May 20, 2024
Roger Bianchini is interviewed by FRPD Lt Landin Waller

FRONT ROYAL – Following the May 18, 2017 reported break-in at the Front Royal-Warren County EDA office located at 400-D Kendrick Lane, the Front Royal Police Department’s investigative division immediately began scrambling for clues, working to learn who would be angry enough to leave behind the scene that responding officers found in EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s office suite.

There were photographs of McDonald with the face scratched out on the board meeting room table, another photo of McDonald’s face with a knife stuck through the forehead in the seat she normally occupied during board meetings, as well as some defaced family photos, also on the meeting room table. One photo even had a racial epithet scrawled across the face of one of McDonald’s relatives.

According to the Front Royal Police Department investigative file, obtained through a Royal Examiner Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, McDonald also told police that May 18th morning, that a week earlier, on May 11, 2017, she arrived at work to find a knife lying in her desk chair. There was no signed of forced entry, nor was a call made to police.

Police said there was also no sign of forced or unauthorized entry a week later on May 18, nothing was initially reported missing, and the case remains unsolved.

McDonald told investigators that she wanted to keep news about the incident “quiet”. The FRPD did not issue a press release regarding the alleged break-in and began working the case.

Around 10:30 a.m. the morning of Friday, June 16, 2017, Royal Examiner Reporter Roger Bianchini was asked to come to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Front Royal Police Department, to discuss his knowledge of the alleged break-in at the EDA and McDonald, someone he had long covered as a local reporter.

As the interview opens, Bianchini explains how through online research Royal Examiner Editor Norma Jean Shaw and he first began to suspect that Truc “Curt” Tran was tied to the proposed regional justice academy and was likely the benefactor who had offered up a no-strings-attached $6 million gift to build the facility in Warren County.

Over the course of the interview, he would clue Investigators Landin Waller and Crystal Cline into the fact that McDonald had informed him, sometimes through texts, of a series of alleged trespass events at her home, including a stone-throwing vandalism through a front door glass window reported to him during a closed-door discussion the previous afternoon in her EDA office between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., Thursday, June 15.

In Part 2 of this interview, investigators invite Bianchini back around 3 p.m. that afternoon to confirm information he provided in the first interview after a stunning call from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. That call notified FRPD investigators that the sheriff’s office had responded to the vandalism described by Bianchini shortly after 9 p.m. the previous evening when it was reported by McDonald as occurring some five hours after the reporter said he was told about it.

Through a series of events that would take over a year to unravel, the EDA executive director would come under increasing scrutiny by multiple levels of law enforcement, as well as by the Town of Front Royal, and eventually the County and her own EDA Board of Directors, culminating with her December 20, 2018 resignation, as well as apparent written acceptance of responsibility for the return of $2.7 million in misdirected EDA assets.



Next in the series:

Investigators invite Bianchini back in to confirm information he provided in the first interview after a stunning call from the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.



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