A 27-year-old Dupont Circle-area woman was bludgeoned with a cinderblock and choked to death early yesterday on a parking lot behind a Peoples Drug Store at Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street NW.
The woman was identified as Clarissa Ann Cornwell, a resident of an apartment house at 1724 17th St. NW.
Police said she had apparently been attacked only shortly after her body, clad only in a white blouse, was found about 2:30 a.m. Police said the parking lot was spattered with blood over a wide area, indicating that the woman had struggled with her attacker for some time before death.
Detectives said no motives for the killing had been determined. They said tests will be conducted to learn whether the victim had been sexually assaulted.
According to detectives, persons in premises near the parking lot heard loud voices and saw what appeared to be an argument shortly before police were called and the body was found.
Investigators said they are seeking a young man in a striped shirt and are also looking for an olive green car with District of Columbia license plates.
Officers found the victim's body faced down in blood that apparently had flowed from head wounds. A blood-stained cinder block was nearby.
Cause of death was attributed to strangulation, "associated with blunt impact injury," according to deputy D.C. Medical Examiner Dr. Brian Blackbourne, who performed an autopsy.
They said there was no immediate indication of any weapon used other than the cinderblock.
An assistant manager of the drug store said several cinderblocks had been knocked loose from a wall bounding part of the parking lot when the wall was struck recently by a motorist.
Found near the parking lot, according to investigators, were white shorts and panties, a pair of earrings and a beach towel belonging to the victim.
In addition, detectives said, keys and personal effects belonging to the dead woman were found in the grassy area adjacent to the lot.
A station wagon that police said belong to the victim was parked on McKinley Street, near the drug store,
It was not immediately known what the woman was doing in the upper Connecticut Avenue area early yesterday, but at least one man who works in the area recalled seeing a woman fitting her description in the company of two and perhaps three other persons about 12:30 a.m.
Darren Kinsey, a cook at a Chevy Chase Lounge, across McKinley street from the parking lot, said the group came to the door of the restaurant to ask to buy cigarettes shortly after the midnight closing time.
Later, Kinsey said, when he left the restaurant and went to get his car from a nearby parking lot, he saw the woman and her companions again and they asked where they could find a lounge that would still be open.
But shortly afterwards, he said, when he passed the restaurant in his auto, he saw the woman standing alone near the drug store, some distance from the others.
In addition to recalling the woman as wearing a short-sleeve blouse and white shorts, he said she had blonde hair. Police confirmed that the victim's hair was blonde.
Kinsey said that he recalled the woman standing near the station wagon, and said he believed that when she first came to the Chevy Chase Lounge she may have said about some engine trouble. Police said that her car was later found to be leaking oil.
Little information could be learned about the slain woman last night. Most neighbors in her eight-story apartment building who were interviewed yesterday recalled little if anything about her. It was not known last night if she had relatives living in the Washington area.