- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Fairfax County Police yesterday arrested a Pennsylvania man and charged him with his wife’s murder — 27 years after the fact.

Wilbert Abney Jr., 55, surrendered to police at about 11 a.m. after the police department’s cold-case detectives secured a grand-jury indictment against him in the 1978 homicide of his wife, Mona Lisa Abney, in a Tysons Corner hotel.

Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Perez said Mr. Abney — who most recently lived in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia — is disabled and unemployed.

Detectives had notified Mr. Abney of the arrest warrant, and he opted to turn himself in at police headquarters in Fairfax.

?We certainly are very content with the hard work and efforts that went into this investigation and with the persistent tenacity of the detectives,? Sgt. Perez said. ?That’s precisely why we built this cold-case unit.?

Police said Mrs. Abney, 25, had taken a shopping trip from Richmond to Tysons Corner when a hotel maid found her strangled in a Holiday Inn on Chain Bridge Road on Jan. 28, 1978.

The murder went unsolved for nearly three decades until the cold-case unit began looking again at the evidence in January 2004.

?They re-examined the documentation on those reports, resubmitted evidence to the DNA lab and started interviewing a whole bunch of people who might have known the victim,? Sgt. Perez said.

Police said a new analysis of DNA found at the scene provided a match between Mrs. Abney and her husband, but they would not say what type of DNA was found or discuss any possible motives in the slaying.

Sgt. Perez said repeating interviews with those close to the case significantly helped detectives come to a conclusion.

?We know that relationships change, and we use that to the advantage of the resolution of the case,? he said.

Police also had reinterviewed Mr. Abney and said he had been cooperative in the investigation.

He is being held without bail in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

Fairfax County cold-case detectives have closed 14 cases since the unit’s inception in 1995.

Sgt. Perez said the county has 72 unsolved homicide cases dating back to 1964.

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