Embattled former Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron, who as the Rappahannock News reported last month was among numerous county officials and entities immersed in ongoing scandals, was found deceased today (Tuesday, May 28) outside Front Royal, according to Virginia State Police.
“At this stage of the investigation, foul play is not suspected in relation to his death. A firearm was recovered at the scene,” according to a Virginia State Police statement provided to the News.
The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Culpeper Field Office was dispatched to the scene today to conduct an investigation of the unattended death. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office discovered McEathron’s body shortly before noon on property within the 400 block of Skyline Forest Drive, which is southwest of Front Royal near Shenandoah National Park.
His remains were transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for examination and autopsy. McEathron officially retired as sheriff, a post he held for 16 years, on May 1 — seven months before his term was set to end on December 31, 2019. He explained in a statement that he wanted to begin a new chapter in his life and spend more time with his family.
On Friday, State Police investigators arrested a Front Royal woman, who reportedly had business ties to McEathron, on charges of embezzlement. A multi-jurisdictional special grand jury handed up May 24 a total of four felony indictments against Jennifer R. McDonald, who is 42.
She turned herself in to State Police that same day and was arrested on two felony counts of obtaining money by false pretense and two felony counts of embezzlement of more than/equal to $500. However, McDonald admitted last month that she could personally be held liable for $2.7 million missing from the coffers of the Front Royal-Warren County EDA.
State police initiated the investigation in August 2018 at the request of Front Royal government officials. The charges stem from McDonald’s misuse of funds between 2014 to 2018 while employed with the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA).
As this newspaper reported last month, McDonald, who is currently being held without bond at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, reportedly owned with McEathron a company named DaBoyz LLC.
In 2016, according to a court filing, DaBoyz purchased a property worth more than a half-million dollars — but only after $2 million was wired from the EDA to a bank account that was then paid to DaBoyz.
McDonald, in the meantime, reportedly lost $753,207 while gambling at nearby Hollywood Casino.
Local government entities being linked to the McDonald scandal reportedly include but are not limited to the Town of Front Royal, the County of Warren, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Warren County Public Schools, and the EDA itself.
Each entity was said to be under a special grand jury investigation launched in March surrounding potential widespread criminal activity that includes “alleged misfeasance and malfeasance including the embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds.”
How much money?
The EDA, after reviewing the findings of a separate Virginia State Police probe, recently filed a $17 million lawsuit against eight Front Royal area individuals and one LLC, claiming misappropriation of the authority’s funds.
On the same day that suit was filed, the two longest serving EDA board members resigned — one of them Warren County Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher.
If all this wasn’t enough, Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe was indicted by a Warren County grand jury last month for soliciting prostitution. The mayor resigned from office early this month, telling one reporter at least he hasn’t murdered anybody, hasn’t written a bad check, hasn’t shoplifted, hasn’t messed with drugs, and hasn’t received a loan from McDonald, Front Royal’s now jailed former economic development director.