A Springfield woman who was believed to be a murder victim after her stabbed and burned body was found in her home March 10, died as the result of a self-inflicted wound, Fairfax County police said yesterday.
Law enforcement authorities said that all evidence in connection with the death of the woman, Charlene Donald, 39, of 5406 Moultrie Rd., indicated that she both stabbed herself and set the five that burned her body.
The woman was found dead in the bedroom of her split level home by firemen investigating smoke coming from the home. She was dead when the firemen arrived and had first and second degree burns on her head, arms, hands and feet, as well as numerous stab wounds, police said at the time.
According to all indications in the bedroom of the house, she "both set the fire and inflicted the wounds," said Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr.
Neighbors and sources close to the investigation said the woman, married and mother of four children, had been troubled recently by a series of problems and circumstances, including the suicide of a high school classmate.
She was still affected by neck and back injuries suffered three years ago in an auto accident, and she had lost a court suit in which she sought to recover damages.
Authorities said the death was attributed to a self-inflicted wound after an investigation that involved the county medical examiner and the fire marshal's office as well as police.
Although the woman's body bore several knife wounds, according to a source close to the investigation, only one was fatal - a wound inflicted in the center of the chest.
The other wounds according to sources, were "hesitation" wounds, of the kind often inflicted when a person attempts to stab himself. They are not generally inflicted by a hostile assailant, the sources said.
The determination that the fire was set came after elimination of possible accidental causes and following analysis of debris taken from the woman's bedroom, according to Charles P. Dismuke, chief county fire marshal.
He said the analysis of the debris showed the presence of petroleum products in the bedroom, where they should not normally have been. The precise product involved has not been determined, he said.
A source said the nature of the fatal knife wound indicated that the fire was set before the wound was inflicted.
Sources also said the woman had bought a knife the day of the incident, although the weapon used to inflict the fatal wound was not specified.
The report of the woman's death provoked considerable concern in the Ravensworth Farm development in which she lived.
The Ravensworth Civic Association has been planning to petition law enforcement authorities to provide more information on the incident to allay worries that an unknown assailant was on the loose in what was descrined as a quite neighborhood of brick and frame homes in the $60,000 to $70,000 range.
In an interview last night, Horan, the county prosecution, said that while the investigation was "not completely" closed, largely because of what the said were the bizarre circumstances involved, nevertheless, it appeared as if "we are at a dead end."
He said the possibilities that anyone else was involved in the woman's death are "overwhelmingly remote," and authorities have no suspects in mind.