Northern Virginia Police Investigating Christmas Day Murders

By: Althea Paul
By: Althea Paul

December 26, 2005

There is a police investigation in Northern Virginia, after a murder-suicide left multiple people dead.

Christmas Day is supposed to be about peace, family, and goodwill, but after a total of five people were found dead in Fairfax County, it was anything but. Investigators in Northern Virginia are trying to figure out what sent a man on a shooting spree on Christmas, one that ended with the deaths of several people, including himself and his own mother.

"My daughter was distributing gifts to my husband and I, and we heard a series of rapid shots," said neighbor, Alison De Wit.

The shots turned one neighborhood in Great Falls upside down on Christmas morning. Police say 27-year-old Nathan Cheatham opened fire at a home, killing a woman, her 19-year-old son, and another male, before turning the gun on himself. With all the commotion, neighbors knew something was terribly wrong.

"We heard a lot of helicopter activity. It was very unnerving, especially on Christmas morning," said visitor to neighborhood, Barbara Dane.

While at the scene, investigators found that a vehicle left running outside was registered to a home a few miles away in McLean. There, they discovered a dead woman lying in her driveway. That victim turned out to be the suspect's mother, who he allegedly killed first.

Authorities do believe the suspect also knew the other victims.

"We do know that he's acquainted with the family that lives on Sycamore Springs Lane. We really do not know yet what motivated him to go up there and do what he did," said Major Bob Callahan with Fairfax County police.

This as neighbors also try to make sense of these senseless acts of violence.

"We had a quiet cup of tea together, and just reflected on how tragic this was, and for anybody related to these people down here how tragic this is. It's very tragic," said De Wit.

A member of the family in Great Falls, a 20-year-old male was able to escape the home. There is no word on how he's doing.

As for Cheatham--he had been previously arrested in Fairfax County for several minor offenses and he did have a history of mental illness.

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