In the days after the early December slayings of a mother and daughter on Rugby Avenue, the man charged with their murders attempted to sell their stolen car, and a television belonging to the victims was found inside his Barracks West apartment, according to information provided to C-VILLE by sources close to the case and confirmed by the lead investigator, Charlottesville Police Detective Sergeant Jim Mooney.
The bodies of 58-year-old Robin Aldridge, an Albemarle County special education teacher, and her 17-year-old daughter Mani, a junior at Charlottesville High School, were found inside their burned home at 1627 Rugby Avenue after a neighbor called 911 to report their house was on fire shortly before midnight on Friday, December 5. Three days later, Charlottesville Police arrested 30-year-old Gene Everett Washington and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder. At a press conference before the arrest was announced, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo shared evidence including the discovery of Robin Aldridge’s blue Toyota Matrix in the Barracks West Apartments parking lot and a black, white and orange high top basketball sneaker police believe was worn by the killer. A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said Washington owned the same shoes. Additional evidence was recovered from a dumpster at the apartment complex, said Longo.
While the medical examiner has not yet released an official cause of death for mother or daughter, investigators have said both suffered obvious blunt force trauma in what seasoned law enforcement officials have described as a crime of shocking brutality.
“It was the worst I’ve ever seen in 21 years,” said Mooney.
According to police, Mani Aldridge and Washington “were known to each other” and they had previously been in contact by text and phone, Mooney said. The last known contact between the two was in late October, and Mooney said police do not have the content of those communications, nor have they determined how or where they met. Mani was friendly with some young, local rap musicians and Washington had posted multiple videos of himself rapping online, Mooney said, but police have not established that the two met through common music connections, and Mani’s friends have told police they did not know Washington. Mooney said Washington has no connection to the Music Resource Center, where Mani was a regular.
According to Mooney, police are working to determine a motive and establish whether someone else could have been involved in the crime. “We haven’t ruled that out yet,” he said.
The investigative effort is now focused on building a timeline for Washington’s whereabouts earlier in the day. “He was on Prospect Avenue around lunchtime,” said Mooney. “The biggest question is how he got from Prospect to Rugby Avenue.”
The Aldridges’ car was stolen from the driveway sometime before the fire, and Mooney said two witnesses have identified Washington as the man who tried to sell them the stolen vehicle the day after the slayings.
While some friends of Washington have come to his defense, expressing doubt that he could be capable of such violence and describing him as a man determined to turn his life around for his newborn son, they have also said that he had some connection to the Bloods gang during his time in prison, where he served six years for a variety of nonviolent felonies committed from 2003 to 2005 in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Mooney said he did not believe the crime was gang-related.
More recently, in September 2013, Washington was arrested in Avery County, North Carolina and charged with attempted rape. He was convicted of a lesser charge, misdemeanor assault on a female, and was ordered to serve 15 days. That conviction landed him back in court in both Charlottesville and Albemarle on probation violations, and although he had more than two decades of suspended sentences hanging over him for crimes including larceny, breaking and entering, and drug possession, he was given an active jail sentence of 30 days and served 24.
Mooney said additional charges against Washington are likely as the investigation progresses. Washington’s attorney Lloyd Snook declined to comment.
Anyone with information in the case should call Charlottesville Police at 970-3280.