The family of a toddler killed in an apparent murder-suicide has asked police in Fairfax County, Va., to take the “unprecedented” step of not publicly identifying the victim of a homicide to spare the family additional pain, police said Friday.
Fairfax County police were set to identify the 2-year-old girl, who was killed last month, but put the move on hold so they can consider the family’s request and research the legality of not naming the child.
Police officials said the decision about the unusual request is delicate, forcing them to weigh the grief of a family against the duty of police to inform the public about crimes in the community.
“We are striving to be empathetic to the family,” said Maj. Ed O’Carroll, director of the department’s Public Affairs Bureau. “It would be unprecedented if we were not to release the name.”
Fairfax County police said 58-year-old Roy Eugene Rumsey killed the girl before taking his own life and setting a large blaze at his home in the Fairfax area on July 27. Rumsey was the child’s father.
Fairfax County firefighters found the bodies of Rumsey and the girl inside the home after extinguishing the fire. The state medical examiner said Rumsey died of a gunshot wound to the head and that his death was a suicide. The cause of the girl’s death has not been released.
Rumsey’s family has not responded to phone calls, but neighbors described him as a defense contractor who seldom interacted with them and who had run-ins with the neighborhood association. Court records show he was divorced in 2012.
O’Carroll said it has long been the police department’s policy to release the names of all homicide victims. Officials could not recall another time that a victim’s name had been withheld, he said.
O’Carroll said the family believes that making the girl’s identity public would create additional trauma for the family and that there is little public interest, since the incident was domestic in nature.
Police said the attorney for the family argued the girl’s name could be withheld under Virginia’s Crime Victim and Witness Rights Act, which requires authorities to get a family’s consent to release the name of a victim of family abuse.
The police have received dozens of calls from relatives and friends of the family in support of keeping the name private.
O’Carroll said police have asked the Fairfax County attorney’s office to look at the arguments of the family’s attorney and render a legal opinion, but he said the final decision about releasing the name will be up to Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr.
Scott Surovell, the attorney for the family, declined to comment on the family’s request.
“The family is devastated by the sudden loss of their beautiful 2-year-old baby,” Surovell wrote in a statement. “She was an incredibly happy, vibrant and loving child. She will be forever missed. The family thanks you for respecting their privacy at this time.”