A long wait for justice

VIENNA – Tears roll down the face of Donna Warren as her mind slowly drifts through a two-year haze of pain and frustration.

“You had to hear her laugh,” Warren said Friday evening at her home. “It was sort of a giggle, but so full of life. That’s how she was.”

Two years ago Saturday, Donna received the call that every parent dreads.

On the morning of April 5, 2012, Warren Township police were trying to identify a body found on Seventh-Howard Street in Warren Township. They believed it might be Donna’s daughter, Valerie.

“The police asked me things like if I knew what she was wearing and which side was her hip replacement on,” Donna said.

Frantically, Donna called her other daughters.

“She wanted to go to Valerie’s house, but the police wouldn’t allow it without them being there,” Donna’s daughter Kim Warren said. “Can you imagine them telling her that her daughter might be dead, but not being sure?”

In a panic, Donna paced the house until her daughter decided it was time to go to the Warren Township Police Department.

While on the way, she was notified the body had officially been identified as 42-year-old Valerie L. Warren.

“The whole thing was just awful,” Donna said. “She was a great person and we loved her.”

According to police, Warren was fatally shot in the head just before midnight the evening before. It marked the first shooting homicide in Warren Township since 2002.

In the 24 months since the crime was discovered, little headway has been made with the investigation. Police have made no arrests and clues have been almost nonexistent.

“The lack of information is kind of odd,” Warren Township police Chief Don Bishop said Friday. “Usually, after a given period of time, someone will give us something that will break things open. It just hasn’t happened here.”

In an effort to get the word out, Bishop appeared on Crime Stoppers last year. The appearance did not result in any meaningful information.

“We have no witnesses and it was done in the early morning hours,” Bishop said. “The leads that we did have just brought us to a dead end. There are certain things that we do know, but they don’t lead to any one person.”

Despite the lack of information, Warren’s family diligently pushes forward.

“There were so many murders in this little city, town and county in such a short amount of time,” Kim Warren said. “So many of them have been solved. I find it very hard to believe that my sister, they have no leads at all.”

Several months ago, the family purchased ads in Warren, pleading with the public to come forward with any information.

“We want to make it clear to everyone that Valerie was loved,” Kim said. “She was a daughter, a mother, a sister and a friend. In the last two years, she has two grandchildren that she has never seen. It breaks my heart.”

The family also took issue with the portrayal of their daughter in the days and weeks following the murder.

“She had an issue with drugs, but we still loved her and took care of her,” Kim said. “My mom talked to her pretty much every day. It wasn’t like she was estranged or homeless.”

Valerie lived in a Pearl Street apartment, where family would often check in to see how she was faring.

“I could tell when she really needed help,” Donna said. “I would make sure when she had groceries and things like that. We all did.”

Now the family is seeking the one thing that has eluded them for the last two years – closure.

“Because it is such a tragedy and the type of death it was, you can’t get closure,” Kim said of her sister’s death. “How can anyone move forward if you can’t get closure from it?”

Still, while the investigation has stalled, Bishop believes the crime will eventually be solved.

“I’m not going to say it’s a cold case,” Bishop said. “Sooner or later, I feel confident something is going to come out. I learned a long time ago that you don’t ever rush it. If you are patient enough, the answer will come to you.

“I was told that when I first joined the force, and it is something I’ve done my career,” he said.

All the Warren family can do is wait and wonder.

“Not knowing is horrible,” Kim said. “The biggest thing is, there is still a murderer out there walking the streets. It’s scary.”