May 20, 2024

At the April 2, 2019, Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting Shenandoah Supervisor Tom Sayre, who is engaged in dueling defamation lawsuits with Jennifer McDonald, broached the topic of potential conflicts of interest impacting the initial town police criminal investigation of the May 18, 2017 alleged EDA office break-in and the county sheriff’s office exploration of alleged incidents at McDonald’s home in June of that year.

Sayre cited McDonald’s complaints that the FRPD investigation of the EDA office break-in–a break in with no signs of forced entry–were turning toward her as a suspect. He also questioned what he said was a resultant decision by the commonwealth’s attorney’s office to keep the investigation on inactive status, where it had been put at the request of then EDA Chairman Greg Drescher in favor of an investigation by Private Investigator Ken Pullen.

Pullen was initially contracted by the EDA regarding the office break in, but his work was soon handed over to a private contract with McDonald related to the alleged ongoing incidents at her home.

The private investigator’s record of his work on both cases has been an evidentiary issue in Sayre’s defamation lawsuit against McDonald. See Related Story:

https://royalexaminer.com/what-do-the-sayre-mcdonald-lawsuit-and-the-titanic-have-in-common/

 

Sayre also pointed to the personal relationship between then-acting FRPD Chief Bruce Hite and Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron, the latter who was cited last month in EDA civil litigation due to his real estate business ties to McDonald – Hite is the sheriff’s brother-in- law.

Sayre commented on what he said was a failure by FRPD to convey some information related to the McDonald home incident of June 15, 2017, to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

Royal Examiner obtained, through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, copies of the Front Royal Police Department investigation files which show that Acting Chief Bruce Hite, on his last day of duty before beginning retirement, told Investigator Landin Waller that the FRPD would be “completely transparent” in laying out the case to Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden. However, following Hite’s assurance of transparency, Waller wrote in a supplemental narrative report, dated 10/31/17 that Hite further instructed the investigator to “only discuss details of the B&E at the EDA on 05/18/17 (referring to evidence collected from the scene and sent to the state lab).”

Front Royal Police Department Landin Waller spent countless hours investigating the alleged EDA break-in and the reported incident at Jennifer McDonald’s home, for which she was charged with making a false report to police. /FOIA request document provided by FRPD

Though there was a large volume of information collected by the investigative team of the Front Royal Police Department regarding the alleged break-in at the EDA office, almost none of it was presented at the October 31, 2018 trial in which Jennifer McDonald was found ‘not guilty.”

Judge W. Dale Houff said there was no sense that McDonald would fabricate a report and there was no evidence that she did, and it was not believable that she would “set herself up” for a false report charge, a Class 1 misdemeanor. “The evidence is not sufficient,” he said.

Had Houff seen the evidence, perhaps he would have reached a different decision in McDonald’s bench trial. Royal Examiner will begin publishing the entire investigative file this week; our readers will be able to follow the case from the reported break-in through to the point where the Virginia State Police take over the case.

Watch Tom Sayre’s comments to the Board of Supervisors regarding the McDonald case and a conflict of interest between former Interim Chief Bruce Hite and Jennifer McDonald’s recently-revealed business partner, Sheriff Daniel McEathron.

Roger Bianchini contributed to this report.

 

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