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Man linked to homicide investigation returns to jail

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

A man described by one of his attorneys as a target of police investigating the homicide of Winchester Star reporter Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh was sent to jail for a few days Wednesday on an unrelated probation violation.

Judge Steven S. Smith of Prince William County General District Court revoked four days of a suspended sentence imposed on John Sheldon Kearns for an offense in 2011. Kearns was sent to the Prince William-Manassas regional jail for four days after Smith's ruling.

The nature of Kearns's underlying offense in the probation case is unclear. Court records show Kearns was convicted of assault in Prince William County in October 2011, but received no sentence to jail or probation for that offense.

Smith also re-referred Kearns, 49, to the county's Local Offender Program, a type of probation served for misdemeanor offenses.

Police have refused to identify Kearns as either a suspect or person of interest in their investigation of Greenhalgh's death.

But Kearns' defense attorney Scott Hook, of Warrenton, has said his client has come under the kind of intense scrutiny that police reserve for suspects in homicide investigations. Hook said recently his client was interviewed for six hours by police and they "accused him doing the crime."

"I would categorize that as a suspect," Hook said.

Firefighters found Greenhalgh's body on July 9 while fighting a blaze at her Upperville home on July 9.

The Fauquier County Sheriff's Office has insisted the case remains active and a high priority while it waits for the results on forensics laboratory testing from the state.

Anthony Kostelecky, a Manassas attorney who represented Kearns at Wednesday's hearing, said in court that the probation violation arose from phone calls Kearns made to his ex-wife after a protective order was issued banning such contact. The couple was divorced in July. Kostelecky said Kearns admitted making the phone calls, but was not attempting to intimidate or harass his ex-wife.

"There was no violence, no threats, no anger, simply a violation of a protective order," Kostelecky told Smith.

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