Shaily Knowles, a self-described fulltime parent who lives at the Holmes Run Park apartment complex in Alexandria was worried about security at her building even before Jeanette McClelland's body was found 11 days ago near the apartments.
Knowles was frightened enough at the end of April - when Glady's Bradley's body was found in the same area - to start trying to band the tenants together to demand better security at Holmes Run Park, which is located off Interstate Rte. 1-95 in the Landmark section of Alexandria.
Knowles and 10 other Holmes Run Park residents have sent a petition signed by 194 residents of the mid-rise buildings, to Dreyfuss Brothers, the complex's property managers. The petition demands that security be tightened - that doors be made secure, that deadbolt locks be installed immediately, that there be a security intercom system, and that the company hire security guards and provide better lighting.
"The shock of the recent tragedies has left the residents of Holmes Run Park vulnerable, confused and terrified," the cover letter sent to Dreyfuss reads. "What compounds the shock even more is that we, the tenants, have received no communication from you after the first body was found, distributed to the tenants, might have made Ms. McClelland careful enough to have a avoided her terrible fate."
Officials at Dreyfuss Brothers could not be reached for comment yesterday. An ordinance recently passed in Alexandria requires dead-bolt locks to be installed in multifamily dwellings by next January, an assistant city attorney said.
Knowles and Maggie Turkheimer, another one of the tenant association organizers, noted that residents are moving out of Holmes Run.
"There's been an incredible mass moves," especially from 5445 N. Morgan St., the apartment in which one of the women found dead and another who is missing lived, Knowles said.
Alexandria police continued their investigations yesterday into the deaths of three Alexandria women and the disappearance of another. One investigator likened the situation to "searching for a needle in a haystack."
The body of Gladys Bradley, who lived at 5420 N. Morgan St., was found living in a creek in the wooded area near Holmes Run Park at the end of last month. The body of Jeanette McClelland of 5445 N. Morgan, was found five days later in a culvert.
Last August, Aura Marina Gabor, who lived in the same general area, was found strangled within a mile of where the other two bodies were found.
A fourth woman, Aletha Byrd, who also lived at 5445 N. Morgan St., has been missing for more than a month. Police are assuming that she, too, is dead.
Alexandria and Fairfax police also are trying to see if there is some connection between the Alexandria murders and the death of a Fairfax County woman last March.
The body of Ursula A. Miltenberger, 22, of Springfield, was found battered near Burke on March 6. An Alexandria police investigator said yesterday that the only link so far is the proximity of where the bodies were found.
Holmes Run Park overlooks woods and a creek. Knowles said she was frightened into trying to do something about security because she used to walk her baby daughter in a stroller in the woods "day in and day out."
"The woods were so green and lush. I'd look out at the glint of water from the river and I'd think it was wonderful. My daughter loved it," Knowles said. "It's mind-blowing to think of the risk I was taking."