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Woman found dead in W.Va. hotel room

September 27, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - A Maryland woman was found dead in a room at the Hilltop House Hotel Saturday and investigators were treating the case as a homicide, Harpers Ferry Police Chief Charles Wyndham said Monday.

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Police would not release the woman's identity because her family had not been notified, police said.

"We're pretty sure we know who it is," Wyndham said.

The body of the woman, believed to be in her mid-40s, was found in room 125 of the hotel on Ridge Street, according to Wyndham.

It appears the woman had been dead "for some time," Wyndham said.

He would not release some details, including who reported the death.

Although police found no signs of foul play, the investigation was being treated as a homicide because cause of death had not been determined, Wyndham said.

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"We have to take all the precautions and treat it as a homicide," he said.

The body will be taken to the state Medical Examiner's Office in Morgantown, W.Va., today for an autopsy to determine cause of death, Wyndham said.

The woman had rented a room at the hotel since June, police said.

Wyndham said he believes the body was that of a woman who had cats in a car in town over the summer. The animals were in the car during hot weather and an animal control officer removed them from the automobile, Wyndham said.

After that, the woman made arrangements for the cats to be kept at a nearby house, Wyndham said.

The woman's hotel door was unlocked when police arrived Saturday, Sgt. Donald Buracker said. There was a window in the room, but it was unlikely anyone would have gone in or left through the window because it is about 1 1/2 stories off the ground, Buracker said.

An expired Maryland driver's license was found in the room, but police do not know if it belonged to the woman. Buracker said he believes the woman was recently divorced.

The owners of the Hilltop House Hotel would not comment.

The Hilltop House Hotel has guest rooms and a popular restaurant that looks overlooks the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

The woman's body was the third to be found in the Eastern Panhandle since July 25, although police said they do not believe any of the cases are related.

The badly decomposed body of Kimberly Dawn Alexander was found July 25 in a field along U.S. 340 near Cave Road south of Charles Town, W.Va. Medical examiners have not determined a cause of death for Alexander, who worked at a Wendy's restaurant on Berryville Avenue in Winchester, Va.

On Aug. 10, the body of Vatressa Maria Miller was found in a wooded area in the Greystone on the Opequon subdivision off W.Va. 45 east of Martinsburg, W.Va.

An autopsy determined Miller died from blunt-force trauma to the head.

Those cases remain under investigation.

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