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Police Seek Link in Murders

Second murder in four months leaves community, police looking for a killer.

For the second time in four months, Fairfax County Police are trying to find the person responsible for killing an elderly North Springfield woman in her home.

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, a friend of 74-year-old Marion Newman called police to Newman’s home in the 7100 block of Reservoir Road in Springfield.

Newman, a long-time resident of the small community consisting mostly of one-story, single-family homes, lived alone in her home and bred miniature Doberman pinschers. She had dinner with her 92-year-old mother at Greenspring Gardens Retirement Community every night and knew everyone in her neighborhood, friends said.

"She and her mother were so close," said Jan Latney, Newman's neighbor. "They were best friends, they were always together."

When Newman failed to meet her mother for dinner on Monday, Nov. 20, and didn't make her morning phone call to her mother, police were called to Newman's home and found her dead in the front bedroom.

FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE continue to find similarities between Newman's death and that of Marion Marshall, 74, who was killed in her North Springfield home in August.

“Is this the work of a serial killer? We don’t know,” said Fairfax County Police Officer Richard Perez during a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 22. “Right now, there is no physical evidence to link the two cases.”

Marshall was last seen on a surveillance tape at the Giant Food store in the Bradlick Plaza. Newman's last known location was at Greenspring Gardens on Sunday night, Nov. 19, said Maj. Shawn Barrett, commander of the Fairfax County Police Criminal Investigations Bureau.

“There’s a tremendous amount of similarities between the two cases, it’s almost eerie,” said Barrett, of Newman and Marshall’s deaths.

Both women were in their early 70s, both lived alone and the cause of death was ruled to be trauma to the upper body. No sign of forced entry was present in either death, Barrett said, nor was there evidence of sexual assault or robbery. The women lived just over two miles apart.

After sending his sympathies to Newman’s family, Fairfax County Police Chief Col. David M. Rohrer said the investigation would continue during the Thanksgiving holiday, with officers at Newman’s house 24 hours a day.

“We do not tolerate violent crime,” Rohrer said. “This is our top priority for my department right now, we will spare no resources.”

Calling the murder “heinous and reprehensible,” Rohrer urged Newman’s neighbors to be vigilant about anything they feel is suspicious in their neighborhoods and urged them to notify police.

“Every piece of information is important,” he said. “Sometimes small pieces fit together.”

Barrett said information gained from this investigation would be given to the FBI for analysis, to see if any other crimes in the region have similar characteristics and could be linked.

Although Newman’s autopsy was completed Wednesday morning, Barrett said the results had not been analyzed.

“We know the cause of death was a trauma to the upper body, but as for the description of the trauma, we can’t get into that right now,” he said.

Capt. Maggie DeBoard, the commander of the Franconia District Station, said vigilance in their neighborhoods and use of a buddy system are two of many simple ways neighbors can help keep each other safe.

Both women lived in residential neighborhoods with active Neighborhood Watch groups, she said, but many times residents don’t call in what they consider suspicious activity because they don’t want to bother police.

“Please, bother us,” she said. “We’d rather have officers called out than try to figure things out later.”

DeBoard said officers from her station make regular visits to neighborhood groups, urging seniors and others who are at home alone during the day to keep their doors locked at all times. She also stressed the importance of using a buddy system, so those who would otherwise run errands alone would have someone with them

Latney said she still feels safe in her home, but she planned to become more vigilant about locking her doors and windows at all times. Working at night, Latney counts on her own miniature Doberman, Mercedes, to alert her to anyone at the door.

"We check in with each other, that's what's so shocking," she said. "This is just some nut, some serial crazy man."

Latney believes whoever killed her friend must have somehow earned her trust enough for Newman to open her door. "Whoever did this must've had some contact with her or started a conversation with her about her dogs or something for her to let him in."

In a neighborhood where many people keep their keys in the lock on the inside of their doors and wave hello to their neighbors, Latney said it's time to become more active and talkative with those around her. She's especially concerned about other elderly women who live by themselves.

"We'll be knocking on doors. We just have to," she said.

STANDING IN THE driveway of Newman's home, Lynn Rimell said she'd been devastated since hearing of Newman's death late Tuesday afternoon.

"I met her at PetsMart in 1993," said Rimell, wiping a tear from her cheek. "We kept in touch, I sent her holiday cards, she sent me holiday cards. I was going to call her on Wednesday to wish her a happy Thanksgiving."

Rimell said Newman was a selfless woman, who never took vacations or bought anything extravagant for herself in order to take better care of her mother.

"She was one of those people, she was one in a million," Rimell said. "They don't make people like that. I can only hope to be half as good as she was, she was above the bar."

Placing a bouquet of sunflowers in Newman's driveway, adding to a small memorial neighbors had created, Rimell said she can't understand why someone would hurt Newman.

"All crimes are senseless, but this is just crazy," she said. "Why would someone do this? What did they get out of it," she asked.

Fairfax County Police handed out 4,000 flyers in Spanish and English at the intersection of Craig and Highland roads Sunday night, hoping to obtain information on the crime.

"We received some interesting information that may or may not be relevant," said public information officer Mary Mulrenan. "We're waiting for the forensics to come back to us and we'll be meeting with the FBI soon. They have resources we can tap in to."

Mulrenan said Crime Solvers is offering a $27,000 reward for anyone who gives information that leads to the arrest of someone in connection with the deaths of Newman and Marshall.