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Fauquier law officials ask for $600,000 for cold case investigation program

Monday, Jan. 27 | By Mark Grandstaff | Google+
Fauquier County's attorneys and detectives can't use the full extent of their investigative arsenal without an extra $600,000 in requested manpower and equipment, said Commonwealth's Attorney James Fisher.

In a memo to county supervisors, Fisher laid out his joint request with the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office:

-In Fiscal Year 2015, Fisher wants an extra paralegal to handle the extra work from unsolved cases, with additional money for specialty contractors and other expenses, at a total cost of $134,239.

-In Fiscal year 2016, Fisher requests a new senior assistant commonwealth's attorney dedicated to unsolved murders, two new vehicles for witness transportation and other costs, totaling $295,772.

-The Sheriff's Office wants a cold case investigator, which would cost $151,760, including a new vehicle, computer equipment and other supplies.

-The Sheriff's Office also wants a crime analyst, which would also cost $151,760, including a new vehicle, computer equipment and supplies.

Last year, the Sheriff's Office solved a 32-year-old murder case – the death of Brad Baker at Kinloch Farm. Deputies charged Ronald Cloud of killing Baker after Baker fired Cloud's father in the winter of 1980.

It cost the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office about $75,000 over 18 months to conclude 32 years of investigation, Fisher said. The money went into an interview specialist Fisher hired for the Cloud investigation and the costs that come from interviewing and transporting witnesses and filling more than 30 binders full of case material.

“People don't sit and wait for you for 20 years,” Fisher said. “They move on.”

They made up the cost with “vacancy savings” from unfilled positions, Fisher said. But now those positions are filled, and Fauquier still has seven unsolved murder cases.

They are: Joan Kenney and Robin Brooks both, murdered on March 24, 1981; William Kagdis, murdered on Aug. 1, 1982; Tammy Thorpe, murdered on Oct. 23, 1988; Bryan Mace, murdered on April 9, 2003; Du Chil Park, murdered on June 29, 2008; and Sarah Greenhalgh, murdered on July 9, 2012.

The use of a special grand jury played a crucial role in bringing charges against Cloud, Fisher said. Virginia code gives special grand juries the power to subpoena witnesses and documents as well as the power to return indictments.

They can compel people to appear and testify before court, Fisher said. And if a case goes to trial, they're subject to perjury if they change their stories.

Federal courts have been using special grand juries for years, but Fauquier is on the vanguard of counties in Virginia that use special grand juries, among them Henrico, Virginia Beach, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties.

Many times, Fisher said, the testimonies unearthed by special grand juries convince defendants to plead guilty, rather than facing trial.

It's become an effective tool in Fisher's arsenal in the year and a half since he started empanelling special grand juries. But his agency can't keep it up without more funding, he said.

“If the family of a loved one is killed, they'd want to know every available resource is being used to bring the killer to justice,” Fisher said.

Sheriff Charlie Fox said a dedicated unsolved murder investigation would allow his agency to make headway in Fauquier's cold cases. But the crime analyst position is the highest priority on his list, he said.

A crime analyst specializes in sorting information from criminal investigations, Fox said. Crime analysts help keep detectives and prosecutors up-to-date on the latest developments in cases and can recognize patterns of activity that help deputies allocate their time and resources, he said.

Fox asked for a crime analyst last year, but supervisors did not grant his request in this year's budget.

So, he's trying again this year. He's also requesting six additional deputies, he said.

“I think it's gotten to the point that [a crime analyst is] necessary,” Fox said. “I may or may not get it. But if we don't ask, we won't know.”

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