BROADWAY, Virginia (KTUU) Far from the city where James Dale Ritchie lived and died, neighbors knew the 40-year-old as a smart, studious man.
James Dale Ritchie is accused of killing one person and shooting a police officer with a gun linked to four other Anchorage homicides in 2016.
“He wanted a chemical engineering job … He was super intelligent,” said Alan Hottinger, who lived next door to Ritchie and Ritchie’s family for at least two years in Broadway, Virginia.
By all appearances, Ritchie lived a quiet life in the remote, rural community of 3,700 people. But his recent whereabouts – places he lived, cities he visited – are now under investigation by the FBI as authorities look to compare homicide cases in which Ritchie is a suspect to unsolved murders outside Alaska.
“We’ve taken all the police reports and information and we put them into our ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program),” said Marlin Ritzman, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Anchorage division.
“An analyst now will take that information and compare it to other unsolved homicides, in particular the states that we know Mr. Ritchie has traveled to or lived in,” Ritzman said.
Ritchie died in a confrontation with police Nov. 12 when authorities say he fired on Officer Arn Salao downtown. Ritchie had been carrying a .357 Colt Python revolver that police later revealed to be the suspected murder weapon in five killings between July 3 and Aug. 28 across the city.
Ritchie has formally been accused of one of the slayings, that of Treyveon-Kindell Thompson, 21. Thompson was the son of Ritchie's childhood friend, Bobby Thompson, but there is no indication that he knew the alleged victim's identity.
The other shootings remain under investigation.
Police refused this week to discuss the cases, other than to say the probe continues as detectives work to prove that Ritchie, or someone else, pulled the trigger in a pair of double homicides.
Public records show that Ritchie, a former star athlete at East High School, lived with his parents in Broadway beginning in about 2013. Police say he returned to Alaska early this year and might also have spent time in Nevada.
Hottinger knew Ritchie – who scored 1200 on his SATs and was recruited by Division 2 college athletic teams, according to court testimony – as a “super intelligent” young man.
“Whenever I had an issue with a computer, or my daughters, when they went to school, had an issue with a computer, they’d rely on James,” Hottinger said. “And James would just jump in there and help them out.”
Ritchie had been dating someone locally, but that relationship ended before he left, Hottinger said.
Other than a pair of traffic violations, Ritchie had no apparent court record in the Broadway, Virginia, area, according to local police.
“He did not cause any problems while living here,” Broadway Town manager Kyle O’Brien wrote in an email. "Our police remember him visiting the local 7-11 from time to time in the evenings, but we never had any encounters with him.
The town of 3,700 includes a collection of farms, churches and tidy brick houses. Ritchie was doing well there but found himself homesick for Alaska, said Doris Hillmer, an old friend and former roommate.
“He worked a job. Had a girlfriend, I guess. And they split up and that kind of soured him on wanting to be, stay there,” she said.
The analysis of homicides linked to the revolver Ritchie was carrying, including efforts to compare the killer's method of operation to other cases, is continuing at the FBI’s offices in Quantico, Virginia, a spokeswoman said.
Tomorrow: More Ritchie’s criminal history in Alaska, and an interview with an old friend.