(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) A woman who died by suicide at a cemetery in Annandale 26 years ago has been identified.
The Fairfax County Police Department announced this morning (Thursday) that the woman known colloquially as the “Christmas Tree Lady” was 69-year-old Joyce Meyer. Detectives made the link using DNA tests and genomic sequencing by the Houston-based forensic laboratory Othram Inc.
“After decades of wondering what happened to their loved one, Joyce’s family is finally at peace thanks to the dedicated work of several generations of FCPD detectives, anonymous donors and Othram,” FCPD Major Crimes Bureau Commander Major Ed O’Carroll said. “Our detectives never stopped working for Joyce and her family. Advances in technology will continue to help close cases and provide answers to victim’s families.”
Meyer was found deceased in the Pleasant Valley Memorial Park at 8420 Little River Turnpike on Dec. 18, 1996. Officers found two envelopes in her pocket: one containing a letter signed “Jane Doe” that indicated she had taken her own life, and another with money to cover funeral expenses.
The woman was wearing headphones and had a Walkman with a tape recording of comedians Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner’s “2,000-Year-Old Man” routine, according to a Washington Post report from December 2000.
A small, decorated Christmas tree located near the body led to the “Christmas Tree Lady” moniker.
While no foul play or other crime was suspected in the death, detectives were assigned to try to identify the body so any loved ones she had may find closure, the police department says.
Unable to match the victim’s physical description to known missing persons in the D.C. region, the FCPD turned to Othram earlier this year for assistance. Launched in 2018, the private lab provides DNA testing and genomic sequencing services to law enforcement, and it’s working to establish a global digital database for DNA evidence, according to its website.
Meyer was identified through “advanced forensic genetic genealogy technology” that Othram used to connect the body to a possible family member, the FCPD says. The testing was funded by anonymous donations sent to the company’s DNA Solves database.
“Detectives connected with the family member, which led to additional family connections across the country,” the FCPD said. “A DNA sample confirmed a match, which was corroborated by conversations with long-lost siblings.”
According to police, family members believe Meyer moved to Virginia after the mid-1980s. She had not been reported missing at the time of her death and had no family in the immediate area.
Police said they believe the man shot Angelica McIntosh, 26, and Anne Lollar, 31, before shooting himself in their apartment in the 4200 block of Mazarin Place. Police believe the man is Jose Gale Aliaga, 26, though they are still working to confirm that identification.
Officers are investigating it as a double murder-suicide, the FCPD said. The women’s deaths mark the ninth and 10th homicides of the year in the county, matching the number seen by this time in 2021.
After a family member requested a welfare check, officers discovered three people around 11 a.m. with gunshot wounds to the upper body, police said. They were barricaded in a back bedroom but could be seen through a window from the apartment balcony.
Another roommate who was inside was unaware of any foul play and allowed officers to gain access to the apartment, police said. The FCPD is considering the roommate as a person of interest.
There was evidence to indicate McIntosh, Lollar and the man made a suicide pact, police said.
The police department asks anyone with information to contact its Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 2. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone — 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411, and by web.
A man in the Kings Park West area shot and killed his wife before dying by suicide on Saturday (May 14), the Fairfax County Police Department reported this afternoon (Monday).
Madeline Bregman, 76, and Michael Bregman, 77, were found deceased inside their home in the 10400 block of Stallworth Court, just north of Robinson Secondary School, when officers stopped by before 3 p.m. for a welfare check, according to police.
The FCPD says both people had suffered apparent gunshot wounds and were pronounced dead at the scene.
“Preliminarily, detectives believe Michael shot his wife, Madeline, before shooting himself,” the FCPD said. “Several spent cartridge cases and a firearm were located within the home. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will be completing autopsies to confirm manner and cause of death.”
Madeline Bregman is the county’s seventh homicide victim of the year, matching the number of murders reported at this point in 2021.
Photo via FCPD/Facebook
Man Dies After Crash in Oakton — “A 78-year-old man has died from injuries sustained in a single-vehicle crash that occurred at 2:01 p.m. on March 30 in Oakton. Thomas Peregoy of Alexandria was driving eastbound on Lawyers Road near Kedge Drive when his 2014 Toyota Tacoma drifted off the roadway to the right, striking a tree head on.” [FCPD]
Genomic Sequencing Could Help ID “Christmas Tree Lady” — “For 25 years, the Fairfax County police have tried and failed to identify ‘the Christmas Tree Lady,’ so named because she placed an 8-inch Christmas tree with gold balls and red ribbons on the clear plastic sheet she put on the ground…She is the only person to die by suicide in Fairfax whom authorities have been unable to identify, before or since.” [The Washington Post]
County Launches Month-Long Solar Energy Campaign — “Fairfax County is pleased and proud to participate in the annual Solarize campaign, which brings residents and businesses bulk discounts on solar systems…Through the program, you can receive a free satellite assessment of your property to determine if it is suitable for solar.” [Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination]
Fort Belvoir Hospital Trauma Center Verified — “Fort Belvoir Community Hospital has received Level lll Trauma Center verification after demonstrating its ability to provide prompt assessment, surgery, intensive care and emergency operations…The only other verified trauma center in Northern Virginia is Inova Fairfax Hospital, a Level I facility.” [Inside NoVA]
Carjacking Reported in Mount Vernon — A man was driving in the 3700 block of Rolling Hills Avenue on March 26 when four men in a brown Nissan Altima blocked his vehicle. “The men then got out of the Altima, displayed a firearm and assaulted the victim,” police say. “The men then left the area in the victim’s car. The victim was treated for injuries not considered life threatening.” [FCPD]
McLean Arts Nonprofit Plans Spring Shows — The McLean Project for the Arts will host its first-ever “Spring Solo” exhibitions starting on April 14. The nonprofit received over 130 proposals, according to its artistic director and curator. Work from three artists, two from D.C. and one from Arlington, will be on display through June 11. [Sun Gazette]
Reston Community Center Announces Spring Programming — “Some of RCC’s most popular seasonal experiences are already sold out (Eggnormous Egg Hunt, Crafternoons), so don’t wait to enroll in the activities that still have space for children and their families!” [RCC]
It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 56 and low of 34. Sunrise at 6:50 a.m. and sunset at 7:36 p.m. [Weather.gov]
A Fairfax County Police Department recruit and his wife have died after apparently “self-inflicted” shootings, police confirmed today (Monday).
Fairfax County police responded twice to a house in the 4200 block of Sonia Court, just down Route 1 from the South County Government Center in the Mount Vernon area on Saturday (Feb. 26), according to the police report.
The first call came around 8:10 p.m., when police received a call from a man identified as FCPD recruit Matthew Farberov, 28.
Farberov said he found his wife suffering from a gunshot wound that appeared to be self-inflicted. She was taken to a hospital by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue personnel, but later succumbed to her injuries.
Detectives concluded their initial investigation around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday (Feb. 27), only to be called back at 1:35 a.m. for a second “self-inflicted” shooting.
“Upon arrival, officers found Faberov suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the FCPD report says. “Farberov was pronounced deceased at the scene.”
The manner and cause of death will be confirmed with autopsies by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
According to The Washington Post, Police Chief Kevin Davis has ordered an internal investigation into the shootings, focused on how the responding officers handled the incident, including whether the firearms in the home should have been seized and a delay in sharing information with the public.
Photo via FCPD/Twitter