After more than 40 years as a cold case, charges were brought against a 63-year-old Maryland man for the rape and murder of a woman with strong ties to Alexandria.
Vickie Lynn Belk was 28 years old when she was found murdered in Charles County, Maryland, on August 29, 1979. The mother of a seven-year-old boy was raped and fatally shot and her case lingered for decades until last November, when a DNA match was made with 63-year-old Andre Taylor, who lived four miles from where Belk’s body was recovered at the time of her death.
“Nearly 44-years ago, our family lost Vickie Lynn Belk, a beloved mother, sister and friend to a tragic and heinous crime,” said Kay Belk, Vickie’s sister. “The news of the grand jury returning an indictment for the individual responsible for Vickie’s death and an arrest in her murder begins the long-awaited process of justice finally being served. We are grateful for the tireless efforts of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office detectives and the forensics personnel who never ceased seeking justice on Vickie’s behalf. And we extend our thanks to the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office for their commitment and prosecution of Vickie’s case.”
Taylor was arrested last month and is being held without bond in the Charles County Detention Center. He was charged with rape and first-degree murder. When arrested, he was living in failing health in a D.C. nursing and rehabilitation facility, according to The Washington Post. He is being defended by the Maryland Public Defender’s office.
Belk grew up in Alexandria and was a 1969 T.C. Williams High School graduate and member of Oakland Baptist Church on King Street. She got an education degree from St. Augustine College in Raleigh, North Carolina, and at the time of her death was a management analyst with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Vickie Lynn Belk Scholarship Foundation in Alexandria has awarded approximately 100 scholarships since being founded in her honor.
Images via Charles County SHeriff’s Office
The price of riding on the Metro might go up and so could your tax bill.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that the region will experience collective pain by bailing out the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority from its projected $750 million budget deficit.
Wilson said there are no solutions that the city can afford to take off the table.
“We will have to determine ways to reduce the cost structure, the stakeholders will have to chip in and riders will likely bear some of the cost,” Wilson told ALXnow. “It’s going to involve some pain all around.”
WMATA gets billions annually from Alexandria, D.C., Maryland, other Northern Virginia jurisdictions and the federal government. Alexandria’s commitment this year is $56.6 million in operating dollars and $16.6 million in capital contributions.
“Following the exhaustion of federal relief funding in FY2024, Metro expects an operating deficit of $750 million in FY2025,” Metro announced in a budget presentation. “This is more than a one-year challenge. The deficit is projected to continue its growth through FY2035 even with continued ridership recovery.”
Metro Board Chair Paul C. Smedberg, a former member of the Alexandria City Council, said that the region needs a reliable transit system.
“Customers would see longer waits, constant gridlock, higher fares and reduced operating hours and the region’s economy could stagnate,” Smedberg said.
Without a funding increase from Alexandria and its neighbors, WMATA reported “unprecedented operating deficits” will force it to make drastic cuts to rail, bus, and paratransit services across the region.
“Balancing the budget with service cuts would require eliminating two-thirds of Metro’s existing service, with no service after 9:30 p.m.,” WMATA announced last month. “All but 37 of 135 bus lines would no longer operate, customers would wait 20-30 minutes for trains on all lines, and MetroAccess would serve a much smaller area with less hours.”
In his monthly newsletter, Wilson said a “reckoning is afoot” for the transit system now that federal subsidies have dried up and ridership is inching toward pre-pandemic levels.
As of May, Metrorail and Metrobus ridership was 50% and 88% of pre-pandemic levels, respectively, according to WMATA.
“Transit is essential to our region’s economy and our quality of life, but the financial model that has supported its existence for a generation is upside down,” Wilson wrote. “The work ahead requires defining a new model to sustain transit for another generation.”
Metro laid out these drivers for the $750 million deficit:
- Jurisdiction Subsidy Credit: At the onset of the pandemic, Metro provided support to jurisdictions in the form of a subsidy reduction and forgone three percent increases. Had Metro not provided this support, the jurisdictional subsidy would be $196 million higher in FY2025.
- Decreased revenue since the pandemic: Overall ridership is forecasted to be approximately 25 percent below pre-pandemic levels in FY2025. In addition, shorter distance and weekend trips, which result in less revenue than long distance weekday trips, have seen the fastest recovery. These changes and related impacts to parking and advertising revenues are expected to continue to keep revenue below pre-pandemic levels in the short and medium term. FY2025 total revenue is expected be approximately $288 million below pre-pandemic levels.
- Inflation and collective bargaining agreements: Historic inflation caused by the pandemic and related supply chain impacts made everything more expensive, raising Metro’s personnel and non-personnel costs. The vast majority of Metro’s workforce which operates and maintains the system participates in collective bargaining. Metro must comply with mandated annual increases under the terms of the respective collective bargaining agreements, which indexes compensation levels to inflation. This cost growth is responsible for $266 million.
A 56-year-old Maryland man faces multiple charges after allegedly planting peephole cameras in bathroom air vents in Alexandria and Baltimore restaurants, and then attempting to extort money from the owners by pretending to be a customer who found the cameras.
The Alexandria incident goes back to March 2022, when the suspect called the police from the Tempo restaurant (4231 Duke Street) and reported a hidden camera attached to a vent over the toilet in the men’s room, according to a recently released search warrant affidavit.
The responding officer retrieved the camera and found that the glue used to fix it to the vent was still “wet and tacky,” according to the search warrant affidavit. The suspect also allegedly emailed the restaurant owner and said he was willing to settle out of court rather than sue.
“The email indicated it was the suspect, and that despite individuals urging him to sue (the owner), he would be willing to informally settle with Tempo,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.
Police found that the suspect was detained for a similar offense that month in Baltimore County. The previous month, in February 2022, the suspect was allegedly found carrying “peeping kits” with mini-cameras, super glue and gloves, according to the search warrant affidavit.
The suspect was arrested on Feb. 14, 2023, and was transferred to Baltimore County where he posted a $5,000 bail on May 13. He goes to court on July 18.
The suspect was charged with committing a theft scheme greater than $1,500 but less than $25,000, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. He was also charged with a number of misdemeanors, including three counts of theft, malicious destruction of property, fraud and resisting arrest.
Image via Google maps
A 33-year-old man with a history of making bomb threats in Alexandria faces three more counts of making bomb threats to the city’s 911 call center.
Mikhail Stefon Douglas, of Severn, Maryland, faces three counts of making bomb threats to the city’s Department of Emergency and Customer Communications call-takers on Nov. 8, 2022. No explosives were found during a police search of the DECC facility at 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue and no one was injured, according to a recently released search warrant affidavit.
The Alexandria calls were made between 7 to 7:30 p.m. from three separate phones. The numbers were tracked to an Apple iCloud account with three devices (two iPhones and an iPad) owned by Douglas, according to the search warrant affidavit.
Douglas was arrested on Feb. 24 for a similar incident in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He was charged with making false statements concerning a destructive device — a felony punishable by up to a year in jail. He was also charged with telephone misuse and making false statements to a police officer, which are both misdemeanors. He was denied bond, but his trial was continued after a public defender was unavailable to defend him, according to court records.
Douglas was transferred from Maryland to Alexandria on March 6 and charged with being a fugitive from justice and three counts of making bomb threats, according to court records. He was released the following day from the city jail on a $2,000 unsecured bond, according to the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office. His preliminary hearing in Alexandria is on April 10.
Douglas pleaded guilty in 2016 to making a bomb threat in Alexandria, and was sentenced to a year in prison. All but five days of that sentence was suspended and Douglas was placed on probation for two years, and was required to participate in substance abuse screening, supervised probation and mental health treatment.
Alexandria’s emergency mental health services are available 24 hours a day, and anyone experiencing a crisis can call 703-746-3401.
Maryland cold case victim was an Alexandria resident — “An Alexandria teen was identified as the victim in a cold case killing 45 years ago. Until now, she was known as the ‘Woodlawn Jane Doe.’ The body of Margaret Fetterolf, 16, of Alexandria, Virginia was found in the 5600 block of Dogwood Road near Lorraine Park Cemetery in Woodlawn, Maryland on Sept. 12, 1976.” [Patch]
Fairfax County puts extra protections around River Farm — “The additional protections will not prevent AHS from selling River Farm, nor is it a guarantee that the land will remain undeveloped. However, it does put hurdles up against the type of dense development at River Farm that has made neighbors nervous.” [Alexandria Living]
Things to do in Arlandria — “Catch a concert from a favorite artist, enjoy Salvadorian, Peruvian and Nepalese dining and admire powerful murals in Alexandria’s Arlandria neighborhood, steps from bustling Del Ray. Also called Chirilagua, after a region of El Salvador from which many of the neighborhood’s residents hail, Arlandria even inspired a Foo Fighters song by front man and former Alexandrian Dave Grohl.” [Visit Alexandria]
Today’s weather — “Partly to mostly cloudy with scattered showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. High 82F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.. Cloudy. Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 71F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New job: Fitness operations manager — “The Operations Managers are dedicated to making the fitness experience at our clubs an exceptional one. They create a clean, fun and friendly environment by training and motivating their staff. They also generate revenue, keep a clean and well maintained club, all while providing great customer service.” [Indeed]
Alexandria firefighters and the city’s fire boat, along with vessels from the D.C. fire department and the U.S. Coast Guard, conducted searches below the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Tuesday afternoon after reports of a person in the water.
Initial reports suggested that a woman had jumped off the bridge, on the southern end of the Beltway, into the water below. Rescuers, however, did not find anyone in the river.
Later, a woman matching description given to rescuers was found alive and well on Maryland side of bridge, but it was determined that no further assistance was necessary, according to Petty Officer Andy Kendrick, a Coast Guard spokesman.
Police in Prince George’s County also conducted a welfare check on the woman, we’re told.
An Alexandria Fire Department spokeswoman said it was the department’s understanding that the woman had been in the water. It’s unclear whether she jumped.
Though incredibly dangerous, it wouldn’t be the first time someone has jumped from the Wilson bridge and survived. Famously, in 1998, an Alexandria man stood on the bridge for five hours, blocking traffic on the Beltway, before leaping off; he survived with “no obvious injuries.” In 2017, a man and a woman jumped off the bridge in separate incidents, and both survived.
Fire Boat 201 operating on a report of a person in the water near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. pic.twitter.com/J0Oci4QzqR
— IAFF Local 2141 (@IAFFLocal2141) January 14, 2020
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text CONNECT to 85511.