Wendy Martinez, 35, was fatally stabbed while running on the evening of Sept. 18, in what Washington, D.C. police said was a brutal and unprovoked attack by a stranger. It was the worst day of Daniel Hincapie’s life.
The best day had come just six days prior, with a well-planned proposal.
He wanted the engagement to be a surprise, but Hincapie knew his girlfriend was not easily fooled — he’d failed to shock her on past birthdays.
They’d met in 2015 while he was training for his first half-marathon. Hincapie was nervous, so a co-worker at the Inter-American Development Bank introduced him to Martinez, an avid runner.
“She approached me and said, ‘Hey, if you want some tips, let me know,’ ” Hincapie said.
They started talking and, soon after, ran together. They began dating a year later.
After months of preparation, Hincapie, 38, planned the engagement for Sept. 12 — a Wednesday. At lunchtime, he would have a friend lure Martinez to a place in the city she considered sacred: the Spanish Steps, just north of Dupont Circle.
“If I had planned it during the weekend, she would have known in, like, a second,” he said.
Everything was perfect. The photographer he’d hired for the occasion was hidden in plain view. Hincapie waited at the top of the steps, dressed in a blue suit.
As he was watching in one direction, Martinez arrived from another. Driving with the friend, she spotted him.
“Wendy, being Wendy, said, ‘Wait, that’s Dani! I recognize that head anywhere!’ ” Hincapie said, laughing as he stood in the exact spot where he’d proposed.
The ring was an emerald — the national jewel of his native Colombia — to symbolize their Latin American roots. Martinez was born in Nicaragua and grew up in West Palm Beach, Fla.
As she walked up the steps toward him, Hincapie began to recite his speech. Even though she sensed what was taking place, Martinez gasped when he got down on one knee.
“I look forward to many, many happy days with you, and also navigating all the different storms of life — including the upcoming hurricane,” he told her. (At the time, Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the Carolinas.)
Martinez said yes. Overjoyed, she began shopping for dresses a few days later. She picked out two: one for a wedding in the District and the second for a wedding later in Colombia, where Hincapie’s extended family could also celebrate.
“Those days, it was all about the wedding,” Hincapie said. “Everything was about the wedding.”
That Sunday, Martinez texted a good friend, Kristina Moore, to ask if she’d be available later in the week to help her try on the dresses. They made plans to meet the following Friday in Georgetown, Moore said.
It would be one of the last things the two friends spoke about.
Excitement about the engagement continued into Tuesday, as Hincapie and Martinez discussed a venue and possible Dec. 14 wedding date. They showered each other in affection with laughing and kissing emoji in texts throughout the day.
When Hincapie got home from work about 7:30 p.m., Martinez was there. The two were together for just a few moments before she left to go on a quick run and pick up dinner. Hincapie went to the gym in their apartment building.
She wasn’t home when he got back at 9 p.m., but Hincapie assumed she was close. He showered, sat down on the couch and waited.
He became anxious as the minutes ticked away.
Hincapie texted Martinez at 9:30 p.m.
“Estas bien?” (Are you okay?) he asked.
She did not reply — which was strange. She wasn’t answering his calls, either. Using Find My Friends, an app that allows you to locate friends and family, Hincapie tracked her location.
The app said she was just two blocks away — maybe she couldn’t respond because her hands were full with groceries.
He wrote her again at 9:41: “Amor” (love).
Still, no response. Find My Friends showed Martinez at the same location as before — in the middle of the street.
“I think that’s when I knew something was wrong,” he said.
Hincapie changed clothes and went to find her. The wail of police sirens made his stomach drop.
“She got hit by a car,” he thought. “She was running and got hit by a car.”
Officers at the scene couldn’t tell him much initially — because Hincapie wasn’t technically Martinez’s family, yet — but a detective indicated that his girlfriend was badly hurt.
Hincapie pleaded for an update on her condition and to know which hospital she was taken to. He exchanged calls with her family in Florida.
Then her brother called Hincapie back. His next words confirmed Hincapie’s worst fear; that future he’d envisioned was destroyed.
“She’s gone,” her brother said.
Martinez’s family, including her mother and brother, had flown in from West Palm Beach to attend the Oct. 11 preliminary hearing. They filled two rows in the D.C. courtroom, led by Moore, who had gone from one of Martinez’s best friends to a spokeswoman for her family.
When Anthony Crawford entered, wearing an orange jumpsuit, Hincapie exhaled deeply.
Prosecutors alleged that on Sept. 18, Crawford stabbed Martinez repeatedly in the midst of her evening run — six times in the head and neck and once in the back. After the attack, police said, she stumbled into the Chinese American restaurant, where patrons tried desperately to save her.
Throughout the proceeding, Crawford rocked back and forth in his chair — smiling and giggling at times, and often making eye contact with Martinez’s family. Court papers show that he has a history of mental illness, including paranoia, as well as past usage of the synthetic drug K2.
“It was shocking to see who this person really was,” Hincapie said of Crawford. “It makes it more real.”
In a later hearing, D.C. homicide detective Charles Fultz testified that DNA belonging to both Crawford and Martinez had been found on a knife with a 5½ -inch blade. After the stabbing, the detective said, a witness told police that a man fitting Crawford’s description fled the scene, “skipping and sidestepping.”
As the graphic details of her daughter’s death were laid out in court, Martinez’s mother, Cora, began to weep.
Crawford took notes and appeared to doodle at times using a felt-tip pen. He was charged with second-degree murder while armed and was ordered to be held until trial.
His attorneys say that witnesses misidentified him as the killer.
Martinez’s family has expressed faith in the court system. Moore said they don’t want to make things personal between them and Crawford.
“And that’s so critical, because at the end of the day, anger, resentment, that’s [Crawford’s] game,” Hincapie replied. “And we’re not playing that game.”
He added: “We’re not going to give him that satisfaction. He is nothing to us. He has an issue with the legal system, and he has an issue with God.”
As Hincapie packed each of Martinez’s dresses, he said he could still feel her energy.
It was almost like he was hugging his fiancee once more.
Each item was a reminder of the future they had planned: a new house, a couple of dogs and, most important, each other. Instead, Hincapie moved last month to a new apartment, away from Logan Circle.
He still loved the District, though. It was his city. After a two-month break from running, he was once again jogging through its streets.
“Knowing that you are in this new life that you hadn’t anticipated and that you’re missing a loved one that is not there — it was really hard,” Hincapie said.
But through his grief, he would press on. For her.
His friends helped him think of ways to preserve Martinez’s legacy. For years, she’d discussed her dreams of wanting to help and empower women in both the District and Latin America.
They would do whatever it took to keep her vision alive.
First, it was the establishment of the Wendy K. Martinez Memorial Scholarship fund at her alma mater, Florida Atlantic University. Partially funded by a GoFundMe account set up in Martinez’s name, the scholarship will be awarded to Latina students in Florida Atlantic’s Wilkes Honors College who demonstrate a commitment to social issues affecting Latin Americans or immigrants in the United States.
Later would come the Wendy Martinez Legacy Project, announced Nov. 13 by FiscalNote — a District-based tech start-up where Martinez served as chief of staff. FiscalNote donated $500,000 and stock shares to the fund, which will go toward advancing women in the technology sector, female empowerment programs and community-building through running.
“We had such a clear vision of what she wanted to do, what she liked, what she aspired to be, that it wasn’t even a conversation,” Hincapie said. “We all had this notion of ‘this is what she would have wanted.’ ”
Next year they plan to host runs for women’s safety in the District and Florida, Hincapie said.