Former Alexandria Sheriff James Dunning has died. Alexandria police officials say Dunning apparently died in his sleep at his home in South Carolina. They say he was found dead this morning by his current wife. He was 62.
James Dunning was a public figure, the veteran sheriff of Alexandria when on December 5, 2003, his 56-year-old wife, Nancy, was found shot and killed inside the couple's home in the city's Del Ray neighborhood.
"It's been a long eight and a half years and we continue to have an open and active investigation," says Alexandria's Police Chief Earl Cook. "We do not know who killed Nancy Dunning as yet."
Chief Cook says Sheriff Dunning was interviewed by detectives shortly after his wife's murder and was never cleared as a possible suspect.
"Until we're sure of what we have, it would be unfortunate and probably wrong for us to start clearing people out as not being suspects," Chief Cook says. "So we continue to keep the case open and with our minds open about all the possibilities."
Police say on the morning of her murder, Nancy Dunning went shopping at the Target store at Potomac Yards. She was then to meet her husband and son for lunch, but never showed up. Police later released a surveillance image of a man seen inside the Target store that same morning.
"We did not ever identify that person," Chief Cook explains. "I would think our prevailing issue right now though is that may not be as important an issue as we first thought it could have been."
The former sheriff's body has been sent to a South Carolina medical examiner for autopsy. But it's believed James Dunning died of natural causes.