Details Emerge in Chevy Chase Deaths

By David Nakamura and Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 24, 2008

Michael and Virginia Spevak were known in their Chevy Chase neighborhood of Northwest Washington as a socially and environmentally conscious couple.

Their house, built by the couple in the late 1970s, was an energy-efficient marvel, heated by solar power and insulated with quilts. Inside, Michael, 68, based his psychiatric practice, working with troubled youth, while Virginia, 67, a retired middle school teacher, devoted her time to charitable causes and promoting foster care.

The Spevaks' long devotion to the public good made it all the more difficult yesterday for family members, friends and neighbors to make sense of the news that they had been found dead Saturday night in their home in the 5300 block of Belt Road, in what police said was a double homicide. As police struggled to identify a motive, with no apparent suspects, questions arose about whether they were slain by someone they tried to help.

Virginia had been bound and was found on a couch, and Michael was nearby on the floor, law enforcement sources said. Police are awaiting autopsy reports but say they believe that the couple were beaten. Both were wearing nightclothes, sources said.

The couple's blue, two-door 2005 Toyota Scion, missing Saturday night, was recovered by police early yesterday about four miles away. It had been torched. Police are seeking information from anyone who might have seen the car, according to Inspector Rodney Parks, who declined to discuss other aspects of the case.

A D.C. police officer stood guard outside the Spevaks' door yesterday, and crime scene tape blocked access to many of the neighboring houses. Residents milling about the street struggled to come to grips with the fact that the crime had occurred on their block, in a part of the city where killings are rare.

"Can you believe this?" one woman said as she hugged another.

Sheila Chaconas, 56, another neighbor, said: "It's pretty horrible. It's all you can think about today."

Police sources said authorities were looking into the possibility that the killings might be tied to Michael Spevak's psychiatric practice or his wife's work with troubled children. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

There was no sign of forced entry, police said.

One neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for her safety, said she saw two men operating leaf-blowers on the Spevaks' back deck Friday afternoon. That struck her as odd, the woman said, because the Spevaks were not ones to hire a lawn-care service. They were not only do-it-yourselfers, but also environmentally conscious people who would probably prefer the use of rakes, she said.

The day before, she said, she saw the Spevaks in their garden, picking tomatoes.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company