Criminal complaint: Suspect’s story changed

Frances Moss-Hopkins

Investigators looking into the disappearance of Frederick County resident Peggy “Peg” Sinclair heard different stories from the woman charged with her murder, according to criminal complaints filed in Frederick County Circuit Court.

A warrant to search Frances Charlene Moss-Hopkins’ 2008 Chevrolet Trailblazer was executed Monday, and Frederick County Sheriff’s Office officers recovered fibers and hair from inside of the car and “multiple swabs of red stains.” An iPhone belonging to the suspect was also seized with a warrant.

Moss-Hopkins, 55, of 2061 Withers Larue Road, Berryville, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sinclair, 85, of 223 Glebe Drive, Frederick County, on Tuesday evening.

Criminal complaints attached to the warrants state that Melissa Gilkerson, Sinclair’s daughter who lived with her at their Grebe Road residence, had seen a note that was signed by Moss-Hopkins and was left in the house. The note stated Moss-Hopkins had cleaned a mess in the house and removed bedsheets and two area rugs.

According to the complaints, Gilkerson had returned home at about 6:30 p.m. Friday, not finding anything amiss. Moss-Hopkins told her Sinclair had already gone to bed, the complaints state. Gilkerson went to bed about an hour later and woke up at around 4 a.m. Saturday. It was then that she found the note and discovered that area rugs from the home were missing.

Gilkerson then called Moss-Hopkins and learned about “her mother’s alleged illness,” according to criminal complaints. Sinclair’s bedroom door was locked when Gilkerson went to check on her, but she had said that wasn’t abnormal for Sinclair. Gilkerson didn’t try to enter her mother’s bedroom again until around 11 a.m., when she discovered an empty bed.

Moss-Hopkins told Gilkerson in another phone call that Sinclair had been in her bedroom when the caregiver left at around 2 a.m. Gilkerson then called 911 to report that her mother was missing. Capt. Donnie Lang of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said the last time Gilkerson had physically seen her mother was around 5 a.m. Friday before leaving for work.

In an early interview with law enforcement on Saturday, Moss-Hopkins said she had cleaned up a mess late Friday after Sinclair became sick and had cut her finger accidentally while peeling an apple. Moss-Hopkins said that when Sinclair went to show her the wounds, blood ended up on the walls and floor.

After saying she threw soiled sheets and rugs into a dumpster, Moss-Hopkins later said in the same interview that she helped a hitchhiking Hispanic woman by driving the woman home to Capon Bridge, West Virginia. Once reaching an undetermined location, she told law enforcement that a male friend of the hitchhiker offered to dispose of the soiled linens in thanks. Moss-Hopkins then took the rugs to Festival Cleaners in Berryville shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday.

In a later interview with investigators, Moss-Hopkins said the hitchhiker’s name was Maria and that she had a child with her.

The complaints state that Moss-Hopkins’ Trailblazer was found “meticulously clean” and with all windows down.

Once investigators were allowed into Moss-Hopkins’ home at 2061 Withers Larue Road, they discovered the clothes she said she wore on Friday and Saturday in a pile, a trash bag of wet towels, paper documents and floor mats to her car that “appeared to be hung up to dry.” They also found a bottle of bleach in the kitchen and shoes that appeared to be cleaned with bleach and OxiClean in the basement.

When investigators interviewed Moss-Hopkins again on Tuesday, she said she remembered caretaking at Sinclair’s house on Thursday, Friday and into Saturday morning. She said she recalled finding Sinclair with a head injury and hammer in her hand, lying on the floor.

Moss-Hopkins said she remembered driving west on U.S. Route 50 toward West Virginia, with Sinclair wrapped with blankets and rugs in the backseat. Moss-Hopkins later directed investigators to where she dropped off Maria and the child.

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