Sheriff’s Office prays for the dead, needs help finding the families

Left to right, chaplin Mark Ranson, of Wesleyan Fellowship Church, pastor Bjorn Lundberg and associate pastor Eric Shafer, both of Sacred Heart of Jesus, offer prayers Friday for the eight deceased individuals whose remains have been unclaimed at the Frederick County Sheriff's Office. Melissa Topey/Daily

WINCHESTER — In a 50 foot by 21 foot property room, sitting among 12,702 items of evidence and 51 other items, are eight urns holding the cremated remains of the dead

Six of those people have been identified, but remain unclaimed. They died various, but not suspicious, deaths  such as natural causes or a drug overdose. The Sheriff’s Office was able to identify the people at the time of death but has not been  able to locate family members.

“Personally I don’t like the fact they are here in the property room instead of a final resting place,” said Frederick County Sheriff Lenny Millholland.

It is also about resolution for the families.

“If it was my family members ashes and I knew they were in a property room I would take it and find a spot for a final resting place. It is sad the family does not know we have them,” Millholland  said.

The property room also houses the remains of two female homicide victims found in Frederick County who have not yet been identified. One of the women was found  in 1991.

John Henry Wahanquist of Stephenson has remained in the property room for 14 years. Lester A. Tinsman of Stephens City has been there since he died in 2015, one of three people whom the Sheriff’s Office took possession of that year.

When that happens and the person was indigent, the bodies are cremated and the Sheriff’s Office handles the remains.

Around this time of year local pastors and chaplins offer a prayer for the dead. Chaplin Mark Ransom of Wesleyan  Fellowship Church, Pastor Bjorn Lundberg and associate pastor Eric Shafer, both of Sacred Heart of Jesus, performed the ritual Friday in the evidence room of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. All work for the Sheriff’s Office when needed .

Some people may not understand offering prayers for the dead and may consider it morbid but these three men disagree.

“It is a work of mercy,” Lundberg said.

Millholland is hoping family members or the public might recognize the names and claim the remains.

He may have already had success. In response to a TV news broadcast earlier on Friday, cousins of one of the dead spoke to Millholland.

“They are going to have the deceased’s brother call us,” Millholland said.

While it is not yet verified, Millholland is 99 percent certain he has found the family of at least one of the deceased.

All of the identified deceased were last known to live in Frederick County. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office is looking for family members of:

  • Lester A Tinsman, 52, died in 2015. The last known address for Tinsman was Fairfax Pike in Stephens City.
  • John Henry Wahanquist, 62, died in 2003. His last known address was Mountain View Road, Stephenson.
  • Richard C. Allen, 59, died in 2010. His last known address was North Frederick Pike, Winchester.
  • Bryant White, 43, died in 2014. The last known address for White was Kimberly Way, Winchester.
  • Lisa Shanholtzer, 44, died in 2015. Her last known address was Old Charlestown Road, Stephenson.
  • Michael Standridge, 60, died in 2015. His last known address was Middle Lane, Gore.

Family members or anyone with information should contact the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office at 540-662-6162.