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It was the crime of the century in Rappahannock County when Diane Kidwell fired from her pickup truck and shot Rance Spellman, the manager of the farm next door, off his bulldozer on November 9, 1982. It drew national coverage in newspapers and magazines and cast a shadow on the local election for Rappahannock’s commonwealth’s attorney.
At a candidate’s forum on Oct. 5, 1983, David Konick was asked if he had wiped the fingerprints from the gun used to kill Spellman. While ducking a direct yes or no answer, he replied, “It would not be appropriate for me to be running for commonwealth’s attorney if that were true. It would not be appropriate for me to be practicing law in the state of Virginia if that were true.”
But according to court records unsealed less than three weeks later, it was true.
Konick’s answer should have been a simple “YES.”
He did wipe the fingerprints from the shotgun that killed Spellman before turning the weapon over to police. And according to the record, Konick twice denied doing so when questioned afterwards by the commonwealth’s attorney.
For those who weren’t following local happenings back in the early 1980s, Konick was the Kidwells’ lawyer in the right-of-way dispute with the adjoining land owner that ended in Spellman’s death in November. He was dismissed as Diane Kidwell’s attorney in December, and at the two murder trials that followed, Kidwell was represented by prominent D.C. attorney John Dowd and veteran Virginia trial lawyer Rodney Leffler. At their request, the record detailing Konick’s role was sealed out of concern that his actions would unfairly prejudice the jury against their client, who neither acquiesced nor knew of the gun wipe. Diane Kidwell acknowledged firing at Spellman; the jury never heard a word about the missing fingerprints on the shotgun.
The first trial ended in a hung jury and mistrial; Kidwell was found “not guilty” in the second on grounds that she had acted in self-defense.
One week before the election, the court records were unsealed and the facts came out. Konick had lied. And he was defeated in the election for commonwealth’s attorney.
Character counted then. It should matter now. Konick should not be elected to the Rappahannock Board of Supervisors. We the people deserve better. We deserve honesty and integrity in the leaders of our county.
The writer, who lives in Washington, is the former editor of the Rappahannock News who covered the Kidwell trials and the aftermath.