Christian Bell Hughes – Colonel, United States Air Force

From contemporary press reports:

Christian Bell Hughes, 56, an Air Force Department program manager who oversaw research grants to minority colleges, died November 13, 1999 at the Washington Hospital Center's burn unit. The Fairfax County police and fire marshal's offices are investigating the death, which followed an argument with another man, as a homicide.

Colonel Hughes, who lived in Alexandria, was born in Washington. He received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Virginia in 1967 and a master's degree in biology from Florida International University in the mid-1970s.

He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and retired from the reserve as a Colonel in 1997.

He joined the Air Force Department's logistics branch and moved to the Washington area in 1980.

His hobbies included fishing.

Survivors include his wife of three years, Elena Hughes, of Alexandria; his parents, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Marcellus C. Hughes and Carolyn Bell Hughes, both of Bethany Beach, Del.; and a sister.


On Saturday, November 13, 1999, loving husband of Elena Hughes; son of Marsellus Hughes, COL, USA (Ret.) and Carolyn B. Hughes; brother of Marcella B. Hughes Sharp of Bethany Beach, DE; uncle of Nathaniel B. Sharp of Newark, DE and Benjamin Sharp of Patterson, NY. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, December 1, 1 p.m. Fort Myer Memorial Chapel, with interment in Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Audubon Society.

Man's Burns Linked to Argument
Saturday, November 13, 1999

A Franconia man was in critical condition yesterday from burns suffered during an argument with another man Thursday evening, Fairfax County police said.

Police declined to identify either man and released few details about the incident. They said it appears to be a case of foul play and remains under investigation.

Neighbors and hospital officials identified the critically injured man as Christian B. Hughes, 56, of the 4300 block of Upland Drive. He suffered burns over half of his body and was being treated yesterday at the Washington Hospital Center burn unit.

The other man also suffered burns and was being treated at the same hospital. He was listed in serious condition.

Police said the incident occurred about 5 p.m. Thursday inside Hughes's home.

Paramedics loaded Hughes into an ambulance and drove him to a nearby school, where a police helicopter then flew him to the burn unit.

The other man was admitted to the hospital sometime later Thursday.

Hughes purchased the ranch-style house, in a heavily wooded neighborhood between Franconia Road and the Capital Beltway, in 1980, according to county real estate records.

Hughes was married about three years ago, according to a friend and neighbor, John E. Lynch, but his wife was not at home when the incident occurred.

Lynch said Hughes was retired from the Air Force Reserves and worked for the Air Force in research and development. Air Force officials were unable to confirm that yesterday.

“It's just a tragedy,” Lynch said. He said he and Hughes often went fishing together, particularly along the Potomac River in the spring.

The two men also spent time doing yardwork together on their adjacent properties, and they watched each other's houses when one went on vacation, Lynch said. “He's a good solid citizen,” Lynch said of Hughes. “This is as good a friendship as they come.”

Sunday, November 14, 1999

The Franconia man who was seriously burned during an argument with another man died yesterday morning from his injuries at Washington Hospital Center, authorities said.

Fairfax County police said they are investigating the death of Christian B. Hughes, 56, as a homicide but did not give details. They said they have made no arrests in the case.

Hughes was pronounced dead at 6:15 a.m. at the hospital's burn unit, where he had been flown by police helicopter Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Police said the burning occurred at 5 p.m. Thursday in Hughes's house. Neighbors and police said the other man also suffered burns, and a Washington Hospital Center spokesman said that man was in the burn unit yesterday in stable condition.

A relative who answered the phone at the Hughes home said Hughes worked for the Air Force but declined to comment further.

John E. Lynch, a friend and neighbor, said Hughes was retired from the Air Force Reserve and worked for the Air Force in research and development.

In-Law Charged in Fatal Burning
Thursday, November 18, 1999

Before critical burns consumed and ultimately killed Christian B. Hughes outside his Franconia home last week, he allegedly told a Fairfax County police call-taker who had set him on fire: his brother-in-law.

Yesterday, Fairfax police charged Hughes's brother-in-law, Issa E. Mansour, 61, of Adelphi, with murder. Mansour was not formally arrested, because he too was burned during the November 11, 1999  incident at Hughes's home on Upland Drive. Mansour was still in the burn unit last night at Washington Hospital Center. His injuries were not considered life-threatening, officials said.

Hughes, 56, who worked as a civilian Air Force employee in research and development, was home alone when Mansour, 61, allegedly stopped by about 5 p.m. on Veterans Day. According to a police affidavit filed yesterday, Hughes called 911 “and reported his wife's brother-in-law threw gasoline on him and set him on fire at his home.”

Hughes also told the call-taker that the brother-in-law was leaving the area in an older station wagon. When firefighters arrived, according to the affidavit, Hughes told them, “Issa did this.”

Two hours later, Prince George's firefighters were called to Mansour's house after he reported that he had been burned in Northern Virginia, the affidavit said. He was taken to the same burn unit as Hughes, who was in critical condition and no longer able to speak.

Detectives later interviewed the wives of both men and learned that the wives are sisters and that Issa Mansour was estranged from his wife. Hughes's wife, Elena Hughes, told police that Issa Mansour had threatened her and Hughes “if they [did] not let him talk to his wife,” the police affidavit stated. But police said they were not sure what precipitated the fatal episode.

After Mansour was taken to the hospital, his station wagon was still parked in front of his house, and detectives could smell gasoline and see a gas container inside, police said. Police towed the car to Fairfax and searched it the next day. They found a butcher knife, a half-gallon gasoline can and what appeared to be burned human skin in the driver's seat, according to the search warrant.

Hughes died Saturday morning. He had lived in the Franconia neighborhood for nearly 20 years and married three years ago. Neighbors said he was a friendly man who liked to fish and work around the house, which he apparently was doing when he allegedly encountered Mansour.

August 2000:

An Adelphi, Maryland, man testified yesterday he was threatening to commit suicide by setting himself afire last November when his brother-in-law was set ablaze instead and fatally burned as he sought to intervene.

Issa Mansour, 63, on trial for murder in Fairfax County Circuit Court, told a jury that Christian Hughes' death resulted from a tragic accident when Hughes tried to wrestle a grill lighter from Mansour as the defendant, holding a cup of charcoal lighter fluid, threatened to kill himself.

Mansour, whose outburst in court last week prompted long breaks in the proceedings, said he had drunk large quantities of scotch at his home in the early afternoon of November 11, 1999, and fallen asleep. Mansour described his life as miserable after his wife left him in early October, which had led to his recent increased drinking.

“Since Olga left, I used to drink every day,” Mansour, a Palestinian native, said from the witness stand in broken English.

When he awoke around 4 p.m., Mansour said, he went to Hughes's house to beg him to let him see his wife, who had separated from him and whom he believed was living with Hughes and his wife, Elena, Olga Mansour's sister.

Prosecutors have claimed that when Hughes answered his door, Mansour threw a cup of flaming gasoline on him, setting him ablaze. Hughes died two days later at the burn unit of a Washington hospital.

Mansour, however, contended that he drove to Hughes's house, having already been invited by Hughes to come the previous night. When Hughes answered the door, he was talking on the telephone, Mansour said, and Mansour went out on an outdoor deck to wait for him.

Mansour said, in a state which his attorney Peter Greenspun described as “drunk, upset and depressed,” he spied a red lighter and a container of lighter fluid near a charcoal grill on the deck. “It come [sic] to my mind to kill myself,” Mansour said.

He said he took the lighter, wrapped in paper, and filled a plastic cup with lighter fluid, then moved to the deck's screen door and confronted Hughes, threatening to kill himself if his brother-in-law did not let him talk to his estranged wife.

An argument ensued, Mansour said, culminating when Hughes exclaimed, “Get out of here, you son of a bitch!” and pushed him two or three times. Then, Mansour said, Hughes tried to wrestle the cup from him, knocking it to the floor and spilling lighter fluid on both men. When Hughes tried to wrestle the lighter from him, Mansour claimed, the lighter ignited, setting both men ablaze.

Mansour was burned in the incident but managed to drive home and call for help, prompting Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. to ask him in cross-examination why he failed to stay and help Hughes, who was also ablaze.

Horan also questioned Mansour on his recollection of a hospital-bed interview the day after the incident with Fairfax County Police Detective Steven Milefsky, who said Mansour never gave him the version of events described in court.

Mansour said he recalled little of the questioning of the interview and remembered little of the incident at the time because he was in pain and on heavy medication. He later had his right leg amputated as a result of the burns.

In his closing argument before the jury began its deliberations late yesterday, Horan replayed the tape of a 911 call Hughes made after the incident while still conscious. On the tape, Hughes names Mansour as the man who “threw gas on me and lit me on fire.”

Horan also cited the testimony of fire marshals, who said marks on Hughes's house indicated the blaze began beside the home's front door, as well as the testimony of Elena Hughes that Mansour had threatened her on the telephone the previous night.

Christian Hughes's widow testified earlier that Mansour had told her that, if she didn't reunite him with his wife, she would regret it for the rest of her life.

August 2, 2000

Fairfax County Circuit Court jury yesterday found a Palestinian immigrant guilty of first-degree murder and recommended life in prison for the fatal torching of his brother-in-law.

Issa Mansour was found guilty of throwing gasoline on Christian Hughes, a retired Air Force Colonel, and setting him ablaze at Hughes' home in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County. Hughes, though burned, was able to call 911 and identify Mansour as his attacker. Hughes died two days later at a Washington hospital.



  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 09/30/1966 – 06/14/1973
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 02/23/1943
  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/13/1999
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 12/01/1999


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