Break-in brings increased security at commonwealth’s attorney’s office
The top county prosecutor's office is going to be tougher to access in the future.
Enhancing security for the commonwealth's attorney and her staff received the unanimous support of the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors at their March meeting.
Cedar Mountain District Supervisor Larry Aylor, in his public safety committee report, requested that a key card entry system be installed.
Stevensburg Supervisor Bill Chase was concerned about the costs of adding such a system.
Aylor said that during the committee meeting Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins said it was “his duty to protect her and the staff and office” and that he had funds for the project in his budget.
“There's money to take care of that,” said Aylor.
Jenkins offered to absorb the costs of that system as well as to add a bullet-proof door.
East Fairfax Supervisor Steve Walker punctuated his comments by saying that during that committee meeting the sheriff had offered to include the bullet-proof door which was not initially requested.
Approving the added security for the commonwealth attorney's office was not a problem for the board.
However, reports about the incident itself has caused concern in the community particularly among law enforcement officials.
A break-in but no burglary
Commonwealth's Attorney Megan Frederick, who was elected in November over incumbent Paul Walther, claims that a breach of security occurred during the holidays warranting the request. Frederick has stated publicly that the offices were broken into and a message was penned saying: “Die bitch.”
Frederick further claims that a box of evidence related to the Michael Hash case was discovered. Hash was convicted in the 1996 murder of Thelma Scroggins. He was released last year after a federal judge overturned his conviction citing misconduct on the part of Culpeper law enforcement and the commonwealth's attorney who was Gary Close at the time. Close later resigned.
A civil suit has subsequently been filed by Hash naming Close and Sheriff Jenkins, among others, as defendants.
Sheriff Jenkins said he was not happy to learn of the incident by reading about it in a local daily.
“She doesn't trust any of us,” said Jenkins who was reached Monday. “Our office was not informed.”
According to Jenkins, neither the town police nor state police were informed either.
“No, I did not know about this,” said Town of Culpeper Police Chief Chris Jenkins when reached on Monday.
“There was an entry and a threat,” said Sheriff Jenkins who was concerned about a data terminal that is housed in that office and contains information shared by the sheriff's office and the state police.
“Was that tampered with?,” queried Jenkins. “Who is handling this investigation?
“If you're brave enough to go in and leave a death threat...that's serious enough that it needs to be investigated.”
Jenkins said he felt that Frederick wasn't looking at the big picture in the incident.
Jenkins is further concerned since the alleged incident happened during the holidays. Standard investigative procedures would have included locking off the site, gathering fingerprints and other evidence. As far as Jenkins knows, none of that was done.
Reached on Tuesday, Frederick is aware of the reaction by local law enforcement but sticks by her position.
“There was no burglary,” said Frederick. “Nothing was taken.”
While acknowledging that there was a breach of security, a box of evidence discovered and a threatening note, Frederick said it was not a matter for the sheriff's office.
“We took the matter very seriously and the proper authorities were notified,” said Frederick, “just not the sheriff's office.”
However, Frederick would not release who those authorities were.
County Adminstrator Frank Bossio said that his office was notified.
“It was sometime during the holidays,” said Bossio and we sent some folks over there.”
Frederick maintains that the matter was handled properly and professionally.
Frederick said on Tuesday that the box of evidence had no doubt been missing for years.
According to Frederick it is now in Charlottesville with the Western District U.S. Attorney's office and is properly secured.
“They were a big help to secure it,” she added.
Frederick also said that a camera system has now been installed at their office and looks forward to the addition of the electronic key card system which she said she is grateful to the board for approving.
She also acknowledged that she and Sheriff Jenkins had worked together on securing the bullet-proof door.
Sheriff Jenkins remains uneasy about the whole situation.
While a defendant in the civil suit filed by Michael Hash, Sheriff Jenkins doesn't feel that is any reason that he, as the sheriff, should not have been notified even given the fact that the box of evidence reportedly contained documents pertaining to that case.
“I'm concerned that no evidence was gathered at the crime scene,” said Jenkins. “There are a lot of upset people...to say that this was handled properly...no way, shape or form.”
Frederick would like a new position at the commonwealth attorney's office – that of a special investigator.
Dianna Fincher, a resident of the Cedar Mountain District, spoke at the board of supervisors meeting in favor of Frederick's request and hopes that the board would support it. Several in the audience stood to affirm Fincher's position.
“The county has grown so much,” said Frederick. “This would be a multi-faceted position...someone to help get witnesses to trial, be involved in neighborhood disputes or investigate law enforcement personnel or citizens...Fauquier has one...Prince William has one...we're crying out for an independent investigator,” said Frederick.