Luray detective remains in ICU one week after being asked to inspect ‘bones’

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Accident report

By Randy Arrington

LURAY, May 4 — A detective with the Luray Police Department remains in the intensive care unit of the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville one week after he was asked to enter a home on East Main Street to examine some bones.

Det. Ron McClelland arrived at the home shortly after 11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 28 to deliver a message from the state medical examiner’s office: Please stop calling our office to report bones. An individual staying at the residence and doing renovations on the property has made numerous calls to local police, as well as the state medical examiner’s office, to report everything from premonitions about the dead buried beneath the home, cutting holes in the basement’s concrete floors to find the bodies, and then, actually finding bones.

“He said that he found human bones,” Luray Police Chief Bow Cook said. “It seemed plausible because sometimes these old homes are above gravesites that no one may know about…and this is near [a church]. I’ve had that happen before, but [these bones were] sent off and identified as animals.”

That was two weeks ago. Another call from the same individual to report that he had found a human body. When local investigators arrived, they found a skull — sculpted of clay.

When Det. McClelland was asked to deliver the message from the state medical examiner’s office last Wednesday, the individual — who was not expecting the visit — invited the detective into the home to examine some more bones that he had found. While walking around the home, Det. McClelland stepped on a rug covering a 3’x4′ hole in the floor and fell nearly nine feet onto concrete — just a few feet away from the hole the individual had cut into the concrete in the basement to find people he believed were buried there.

McClelland suffered internal injuries, struck his head and was unconscious when additional officers arrived on the scene, according to Chief Cook. He said that the detective will likely undergo “months” of treatment and rehabilitation after he leaves the ICU.

Chief Cook said that he deems the incident to be an “accident” because the individual did not know the officers were coming. An air vent (or grate) going to the basement had been removed, and the rug (a runner) had been pulled over it.

Local police have informed the landlord, who does not live in the area, about the incidents that have occurred, including the hole cut in the basement floor. The individual staying at the home to do renovations is said to be a “friend” of the owner, according to Cook. The Page County building inspector was called to the scene and stopped all construction at the site until all applicable permits are obtained.

McClelland is a more than 40-year veteran of law enforcement. He retired from the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office more than 15 years ago before accepting an offer from Cook to become a detective for the Page County Sheriff’s Office. Cook, who worked with the sheriff’s office at the time, then brought McClelland with him to the Luray Police Department, when he took over as chief about five years ago.

The loss of another officer comes at a hard time for the LPD, as some have left for higher pay in other jurisdictions and the overall attrition rate for law enforcement across the country is rising. As a testament to that, the LPD posted the following to its Facebook page on April 17:

Luray Police Department is accepting applications for a Full-Time Virginia D.C.J.S. Certified Law Enforcement Officer to work ** DAY SHIFT **. Anyone interested in applying must complete an application that can be found at www.townofluray.com/police—public-safety.html, including the notarized authorization for background check, and return it to Luray Police Department, 45 E. Main Street, Luray, VA 22835 by the close of business on April 30, 2021. Day shift is 6:00 AM to 5:30 PM for Luray Police Department and requires working every other weekend. Message or call us if you have any questions about shift rotation and assignments, shifts are subject to change at the discretion of the Chief of Police.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m curious about why a seasoned detective was sent to “deliver a message” unaccompanied versus a patrolman.

  2. I cannot speak for LPD but I am assuming maybe they believed this person would react better to someone in plain clothes vs a uniform. Without knowing all of the history of this person it’s hard to say. Knowing Ron he may have volunteered to handle the job to keep a uniformed officer free as that is something Ron would do. Could be a variety of reasons that are just unknown to us. Regardless. Our prayers go out to Ron and family.

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