Sheriff, Family Trying To Cope
No Arrests Made In Wife's Slaying In Alexandria
By Elaine Rivera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page C01
It has been six months since Nancy Dunning was found shot to death at her Alexandria home, and her husband, Sheriff James H. Dunning, says each day has been a struggle for him and his family.
"Her death leaves a huge void in our family and in our community," Dunning, 54, said in a brief interview last week. "She was a remarkable woman loved not only by us but by so many other people. We miss her every day."
The sheriff was one of dozens of family members and friends honoring the popular real estate agent at two events last week: a scholarship awards ceremony at T.C. Williams High School and a candlelight vigil in her beloved Del Ray neighborhood.
For relatives and friends who gathered for the vigil last night to mark the anniversary of the Dec. 5 slaying, there are constant reminders of Nancy Dunning in the neighborhood she loved: the farmer's market she helped start, the homes she sold, the commercial district she helped revitalize.
"It's like you turn and you almost see her standing there," said Gayle Reuter, a friend who helped organize the vigil and raise a $100,000 reward to help find her killer. "She had such a presence. It's hard for a day to go by without thinking about her."
It is not only the way she lived that people remember. They remain haunted by the way she died. Dunning, 56, was found lying in the foyer by the front door of her home, shot several times. Police said they believe that her slaying was not random and that she was targeted. One theory investigators are pursuing is that someone was paid or recruited to kill her, according to law enforcement sources.
"We feel someone close to Mrs. Dunning may have some very important information," said Capt. John Crawford, a spokesman for the Alexandria police. "We hope they will think very hard and recall an event or conversation that may be significant to our investigation."
No matter how trivial the information, Crawford said, it could be the link that detectives are seeking.
Crawford said police have not identified a man captured on videotape by a surveillance camera at the Target store where Nancy Dunning had gone shopping before a scheduled lunch date with her husband and son, Chris Dunning, 23.
Police said Nancy Dunning and the man were observed in the same area of the store and exited simultaneously at 10:30 a.m. The man, seen in the videotape talking on a cell phone, left the store without purchasing anything.
When Dunning failed to show up for lunch at the Atlantis Restaurant in the Bradlee Shopping Center about an hour later, her husband and son went to the home and found Dunning lying on the floor.
Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said that several agencies are involved in the investigation and that it is not a cold case.
"I am satisfied this investigation is proceeding appropriately and that efforts thus far have narrowed the field," he said.
Since the slaying, Jim Dunning has spoken with police to provide information, said his attorney, Plato Cacheris.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company