court on Monday when Briscoe was scheduled to appear before a judge in a presentment hearing.

In the week following the murder D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham disclosed that investigators had found that Lewis was friends with or knew two men who were also shot to death on the same day that Lewis was murdered. He said detectives were looking into whether the three cases were linked.

Since that time police have arrested individual suspects for each of the two cases but authorities have not said whether those two cases and the Lewis case were in any way connected.

The Washington Blade will provide an update to this story when additional information related to Briscoe’s court appearance becomes available.

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