The principal homicide detective assigned to investigate the murder of Alexandria socialite Donita Cutts quit the force two weeks ago, angered over police handling of a suspect in the unsolved case.
Joseph Soos, a nine-year veteran of the Alexandria police force, said yesterday the Cutts case was "the final straw" in the department's series of recent failures to "live up to the high standards needed in police work.
Soos, who has since joined the Alexandria city sheriff's office as a $13,651-a-year, supervisor cited the highly-publicized undercover narcotics probe that collapsed this week after the resignation of an policewoman and the failure of massage parlors investigations as factors in his decision to quit the police force.
His resignation effective Nov. 14, was the latest in a series of incidents that indicate growing morale and discipline problems within the 228-member police force.
The murder of Donita Cutts, 38, who was found beaten, bound and gagged July 29 in the burned out basement of her Wolfe Street town house, has remained a mystery to her friends and neighbors in the affluent Old Town section.
"I personally have never been involved in a case that was so poorly controlled," Soos, the former investigator, said.
According to Soos, "the only worthwhile suspect in the case" was allowed to be questioned by "half a dozen detectives" who showed the suspect photographs of the crime scene.
Later according to Soos, the suspect made statements about the murder to the detectives. Soos said he was unable to determine whether these statements were the result of reviwing the photographs or whether the suspect was realling the murder, a point that Soos said would be crucial in determining whether or not the charge the suspect.
"He mentioned some things like a house being on fire, a woman in a basement and a door being blocked" Soos said. "At the same time he denied that he had murdered anyone. H rambled on about visions, the Devil and about being a prophet."
"The problem was poor control. I personally didn't know what other persons did or said to the suspect. It was poorly handled," said Soos.
Capt. Carl Dutzman, head of Alexandria detectives, yesterday declined to comment on Soos' charges but confirmed Soos' details of the investigation.
The suspect was arrested two days after the Cutts murder when he was found hiding under bushes outside an Old Town residence, Soos said. He was charged with attempted burglary, then released the next day.
Police arrested the suspect several days later, according to Soos, when a butcher knife and a pocket watch found in his possession were identified as items taken in another Old Town burglary.
He then was charged with burglary and held in the Alexandria jail before being sent to a state mental institution in Marion, Va., where he was diagnosed as "schizopherenic," according to the Commonwealth's Attorney Office.
He was released two weeks ago, appeared at a bond hearing in Alexandria and was freed on his personal recognizance.
The possible suspect is a 30-year-old Alexandria man who, according to his attorney, receives a monthly Army pension for mental disability.
"I would say that the man is one of the most dangerous suspects the sheriff has had in custody for a long, long time," said Assistant Commonwealth's attorney Richard Mendelson yesterday. "I'm shocked" that the man is free, he said.
The prosecutor said medical report from the state mental institution revealed that the suspect was fit to stand trial only under the influence of tranquilizers.
Mendelson said he had argued that the man was "exceedingly dangerous" at a bail hearing but "I couldn't tell the judge that he was a suspect in the Cutts case."
Dutzman said yesterday police did no have enough evidence to charge the man with murder. The police captain also revealed that they were unaware for several days after his release that the suspect had returned to Alexandria.
"We are still interested in him," said Dutzman. "We would certainly have to keep him in mind as possibly involved."
Dutzman also disclosed the results of a psychological profile of Donita Cutts' killer drawn up by the FBI to aid the Alexandria police in their invetigation. That report, according to Dutzman concluded that "in all probability the killer was mentally ill."