Police Chief: Investigation into Nancy Dunning's Murder Remains Active

Alexandria police continue to honor promise to never put the investigation into Nancy Dunning's murder on the shelf.

Police Chief Earl Cook talks with reporters concerning the investigation into Nancy Dunning's murder. (Photo credit: Drew Hansen).
Police Chief Earl Cook talks with reporters concerning the investigation into Nancy Dunning's murder. (Photo credit: Drew Hansen).

Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook said Wednesday detectives continue to actively investigate the 2003 murder of Nancy Dunning a decade after it occurred, though there remain no viable suspects in the case.

“We made a promise to the Dunning family we would never put this case on the shelf,” Cook said. “The viability here is still existing for us. We continue to try and investigate and ferret out leads where we get them.”

Dunning was found murdered in her Del Ray home on Dec. 5, 2003. Three Alexandria detectives have been placed on the case over the years. With each transfer, the case has been reviewed from top to bottom and investigators continue to travel wherever they need to conduct interviews or examine evidence, Cook said.

Cook urged the public to come forward with any information, no matter how inconsequential it may seem. A $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case remains available. 

“There are still things you think or know in this case that you may think is insignificant, but we would love to hear from you,” Cook said. “We are looking for any leads and any info that would help us resolve the case.”

Cook said he believes advancements in forensic science could help bring a resolution to the murder of the popular Del Ray realtor, who was married to then Alexandria sheriff Jim Dunning.

Jim Dunning moved out of the state a few years after his wife’s murder. He died last year in Hilton Head, S.C. at age 62.

Cook said Wednesday that Jim Dunning’s death does not change the nature of the investigation into Nancy Dunning’s murder.

“Jim Dunning’s death did not resolve this case,” Cook said. “We have always looked at every possibility here. Naturally with all homicides, you look at family members and all acquaintances.”

The son of Nancy Dunning told NBC Washington this week he believes his mother was singled out.

"I think she was targeted but nothing has happened to me," Chris Dunning said. "It's been 10 years. You can't sit around and be afraid to go out of the house."

The Alexandria Times reported in January 2013 that the FBI investigated a 1990 letter from a former inmate threating to kill Jim Dunning’s wife and children. Federal authorities dropped their investigation into the letter in 1993.

Police suggested just one person of interest in the days following the murder—a man filmed leaving Target at Potomac Yard about the same time as Nancy Dunning.

Cook said detectives have examined the similarities between Dunning’s murder and the recent homicide of transportation official Ron Kirby inside his Rosemont home. Detectives have found no reason to believe the two cases are connected, Cook said, but police won’t “close the door on those possibilities.” 

Cook said local detectives partnered with federal investigators for the first six years of the Dunning case. Assistance from other agencies is available whenever it’s needed.

“It is a challenge to keep resources on the Dunning case for 10 years, but that promise to resolve it is not going to go away,” Cook said.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, Del Ray will host its annual tree-lighting ceremony at the corner of Mount Vernon and Oxford avenues. A large stretch of Mount Vernon Avenue through Del Ray will be lined with luminarias in honor of Nancy Dunning.  


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