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The Silence of Cold Cases

As time keeps slipping by, it is with some despair reports of any solution to Alexandria’s triple murders continue to be unavailable, not only to the families of victims but to the general public as well.

Such lack of information is alarming to everyone and to those charged with finding the murderer and or killers.

Keeping eyes on the cases, the usual contacts around law enforcement are as troubled and befuddled as everyone else in the community.

The February murder of Ruthanne Lodato and a November midday fatal shooting of Dr. Ronald Kirby have eclipsed the 10-year murderous case of Nancy Dunning, businesswoman and wife of the then Alexandria sheriff.

Regarding the latter cold case it was not unusual for citizens to quickly assume that the then sitting sheriff, Jim Dunning, did it. Of course, there was no evidence in the slightest that he committed the terrible deed in the couple’s home. There were lots of unkind comments made but broad apologies are in order to the late sheriff for such thinking, wishful or not.

I have made several attempts to visit the alleged suspect, Charles Severance, ensconced in the Loudoun County jail. As most people, officials and non-officials, believe, Mr. Severance is the key suspect. The former Alexandria resident has been residing in Loudoun County and was returned from Wheeling, W.Va., to face felony gun charges. Trial date is coming up.

A few weeks ago I tried to arrange a meeting with Mr. Severance through the jail. The response was: “We don’t allow that.” I wasn’t surprised. Then I contacted the suspect’s attorney, who, by the way, is a specialist in capital murder cases. OK, that was a big hint.

He wrote by email, “I decline your request to interview Mr. Severance. Further, I do not intend to make extrajudicial statements.” I understand.

Present and future comments about Severance’s Loudoun charges won’t be forthcoming. A gag order has been placed.

There might as well be an official muzzle on the investigations of Alexandria’s hoped for charges against Severance. At present no warrants are filed. It is an unpleasant matter for police, the investigators and court officials. Mental examinations will probably be the order of the day before a death penalty trial or indictment may begin in the Franklin Backus Courthouse.

I am well aware of Alexandria’s longstanding policy not to comment on criminal cases not ready for trial. This is difficult for them and everybody else including reporters and writers.

Alexandria’s latest public comment is this: “There is no gag order (in Alexandria), we do not have charges on Mr. Severance at this point. There have not been any recent updates because we do not have any new information to share with the public. If that changes, we will send out a press release or hold a press conference.”

If there are any other suspects, none have surfaced.

The murders are now cold cases. It’s been suggested progress is being made but no evidence of that is appearing.

So the word is merely “expect the unexpected,” not on any media schedule. What more can be said?

Well, we are still counting days that these cases remain unsolved:

  • Ruthanne Lodato, 125 days

  • Ronald Kirby, 211 days

  • Nancy Dunning, 3,841.