On the morning of Feb. 6, Ruthanne Lodato heard a knock on the front door of her middle class home in Alexandria, Va.
When she went to see who it was, the 59-year-old music teacher stepped into a suburban nightmare. According to police, the man at the door – a balding stranger with a full gray beard – began shooting.
After firing multiple shots, the man walked away, leaving Lodato fatally wounded and another woman, a nurse who was caring for Lodato’s elderly mother, badly injured.
It seemed like an isolated incident of random violence until police uncovered two similar shootings in the same area.
In November 2013, Ronald Kirby, a 69-year-old government official was found shot dead in his home. In 2003, real estate agent Nancy Dunning was also gunned down by her front door.
“The cases appear to be linked,” Alexandria police chief Earl Cook said at a press conference on Thursday. “But until we have evidence to point to only one suspect, we investigate all possibilities.”
Among the similarities: all three victims were apparently chosen at random and approached during the late morning hours. They also were shot multiple times in their home after answering the door. And they were prominent, upstanding members of the community. Ballistic testing found similarities in the bullet fragments found at all three scenes.
The seemingly random nature of the shootings have left the community on edge. Police have warned residents against answering their door to strangers.
“I think that it would be a good idea, if you’re in that geographical area, to be on guard,” Chief Cook told reporters. “I’m just hoping this doesn’t create any type of hysteria.”
On Thursday, police released a composite sketch of the possible suspect, asking anyone with any information to call authorities. “We are going to bring this person to justice,” Cook says, “so we can put this horrible series of killings behind us.”