CRIME

Lodato murder could be connected to other high-profile murders

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - Alexandria Police said Thursday that the February murder of Ruthanne Lodato shares similar characteristics with two other murders.

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Questions surround possible suspect

Transportation planner Ronald Kirby was shot to death in November in a nearby neighborhood. And in 2003, well-known realtor Nancy Dunning was murdered in her Del Ray home.

Ruthanne Lodato was shot inside her Alexandria home one month ago, and only in her case was there a surviving witness to describe the suspect. Since then, police have released a sketch.

Investigators are now saying the three shootings are similar in nature, and eerily, all lived within a mile-and-a-half of one another in Alexandria.

"We are looking at them exactly as all three of them are linked," Chief Earl Cook said Thursday.  "The bullets in the Ruthanne Lodato, Ron Kirby, and Nancy Dunning cases have the same general rifling class and characteristics."

And now, in light of the new forensic evidence showing that the same gun may have been used in all three homicides, police are warning residents to keep their doors locked and not open them to strangers.

"I always had a tendency to leave my door open because we have such a wonderful neighborhood, and it's really unnerving to not be trusting anymore," said resident Brooke McHugh.

"The last time somebody knocked on my door, my fiance didn't answer the door -- he went upstairs and got his gun," added Kristin Cropf.

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille is encouraging residents to be cautious, but to not be afraid to go about their daily business. He says that  overall, Alexandria is still very safe:

"It's not like the sniper incident several years ago, but there is a deranged individual, and we'll all work together to find that person."

The murders share other striking similarities: the crimes happened during the day at homes with no signs of forced entry, and all three victims were well-known Alexandria residents.

Now, there are questions about the suspect: Who is he? And what was his motivation?

We put these questions to former FBI profiler Brad Garrett, who said:

"I think this guy in his mind in some way believes he has been wronged by the city of Alexandria."

All three victims were prominent and active in their community. Dunning was the wife of the sheriff and a realtor, Kirby was a well-known regional transportation planner, and Lodato was a beloved music teacher.

"He targeted these three people, I believe,not because of who they are personally, but what they represent," said Garrett.

Garrett added that the suspect may or may not live in Alexandria, and could be tough to track down:

"The disadvantage to people like this is they're not talking to anybody. He's not in a bar blabbing about what he did, he turns inward, he goes on these rampages, then goes back to his normal life...He may even work for the city of Alexandria."

Del Ray resident Betty Thompson, who knew Dunning, says her neighbors have vowed to do whatever they can do to help him.

"It's been kind of on edge right now with everything going on, but I can tell you a lot of residents have their eyes and ears open," she said.

Police are on the lookout for an older male suspect with a white beard.

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