A special prosecutor has been appointed in the case of a Winchester Star reporter murdered in 2012.

Sgt. James Hartman, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said on Wednesday that Paul Walther, Culpeper County commonwealth’s attorney, recently took over the Sarah Greenhalgh case to avoid a conflict of interest. Scott Hook, the new interim Fauquier County commonwealth’s attorney, represented John Sheldon Kearns, Greenhalgh’s boyfriend and the only named suspect in the case, after she was killed in Fauquier County.

Hook wouldn’t comment on Wednesday, but told the Fauquier Times in a Sunday article that the transfer was done to be as “transparent as possible.” A secretary in Hook’s office referred comments to Walther, who didn’t return calls or respond to an email.

The 48-year-old Greenhalgh was found shot in the neck on July 9, 2012, in the bedroom of her Upperville cottage, which had been set on fire. The 56-year-old Kearns, who argued with her the night before she was killed, was named as a suspect by the Sheriff’s Office in court documents in 2014.

Kearns — who Greenhalgh referred to in a Facebook post on the night of her death as her “bat-s---t crazy boyfriend” — maintains his innocence. “I had nothing to do with this crime, and I [had] nothing against Sarah Greenhalgh,” he said last year.

Walther was a Fauquier county assistant commonwealth’s attorney when Greenhalgh was murdered, and Hartman said he’s well-versed on the case.

“For someone who’s never dealt with this case, there’d be a learning curve, but I think the learning curve for Mr. Walther will be very small,” Hartman said. “We’re excited to be working with Mr. Walther again and hopefully we can bring this to a resolution at some point.”

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

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