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Community Gathers to Remember

Services, luminaries light up memories of Nancy Dunning.

As police continue to question witnesses and seek clues into her murder, friends and family came together to say good-bye to Nancy Dunning last week.

A standing room crowd attended the memorial service at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Alexandria last Thursday. Members of Dunning’s family read from scripture and her daughter, Elizabeth and her sister, Pat Moran, spoke eloquently about her life and her impact on theirs. Dunning’s niece, Kate Moran, sang “Amazing Grace.”

After the service, US Representative James P. Moran (D-8) spoke about Dunning. “I’ve known Nancy for almost 25 years and she is a member of my extended family,” he said. “She has invested herself completely and genuinely in the community, particularly in Del Ray. She has left a legacy in the kind of spirit she has invested in the people of this community. She was full of optimism and public spirit and she believed in people. That’s one of the reasons she was so successful as a realtor. She got genuinely excited about finding families the right home and introducing them to neighbors so that they would feel at home.

“She leaves behind a community that will mourn her and a terrific family. She was a very positive loving person and, as we go about our daily lives and try to come to grips with the way in which she was taken from us so tragically, we will miss her tremendously and continue to appreciate the impact she has had on all of our lives,” he said.

THE DEL RAY community continued its tribute to Dunning by lighting luminaries all along Mt. Vernon Avenue, through Warwick Village and up Mt. Ida to Dunning’s home.

“Nancy and her sister, Pat Moran, were coordinating the luminaries and we were supposed to light them the Saturday after she was killed,” said Tom Welsh, the president of the Del Ray Citizens Association. “We postponed that until this Saturday but we want to light them now as a tribute to everything Nancy did for this community.”

More than 150 neighbors, family members and friends participated in the lighting of the luminaries. Neighbors made special heart-shaped cutouts for the luminaries that are placed at Dunning’s home. The Alexandria Choral Society performed Christmas carols and Lonnie Rich held a gathering at his home after all of the luminaries were lighted.

Rich, a long-time family friend, is handling a reward fund. “Jim Dunning asked me to handle establishing a reward fund,” Rich said. “We have raised more than $70,000 through contributions from friends, businesses and associates of Nancy’s. We hope that this reward fund will encourage someone who has information about Nancy’s murder to come forward and provide the police with information that will lead to the arrest and indictment of the person who killed Nancy.”

ALTHOUGH POLICE have no suspects and no motive for the murder, local and national media have speculated about a feud between Dunning and her sister, Christine Niedermeier. Niedermier, who lived in Alexandria at one time, now lives in Connecticut. She issued a statement through her attorney.

“I am stunned and saddened by the tragic death of my sister Nancy,” Niedermeier said. “I learned of her death when my brother called me last Friday at my home in Connecticut, where I had been the entire week preceding Nancy’s death. My phone records and people I spoke to show that I was in Connecticut hundreds of miles away from Virginia at the time of her death.

“I have cooperated with the police and answered their questions and pray they will find the person who murdered my sister,” she said.

“While my sister and I had our differences over the care of my dear late mother, I loved my sister and our whole family is shocked and grieving over this tragedy,” the statement concluded. Niedermeier attended the memorial service for Dunning in Alexandria last week.

Police have also executed search warrants for cars driven by Dunning’s husband, Alexandria sheriff James Dunning and the Dunnings’ son Christopher, as well as for the Dunning home where Nancy Dunning’s body was found.

“These search warrants are routine,” said Amy Bertsch, a spokesperson for the Alexandria police department. “It is prudent to obtain a search warrant for any vehicle that is located on the property where a crime has been committed and for the residence where the victim was found. This does not indicate that permission for these searches was denied. Even if permission was granted, we might seek a search warrant to ensure that any evidence that was collected would be admissible in court.”

POLICE HAVE canvassed the neighborhood where Dunning lived extensively and are continuing to urge people to come forward with any information about Dunning’s relationships over the past several years or any information about anything that they might have seen on Dec. 5, between 9 a.m. and noon.

“It doesn’t matter how insignificant it might seem,” Bertsch said. “Any detail could be important.”

Anyone who is interested in contributing to the reward fund should make checks payable to the Nancy Dunning Reward Fund c/o Lonnie Rich 1317 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314. Anyone with information about the crime should call the Alexandria Police Department at 703-838-4711.