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19-year-old receives four life sentences for Halifax County double murder

Mohamed Aly killed Joel Bianda and Ayanna Griffin in February

A man pleaded guilty for killing two people in Halifax County.
A man pleaded guilty for killing two people in Halifax County.

HALIFAX COUNTY, Va. – A 19-year-old will spend the rest of his life in prison after murdering two people in Halifax County earlier this year.

On Thursday, Mohamed Aly, who was 18 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to the first-degree murders of Joel Bianda, 21, and Ayanna Griffin, 18, as well as carjacking.

Ayanna Griffin, 18, and Joel Bianda, 21, were dating before being murdered by Mohamed Aly.

As part of the agreement, he received four consecutive life terms, as well as an additional 18 years for related firearms offenses.

[‘A parent’s true nightmare’: Parents ‘lost’ after child killed in Halifax County double murder]

After Thursday’s proceedings, Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Martin released the summary of facts against Aly in this case.

  • On Feb. 8, 2020, Bianda agreed to drive Aly from Alexandria to Danville and Bianda’s girlfriend, Griffin, joined them
  • Aly, who brought a 9 mm gun on the trip, later told police that during the drive, he was having both bad thoughts and good thoughts
  • During the drive, Aly asked Bianda to pull over, and while the car was still moving, Aly shot him in the head and did the same to Griffin a second later
  • Aly then pulled the car over, parked it in the median on Highway 58 near Melon Road took the two bodies out of the car and drove it to meet his friend in Danville
  • Once there, he realized he left his gun at the scene, so he and his friend returned to the median, retrieved the gun, took both cell phones and drove away
  • However, while driving away, he crashed into an embankment and the two ran away and disposed of the gun, as well as the two magazines
  • Eventually, they contacted a cab out of Lynchburg to pick them up at an empty home along Highway 58 to take them back to the friend’s home in Danville
  • Aly then hired another driver to take them from Danville to Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia.
  • From there, Aly had a friend from Alexandria pick them up, telling that friend he was in a car crash. She took them back to Aly’s home in Alexandria
  • Aly then continued living life, attending T.C. Williams High School and posting to social media

Less than a week later, on Feb. 13, authorities arrested Aly, charging him in connection with both murders.

Aly’s friend, who was 17 at the time of the murders, faces one count of obstruction of justice and one count of accessory after the fact.

[Victim’s father believes Halifax County double-murder suspect ‘definitely deserves’ life in prison]

Once arrested, Aly led authorities to the gun and magazine he discarded in the woods.

“Aly, despite other statements to police minimizing or outright denying his role, and blaming others for the murders, also made a number of recorded jail calls and statements to inmates at the jail admitting to his role as the triggerman in the murders of Joel and Ayanna,” wrote Martin, in a news release.

Family members of both victims traveled to Halifax County on Thursday and several gave statements to the court about the impact of losing their loved ones.

“The Commonwealth has consulted closely with law enforcement and the families of the victims, which we do whenever possible,” said Martin in a news release. “Most of the family members wanted to see Aly spend the rest of his life in prison, and the Commonwealth agreed that multiple life sentences were appropriate to achieve justice in the case.”

As for the motive, here’s what Martin had to say, “One of the most painful aspects of this case is that the family may never know Aly’s motive to murder their loved ones. We are all left asking, why? Although I am pleased that we had the chance to bring the family closure on this chapter in their lives, we may never have an answer to that question.”

Below, you can read the full summary of facts, provided by Martin:

About the Author:

Jeff Williamson arrived at WSLS 10 in March 2016.