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March 18, 2014

When Communities are Threatened!

Harry M. Covert

A few miles south down I-270, Alexandria citizens have become a bit uneasy. Who can blame them? A serial killer is on the loose and apparently has been for over a decade.


Police know the situation is more than troubling and finally and reluctantly admit the three killings of prominent citizens are serial and no accident.


The cases have drawn much attention over the Greater Washington area that includes West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware residents.


The latest death of a beloved music teacher and Alexandria native has been top of the news everywhere and police have been vociferous attempting to calm the neighborhoods, continuing round-the-clock investigations, scouring all old files looking at possible suspects, and encouraging citizen tips.


The job is a tough and demanding one and not strange territory in Frederick or any other jurisdiction.


Police warnings in Alexandria have urged residents to be extremely careful opening front doors, making certain identities are perfect and well-known. Several people have remarked that they always open doors with their family pistol armed and at the ready.


What a difficult atmosphere there is for all residents when situations like this occur. What makes the Alexandria situation so troubling is that authorities have not been able to solve two previous murders. Virginia's forensic lab confirmed bullets from all three deaths are similar.


While not releasing the caliber of the bullet or type of gun used, police did say the weapon is typical of a million small types of handguns in circulation in the nation. This has led to some speculation of possible "Saturday night specials" being used.


The most recent murder occurred February 6, around 11:30 A.M. On November 12, some 136 days ago, Ronald Kirby, the director of transportation planning at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, was killed at his home. On December 5, 2003, Nancy Dunning, wife of then Sheriff Jim Dunning, was found murdered in her home. The former sheriff has since died.


The music teacher's family includes a retired chief judge of the General Court.


As those know who follow cold case files, investigations are rather difficult and can take a long time to solve.


Federal police agencies have been assisting Alexandria police in all three probes. Last week, a Loudoun County, VA, resident – Charles R. Severance – was traced to Wheeling, WV. He was arrested on a fugitive weapons charge by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Police say he is a person of interest in all three unsolved murders. He once ran for mayor of Alexandria. His conduct led officials to assign a police tail during the campaign.


A few weeks ago he failed in an attempt to obtain asylum at Washington's Russian Embassy.


In an interesting court appearance last week he was held on $100,000 bond and said he objects to extradition to Loudoun County.


Alexandria police have not lodged any warrants.


The man of interest has had some gripe with city authorities for losing custody of a daughter and the ability to possess a gun. He writes about mental disorders on a webpage.


Without question, the decade-old Dunning case, the November murder and the February fatal shooting have similarities. First, they are in the same general neighborhood of Alexandria's Del Ray section; second, all occurred at approximately the same time; and third, each victim was shot by similar small caliber gun.


These unfortunate events can occur most anywhere, at any time and when least expected. Frederick communities must be cognizant of circumstances and generally be alert. Security is not simply the police and sheriff's responsibility. They enforce laws but cannot prevent crimes. They can't possibly know what goes on in the minds and hearts of perpetrators.


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