Prince William News
Mon., Dec. 31 - Fairfax County police found the body of Zavier Odell Stringfellow, a 2011 graduate of Battlefield High School, on Friday night in Vienna after he died from a "trauma wound to the upper body," according to a police report citing the Fairfax County medical examiner. *Updated*
Battlefield graduate found dead in Vienna, suspect arrested
© Gainesville Times*Updated - Jan. 7, 2013 at 3:34 p.m.*
Fairfax County police found the body of Zavier Odell Stringfellow, a 2011 graduate of Battlefield High School, in Vienna after he died from a "trauma wound to the upper body" on Dec. 28, according to a police report citing the Fairfax County medical examiner.
The following day, police arrested Gainesville resident Johnny E. Bonilla of 13289 Catharpin Valley Drive and charged him with murder.
Officers from Fairfax County and Prince William County police assisted members of the U.S. Marshals Service in arresting Bonilla, 22, at his home, the report stated.
According to the report, "An officer came across a minivan that had crashed into a barrier at the end of a service road off of Chain Bridge Road near Glengyle Drive.
"The officer summoned for rescue and it was determined that the driver was deceased. Evidence suggested that the driver’s injuries may not have been caused by the crash; detectives and crime scene investigators responded to the scene."
An updated version of the report later stated that Bonilla and Stringfellow "did not know each other prior to the evening of the incident. They had planned to meet up on the evening of Friday, December 28. Apparently, they met; there was a struggle and the victim was stabbed."
Stringfellow, a 19-year-old Manassas resident and sophomore defensive end at Ferrum College, stood out locally during his four years on the Battlefield High School varsity football team.
As a senior captain during the 2010 season, he helped lead the Bobcats to their first-ever Group AAA Division 6 state championship.
"Now it's our time to shine," said Stringfellow during an interview on Dec. 4, 2010 after the Bobcats defeated Lake Braddock 35-27 in the state semi-finals, securing a trip to the championship.
He earned his stripes from the get-go as an outstanding defensive lineman, being named to the all-district second-team in 2007.
During his sophomore season, Stringfellow demonstrated his on-the-field grit in even bigger ways, once returning an interception 64 yards for a touchdown during a home game in Haymarket against Stonewall Jackson.
Former teammate Vince Drzal recalled how, after he caught the ball, Stringfellow "was so excited" that he "kind of hesitated for a minute" for he took off running down the field.
"He was just really easy-going," added Drzal, a 2009 graduate of Battlefield now attending Shepherd University.
In 2009, Stringfellow became the Cedar Run District defensive player of the year for his performance as a tackle.
"[We learned] that once they run a play that they know they can get yards off of, they keep running it. So we shut that down and then they had no offense to go to," said Stringfellow that year about his team's defensive strategy after the Bobcats won 42-0 against Stonewall. "And then they go to pass it and we shut that down and they have nothing else to do."
By the time he graduated, Stringfellow earned all-state honors.
Not only did he excel on the football field, but he did well academically too.
During the annual SeaPerch competition in 2008 at the George Mason University Aquatic and Fitness Center in Fairfax, he teamed up with classmate Cody Burke to guide Battlefield's "Team 6" to victories in the Recovery Game, overall Robot Strategy and in the Collaboration Game with AJ Habib of Hylton High School.
Stringfellow's death comes just over one year after his former Battlefield teammate Gerald Khosa died in a car accident.
Khosa, who graduated from Battlefield in 2009, had a reputation like Stringfellow for being one of the players who generally got along with everyone on the team instead of having particular niches.
"Zavier always had a smile on his face and so did Gerald," said Battlefield head coach Mark Cox.
"It's every coach's nightmare, losing players or even former player because you're with them for so long, they grow with you and you grow with them because they're like family," added Cox, who coached both Stringfellow and Khosa during their entire tenures at Battlefield. "....You never say it, (that) you helped mold them into who they are, but at same time, they mold us into who we are."
According to the coach, who started at Battlefield when the school opened eight years ago, Stringfellow's attitude stood out when he first joined the program in 2007, let alone how he performed on the field.
"The way he was as a freshman when he came in, he just enjoyed everything that he did," said Cox. "That was constant for all four years."
Drzal shared Cox's sentiment, mentioning that his former teammate "always had something nice to say."
So did Battlefield sophomore Elisia Diggs, whose father used to coach Stringfellow in youth football outside of school.
"He was literally like a brother. He was the happiest person I know."
Stringfellow stopped by the houses of Drzal and Diggs over the years; he sold knives to Drzal's family, demonstrating how they could even cut pennies, and met Diggs when players would stop by home to chat with her dad before she attended high school.
The death hit Diggs, a member of the varsity girls basketball team, particularly hard as she repeatedly referred to him in the present tense during an interview Jan. 4.
Diggs said she found out about him dying through the online social media network Twitter.
"He always laughs at everything. He's funny," she said. "He's just always a happy person... He always said, 'Remember, family comes first, sports comes second.'"
According to Battlefield senior Roman Hall, "Everybody liked him... He always gave his all on the field."
By Stringfellow's senior season, a mix of veterans and two first-year starting quarterbacks led the team to bounce back after an 8-2 regular season to a clean sweep through the playoffs, ultimately resulting with a 26-7 victory over Hermitage at the University of Virginia's Scott Stadium in Charlottesville on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2011.
"We had a group of kids that were like Zavier. Just a great group of kids. And that's why we were so successful," said Cox. "(They) loved what they were doing and loved each other."