- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2003

Alexandria police are investigating the “suspicious death” of Sheriff James H. Dunning’s wife in the couple’s home.

Nancy Dunning, 56, was found dead in her home in the 200 block of West Mount Ida Avenue at about 12:30 p.m. yesterday.

Police initially believed Mrs. Dunning’s death was the result of a medical emergency, but after the medical examiner reported to the home at about 2 p.m., the classification was changed to a “suspicious death” based on the nature of her injuries.

Police would not elaborate on what injuries Mrs. Dunning had suffered.

Amy Bertsch, a spokeswoman for the Alexandria Police Department, said police were awaiting the result of an autopsy today that will determine the cause and manner of Mrs. Dunning’s death. She said police could offer no details on whether there were signs of forced entry or whether anything was taken from the home.

Police yesterday cordoned off the home, interviewed neighbors and searched the surrounding area with dogs and metal detectors.

Friends of Mrs. Dunning’s said she was expected to meet her husband and her son, Christopher, for lunch yesterday. When she did not arrive, they went to the house. The friends said Mrs. Dunning was found in her coat, dressed as though she were preparing to leave the house, and that her keys were found nearby.

Police would not confirm that account but said a family member called 911 and reported Mrs. Dunning as “unresponsive.”

“We got the call at 12:36 as ‘trouble unknown,’” Miss Bertsch said.

Mrs. Dunning, a longtime real estate agent for McEnearney Associates Inc., had been dubbed by her peers the “Queen of Del Ray” after the neighborhood in which she worked. She had 16 years of experience in real estate in Alexandria.

Her son is an employee of the agency.

Representatives at McEnearney Associates yesterday declined to talk about Mrs. Dunning’s death, but friends said she registered more than $10 million in sales yearly and was well known in local Democratic Party circles.

Mrs. Dunning touted her background in political campaign organization and social work, as well as experience as a neighborhood activist and local newspaper columnist on a business Web site.

Sheriff Dunning was first elected in 1986. The couple have lived in Alexandria for nearly 30 years. They have two adult children, Christopher and Elizabeth.

If Mrs. Dunning’s death is ruled a homicide, it would be just the fourth homicide in Alexandria this year. Two of the three other cases were closed with arrests.

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