No answers in reporter’s killing

Posted: July 9, 2014

The Winchester Star

Sarah Greenhalgh

UPPERVILLE — Questions about the murder of former Winchester Star reporter Sarah Greenhalgh still linger after two years.

Authorities have remained silent about almost every detail of the case, including when she died and the timeframe between when she was shot in the neck and when her Upperville residence was intentionally set on fire.

No arrests have been made in the case.

Greenhalgh, 48, was found dead July 9, 2012, in her burning cottage on Dunvegan Lane — a private drive near Buchanan Hall off John Mosby Highway (U.S. 50).

Lt. James N. Hartman of the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that the case remains under active investigation.

He declined to answer more questions about Greenhalgh’s death, stating that making information public could jeopardize the case.


Greenhalgh’s mother, Sara Lee Greenhalgh, said she is regularly in contact with the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office about the case.

“They’ve got a lot of people working on the case,” she said. “Of course, like everyone else, I would like them to resolve it, but they’ve got to have an airtight case.”

She added that she would rather the case take a long time to solve and her daughter’s killer be caught than for it to be solved in the short term and the killer possibly be let free for a lack of evidence.

“In the meantime, I am learning so much about Sarah,” Greenhalgh said, adding that she has been to two college reunions at her daughter’s former boarding school — Oldfields, in Maryland. “I am just concentrating on her and that makes me feel better.”

Greenhalgh said the two years since her daughter’s death have been tough.

“It’s just so terribly sad, I just think all the time about what ifs — that’s all I think about,” she said. “I am almost missing her more now than I was before.”

On today’s anniversary of the tragedy, Greenhalgh said she plans to place flowers on her daughter’s gravestone and that she will get together with Sarah’s friends.

“They’re not coming over to be sad, they’re coming over to be with me,” she said, getting emotional.


Hartman previously stated that the Sheriff’s Office had a suspect but was working on proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Court documents obtained by The Winchester Star in August 2013 appeared to target a man Greenhalgh was allegedly dating at the time of her death, John Sheldon Kearns.

The documents — search warrant sealing orders — indicated that 18 search warrants had been filed at the time in Fauquier County Circuit Court since Greenhalgh’s death.

All warrants are to remained sealed for five years.

Greenhalgh, who covered Frederick County government for The Star, referred to Kearns as “bat---- crazy boy” to friends, family and coworkers.

She was seen arguing with him the night of July 8, 2012, outside his apartment in Gainesville — about 30 miles from Upperville. The last post on her Facebook account before her death came at about 11 p.m. that day and references Kearns.

“Going to be sleeping with the windows wide open. ... :-) Now if bat---- crazy boy would just leave me alone...will get some much-needed rest because tomorrow is Monday and I got a ton of work to do!” the post read.


On July 10, 2012, police executed a search warrant for “the body of John Sheldon Kearns,” according to the Fauquier County Circuit Court sealing orders.

Police also executed a search warrant at Kearns’s apartment on July 11, and confiscated a white T-shirt, BlackBerry cellphone and shredder waste.

On July 12, police searched a cellphone that was registered to Kearns, and on July 20, 2012, they searched an email account in his name.

Attempts to reach Kearns for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Scott C. Hook, a Warrenton attorney, said in August 2012 that Kearns, his client at the time, denied any involvement with the homicide.

Sara Lee Greenhalgh said Tuesday that if she could say anything to her daughter’s killer it would be “turn yourself in.”

“I don’t see how you can live with this on your conscious,” she added. “It’s such a terrible thing.”


Anyone with information about Greenhalgh’s death is asked to call the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office at 540-422-8650 or Fauquier County Crime Solvers at 540-349-1000. Callers can remain anonymous, and there is a reward being offered.



— Contact Melissa Boughton at