A Henrico County man is facing charges of murder, rape and abduction with intent to defile in the death of a Virginia Commonwealth University administrator.

Suzanne A. Fairman died May 9 by asphyxia, according to the state medical examiner’s office. She was found in a tub of the main bathroom of her home in the 7400 block of Tanglewood Road in the Stratford Hills neighborhood in South Richmond, a search warrant said.

Her son, Scott Fairman, spent Monday — his first birthday without his mother — like he has most days since her death: overwhelmed.

“I’ve had better birthdays,” he said in a phone call Monday evening. “It’s hard to put into words — I don’t know the words.”

Bittersweet was one word he said over and over.

The suspect, Thomas E. Clark, 59, of the 7100 block of Horsepen Road, was arrested in May, a week after Fairman’s death. Since then, he has been held in the Henrico County Jail on unrelated charges. Online records show Clark is being held for failing to register as a violent sex offender.

“Knowing Clark was taken into custody so quickly was a relief for everyone involved in the investigation,” said Major Crimes Capt. James Laino in a statement from the police department announcing Clark’s indictment Monday. “I wish we could have shared that information sooner with the community, but we didn’t want to release his name until we had all the evidence collected to present to the grand jury.”

Clark pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in Richmond in 2005. His victim, a woman, was photographed in the court file with a blackened right eye. The plea deal came with a 10-year sentence, and prosecutors dropped two other charges.

On Monday, a detective called Scott Fairman, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., with his two sons, to let him know Clark had been indicted. That was the first time he had heard the name of the man police believe killed his mother.

Scott Fairman said police told him that Clark had been on a crew that had been working on his mother’s home. He said the company had worked on the home in the past, but he didn’t know if Clark had been there before.

“People gravitated toward her,” he said. “And she really loved people.”

Scott Fairman said that years ago, his mother came across an article on the power of positive thinking. “She really took that to heart,” he said.

She worked out, joined a running group and ran a marathon in Richmond last year.

“It’s still weird to talk about it,” he said.

Officers responded to Fairman’s home at 11:07 p.m. on May 9 for a welfare check. Suzanne Fairman was supposed to travel to Florida but never arrived, a search warrant said.

“The water was running and a knife with blood on it was visible on the counter in the same bathroom,” the warrant said.

Fairman was pronounced dead at the scene.

She was the operational administrator for VCU’s academic learning transformation lab and graduated from the VCU School of Business, according to a university website.

Anyone with information about this homicide is asked to call Major Crimes Detective J. Baynes at (804) 646-3617 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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arockett@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6527

Twitter: @AliRockettRTD

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