At meeting in Alexandria church, residents seek answers in music teacher’s slaying

About 150 people packed the pews of an Alexandria church Monday to press the city’s police chief for answers on the recent slaying of a beloved music teacher. No new information, though, was immediately forthcoming.

In a wide-ranging question and answer session with Chief Earl Cook at Beverley Hills Community United Methodist Church, residents asked many of the same questions that news reporters have been asking for days about the slaying of 59-year-old Ruthanne Lodato, who was shot and killed last Wednesday after answering a knock at the door to her home on Ridge Road Drive.

Could the chief add any detail to the composite sketch of a suspect that police have released? Did the attacker say anything before opening fire? Was the same type of gun used to kill Lodato as was used in the November slaying of regional transportation planner Ronald Kirby, who lived about a mile away from Lodato?

Cook repeatedly said investigators either did not yet have the answers residents sought, or he could not provide them because it might jeopardize a successful prosecution. He asked that residents call police with tips and take extra precautions, as a dangerous suspect could be lurking among them.

“You should be concerned about it,” Cook said. “I don’t want people relaxed.”

The turnout alone at what was a regularly scheduled meeting of the North Ridge Citizens Association showed that those who live in Alexandria are anything but relaxed. The session lasted for nearly an hour, as residents aired their frustrations on everything from police presence in the area to the decision on the day of the shooting to lift a lockdown of the schools.

Those gathered politely applauded the chief as he left to answer questions from reporters, though some seemed to be wanting more. A few asked reporters what they knew of the case. Keith Bloom, 46, said he felt he was left with “nothing to go on.”

“I’m dreading going home and talking to my wife and telling her we really didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know,” he said.

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Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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