The former Marine, 32, held at the Fauquier County Adult Detention Center, will get a bond hearing June 8.
Patricia Cook's husband has filed a civil suit.
It took nearly four months for the case to reach this point, but a grand jury has handed down a multi-count murder indictment against Daniel Harmon-Wright, the Culpeper town police officer who pumped as many as six rounds into an unarmed Sunday school teacher in February.
The case drew howls of outrage after one or more witnesses came forward to dispute the Virginia State Police account of the incident, that Harmon-Wright fired only to protect himself when the motorist, Patricia Cook, supposedly trapped his arm in the window of her Jeep. Instead, a witness alleged that Harmon-Wright threatened to shoot Cook and then did shoot her and continued to shoot her as she drove away.
The incident occurred in a church school parking lot on February 9.
Culpeper is the same town whose officials engaged in "outrageous misconduct" to convict a young man named Michael Hash of capital murder in a 1996 killing. Hash was released on unsecured bond March 14, two days after embattled Culpeper Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Close resigned over his handling of the case.
A special prosecutor, the Commonwealth's Attorney of neighboring Fauquier County, was brought in to investigate the case. He presented the matter to a grand jury which came back, according to a press release, with the following charges: murder, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle resulting in a death, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
“Without commenting on the particulars of the investigation," that prosecutor, Jim Fisher, says in a release, "over the course of the month of May, this special investigative grand jury heard from more than 45 witnesses, received more than 100 separate exhibits and were presented with reams of documentary evidence."
A press conference at State Police headquarters in Culpeper occurred on the evening of Tuesday, May 29. There, Fisher was asked to comment on State Police press release which originally characterized the case as self defense and which alleged that the officer shot because his arm was trapped in the Jeep's window and he was getting dragged.
"The terms 'trapped' and 'dragged' are not terms that I would have used," Fisher says in a newspaper's video of the discussion. "That was a very early stage of the investigation," said Fisher. "Perhaps it wasn't vetted as well as it could have been."
After Cook's husband filed a $5.35 million civil lawsuit, a woman came forward in a television news broadcast to claim that she'd once been roughed up by Harmon-Wright.
"If they had done something about him in the past, maybe [Cook] would be here today," that woman, Jeanette Price, says in an on-camera interview with WJLA.
A shocker from the press conference was the confirmation that Harmon-Wright’s mother, Bethany P. Sullivan of Orange, was also charged in the investigation: three counts of forgery of public documents and three counts of passing such documents, aka "uttering." It turns out that Sullivan formerly served as secretary to a prior Culpeper chief of police, and allegedly attempted to doctor the contents of her son's personnel file, according to prosecutor Fisher.
Unlike her son, who is being held without bond, the 55-year-old Sullivan was released on unsecured bond after her Tuesday night arrest, according to a release.
"I'm grateful for the work of the honest men and women of the Special Grand Jury and the Special Prosecutor," says James Jennings, the Culpeper man who created a citizen petition seeking resolution in the case. By the time of the indictment, he noted on his Justice for Patricia Cook Facebook page that he was just 13 signatures away from his goal of 1,000 citizen signees.
"Hopefully," Jennings says via online comment, "the trial will be fair and unbiased and present an accurate picture of what happened on February 9."
–story lengthened with final seven paragraphs at 11:57am Wednesday, May 30