Falls Church 'suspicious event' suspect still at large

Fairfax County Police released this composite of the suspect.

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Fairfax County Police are determining whether a late October suspicious encounter in Falls Church is connected to the abduction and murder of a college student in the same parking lot last summer.

Police say that the incident occurred Oct. 27 at about 8:30 p.m. in the Fairfax Plaza Shopping Center near the intersection of Gallows Road and Route 50. Surveillance images show a man approaching a woman and entering her car as she got inside.

Fairfax County police say the man tried to get into the woman's car from the passenger side. She screamed and started to walk away as the driver of a dark SUV stops to offer help. Police say when the woman returned to get her purse, the suspect was still near the car. The victim was uninjured.

“There is no crime at this point, we want to talk with him,” Officer Don Gotthardt of Fairfax County police said about the suspect.

The incident occurred in the same parking lot as the abduction and subsequent murder of Vanessa Pham, the 19-year-old college student who was kidnapped and killed on June 27, 2010.

Surveillance footage of that incident shows Pham leaving the parking lot in her car that day. Moments later, she was found stabbed to death inside her Toyota less than a mile away. The case remains unsolved.

Fairfax County Police say the suspect in the recent suspicious encounter is a Hispanic man in his 20s or 30s. Homicide detectives are investigating if this incident is connected to the abduction and killing of Pham.

“It's just scary for some of us that come out here all the time, it's just scary,” said Laura Lawson.

Authorities release surveillance video from the incident.

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