HENRY COUNTY, Va. – A 71-year-old man now faces a first-degree murder charge in connection with the death of his wife in January 2018.
The Henry County Sheriff's Office announced the charge against Thomas Richard Pequignot Wednesday after a 16-month investigation.
"We've continued to work very diligently and the evidence we have worked through has included financial records, medical records, phone and internet records. Our interviews have taken us to South Carolina and other locations to collect evidence and talk to witnesses," Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said.
Pequignot was arrested Tuesday at 277 Sheppard Road in Stuart, Virginia, by deputies from the Patrick County and Henry County sheriff’s offices.
His arrest comes after being indicted by a Henry County grand jury on the murder charge Monday.
On Jan. 12, 2018, at 6:57 p.m. the Martinsville-Henry County 911 Center received a call from Pequignot. He told the dispatcher that his home located on Longview Drive in Fieldale, had been broken into and he could not find his wife, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The responding deputies entered the home and discovered the body of Lorene Dalton Hopkins-Pequignot.
"It was quickly apparent that it appeared to be a staged crime scene," Perry said.
Her body was sent to the medical examiner, who ruled the case to be a homicide with the cause of death being manual strangulation.
Evidence from the scene was collected and submitted to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science for analysis.
A woman who lives a few houses away from the Pequignots and doesn't want to be identified was shocked when 10 News told her what the sheriff's office believes happened.
"I would have never thought that he would do something like that," the woman said.
She said she noticed suspicious activity at the home last year after the death.
"We noticed that the wife's car wasn't there for about a month, month and a half. Then, we would come home and he would start moving things. He'd have different cars up there, loading things at 2 a.m., 3 a.m., which was very odd for him," the woman said.
Pequignot is currently held in the Henry County Jail with no bond.
He is scheduled to be in court June 14 for a counsel hearing.