June 24, 2024

Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis confirmed Wednesday, June 27, that the Virginia State Police (VSP) took up the investigation of the reported break-in at the EDA office and the subsequently reported incident at EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s home at the request of Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian M. Madden.

Magalis said that former Acting Chief Bruce Hite “had a discussion with the Virginia State Police regarding investigating the case, for transparency” though state police declined to pursue the investigation at that time. He explained that when a public figure is involved in an incident, it is best to have an outside agency conducting the investigation.

According to officials close to the investigation, information obtained during the investigation of the EDA break-in led to Ms. McDonald being considered as a suspect in a crime.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Virginia State Police Special Agent Eric Deel on Wednesday, June 13,  “On May 18, 2017, Front Royal Police Department investigated a breaking and entering at the Economic Development Authority.

An interview was conducted on June 16, 2017, at approximately 3 p.m. During the interview information came forward that Jennifer McDonald had made statements to the person on June 15, 2017, at approximately 3-4 p.m.

“The statement McDonald made was that a stone was thrown into her front door and a note was left behind. Details of the note were given, to include phone numbers. This information is important because, on June 15, 2017, at approximately 21:02 (9:02 p.m.) a call from Jennifer McDonald came into Warren County 911 Center.

“Jennifer McDonald advised that a loud noise happened at her home. She was in the basement. Warren County Sheriff’s Office investigated this incident. It was discovered at this scene, 158 Faith Way, Front Royal, that a large landscape stone was thrown into the front door. Also, a letter was left in the yard. The letter information is consistent with the statements made on June 15, 2017 by Jennifer McDonald hours prior to the 911 call being made by Jennifer McDonald.

“Based on Jennifer McDonald making statements about the event in detail prior to the actual 911 call, this Special Agent, with the Virginia State Police, is seeking a warrant for filing on making a false police report.”

Asking an outside agency to investigate is standard protocol for many police departments nationwide, according to the Justice Department’s website. It allows the police to maintain public trust, which is critical, the website states, to community policing.

Magalis, who became Chief on Oct. 1, 2017, sent the inactive investigation file to Commonwealth’s Attorney Madden, who contacted state police and asked them to consider investigating the case.  An investigation began in March 2018 with Special Agent Eric Deel assigned to look into the series of events that began with a May 18, 2017 call to Front Royal Police reporting a break-in at the EDA office on Kendrick Lane.

According to sources, a July 17, 2017 letter from the Warren County EDA board chairman asking the FRPD to place the break-in on “inactive status” may have piqued investigators’ interest in the case. The reason given by EDA Chairman Greg Drescher at the time: the board felt a private investigator could sufficiently investigate the case.   Read letter here

When asked on Monday, June 25, EDA Board Chairman Greg Drescher, whose idea it was to write the July 17, 2017  letter asking the Front Royal Police Department to place the EDA office break-in on inactive status,  hesitated and then said he did not remember. “I’m not going to be able to tell you…um…we discussed the best course of action…I apologize.”

The chairman went on to say that looking back, “I’m not sure it was the best decision. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Our mindset as a board was to ensure that Jennifer McDonald was safe.”

Drescher, who drafted the July 17 letter, virtually asking the police to stop their investigation less than a month after the May 18 reported a break-in at the EDA office, said there were a number of things occurring around the time of the alleged break-in. In addition to board chair Patty Wines dying that same week, McDonald reported to the board that a number of incidents were happening at her home.

Drescher indicated on Monday that McDonald was the one who actually paid for the private investigator, Ken Pullen, despite the fact that the letter states that “The EDA  hired a Private Investigator to assist in the investigation…”

When asked why it made sense to the board to ask the police–a team of professionals trained in investigating such matters at no cost—to stand down on the case in favor of bringing in one paid individual, Drescher again stated that it seemed like a good idea at the time, to have one dedicated person investigating, but in retrospect it might not have been.

Royal Examiner attempted to contact other EDA board members, but calls were not answered, nor were they returned.

McDonald told Royal Examiner in March, “I hired the PI and provided a copy of the canceled check. The EDA did not hire a PI,” she said. As for information gathered by her private investigator, she said “Information was provided as necessary” to local law enforcement investigating the incidents.

McDonald was charged on June 13 by Virginia State Police with a Class 1 misdemeanor for knowingly giving a false report as to the commission of a crime to a law enforcement official with the intent to mislead. McDonald is being represented by attorney David Crump. Her trial has been scheduled for October 31.

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