Shaken residents look for answers after murder

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA9) -- "It's nervous, the feeling in the community is nervous," said Brian Barker, one of the many Alexandria residents shaken up after Ruthanne Lodato, 59, was shot and killed in her home on February 6.

That nervous community packed an Alexandria church Monday night, looking for updates on the investigation and answers on how to stay safe after Lodato, a beloved music teacher, was killed seemingly at random. Another woman, a caretaker in the home assisting Lodato's mother, was also shot.

"My wife, myself, my three kids - I want to know how to be safe in the community and it doesn't seem like they're focusing on educating us how to be safe, because this guy is still out there," added Barker.

"You should be concerned," Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook told the crowd of more than 100. "I don't want people relaxed. I want people on guard at this point."

In order to stay on guard, folks were hoping that police would equip them with more detailed information about a suspect.

"How was he trying to gain entry? Why did the person open the door to him?" asked Keith Bloom, another resident. "If they said he's clever, he's deceptive - or is he coming across as authoritarian?"

Right now, police say they're looking for an elderly, balding white male with a full beard.

"We're not going to limit ourselves in terms of height and weight at least initially because we want those sightings to come in. The witness gave some information but we want a broader net," explained Chief Cook.

It's a net that, until now, has failed to catch the person who killed Ronald Kirby in November, another prominent Alexandria resident.

While residents questioned a possible connection between the Kirby and Lodato murders, police could not get specific.

"You can expect that, as in the Kirby case, we'll be working on it as we are today," said Chief Cook.

More questions ranged from increased police presence and witnesses - including the caretaker, who is expected to recover - to forensics and bullet fragments. They were questions that don't always have answers, at least not ones that can be made public.

"If and when we find that out, I can't reveal it to you," admitted Chief Cook to the crowd that filled dozens of rows of church pews.

"The neighborhood was starving for information and I don't know if they got it," questioned Bloom after the meeting.

Authorities stress that there's certain information they can't share because it's evidence and could jeopardize their investigation. They have to prepare for the possibility of trying a suspect in court.

But, they know, first they have to catch that suspect.


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