CINDY DELLINGER (copy) (copy)

Cindy Dellinger

WOODSTOCK — A Shenandoah County man must serve at least 30 years in prison for stabbing to death former Board of Supervisors member Cynthia Dellinger in her driveway in 2019.

Retired Judge William W. Sharp sentenced David Brian Knott, 59, of Edinburg, in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Tuesday to 40 years in a state penitentiary for committing one count of second-degree murder. Sharp suspended 10 years of the sentence on the condition that Knott complete 15 years of supervised probation upon release from prison.

Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda McDonald Wiseley and Public Defender Peter K. McDermott II reached a plea agreement finalized late last week that allowed Knott to avoid a jury trial on his original charge of first-degree murder and a possible life sentence if he had been convicted. Knott had originally pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Knott, who had worked as a farmhand on the Dellinger farm in Edinburg, apologized to the court before the judge imposed punishment.

“I’m so sorry for what had happened,” Knott said. “There’s nothing I can do to change that, and I wish that it didn’t happen.”

Knott’s sentencing comes roughly three years and 10 months after Dellinger died on Jan. 26, 2019, from multiple stab wounds, according to court documents. Dellinger, 63, worked as a real estate professional and had once served as the first woman elected to the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors.

Members of the victim’s family — including her husband Charles and son Wesley Dellinger, a captain with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office — sat in the courtroom for the hearing. Outside the courthouse, after the hearing, Wesley Dellinger said the family is satisfied with the outcome but frustrated that it took almost four years to reach a conclusion.

“But we are glad it’s over,” Wesley Dellinger said. “It’s closure.”

Wesley Dellinger criticized Wiseley and her office for not communicating with the family while they waited for a conclusion.

“What we as a family have gone through the last three years and 10 months nobody should have to go through and none of the citizens of Shenandoah County should have to go through and, when things like this occur, speculation develops, rumors, and it just makes things even worse for the family, obviously,” Wesley Dellinger said. “We as a family expect people to do their jobs and do what is expected of them and, if they’re put in a position to do the right thing, they should do the right thing.”

The numerous times the case was delayed was not fair to the family or to Knott, Dellinger said.

Wesley Dellinger said he also wanted Knott to plead guilty as a condition of the agreement and not enter an Alford plea, by which a defendant maintains his innocence but acknowledges the prosecution’s evidence could lead a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Dellinger said he also demanded that as part of the deal the court require Knott to provide in writing what happened during the incident and where he tossed the evidence.

Knott provided the following written statement to the court:

“On the morning of January 26, 2019, I had no intention of harming Cynthia Dellinger. I got up that day with the intent of doing my job and helping out the Dellinger’s wife with their family farm as I did every day. Mrs. Dellinger and her husband Charlie had provided for me for quite some time, and truthfully Charlie is the only friend that I have ever had. Mrs. Dellinger and I had not gotten along well recently. Mrs. Dellinger had been arguing with Charlie Dellinger about supporting me on some legal matters and had been complaining about me regarding those matters as well as other things.

I had returned from assisting Wesley Dellinger, and I was sharpening chainsaws at the farm. Soon after that Mrs. Dellinger returned from the store. I wasn’t able to see whether she brought the groceries into her house or not, but she called me up to speak with her at the front of her house. She told me that she believed that I was ‘stalking’ a woman that I had recently met with an insurance agency by making that woman uncomfortable and that that had embarrassed Mrs. Dellinger. Mrs. Dellinger was very mad about that and got very close to my face in yelling about this and when I backed away she got angrier at me. I have no idea why what happened next happened. I saw red and in a fit of rage I grabbed my knife off my belt and I stabbed her in the throat. I don’t have a clear memory of what I did next until I got my boots and went to Noah’s truck and left to get away.

I left to go to the pizza store, looking for someplace to hide, eat and think. I saw Wesley on my way out giving me the sign to slow down. I headed for the Country Store on Senedo Road. I realized that I didn’t have any money or a debit card so I stopped and turned around. I stopped on the side of the road and tossed my clothes into the Creek on the side of the road and threw my knife by scaling it sideways across the street into a cornfield. I was wearing nothing but my t-shirt, boots and underpants and drove back to the farm. Once there I saw Nancy Whittington and got dressed into clothes that I had stored in my vehicle.”

Wiseley gave a synopsis of the evidence she planned to present had the murder case gone to trial. Cynthia Dellinger woke up on the morning of Jan. 26, 2019, and planned to meet a friend for coffee in Woodstock. Her grandson and another friend came to her house on Dellinger Acres and she made them breakfast, Wiseley said. She called her friend to let her know she was running late, Wiseley said. Dellinger then met her friend in Woodstock for coffee, went on a few errands and returned home, Wiseley said.

“Then, your honor, when she returned, she was the victim of what can only be deemed to be a violent assault,” Wiseley said.

The prosecutor went on to outline the events from the time a friend of Dellinger’s found her lying unresponsive in the driveway to efforts by her son and responding emergency medical technicians to save her life. Meanwhile, Knott stood by his vehicle parked in the driveway, not coming forward or providing help, Wiseley said. Rescue workers took Dellinger to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead, Wiseley said.

In an interview with investigators, Knott denied being anywhere near the victim when she was stabbed, Wiseley said. Even though Knott had changed clothes, investigators found blood on Knott’s knee. A forensic test matched the blood to the victim, Wiseley said. Investigators did not find the knife or Knott’s discarded clothes.

Shenandoah County authorities arrested Knott on Jan. 27, 2019, and charged him with second-degree murder. The case originated in Shenandoah County General District Court. Members of Dellinger’s family appeared at the several hearings held over the course of a year. In one instance, however, the Dellinger family were not made aware of one of Knott’s scheduled court appearances and learned about the appearance in the media. Almost a year to the day after Knott’s first court appearance, a judge granted a motion by the commonwealth’s attorney to dismiss the charge in general district court.

A circuit court grand jury handed up an indictment on Jan. 15, 2020, almost a year after the incident, charging Knott with one count of first-degree murder. Virginia reported its first cases of COVID-19 about two months later, prompting the Supreme Court of Virginia to order circuit courts across the state to halt jury trials for almost a year.

The Shenandoah County Circuit Court first scheduled Knott’s jury trial to start Dec. 6, 2021, then May 23, 2022, then Nov. 28, 2022. The court held a half-dozen hearings over the two years since Knott’s indictment.

Sharp noted that Knott initially denied any involvement in the incident, disposed of evidence from the scene and made contradictory statements.

“The autopsy, probably better than anything else, documents what a severe and heinous assault this was,” Sharp said. “I didn’t have the time to sit here and count up all the wounds ... but there were a lot.”

Sharp gave Knott credit for time served while awaiting trial. Knott has been held without bond at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail since his arrest in January 2019.

Also as part of the plea deal, Knott admitted he violated probation imposed as part of his punishment for an earlier unlawful wounding conviction related to an incident in which he hit another Dellinger relative with a vehicle. Knott received a five-year sentence for the charge with four years and six months suspended. Sharp revoked the suspended time, which Knott must now serve.

Knott also stands charged in Warren County General District Court on one felony count of extortion in writing. Authorities accuse Knott of writing a message threatening an employee with the medical staff at the jail on March 27. Knott is scheduled to appear in court on the charge on Dec. 13. Knott received a 30-day sentence, all time suspended, for committing destruction of property in the jail in May 2021.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com

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