Family of five found dead in Culpeper home
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
THE FREE LANCE–STAR
To most people, it is an unimaginable tragedy—an entire Culpeper County family wiped out in what police called a domestic dispute.
That’s why Reggie Massie could make no sense of what authorities say happened just down from his home on Rixeyville Road: That neighbor, Clarence Washington, 35, is believed to have shot his wife, Shauna, and their three children Saturday night before turning the gun on himself.
“I’m confused,” said Reggie Massie, who lives two doors up from the Washington home, almost in sight of Culpeper High School. “It’s a real tragedy.”
The situation was doubly troubling for Massie because his daughter, Savannah, and 6-year-old Onya Washington were best friends.
“My daughter doesn’t understand,” Massie said.
Onya (pronounced O-ni-a) Washington was in the second grade at Sycamore Park Elementary School. Her 4-year-old sister, Olivia, was about to start pre-school there this month. Thirteen-year-old Omesha Washington attended Culpeper Middle School.
Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins said the couple had apparently been having marital problems, but their quarrels had never risen to a level that required law enforce officers to intervene. He added that Shauna Washington, also 35, had advised at least one family member of renewed problems Saturday afternoon.
Saturday evening was the last time anyone heard from any member of the Washington family. When they did not show up at church Sunday morning and could not be contacted later in the day, Shauna’s mother drove to the modest frame rambler about 10 p.m. to check on the family.
According to Jenkins, the woman was able to gain entry through a window, where she found the grisly scene. Police arrived shortly thereafter.
“They just seemed like normal neighbors,” Massie said, adding that he knew of no marital problems.
Shauna’s cousin, Nicole Minor–Melvin, said that she, too, was unaware of any serious domestic problems.
“Everything seemed just fine,” Minor–Melvin said.
She described Clarence Washington as a hard-working man who held down two jobs to help support his family. By day, he was a foundry worker at Bingham and Taylor in Culpeper and by night he was a custodian at Sycamore Park Elementary School.
Shauna Washington had worked at a local rehabilitation center and as a home healthcare provider.
“She was about to start a job with AFLAC and was very excited,” Minor–Melvin said.
Sheriff’s Office investigators and members of the Virginia State Police were on the scene most of Monday gathering and processing evidence.
“Obviously, we won’t have autopsy reports for a few days, but right now we’re treating this as a murder/suicide, with Clarence Washington being the shooter,” Sheriff Jenkins said.
Family members at the scene were understandably distraught.
“This was my sister, my heart, my best friend,” an emotional Minor–Melvin said of her cousin, Shauna.