A woman who has been missing from her District home for more than a week is now presumed dead, and D.C. police have charged her boyfriend with killing her even as they continue to look for the woman’s body.
Darnell Sterling, 55, of Southeast Washington, was arrested Thursday night and charged with second-degree murder.
The victim, Olga Ooro, 34, was discovered missing July 18 after someone found her 7-year-old son wandering a hallway alone and crying at their apartment near Mount Vernon Triangle in Northwest Washington. She had last been seen shortly after midnight on July 17.
Police said in an arrest affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court that surveillance video shows a man who fits the defendant’s description pushing a cart into an elevator and out of the building that held a large object which appeared to be wrapped in a blue and white blanket, and was “consistent with the size of an adult human being.”
The affidavit says the suspect then drove to his residence in Southeast Washington, and then to Ocean City, Md.
In addition, police said the suspect gave detectives statements that contradicted evidence, and Ooro’s cellphone, purse, apartment key fob and bedsheets are missing. Police said a cadaver dog alerted to possible human remains in Ooro’s apartment, in the hallway near her door and in the front passenger seat of the suspect’s Volkswagen Passat.
Ooro’s mother, Timanah, said she is grateful there was an arrest but wants to know how to find her daughter.
“I can’t even think anymore,” said the 60-year-old mother, who lives in Silver Spring, Md. “It’s so unbelievable. It’s like a nightmare.”
Prosecuting a murder case without a body is rare but not unheard of. In 2017, Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz pleaded guilty to killing Pamela Butler, who had disappeared from her District home in 2009. Under the plea agreement, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, in exchange for helping authorities locate Butler’s remains. Police determined the location had since been paved as part of the resurfacing of Interstate 95 in Virginia.
On Friday, a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Sterling detained and set a hearing for Aug. 26.
At his initial appearance, Sterling stood in the well of the courtroom wearing shorts, a light blue shirt and a mask, with his legs and wrists in shackles. His court-appointed attorney Howard McEachern argued there is no evidence that Ooro is dead, and if she is deceased, he said there is no evidence as to how she died. He said there is evidence Ooro has used drugs in the past and she might have overdosed.
The defense attorney said police searched Sterling’s car without a warrant and argued any evidence found could be inadmissible at trial, and that the police dog’s finding are not conclusive. He said it is possible Ooro left her apartment with someone else after his client departed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman said Sterling was a risk to the community and should be detained. He said Sterling had nearly a dozen former convictions, including for assault and theft, and that he had violated a court order barring him from being in contact with Ooro.
ADOoro, a grocery store cashier, in April had complained to police that Sterling punched her during an argument at his residence, causing her cheek to swell and bloodying her eye. Assault charges are pending against Sterling in that case.
Sterling told police he had been with Ooro at dinner the night of July 16, and they both returned to her apartment in the 300 block of Massachusetts Ave. NW shortly after midnight on July 17, according to the arrest affidavit.
He said the couple had planned to go gambling, the affidavit said, and Ooro’s son told police his mother put him to bed and was wearing “fancy clothes.”
But Sterling told police they started to argue shortly after leaving, and she decided not to accompany him.
According to the affidavit, Sterling told police he drove to Ocean City, slept overnight on the beach and returned to the District the following day. He also said his cellphone was stolen as he slept.
But police said license plate readers, such as ones placed on toll booths, show Sterling’s vehicle heading east over the Bay Bridge at 11:27 p.m. and entering Ocean City at 1:42 a.m. on July 17. It shows him leaving Ocean City that same day, at 8:17 p.m., heading back to the District.
Police said that while at Ooro’s apartment, Sterling parked his vehicle in an alley and left its emergency flasher blinking for more than two hours and was also seen carrying a dark-colored trash bag to his vehicle.