Loudoun sheriff’s investigators take a new look at an unsolved 1987 slaying

December 9, 2013

The unsolved slaying of a Pennsylvania woman in 1987 is being reexamined by Loudoun County investigators, the sheriff’s office said last week.

Sheriff’s office investigators are asking the public to provide any information that might help solve the killing of Charlotte Powell, 27, who was last seen by family members in July 1987.

Her skeletal remains were discovered Dec. 8, 1987, in woods near gas and power lines off Shreve Mill Road, outside Leesburg, sheriff’s officials said.

Investigators think that Powell was raped and murdered. She was known to be a hitchhiker who may have traveled in other parts of Virginia, Maryland and the District, sheriff’s officers said in a statement.

“She was described by her mother and sister as a free spirit,” officers said.

The case is the latest to be taken up by the sheriff’s cold case unit, which is working on 17 other unsolved cases, including the 2002 killing of 14-year-old Ashburn resident Erica Heather Smith.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Liz Mills said that since the unit was founded, it has solved one cold case and is considering reexamining others.

The cold case initiative was championed by Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman, who said upon taking office in January 2012 that he intended to prioritize the re-investigation of unsolved cases.

Chapman said that the process of reopening a case that has languished for years is often challenging but that time can also be a benefit in a murder investigation. People with possible knowledge of the case who may have been afraid to come forward when the crime occurred are sometimes more willing to talk to authorities years later, he said.

“Detectives with the cold case unit believe with the passage of time, someone may be willing to come forward with information that may be the key to solving this cold case and help bring a sense of closure to the Powell family,” Chapman said in last week’s statement.

Anyone with information about Powell or the circumstances of her killing is asked to call the cold case unit at 703-777-0475. Callers wishing to remain anonymous are asked to call Loudoun Crime Solvers at 703-777-1919 or toll-free at 877-777-1931, officials said.

Information about the Powell case, as well as recent updates and an online tip submission form, are at www.sheriff.loudoun.
gov/powell
and www.sheriff.loudoun.gov/coldcase.

Caitlin Gibson is a local news and features writer for The Washington Post.
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