Ex-officer’s lawsuit contains theories about 1999 unsolved murder | Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — For the second time, an ex-Winchester Police Department officer is going to court to challenge his dismissal.

What raises this particular case above a standard workplace conflict is that his wrongful termination lawsuit recently filed against the department includes never-before-released information about a still-unsolved murder that occurred 23 years ago.

Leonard Bauserman was with the Winchester Police Department for 29 years and had risen to the rank of captain when he was fired on Aug. 3, 2021. Winchester Police Chief John Piper reportedly dismissed Bauserman due to a series of job-performance issues, but Bauserman claims in a lawsuit filed July 28 in Winchester Circuit Court that his termination was due to Piper seeing him “as a threat to his control of the department” and was in retaliation for a formal grievance Bauserman had submitted after being written up for alleged dereliction of duties.

The root of the conflict between Bauserman and the police department dates back to the 1999 murder of Kimberly Dawn Alexander, a Winchester woman whose killer has never been apprehended.

According to Bauserman’s lawsuit, he and Lenny Millholland — who is currently sheriff of Frederick County but at that time was a detective with the Winchester Police Department — responded on June 12, 1999, to the scene of a larceny from the Wendy’s fast-food restaurant at 1100 Berryville Ave., where Alexander was a manager.

Alexander had reportedly opened the restaurant early that morning but, a short time later, she, her car and an undisclosed amount of money from the restaurant’s safe vanished.

Even though no arrests have ever been made, Bauserman claims in his lawsuit the money was stolen by Alexander’s husband, whose name was not disclosed.

“The Winchester Police Department officers knew of domestic problems between Ms. Alexander and her husband, as it was known that her husband had an addiction problem. It was possible that Ms. Alexander had an addition [sic] problem, too,” Bauserman’s lawsuit states. “The theory was that a decision was made to go to the Wendy’s and clear out the safe to feed an addiction of some sort. It was possible that Ms. Alexander was forced to use her keys as a manager to steal the money, or that she participated in the theft herself.”

A month and a half later, on July 25, 1999, Alexander’s decomposed body was found in a wooded area off U.S. 340 near Charles Town, West Virginia. Her car was located on Aug. 3, 1999, in the parking lot of the Food Lion grocery store (now Martin’s food store) in Berryville.

After Alexander’s body was found in West Virginia, the FBI took over the murder investigation because it appeared she had been transported from Virginia to another state. The Winchester Police Department retained oversight of the larceny case, but turned over the evidence it had collected to the FBI because, Bauserman’s lawsuit states, it was suspected the theft was directly tied to Alexander’s murder.

No one has ever been charged with killing her, but Bauserman wrote in his lawsuit that he and Millholland had a theory that “Alexander had been murdered by her husband by pushing her off a balcony. Afterwards, he then transported her body to West Virginia to dispose of it.”

The FBI closed its murder investigation in 2012 and returned all items of evidence related to the burglary and Alexander’s death to the Winchester Police Department, Bauserman’s lawsuit states. Those items were placed in a locker in the loading bay of police headquarters at the Timbrook Public Safety Building, where they remained for nearly a decade.

In 2013, Bauserman was put in charge of the department’s evidence and property storage room. By 2020, according to testimony offered by department administrators at a Winchester Circuit Court hearing on Aug. 27, 2021, the room was in disarray.

Lt. Wally Stotlemyer testified last year that when he was assigned to Bauserman’s unit in 2020, he was startled to discover the condition of the evidence and property storage room, which he described “as disorganized as anything I’ve ever seen.”

Bauserman’s lawsuit states Stotlemyer was tasked with “organizing and purging the records and property room of unneeded items,” a project that took four to six months.

“It was during this purge of the Administrative Division that Wallace Stotlemyer came across the 12 boxes of items from the FBI in the locked cabinet and the incident report regarding the larceny from a building in a box in the records division,” Bauserman’s lawsuit states.

Bauserman contends he and other officers, including Stotlemyer, already knew where the Alexander evidence was being stored and that it had not been overlooked or forgotten. Regardless, it triggered an internal investigation of his job performance and a written reprimand from Piper.

Bauserman claims the disciplinary action hindered him from being promoted to deputy police chief, a job that was instead awarded to Capt. Amanda Behan on April 15, 2021, “even though Bauserman had greater knowledge, training and experience,” the lawsuit states.

During the August 2021 court hearing, Stotlemyer and now-retired Deputy Police Chief Kelly Rice said Bauserman’s job performance issues were much more severe than he claimed. Rice said she had put Bauserman on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) on April 13, 2021 — two days before Behan’s promotion — that listed his professional shortcomings.

Bauserman states in his lawsuit that he was told by Piper, Rice and City Manager Dan Hoffman that the PIP did not qualify for an appeal through the city’s grievance process. Regardless, Bauserman filed an appeal on May 28, 2021, with Winchester Human Resources Director Paula Nofsinger, which was forwarded to Winchester Circuit Court two weeks later.

When details of the dispute appeared in a Winchester Star article on June 14, 2021, Bauserman states in his lawsuit that Piper became angry and “escalated his actions” against him, leading to Bauserman being fired on Aug. 3, 2021.

Bauserman claims his termination was retaliatory and unwarranted, and he was denied an opportunity to formally challenge the claims made by Piper, Rice, Stotlemyer and others regarding his allegedly poor job performance.

“Pursuant to Va. Code 15.2-1503, Virginia law requires that his removal be in accordance with procedure established by the city of Winchester, the commonwealth of Virginia or both,” the lawsuit states.

Bauserman, who is being represented by J. Caleb Jones of the Leesburg law firm of Simms Showers LLP, is seeking a total of $670,000 in damages from the city. Winchester has until Sept. 22 to file a response to the lawsuit.

Courtroom proceedings will be overseen by Judge Bruce D. Albertson, who was specially appointed because Judge Alexander Iden, who typically hears cases in Winchester Circuit Court, recused himself on Aug. 31. Iden is a former Winchester commonwealth’s attorney who worked closely with the Winchester Police Department in prosecuting cases.

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