One year later, pain and mystery linger from murder

By Joe Beck

Memories of slain Winchester Star reporter Sarah Greenhalgh remain vivid among her family and friends as the one-year anniversary of her violent and mysterious death approaches.

The passage of time hasn’t eased the pain of her mother, Sara Lee Greenhalgh of Poolesville, Md.

Her friend, Christopher Barclay, sifts his memory and news reports for clues about her murder.

And the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office continues to search for her killer.

Authorities found Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh, 48, dead as fire destroyed her home on Dunvegan Drive in Upperville on July 9. Fauquier County law enforcement officials quickly classified her death as a homicide, and the Chief Medical Examiner’s office in Manassas ruled weeks later that she died from a gunshot wound to the neck.

The Sheriff’s Office has no publicly declared suspects, although an attorney for a Gainesville man said in the weeks after the investigation that his client had been subjected to an intense interrogation during which law enforcement officials accused him of “committing the crime.” The subject of the interrogation was not arrested or charged.

The Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office issued a news release Monday acknowledging the first anniversary of her death.

“The homicide is under active investigation and remains the top priority of this office,” the release stated.

Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call the criminal investigations division at 422-8650 or Fauquier County Crime Solvers at 349-1000.

Sara Lee Greenhalgh said she remains satisfied with the investigation into her daughter’s death. Greenhalgh’s late husband, William Greenhalgh, was a widely recognized authority on the criminal justice system at Georgetown University. She said she gained an appreciation from him about the challenges facing police and prosecutors in conducting homicide investigations.

“I understand you don’t discuss a case when it’s under investigation,” Sara Lee Greenhalgh said.

She said she has learned much about her daughter in the year since she died. Sarah Greenhaugh’s friends, many of them classmates from college and the all-girl boarding school she attended, have offered comfort and insights into her life.

“I didn’t know her friends,” Sara Lee Greenhalgh said of her daughter. “Now I’m learning so much more about her. And now I feel I didn’t know her. It’s very, very sad. She just chose not to share with me.

“She chose that for a reason, obviously. No, I guess I didn’t have, as they say in the movies, the right stuff. But I don’t know how many people share their emotions with their parents.”

Sara Lee Greehalgh said some of her daughter’s classmates from the boarding school, Oldfields School in Maryland, assembled an exhibit of her artwork — ceramics, paintings and photographs — for a 30th class reunion she was destined never to attend.

Those attending Sarah Greenhalgh’s funeral included about 50 classmates, professors and other educators from Oldfields.

“What people are saying about her and how they’ve talked about her, she’s practically a celebrity in their minds,” Sara Lee Greenhalgh said. “I’m so proud of the respect they had for her.”

She said time has not been a healer for her. If anything, the grief over the loss of her daughter has only deepened.

“In the beginning, there’s just a numbness,” she said. “It’s hard to comprehend that this has happened. As it goes along, you get angry. And it’s so deeply sad and finally you have to accept it and look at from another viewpoint.

“All of Sarah’s friends and my family have been amazingly supportive. Sometimes I think I’m sadder now than I was at the beginning because I couldn’t assimilate this terrible news.”

Sara Lee Greenhalgh said she was especially moved by a music video montage assembled by a classmate of her daughter’s from Lynchburg College. The classmate, Christopher Barclay of North Wales, Pa., said he took pictures he and Sarah Greenhalgh had posted on their Facebook pages and copied and pasted them into the video format.

Barclay said Greenhalgh was an avid photographer at Lynchburg College and later a photojournalist before she joined the Winchester Star as a reporter in 2011.

Barclay said he has spent a lot of time reflecting on her life in the last year and puzzling over who could have killed her. He knew Sarah Greenhalgh for about two years in college. They lost track of each other for years before renewing their friendship through Facebook about two or three years ago, Barclay said.

“My whole recollection of Sarah was she was very opinionated about a lot of things,” Barclay said, “which was great because she would challenge you with her opinions. She was always a tough customer when it came to challenging certain political positions. We would go back and forth, and it was great fun. That’s probably what I miss most of all about her.”

Sara Lee Greenhalgh said the murder left a void in the lives of many people who knew her daughter.

“She’s very, very deeply missed by anybody who has had anything to do with her,” she said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com