It has been six months since Denise Mansfield's body was found in her Lake Arbor home in central Prince George's County, but her family, friends and neighbors are still looking for answers to help explain her violent death.
Prince George's County police this week charged a D.C. woman with first-degree murder in the case. Karen Blue, 46, who was living at her father's house in the 4400 block of Fifth Street NW, was held without bond after a hearing Tuesday before a Prince George's County court commissioner.
Despite Blue's arrest, the Mansfield slaying case remains far from solved. Police are still seeking two women who, along with Blue, used Mansfield's automated teller machine card at a Watkins Park ATM shortly after her death, which was discovered in June. Police said they have not been able to identify the other two women despite calls to police after photos were circulated in the summer.
Acquaintances of Mansfield said they are heartened by the arrest, but remain haunted by the details of Mansfield's killing and the questions that remain.
They know Mansfield, 45, an accountant who ran a computer business, was strangled inside the home where she ran that business -- probably in the living room, where her body was found. Mansfield had been tied up. They know whoever attacked her was let in, because there were no signs of forced entry.
They know Mansfield's killer may have forced her to divulge the code to her ATM card, because the three women who used the card shortly after her body was found in June were able to get cash from the machine.
What they don't know is how the culprit or culprits came to be in Mansfield's house. She invited clients in to do their taxes and she also sold computer equipment over the Internet on eBay, police said.
"The arrest is a positive first step," said Charles Mansfield, the slain woman's brother.
"The family feels it is positive that one of the individuals has been identified. However, we are hoping that the others will be identified and sufficient evidence would come forward to bring this case to justice."
Police notified relatives last week that a suspect was in custody in the District. Blue was held on a fugitive-from-justice warrant at the D.C. jail until she waived extradition at a hearing Saturday. She was extradited Monday to Prince George's County.
Charles Mansfield said his family has been impressed by community efforts to assist with the case. The Lake Arbor Civic Association Safety Committee recently sent a flier created by Prince George's County Police depicting the three women to hundreds of residents. That notice was also circulated on the Internet.
"We are asking that you distribute copies of this e-mail . . . to others on your personal mailing list," wrote Greg Lofting, a member of the committee. Lofting asked his neighbors to copy and distribute the flier, which also has been passed out to local businesses.
Lofting also asked neighbors to consider contributing to the Prince George's County Police Crime Solvers program and to designate the funds for the Mansfield case.
"Although you may not have known Denise, her brutal and still unsolved killing is a crime against the entire Mitchellville community, and it is our responsibility to do all we can to see that her killer or killers are brought to justice," Lofting's e-mail said.
Charles Mansfield said he was touched by the concern. He said he believes that the "limited" showing of the photos of the women in the local media may explain why more witnesses have not come forward. "It could be due to the lack of circulation of the pictures, or the individuals may not be from this area or have ties to this area," he said.
"I applaud all efforts and everything the community can do to publish those pictures so that we can get some feedback to the authorities."
Part of the investigation has centered on the people who came to Mansfield's home because of her work. She frequently invited clients into her home office to purchase computer equipment or have their taxes done, Charles Mansfield said. But while she was trusting, she was also aware of the need to be careful, relatives said.
"Denise was a very intelligent person, but when you are running a business out of your home you have to take some risks, I guess," Charles Mansfield said.
Acquaintances said the lack of answers has made dealing with Mansfield's death more difficult. "We're trying to comfort each other and trying to stay based in the church and praying that someone will see something and come forward to help us solve this case," Charles Mansfield said.
Relatives said they were initially disappointed with the police response, but they feel that more effort has been placed on the case in recent weeks.
"We have identified one of the three perpetrators of this crime, and there has been an arrest. That is a positive step. It proves that there is still emphasis still being placed on this crime.
"But anything the public can do to help us identify the other two people in these photos would be greatly appreciated by the family and the community," Charles Mansfield said."
Sharrarne Morton, president of the Lake Arbor Civic Association, said the community association decided to reach out to residents to re-energize public interest in the case. "We know how important it is to keep the media focused on this case and to keep residents focused on this case. We can't let people forget what happened."
Morton said residents will sleep easier knowing an arrest has been made, but she is worried that other suspects are still out there.
"I'm relieved there has been a break in the case, and hopefully this will give some closure to the victim's family," she said. "We are hopeful the police will continue and apprehend the other suspects."
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Crime Solvers at 301-735-1111.