Fairfax County saw six more homicides in 2021 than in the previous year, the Fairfax County Police Department says, citing an unusually high number of adult children killing parents and other family members.
According to the department’s annual crime summary, Fairfax County police recorded 21 homicides last year compared to 15 in 2020.
Homicide detectives solved 16 of the 21 murders, but continue to pursue leads in the unsolved cases. That gives the FCPD a clearance rate of 76.2%, exceeding the national average of 61.4%. It was the first year since 2010 the county saw more than 20 homicides, according to FBI data.
Reston saw three homicides in 2021, including one in which a 24-year-old man was charged with second-degree murder after his father was found dead with stab wounds. A fatal shooting at an apartment complex on Winterthur Court in March remains unsolved.
In September, police arrested and charged a man with killing his father and burying him in the backyard of his house in the Culmore area. Police have not yet made an arrest in the killing of a 73-year-old man who was shot while using in ATM on Annandale Road.
Overall crime fell by 9.6% compared to 2020, driven by reductions in several categories:
- Robbery fell by 1%
- Domestic assaults fell by 4%
- Burglary fell by 11%
- Auto theft fell by 8%
- Larcenies from automobiles fell by 17%
“The national rise in violence touched every major urban center in 2021, including Fairfax County,” said Police Chief Kevin Davis, who is approaching one year on the job in May. “Despite this, we remain one of the safest jurisdictions of our size in the country because our patrol officers, detectives and professional staff work tirelessly for our victims and their families. As we look ahead, FCPD will continue to engage with our community on the important work of public safety.”
Last year, the FCPD implemented a program that requires all officers to patrol communities on foot for at least 30 minutes each shift, in the hopes they’ll interact with residents and business owners in areas where dispatchers receive the highest call volume.
The department also launched a tool that uses surveys linked to QR codes to solicit feedback from community members, and added trainings for use of force and peer intervention.
In 2022, the department plans to update its policy to require releasing body camera and in-vehicle camera footage for incidents involving police within 30 days. The policy is moving through a final approval process, the police department said.
A retired priest who headed the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Child Protection and Safety for seven years has been indicted for allegedly sexually abusing a boy in Fairfax County two decades ago.
Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General announced this morning (Tuesday) that a grand jury handed down two felony charges against Terry Specht, 69, of Donegal, Pennsylvania on Dec. 20.
The Fairfax County Circuit Court grand jury charged Specht with aggravated sexual battery of a child under the age of 13 and sexual abuse of a child under the age of 18 with whom he had a custodial or supervisory relationship.
According to the indictments, the abuse occurred between March 1 and Sept. 30, 2000 and involved Specht “intentionally touching…intimate parts or material covering such intimate parts” of a victim identified as G.H., who was a minor at the time.
Specht served as a priest in the Diocese of Arlington from 1996 to 2012, including as director of its Office of Child Protection from 2004 to 2011.
The Diocese of Arlington says it first received an allegation of sexual abuse against Specht in 2012. The allegation was reported to law enforcement, and Specht was placed on administrative leave while the diocese’s review board conducted an investigation.
According to a report by The Washington Post at the time, the investigation concerned abuse of a teen boy that occurred in the late 1990s while Specht was parochial vicar at the Saint Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax.
“The Review Board found the allegation to be inconclusive, and law enforcement never brought charges related to the 2012 allegation,” Diocese media relations director Amber Rosebloom told FFXnow in a statement, noting that Specht was granted a request for medical retirement in 2012 and has not served in priestly ministry since.
According to the Diocese, Specht’s role in its Office of Child Protection was as a policy administrator and instructor, and he was not involved in the 2012 investigation or in assigning priests. A subsequent third-party review of the office’s policies, staff, and procedures did not find any issues.
“As a priest in the Diocese of Arlington, Father Specht underwent a criminal background check and completed VIRTUS safe-environment training,” the Diocese said. “He also underwent recurring background checks every five years, consistent with diocesan policy.”
The Diocese says it reported a second, separate allegation of abuse that it received in 2019 to police and has shared information and files related to both allegations with Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.
Specht is the third person to face charges as part of an ongoing, statewide investigation of clergy-related sexual abuse, according to the attorney general’s office.
“Children should always feel comfortable around religious leaders in their life, without fear that they could somehow hurt them,” Herring said in a statement. “Our joint investigation with the Virginia State Police into potential clergy abuse in Virginia remains ongoing, and I am proud of the work that we have done so far.”
Specht’s case is scheduled to go to trial in October 2022.
Herring encouraged Virginians who might have information about this case or any other instance of clergy abuse to speak up. His office launched a clergy abuse hotline in 2018 that remains available 24/7 at 1-833-454-9064 and www.VirginiaClergyHotline.com.
“No matter how long ago the incident occurred, we will take it seriously and make sure that you get the help and support you deserve,” he said.
The Diocese of Arlington similarly encouraged people with information about Specht or other incidents of misconduct or abuse to contact the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131 or its victim assistance coordinator at 703-841-2530.
“The Diocese of Arlington has a zero-tolerance policy for abuse and continues to be fully committed to training our clergy, staff and volunteers to identify and report suspected instances of abuse,” Rosebloom said. “No one with a credible accusation of abuse of minors is serving in the Diocese.”
(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) A plastic container found in the Huntington area near Route 1 on Wednesday (Dec. 15) contained the remains of two people that Fairfax County police believe to be the victims of a serial killer.
While not scientifically confirmed yet, police have determined based on a distinctive tattoo that one of the individuals found is likely Cheyenne Brown, a 29-year-old D.C. resident who went missing after taking the Metro to Huntington on Sept. 30.
The identity of the second individual is not yet known, but the suspect in the case has been identified as Anthony Robinson, 35, of D.C., who is currently in custody at the Rockingham-Harrisonburg Regional Jail and faces charges for two murders in the City of Harrisonburg.
“We have leads that will hopefully help us identify fourth victim,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said at a news conference this afternoon (Friday). “The state of decomposition was so bad that it’s going to take a little bit of work, but we have leads about a missing person last seen in this area.”
The Fairfax County Police Department received a call from the Metropolitan Police Department about 10 days ago, requesting assistance in locating Brown, according to Major Ed O’Carroll, commander of the FCPD’s major crimes and cyber forensics bureau.
Surveillance video showed that Brown and the suspect, presumed to be Robinson, were at the same Metro stop on the day of her disappearance. The search led detectives to a motel called Moon Inn on Route 1, where they came across an abandoned shopping cart in a wooded area in the 2400 block of Fairhaven Lane.
The container with the remains was found near the shopping cart, which police believe was used to transport the victims after they were killed, leading them to dub the suspect “the shopping cart killer.”
The two victims in Harrisonburg — Allene Elizabeth “Beth” Redmon, 54, of Harrisonburg, and Tonita Lorice Smith, 39, of Charlottesville — were also reported missing before their bodies were found on Nov. 23 in a vacant lot on Linda Lane in Harrisonburg.
Police say the killer contacted all three identified women through dating sites, and the cause of death is blunt force trauma.
Police in Fairfax County, Harrisonburg, and D.C. are now conducting a “retrospective” investigation to determine whether there were any additional victims. Davis described Robinson, who had no previous criminal history, as a “transient” person with residences ranging from D.C. and Prince George’s County up to New York.
O’Carroll said that the possibility of multiple suspects hasn’t been ruled out.
“We really don’t know,” Harrisonburg Chief of Police Kelley Warner said when asked how far back the killings might go. “That’s why we’re asking for the public’s help. We’re trying to gather as much intel as possible.”
The FCPD says that anyone with information about possible victims or Robinson’s history can contact them at 703-246-7800. The department’s anonymous tipline is also open at 1-866-411-TIPS.
“This has us shaking our head,” O’Carroll said. “The victims did nothing wrong, didn’t have to happen, but justice will prevail.”