Former Longwood officer, Buckingham residents charged in murder

Published 1:24 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

AMHERST – A former Longwood officer, along with two Buckingham County residents, now face multiple charges in connection with a death that happened earlier this year in the George Washington National Forest. 

Back on Thursday, Jan. 19, Amherst County sheriff’s deputies responded Thursday to a 911 call coming from the Alhambra Road area. Dispatchers were told there was a man in the woods suffering from a gunshot wound, according to the statement from the sheriff’s office.

After an extensive search of the area, deputies found 49-year-old Kevin D. Hartless dead in a remote area of the forest. The 49-year-old had been a resident of Amherst County. At the time, 43-year-old Joseph F. Cunningham was detained at the scene. The Buckingham County man was charged with voluntary manslaughter. 

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Now those charges have been upgraded. As of Wednesday night, Sept. 27, Cunningham faces one count each of first degree murder, felony homicide, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, two counts of abduction and one count of conspiracy to commit abduction. Cunningham was arrested and informed of the new charges, as he had been previously out on bail, awaiting his next hearing. 

Others, including former Longwood officer, arrested

He’s not alone. On Wednesday night, deputies with the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office arrested and charged 19-year-old Summer Brooke Cunningham of Buckingham and 33-year-old David Chester Christian of Prospect with multiple crimes. Both face one count each of felony homicide, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, conspiracy to commit abduction and two counts of abduction. 

David Christian is a former Longwood University police officer, having worked there until earlier this year. The university put out a statement after the arrest, saying they had been notified back in January of Christian’s alleged involvement in the case.

“The officer, who was off-duty when the homicide occurred, was immediately suspended and his gun and badge were confiscated,” Longwood officials said in their statement. “We also launched an internal investigation following our policies and procedures manual. At the end of that investigation, the officer was terminated. He never returned to active duty once the investigation began. The Amherst County Sheriff’s Department did not charge the officer with any crimes connected with the homicide until today.”

Investigators with the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office made the arrests, with help from the Buckingham County Sheriff’s Office and the Central Virginia Drug and Gang Task Force. 

Cunningham’s case has been pushed back now repeatedly over the last nine months. Originally scheduled to go for a hearing on Monday, Jan. 23 and then Thursday, Jan. 26, the case kept getting continued. The same thing happened in February, March, April and then in July. Now his next court date is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 3. 

Investigation keeps going 

The Amherst County Sheriff’s Office pointed out the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information pertaining to this investigation is asked to contact Capt. Clay Thompson at (434) 946-9373 ext. 6 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-798-5900. Individuals can also visit The Central Virginia Crime Stoppers website at, enter a tip number online at or use the P3 app on a mobile device.