WINCHESTER — A man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend at a homeless encampment on July 16 faces new and stiffer charges.
A Frederick County grand jury on Thursday indicted Larry Lee Mullenax III on first-degree murder, stabbing in commission of a felony, concealing a dead body and conspiracy to conceal a dead body charges. The charges are over the death of Sarah Curran, a 22-year-old homeless woman who had been in a relationship with Mullenax.
Police said the 25-year-old homeless man confessed on July 23 to beating, choking and stabbing Curran to death and bragged about it on Facebook. Her body was found at the encampment off Baker Lane on July 23 a day after a friend reported her missing.
A resident at the encampment told The Winchester Star that Mullenax bragged about the killing and said he took her bank card and planned to leave the area after withdrawing money from her account. Mullenax was being held without bond at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center on Thursday night.
Police said Clara Ann Perdue, a 36-year-old homeless woman, confessed on July 31 to helping Mullenax move Curran's body. Perdue, charged with concealment of a dead body, is due back in court at 9 a.m. on Nov. 5.
Curran, who had Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, competed in the Special Olympics before graduating from Handley High School. She volunteered at a food pantry and animal shelter after graduation and was described as independent, generous and outgoing by her friends and members of her church.
Mullenax was initially charged with second-degree murder. In Virginia, that means a murder committed without premeditation. A person convicted of second-degree murder faces between five and 40 years imprisonment. The penalty for first-degree murder in Virginia is 20 years to life.
Ross P. Spicer, county commonwealth's attorney, said on Thursday that the new charges weren't based on new evidence, but part of the prosecution process. Speaking in general terms, Spicer said charging a defendant with first-degree murder through a grand jury indictment allows prosecutors to avoid a probable cause hearing in general district court, which requires calling witnesses before a judge. In the indictment process, an investigator presents his findings to grand jurors.
Spicer said the grand jury process is not an attempt to conceal evidence from the defense, and evidence is provided to defense attorneys through the discovery process as the case proceeds.
"We aren't hiding anything," he said. "These intricacies can be confusing but a prosecution is a [lengthy] process. The important thing is how it ends up."