The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A 72-year-old woman died at home in September. Police now say she was killed.

Placeholder while article actions load

A lifelong Arlington resident who died in her home in September was killed, police said Friday.

Penelope Holloway, 72, was initially believed to have died of natural causes. But Arlington police said crime scene evidence, witness interviews and a medical examiner’s report now indicate she was drugged with a mix of oxycodone and alcohol and smothered. The death was ruled a homicide, police said.

The friend who reported Holloway’s death on Sept. 28, told police she had planned her own death, according to a search warrant filed in Arlington Circuit Court, paying her personal physician $10,000 to help her. The witness said he came over for drinks that night and that Holloway told him and the doctor, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

All three of them were drinking alcohol, the witness said. He told police Holloway consumed what he said looked like a “smoothie” and the doctor gave her a syringe of anti-nausea medication through her abdomen. He said she did not struggle or protest when the doctor tried to smother her with a pillow and, when that failed, his hand, telling her, “This is what you wanted.”

The witness told police the doctor then changed Holloway’s shirt, discarded the smoothie and ran the dishwasher, according to the search warrant. He called a funeral home Holloway had contacted earlier, but the undertakers refused to come unless police were notified, the friend told police.

The witness said Holloway had been having a difficult time getting around because of back surgeries, according to the court record.

The Washington Post is not naming the doctor or witness because no charges have been filed.

Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said law enforcement has not confirmed that version of events.

“We anticipate more information will come out,” she said. “We have to ensure that everything provided to us was correct.”

Holloway’s doctor died unexpectedly just a few days after Holloway, on Oct. 1, according to an obituary in a local medical society journal.

Holloway is survived by her brother, Lyman Fairbanks III, and stepson Paul “Bucky” Holloway, according to an obituary published in The Post.

“Penny was a truly unique person, all who knew her would agree that she had a real passion for life; and for her, the relationship with her friends was most dear,” the obituary says.

She had a career in retail, real estate and hospitality and was a patron of the arts and animal rescues, supporting the Phillips Collection, Arena Stage, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and other local groups.

Kat Williams, who knew Holloway from working at the Phillips Collection, said she was saddened when the lively, world-traveling woman had died relatively young.

“She was great, she was kind of a bon vivant, she had a great sense of style,” Williams said. “She lived all over the world and had great stories. She was just a lovely person.”

Local newsletters: Local headlines (8 a.m.) | Afternoon Buzz (4 p.m.)

Like PostLocal on Facebook | Follow @postlocal on Twitter | Latest local news