The Manassas Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that Sarah Greenhalgh, 48, died from a gunshot wound to her neck as a result of a homicide.
Greenhalgh was found dead in her burning Upperville home on July 9. She had rented the home about 60 miles outside Washington, D.C. for about a year and lived alone.
Greenhalgh had been with the Star for almost a year covering Frederick County, Va. government. Her managing editor says Greenhalgh was an accurate and fair reporter and she couldn't think of any of her stories that would have made her a target.
Greenhalgh had also worked at local papers in Fauquier County and had covered equestrian sports as a freelance writer for The Chronicle of the Horse and other publications for more than 20 years.
Sources say the popular writer and photographer had met several people through online dating sites and was working on an investigative piece for the Star.
So far no arrests have been made.
Fauquier County Sheriff's Office Lt. James N. Hartman said the case remains the department's top priority. Police have yet to name any suspects and remain tight-lipped about most of the details in the case.
"The investigation is still in the evidence-gathering stage," he said, adding that detectives are just beginning to get some lab results.
Greenhalgh's mother, Sara Lee Greenhalgh of Poolesville, Md., said she believes an arrest will be made.
"I really trust in the detectives who are working the case," she says. "I don't know much of anything, but I do know they're working very hard. I would like very much for this person to be brought to justice."
The grieving mother said she still thinks about Sarah all the time, and can hardly bear to think about what happened to her.
"I don't think there is a day that goes by when I am not in tears over something," says Greenhalgh.
She says she is still answering condolence letters from family, friends and the community.
In the months since her daughter's funeral, her mother, a widow, gathered her daughter's belongings from work and what could be salvaged from the fire.
"You can still see the burned part around the edges."
Everything smells of smoke.
"Can you believe it is almost comforting because I feel that she is here."
Greenhalgh showed off her daughter's beloved camera which survived the fire. Her daughter's two decades worth of photography was best known in the equestrian world.
"People said she was a force in their lives," she says.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.