Body found after Leesburg fire; homicide suspected

By Caitlin Gibson
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Emergency workers responding to reports of a burning shed in the woods near a Leesburg park found the body of a woman that police believe may be Loudoun County's first homicide victim of the year, authorities said Tuesday.

Cornelia Marie Arnold, 52, of the 400 block of Ball's Bluff Road NE in Leesburg was identified after an autopsy on Tuesday, according to police.

Arnold's remains were found about 5:47 p.m. Monday in a secluded, wooded area near Ball's Bluff Regional Park by emergency workers and police responding to reports of smoke visible from a small structure fire on Ball's Bluff Road, according to authorities.

Arnold, who was reported missing to Leesburg police Monday, lived in the Potomac Crossing neighborhood near where her body was found.

The autopsy did not reveal a clear cause of death, according to Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson, who said it could take weeks for the report to be completed.

Police initially said that investigators found wounds on Arnold's body indicating a homicide. But the autopsy did not conclusively support that, Simpson said. "However, we are looking at it as a homicide," he added.

It was not clear how long the body had been near the shed. Investigators believe that the fire may have been set to cover up the remains, Simpson said, noting that the shed was in an area not generally used by the public. Anyone who transported a body there, he said, would likely be someone "familiar with the area."

There was no evidence of weapons at the site, Simpson said. A search warrant was issued Tuesday for the home that the victim shared with her husband, Gerald Arnold, Simpson said, but no potential suspects have been identified.

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