By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; B03
A Woodbridge woman who crashed her sport-utility vehicle into a tree two weeks ago and left an open container of alcohol and her 8-year-old daughter behind as she stumbled from the scene was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a wooded area near the accident site, police said.
The body of Julie Ann Kroll, 39, was found just before noon near a creek not far from Fontaine Court and Beaumont Road in Dale City, Prince William County police said. That is close to the 3300 block of Beaumont Road, where Kroll crashed her Isuzu Rodeo on Dec. 16, police said. She had not been seen since.
Officers said they did not think Kroll was killed or killed herself, but they would not say how they think she died. Her body was sent to the medical examiner's office for an autopsy.
Police initially characterized the crash two weeks ago as a minor vehicle accident and called Kroll a "wanted" woman on the run.
In that incident, police and a family member said, Kroll was taking her daughter home from school when witnesses saw her "driving recklessly." On Beaumont Road, police said, the child got out of the vehicle, and Kroll climbed out and followed her, with the SUV in gear.
The empty vehicle crashed into a tree before Kroll returned to the driver's seat and backed it into a driveway, said Officer Erika Hernandez, a Prince William County Police spokeswoman. Kroll eventually stumbled away on foot, leaving her daughter behind, Hernandez said.
Jerry Hawley, Kroll's husband and the girl's stepfather, said he filed a missing-person report Dec. 17, telling police that his wife was not on the run and would not have left her daughter behind.
He said that an officer initially declined to let him file a report until he was overruled by a captain. After that, Hawley said, police seemed to do little to try to find Kroll.
"The police weren't doing anything, especially not over the holiday," Hawley said. "Their approach was that she was running from the police, and I knew that wasn't the case, and I tried to convey that." Hawley said he and others searched the area for Kroll but did not find her.
Hernandez said that 10 officers searched the area for Kroll on the night of the crash but did not find her. They found an open container of alcohol in the SUV and later searched "the areas where she hangs out," she said. The officers were trying to serve an arrest warrant charging Kroll with felony child neglect, driving on a revoked operator's license and driving with an open container of alcohol, Hernandez said.
On Monday, Prince William police issued a news release about the case with the headline "Wanted" and a photo of Kroll.
Hernandez declined to say what sparked Tuesday's search. Hawley said that an investigator told him it was conducted Tuesday because the snow had cleared.
Hawley said his wife had battled alcoholism for six years. Court records show that she has a history of traffic and alcohol problems, including three DUI convictions. Her license was revoked. But Hawley said his wife, who worked in advertising sales and rescued dogs as a hobby, "wasn't a bad person."
"She's not a criminal, and she didn't take bad care of her child," Hawley said. "She's got a disease she was fighting, and obviously at this point, the disease won."
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.