By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009; B08
A Loudoun County man slain while out for an early morning walk with his wife worked as a contractor at the Central Intelligence Agency for several years until 2000, the CIA confirmed yesterday, and investigators said they want to meet with agency officials to learn more about the nature of his work.
The sheriff said his officers have not determined a motive for Sunday's attack, in which William Bennett, 57, was killed and his wife, Cynthia, 55, was critically injured. The assault might have been random, but deputies have not ruled out the possibility that they were targeted.
"We're just trying to find out if there's anything in his background that could have led to this," Loudoun Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said. "We do that with anybody; it's not just because he's with the government. You talk with family. You talk with friends. You talk with co-workers. You look for enemies."
Investigators spent yesterday knocking on doors and conducting interviews and were waiting for the government's consent to talk to Bennett's former colleagues, he said.
Simpson said investigators are also trying to determine whether the retired lieutenant colonel with the Army Special Forces has held any jobs since leaving the CIA.
Bennett and his wife, residents of nearby Potomac Station, were on their routine early morning walk in the Lansdowne area when they were attacked by as many as three assailants, authorities said.
A sheriff's deputy responding to a report of a commotion and a suspicious white panel van about 5:30 a.m. in the Lansdowne area discovered William Bennett's body on the side of Riverside Parkway, near a gravel path not far from Rocky Creek Drive. His wife was found about 30 minutes later in a ditch, beyond a bloodied white fence across the street. Both had suffered blunt force trauma, but no weapon was recovered, and they might have been beaten.
Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the Bennetts were assaulted somewhere else and dumped there.
Cynthia Bennett remained in critical condition and has been unable to talk to authorities about what happened that morning. Neighbors have organized a community walk at 5:30 a.m. Sunday -- the week anniversary of the attack -- from the local Harris Teeter parking lot, 19350 Winmeade Dr., to the Riverside Parkway bridge and back. Organizers say it is a way to show respect for the Bennetts and feel less afraid in the neighborhood.
Since the attack, Loudoun authorities have appealed to the public for tips, but there are no suspects, Simpson said. Among the tips, his office has looked into was a report by a Shenstone Farm resident of a suspicious white van with Florida plates seen Saturday evening in the subdivision. Authorities said that the van was pulled over by deputies Saturday evening and searched and that they are confident its occupants were college students selling magazines and are not connected to Bennett's slaying.
He said he hopes federal officials will provide his office with details on the nature of Bennett's work but realizes much of that information might be confidential.
CIA spokeswoman Marie E. Harf declined to say when Bennett started working with the CIA or discuss the nature of his duties.
According to military and court records, William Bennett was born in Rochester, Minn., and joined the Army in October 1977. His postings included Vicenza, Italy; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and the District. He had received numerous commendations.
Cynthia Bennett also served in the Army, as a captain. She had joined in 1978. The family includes two adult children, authorities said. Members of the family could not be reached for comment.
Staff writer Allison Klein contributed to this report.