Berryville woman charged with first-degree murder

Frances Charlene Moss Hopkins

A Berryville woman has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Frederick County woman who had been missing from her home since early Saturday morning.

Frances Charlene Moss Hopkins, 55, of Berryville, was arrested Tuesday and charged in the death of Peggy “Peg” Sinclair, according to a news release issued late Tuesday night by Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Donnie Lang.

Sinclair’s body was recovered east of Romney, West Virginia, at 6:45 p.m. by personnel from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office; the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources; the Hampshire County, West Virginia, Sheriff’s Office and the West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office.

Her body was taken to Charleston, West Virginia, where an autopsy will be conducted today, Lang stated in the release.

“(Frederick County) Sheriff Lenny Millholland wants to express his deepest sympathy to family and friends of Peggy Sinclair from all of the persons involved in the Investigation,” Lang stated. “Cases like this are so difficult on the family looking for closure and for the personnel involved in the tireless search for Peg.”

Peggy "Peg" Sinclair

Earlier Tuesday, Millholland said that since Saturday the search for Sinclair, 85, had crossed nearby county lines into Clarke and Warren counties, and both West Virginia and Maryland state police had been notified. Maryland police assisted the search by air, including use of forward-looking infrared cameras to scan areas that others in the search couldn’t reach.

“In a case like this, we have so many things that we have to do and so many leads that people are calling about and things that they’re talking about,” he said. “We’re interviewing everybody.”

According to a release from the Sheriff’s Office, Sinclair’s family said she was last seen at about 2 a.m. Saturday near a residence on the 200 block of Grebe Road near Lake Frederick.

Millholland confirmed that a blue walker found in the 4100 block of U.S. Route 522 did belong to Sinclair.

The news release announcing the arrest and discovery of Sinclair’s body did not have any details as to where her body was found, who discovered it or any details of the arrest.

In an interview earlier Tuesday, Millholland said law enforcement tried to list Sinclair in the Virginia Senior Alert System when she went missing, but found she did not fit into two required categories. The two criteria that kept her off the list were that she would seek food and shelter while out of her home.

“Evidently (that) doesn’t fit her into the criteria to be listed into the silver alert,” he said.

He said Sinclair’s family told law enforcement she had memory problems. He said he didn’t know if she had been formally diagnosed with any neurodegenerative diseases.

Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Scott Downs, the manager of the missing persons clearinghouse, said the definition of a missing senior under state code necessarily includes “medically diagnosed cognitive impairments.”

“It has to be to the point where they cannot provide care for themselves – basic needs,” he said.

He said the criteria make the Virginia Senior Alert System similar to the Amber Alert system, which requires that the missing children it lists are involved in a confirmed abduction, among other conditions.

“If they determine later, whether they find something where it would meet the criteria … we then would activate it once it meets the criteria,” he said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com