By Carla Branch
Dunning’s murder shocked the entire Alexandria community because of her civic involvement and because she was a successful local realtor and the wife of former sheriff Jim Dunning. Her case remains unsolved but her legacy lives on.
“Although we have featured Nancy Dunning’s case as one of our cold cases on our new web page, we are still actively investigating her murder,” said Deputy Police Chief Blaine Corle. “We have her featured on our cold case page because that is one way to keep the public involved and hopefully to generate leads. I’m not going to tell you that our detectives work on her case every day but we are very concerned about finding the person who killed her.”
Dunning’s friends and family members stay in touch with police to get updates on the case. “Some family members are in touch with us and some are not, it just depends,” Corle said.
Some of those family members stay in touch with Victim Witness staff in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. “Even though our office is not technically involved in a case until there is an arrest, the police keep us informed about their progress on all homicide investigations,” said Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel. “In some cases, the only contact we have with a victim’s family prior to prosecution of a suspect is through our Victim Witness program. We often help families find funds to pay for funerals and make referrals for other support services.
“If the victim was killed as a result of domestic violence, the City’s domestic violence program has a Silent Witness vigil every year and sometimes family members come to that. Also, we have a regional victims’ conference every year and some family members attend that,” Sengel said.
A “cold case” is defined as, “one in which we have exhausted all of our leads and still have made no arrest,” Corle said. “Again, that doesn’t mean we have forgotten about the case, it just means that we use other tools to investigate it,” Crole said.
One of those tools is DNA analysis that is periodically run by the State’s Forensic Sciences Lab. “DNA analysis is run on samples from crime scenes and people who are arrested periodically,” Sengel said. “We have solved some old cases through these matches so this is an excellent tool.”
Another tool that was used in the Dunning case was consultation with the Vidocq Society, a group of investigators who look at cold cases. “We will consult with them or any other group that we think might be helpful in solving any of our unsolved cases,” Corle said. “It doesn’t really matter how long ago someone was murdered, we want to know who was responsible and bring that individual to justice.”
Corle discussed another unsolved Alexandria murder that happened in 1975. “I wasn’t here then but if you mention Dorothea Cutts to detectives who are now retired, they can tell you everything about that case and they will tell you that they still want to know who killed her,” he said. Cutts was well known in Old Town and was found stabbed to death in her home, her body stuffed into the coal bin.
Anyone who has information about any of these cases should call Alexandria police at 703 838-4711.
Curtis Fitzgerald King, 27 year-old Alexandria man, was shot several times in a parking lot in the 6100 block of Edsall Road. He was pronounced dead at Alexandria Hospital. Suspect was seen leaving the area in a dark, small sports car, but no arrest has been made.
Daniel Ferguson, 20 year-old Alexandria man, was shot once in the head while standing on the sidewalk in the 1200 block of Queen Street. Suspect was seen leaving the area in a red compact car, but no arrest has been made.
Oswaldo Villeda, 28 year-old Alexandria man, was found stabbed to death outside his residence in the unit block of East Mason Avenue. No arrest.
Octavia Bowen, 26 year-old Arlington woman, was found deceased in rear alley of the 3800 block of Mount Vernon Avenue. Victim was strangled. No arrest.
Martimiano Rodriquez, 27 year-old Arlington man, was stabbed to death in rear alley of the 700 block of North Henry Street. No arrest.
Elvis Beale, 43 year-old Alexandria man, was found dead of blunt force trauma in a lot in the 1600 block of Cameron Street. No arrest.
Nancy Dunning, 56 year-old Alexandria woman, was found shot to death in her Del Ray home on West Mount Ida Street. No arrest.
*Gail E. Collins, 49 year-old Alexandria woman, was found dead in her apartment in the 3200 block of Landover Street. She had not been to work for several days. Cause of death was a gunshot wound. No arrest.
Curtis Murphy, a 37 year-old Alexandria man, was shot multiple times in the 400 block of North Patrick Street. No arrest.
Bethlehem Ayele, a 34 year-old Alexandria woman, was shot in her car at the intersection of Mount Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues. No arrest.
Darnell Brown, 22 year-old Fort Washington, MD, man, was shot in the 400 block of North Columbus Street. No arrest.
Jose E. Cruz, 26 year-old Alexandria man, died after receiving trauma to his head and abdomen at 3807 Executive Avenue. No arrest.
*The man who murdered Gail E. Collins was prosecuted in federal court for a firearms violation. Although he was not charged with Gail Collins’ murder, he used the weapon in question to kill her. The case was closed subsequent to the prosecution.