Police mum on Greenhalgh investigation

Whatever police have learned about the death of newspaper reporter Sarah Greenhalgh, they’re in no hurry yet to tell.

Firefighters found Greenhalgh’s body in her rental house July 9 on Dunvegan Drive in Upperville after the house caught fire. A few hours later, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office announced it was investigating the death as a homicide.

“We feel we’re making progress every day,” said Lt. James Hartman. In the days that followed, Hartman said, Fauquier deputies have enlisted the aid of Virginia State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Police set up a checkpoint on John S. Mosby Highway Tuesday morning, questioning people who regularly drive past Dunvegan Drive. Hartman said the checkpoint yielded “useful information,” but no additional warrants for search or arrest were filed as of publication time.

Greenhalgh’s last post on Facebook before her death, mentioning a “bats— crazy boy” who would not leave her alone, led police to search an apartment complex on Somerset Crossing Drive near Gainesville July 10.

One resident, who refused to give a name, overheard a Sunday night argument between the man whose apartment police searched and a woman. They were swearing loudly at one another, the resident said.

“That’s all I remember before I took off, because I don’t like confrontations,” the resident said.

“He seemed like a real nice guy. Quiet, polite,” another resident said.

Police said the man cooperated with the investigation. Neighbors have seen the lights on in his apartment since the July 10 search. Picture frames and blinds obscured his windows, and nothing but a barking dog and the background rattle of air conditioners answered knocks on his door.

Police have sealed all search warrants related to the case, but the Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk’s office in Manassas leaked the warrant to other media organizations. Police reportedly seized a shirt, a Blackberry phone and some shredded papers from the apartment.

When asked for those details, a Circuit Court clerk employee confirmed the address of the search to the Times-Democrat, but insisted the warrant itself was sealed.

Ann MacLeod, who owned Greenhalgh’s home with her son Colin, has seen investigators swarm her property for days. Helicopters swept overhead to take aerial photos, and a team of about 30 FBI agents raked over MacLeod’s fields with metal detectors, MacLeod said.

“Police still won’t tell us how or when she died,” MacLeod said.

Hartman said he won’t discuss the details of Greenhalgh’s death, or why they’re investigating her death as a homicide, until the medical examiner’s office releases a final autopsy report – which could take weeks.

As for Greenhalgh’s rental house, the fire has burned the rafters to a hair’s breadth and made the interior unrecognizable, MacLeod said. She said she asked investigators if gasoline had started the fire.

“They said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, this is much stronger.’ But they wouldn’t say what it was,” MacLeod said.

While answers have been few and far between, MacLeod said she can’t fault the professionalism of the investigators.

“They’ve been so courteous and kind to people like me and the family,” MacLeod said.