TAZEWELL,Va. — After more than a week of investigation, Tazewell County authorities announced Tuesday that a murder charge had been filed in connection with the death of a Bluefield,Va., woman.
Local media converged at the Tazewell County Courthouse where Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Lee Dennis told reporters that an arrest had been made in the murder of Danielle Louise Pruett, who was reported missing March 17. Pruett’s body was found along Route 720 near Bluefield, Va. after law enforcement agencies searched various parts of the county. She was found approximately 24 hours after being reported missing.
“We’re here today to announce that charges have been placed in that matter,” Dennis said. “Shaun Matthew Wakefield has been charged with first-degree murder today. He has been served with that warrant today.”
Wakefield, 32, of Tazewell,Va. is currently being held without bond at the Tazewell Regional Jail.
A preliminary autopsy report showed that Pruett suffered had died from injuries that indicated blunt force trauma.
“Danielle Pruett's death is a horrible tragedy that has affected our entire county,” Dennis stated. “It is my intention to prosecute Mr. Wakefield for this senseless crime to the fullest extent of the law.”
Wakefield could face life in prison, Dennis said. When asked if Virginia’s death penalty was a possibility, he replied it was too soon to know.
When the murder occurred, Wakefield was on bond for a current felony charge of larceny, third or subsequent offense, and was charged with altering a drug screen on March 18. Both cases are scheduled to be heard in Tazewell County District Court. Wakefield is currently on probation for convictions out of Alexandria, Va. for burglary, larceny, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and drug charges.
The investigating officer, Detective Sgt. Adam Crouse of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, said Wakefield has “an extensive criminal history.” Pruett and Wakefield were acquainted.
“At this point we’re not able to speak to a motive,” Crouse stated after the press conference.
Wakefield was being monitored with a GPS tracking system on an ankle bracelet as a condition of his bond; it was one of the leads that helped develop the arrest, Crouse said. Pruett’s body was found through the monitoring of the GPS system, Dennis stated in another interview.
“We know you have a lot of questions and the public is concerned, and that’s why we wanted to do this today,” Sheriff Brian Hieatt said. “This was a senseless killing. As Mr. Dennis said, it was blunt force trauma that killed her...we wanted the public to know a charge has been made. This man is locked up right now and he has been charged, so the public doesn’t have to worry about him doing anything else to anybody.”
Even though the investigation is still ongoing, no other individuals are suspected to be involved at this time, Dennis said.
The Tazewell County Sheriff's Office, the Bluefield,Va. Police Department and Virginia State Police investigated the case with assistance from District 43 Probation & Parole Office and officers with Community Corrections of Clinch Valley Community Action.