72-Year-Old Philanthropist's Death Ruled Homicide

Cause of death determined to be smothering, mix of drugs and alcohol

A 72-year-old philanthropist’s September death in Virginia has been ruled a homicide, according to Arlington County police.

Police checking on the welfare of Penelope Holloway Sept. 28 in the 2100 block of North Scott Street found her dead inside her home, police said.

At the time, she appeared to have died of natural causes.

“As they continued to collect evidence, speak to witnesses and get information from the medical examiner’s officer, we’ve now reclassified this incident as a homicide,” said Ashley Savage of Arlington County police.

The medical examiner determined her death was the result of smothering and a mix of oxycodone and alcohol.

Neighbors said they had believed Holloway took her own life because she suffered from chronic pain.

“That was the general understanding, that she had several medical conditions, chronic pain being one of them, and that she just didn’t want to continue living that way,” said neighbor Alexandra Hugens.

Neighbors in the weeks before she died, she gave away her art, clothing and car, and they wonder if she planned her death and had help. She even deeded her house over to two friends.

A search warrant filed in the case supports the theory it was an assisted suicide, according to a friend of Holloway’s who was there at the time. He said a doctor also was present.

That doctor died three days after Holloway. Her friends said police questioned him before his death.

Police said the death was an isolated incident and not a threat to the community.

Holloway was a patron of the arts, supporting institutions like the Phillips Collection, Arena Stage, the National Gallery of Art and the National Symphony Orchestra, according to her obituary. She also supported the fair treatment of animals, donating to the ASPCA, the Humane Society and animal shelters.

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