Police announced this afternoon that their investigation into what was initially believed to be a fatal fire on Rugby Avenue is now a homicide investigation.
The bodies of 58-year-old Robin Christine Aldridge and her daughter, 17-year-old Mani Viktoria Aldridge, were found inside their home at 1627 Rugby Ave., where police and firefighters responded to a blaze late Friday night. Captain Gary Pleasants of the Charlottesville Police Department said in a press release today that while an autopsy has not been completed, it appears both victims suffered severe blunt force trauma. The fire appears to have been intentionally set, Pleasants said, and police believe a suspect then stole Robin Aldridge’s light-blue 2003 Toyota Matrix, which was recovered Saturday in the Barracks West apartment complex. While police have not named a suspect, they have released a stock photo of black, orange and white Nike sneakers they believe the suspect was wearing.
Charlottesville Fire Chief Charles Werner described a “heavy fire” on the basement level of the two-story house in an initial report at about 12:30am Saturday morning, and said the first floor had partially collapsed. That report indicated an initial search found nobody in the house, but updates in the hours that followed revealed two people had been found dead.
Charlottesville High School Principal Jill Dahl e-mailed CHS families Sunday morning with the news that Mani Aldridge, a junior at the school, was one of the victims.
Police have seized a dumpster from the Barracks West complex and are searching it, Pleasants said. Anyone who saw a person with bloody clothing in the area of Barracks Road, Georgetown Road or the Barracks West complex, or saw someone driving or parking Robin Aldridge’s car, is asked to call the Charlottesville Police Department at (434) 970-3280. Police are focusing on the hours between 6pm and midnight Friday.
Pleasants said police may hold a press conference Monday, “depending on the direction the investigation takes today.”
Here is the full text of CHS Principal Jill Dahl’s statement:
“With heavy hearts, we are writing to confirm that on Friday night, there was a fire in the home of Mani Viktoria Aldridge, an eleventh-grader at Charlottesville High School, and her mother, Robin Aldridge, a teacher at Hollymead Elementary School in Albemarle County. Two were found dead in the fire, and we believe that these two were the Aldridges. This is a tremendous loss for our community as a whole and for our school divisions in particular.
Please speak with your students this weekend. You can answer questions, get a sense of their own reactions, and encourage them to remember family and friends of the Aldridges, as well as others who are touched by this tragedy. As students return to school on Monday, we will calmly and factually relay this information to them, especially those who had classes with Mani at CHS or CATEC. Counselors will be available to speak with any students who have questions or need to talk.
“If your family would like to send a card, a photo, or another expression of sympathy, please mail or deliver it to Charlottesville High School at the following address: Family of the Aldridges, Charlottesville High School, 1400 Melbourne Road, Charlottesville, VA 22901.
“We will remember Mani for her kindness, friendliness, and care for others. We also admire her curiosity about the world, her creativity as shown in classes such as culinary arts and theater, and her perseverance in facing challenges. Despite our grief, we are confident that the strong communities at CHS and CATEC will support one another now and in the months to come.
If you have any questions, feel free to be in touch with Jill Dahl or another school representative.
Here is the full text of the Charlottesville Police Department’s homicide announcement:
“On Friday December 5th around midnight, the Charlottesville Police Department responded to a house fire at 1627 Rugby Ave. Two bodies were found in the residence and although an autopsy has not been completed, it appears that both victims suffered severe blunt force trauma. The victims have been identified as 58 year old Robin Christine Aldridge and her daughter, 17 year old Mani Viktoria Aldridge, both of whom lived at that residence. The fire appears to have been purposely set and then Robin’s vehicle was stolen from the residence. The vehicle, a light blue 2003 Toyota Matrix, was recovered in the Barracks West apartment complex on Saturday. Last night Charlottesville Police seized a dumpster from the Barracks West apartment complex and are currently searching it for evidence. If anyone saw a person with bloody clothing in the area of Barracks Road, Georgetown Road or the Barracks West apartment complex, or saw someone driving or parking this vehicle, please call the Charlottesville Police Department at (434) 970-3280. The time period we are interested in is most likely between 6pm and midnight, Friday night. Attached are photos of Robin’s vehicle where it was recovered and also a stock photo of the shoes we believe the suspect was wearing.
“The police department will not be conducting any interviews today but there is the possibility of a press conference being conducted tomorrow, depending on the direction the investigation takes today.”