WARRENTON, Virginia — The nearly 19-month-old Sarah Greenhalgh case is one of seven unsolved homicides being cited in Fauquier County in a joint request from the commonwealth's attorney and sheriff's offices for $600,000 to continue "a new robust method of investigation."
In a Jan. 24 memo to the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors about the fiscal year 2015 and 2016 budgets, Commonwealth's Attorney James Fisher and Sheriff Charlie Ray Fox Jr. state their request for new positions and equipment primarily focused on solving homicides.
Fisher said that the $600,000 request includes a new paralegal for his office to handle the extra work from unsolved cases and a new senior assistant commonwealth's attorney dedicated to unsolved murders.
It also includes a cold case investigator and crime analyst for the Sheriff's Office, along with new vehicles, computer equipment and other supplies.
"We want to make sure we're bringing our A game to the table," Fisher said of the request, adding that the families of homicide victims need to know that the offices are doing everything in their power to investigate the cases.
Fisher said the money would allow him to permanently pair a special investigative grand jury program with the Sheriff's Office's efforts to resolve unsolved homicides — a combination that proved successful last year in solving a 32-year-old murder case.
"We would like to turn that same power on those unsolved cases," Fisher said.
Greenhalgh, a Winchester Star reporter when she died, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the neck in her burning Upperville cottage July 9, 2012.
The county's other known unsolved homicides are: Joan Kenney and Robin Brooks, both murdered on March 24, 1981; William Kagdis, killed on Aug. 1, 1982; Tammy Thorpe, murdered on Oct. 23, 1988; Bryan Mace, killed on April 9, 2003; and Du Chil Park, murdered on June 29, 2008.
Lt. James N. Hartman of the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office said in a phone interview that Greenhalgh's case remains active, with one full-time detective and one assisting detective.
He added that a cold case investigator — if approved — would not be used in her case.
The crime analyst, however, "would absolutely be dedicated to Sarah's case."
Hartman said crime analysts — who use new-age technology and computer software to analyze everything from cellphone records to social media, medical records and mapping — from other jurisdictions have already been used in the case to "sift through mountains of evidence recovered."
He added that the part of an investigation that crime analysts are needed for constantly has to be refreshed, and they can only borrow other jurisdictions' employees so many times.
The crime analyst position is the highest priority of the Sheriff's Office's two requests, Hartman said.
Frederick County currently employs one crime analyst and Winchester has two intel analysts — similar to a crime analyst, according to Winchester Police Department spokeswoman Lauren Cummings.
The city has two unsolved homicides and the county has eight — with both counting the 1979 death of Sheila Stead, who went missing in the city but was found dead in the county.
Fisher presented his and Fox's requests to the Fauquier County Public Safety Committee on Jan. 28, but said there was not a public show of support or disapproval.
He added, however, that remarks from the public have been "overwhelmingly positive."
"They think this (would be) money well spent," he said.
Information from: The Winchester Star, http://www.winchesterstar.com