Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 19, 2011

Search for justice and closure — ’09 Claypool Hill murders remain unsolved

CLAYPOOL HILL, Va. — More than three years ago, a restaurant’s employee came to work and discovered that two coworkers had been murdered. Law enforcement agencies responded quickly to the news and started an investigation that continues today along with a reward offered by the victims’ company.

On the evening of March 30, 2009, 52-year-old Harvey Dean Looney and his wife Valarie Elaine Looney, 48, were murdered at the Pizza Plus along U.S. Route 460 after two male employees left for the day, said Capt. Anne Hickman of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is believed to be around 11:30 p.m. or afterwards,” Hickman recalled. “Harvey had clocked out and was on the outside of the restaurant when attacked. Valarie was inside finishing up the computer work and had not clocked out.”

A still-undisclosed amount of money was missing. The fact the couple was still working late was normal.

“It was not unusual for the Looneys to stay late to finish up cleaning pans or doing extra work,” Hickman said. “The next day was their anniversary and their adult son was not surprised when they failed to return home, but believed they had gone to Gatlinburg to celebrate the occasion.”

Instead, a female coworker found the couple the next morning when she reported for work.

Investigators with the sheriff’s office and the Virginia State Police soon arrived at the restaurant and sealed off the building and its parking lot. While the employees watched from a neighboring car wash, police dogs were brought in along with a state police helicopter. The dogs did not find any trails leading away from the crime scene. It was learned that two deputies had eaten dinner there approximately 10 p.m. the previous evening, but they had not seen anything out of the ordinary.

The investigation continues.

“Nine agencies including the Virginia State Police, Federal Marshals and the FBI have aided the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office in attempting to solve these murders. The case has taken us across state and county lines in interviewing witnesses and people of interest in the case,” Hickman said. “It’s ongoing. We have no choice but to keep going on until it’s closed out.”

The fact that money was missing does not immediately mean that robbery was the motive behind the murders.

“I don’t know if we ever knew the real motive. The restaurant was robbed, but I don’t know if we determined an actual motive for the deaths,” she said.

It is possible that whoever was responsible for the murders knew the Looneys, though the investigation becomes more difficult if the suspects were visiting the area and looking for a place to rob, Hickman explained.

“At that time of night, it was a Sunday night, and all the other businesses were closed at that time,” she said. Two employees at a nearby convenience store did see a car parked approximately that time at Pizza Plus. If anyone was waiting for the other employees to leave before robbing the store, they could have been watching from the neighboring car wash.

“That area would have been ideal for hiding in that car wash. Two male employees had clocked out. I’m afraid to say exactly when, but sometime between 11 and 11:30 (p.m.). Harvey was already on the outside and had his coat on. Valarie was doing paperwork. In the struggle it had gotten scattered,” Hickman said.

Despite questions that remain to be answered, the investigation has made progress.

“Yes, there are some really good leads as to who may have been involved, and we’re working on it,” Hickman explained. “We do have some persons of interest, strong interest. I think there may be even some people in the Bluefield, Princeton, Bluewell area that may have some information they can supply for us.”

Pizza Plus Enterprises is still offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the successful arrest and prosecution of the person or persons who murdered Harvey and Valarie Looney, Hickman said.

Anyone with information can call Hickman at 276-988-1157 or Lt. Mike Mosley at 276-988-1158. Anonymous calls will be accepted, she added.

The families of both victims stay in close contact with the sheriff’s office, Hickman said. “They’ve wanted this case solved from the beginning. Harvey and Valarie Looney were deeply loved by their family members and they continue to inquire about the case. They have cooperated with every aspect of the investigation and they just want justice and closure now.”

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