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    1. #1
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010

      The Colonial Parkway Killer

      Between 1986 and 1989, at least eight individuals and possibly an additional four more were killed in the Colonial Parkway area of Virginia. The serial killer has never been found and the Colonial Parkway murders remain unsolved.

      On October 12, 1986, the bodies of Cathleen Thomas (27) and Rebecca Ann Dowski (21) were found by a jogger in the back seat of their vehicle. The vehicle was pushed down an embankment off the Colonial Parkway in area frequented by gay couples. Their throats were slashed, rope burns were found around their neck and wrists as well as signs of strangulation. There were no signs of struggle or sexual assault and their personal belongings were undisturbed. It also appeared that the killer attempted to set fire to their bodies and the vehicle, but was unsuccessful. The killer then attempted to push the vehicle into the York River.

      It was almost one year later when the serial killer struck again. In September, 1987, David Knobling (20) and Robin Edwards (14) were found murdered on the James River near Smithfield, VA. They were both partially clothed and Edwards was found with her jeans unfastened and her bra around her neck. Knobling’s truck was found earlier with the keys still in the ignition, the radio on and the driver’s door opened. Knboling’s wallet was on the dashboard. Again, there was no signs of struggle. The driver’s side window was partially rolled down, which led investigators to speculate as to why it would be rolled down when it was raining the night they disappeared.

      On 9 April 1988, Cassandra Lee Hailey and Richard Keith Call went on their first date. His vehicle was found on the Colonial Parkway the following day. To this day, they have not been found and assumed to be murdered by the Colonial Parkway Killer.

      Keith Call’s red Toyota Celica was found the following morning about 3 miles from where Knobling and Edwards were found. The car was parked at a Colonial Parkway overlook.The authorities found it unusual that the driver’s side door was open and Call’s wallet was on the console. The glove box was open. Hailey’s purse, bra, one boot and the couple’s underwear was left in the car.

      In October, 1989, the skeletal remains of Annamaria Phelps (18) and Daniel Lauer (21) were found by a hunter in the woods near a rest area off Interstate 64 between Williamsburg and Richmond, VA. The vehicle was found in the rest area with the keys in the ignition along with Ms. Phelps purse on the seat. The couple had been missing for one month before they were found.

      Money did not appear to be a motivation in any of these murders, and the victims did not appear to struggle. Law enforcement officials began to theorize that the serial killer was either a law enforcement officer or posed as an authority figure. This may explain why Call’s glove box was opened – in an attempt by Call to obtain his registration that is normally held in the glove box.

      In addition to the theory of the killer being a law enforcement officer or posing as one, others suggest that the killer is a rogue CIA operative from the Central Intelligence Agency, which have a training center in nearby Camp Perry in York County. Other experts claim it may be more than one killer working as a team.

      Other Victims
      Speculation exists that the serial killer’s first victims may have been Michael Margaret (21) and Donna Hall (18) whose bodies were found on August 21, 1984. Their bodies lay in a wooded area near Kings Crossing Apartment Complex in Richmond, Virginia. They were stabbed multiple times and their throats were slashed without an apparent motive.

      Brian Craig Pettinger was last seen at a Hampton dance club and his body was found in February, 1987 in a marshy area of the James River in Suffolk, VA.

      Laurie Ann Powell (18) was last seen in March 8, 1988 walking down a road in Gloucester County. Her body was found in the James River on April 2, 1988. She had multiple stab wounds to her back.

      Recently, crime scene photographs regarding the Colonial Parkway killings where leaked into the public domain by a former photographer who worked for the FBI. Although this caused some embarrassment for the FBI, it did renew interest in the case. The FBI has recently doubled the reward for information leading to the arrest of this serial killer to $20,000.

      In December, 2009, FBI Norfolk Field Office Special Agent in Charge Alex J. Turner, stated fingerprints and trace evidence from the crime scenes will be tested using the latest advances in forensic laboratory testing. Turner could not provide a date of when these tests would be completed, but he did state they are expediting the examinations.

      A previous profiler on the case stated the killings have obviously stopped and there are two possibilities: “They are either dead or in prison,” he said. “People like this don’t stop.”

      The results of these forensic tests may be made public any day now. Perhaps we will soon learn who is responsible for the most gruesome unsolved crimes in the commonwealth of Virginia.


    2. #2
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      The Colonial Parkway Murders: Cold Case?

      Behavioral scientist explores why crimes stopped, and why they could still be solved

      Behavioral scientist and criminology expert Larry McCann hasn’t given up.
      Even though the murders happened over 20 years ago, there’s no telling when the right piece of information will come along to solve the case.

      “The state police never let these things go,” McCann said. “They solve routinely cases that are really, really old.”

      The police and the FBI often come to McCann with cases old and new for his 39 years of expertise as a behavioral scientist. In 1996, he stopped counting the number of homicides he’s worked on when the total hit 2,000.

      Since he retired 10 years ago, his title has changed — now he’s a “violent crimes consultant” — but his work hasn’t.

      “I’m doing exactly the same thing I was doing before I retired,” he says, which includes researching and analyzing violent crimes, homicides, sexual assaults for police departments, prosecutors, and corporations around the world. He is currently looking into a 40–year-old homicide.

      Why this case remains unsolved…for now

      When he investigated the killings that have become known as the Colonial Parkway murders, McCann quickly latched on to the theory that these crimes were committed by two people, not one.

      “It just seemed like it’s hard for a single person to really maintain control of two robust individuals concurrently,” he said.

      A friend of Rebecca Dowski, one of the murdered victims, was also puzzled by the serial double murders. “One of the greatest mysteries to me was how someone could subdue two people at the same time,” said the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Rebecca was athletic and Cathleen was in the Navy. These were not women who I would think would easily back down.”

      McCann was able to compile evidence from the crime scenes into a psychological profile used by the FBI to help determine which types of suspects to look for “The crime is a reflection of the criminal,” he said. He believes there was a leader — the murderer — and a follower — the accomplice. The separation of the pair could be why the murders stopped, he suggested.

      While working on the case two decades ago, McCann hoped the accomplice, the psychologically weaker of the two personalities, would turn in the leader with a little prodding.

      Working in conjunction with the FBI and state police, McCann applied pressure by giving press conferences that exposed the theory and said that the second person might be in danger, hoping the accomplice would read the resulting articles and fear that the killer might turn on him.

      But law enforcement officials had to be careful.

      “You get to the point that if you keep applying pressure and the leader keeps hearing that kind of stuff in the news, then he kills the follower,” McCann said.

      The follower could very well be dead, which would explain why the crimes stopped. But just as plausibly, something happened to the leader.

      “I think the killings stopped because the offender, the leader, either went to prison or is dead,” he said. “Because lions don’t stop killing once they’ve tasted blood.”

      Either way, there is no proof. According to McCann, these calculated killers were good at covering their tracks. The reason there were such huge gaps between the murders, almost a year between each one, is because they kept their cool, he said.

      “The gaps were because they were waiting for the right victim. Otherwise, if you spring your trap too soon and things aren’t quite right, if there are other people in the area, if it’s too early, if there’s too much light, there’s a possibility that you will be apprehended. They only killed four times in four years, but how many times had the offenders been driving up and down the parkway or up and down 64 looking for someone?” McCann said. “This was their hunting ground.”

      Since the killings stopped, the FBI and police have been using an online program called VICAP, or the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, which collects information from homicides worldwide and connects them to other similar homicides, to rule out the possibility that the Parkway Killers may have simply packed up and moved somewhere else.

      McCann says it is highly unlikely that they could slip through the system by using different tactics.

      “Once you’re successful at doing something so audacious as serial homicides, you’re going to stick with what works.”

      So far, VICAP has had no luck. The system has identified one connection, but law enforcement officials investigated and determined the incidents were separate.

      Reason to hope

      Some think the longer a case remains unsolved, the more likely it’s going to stay that way. But there are reasons why FBI and police continue to fan the flames on cold cases.

      As forensics technology advances, new ways to link evidence to suspects become available.

      In September 2008, for example, chemists at the University of Leicester developed a new method for detecting fingerprints on cartridge cases. According to the university’s press release, “The technique can enhance – after firing– a fingerprint that has been deposited on a small calibre metal cartridge case before it is fired,” which will likely lead to countless cold cases being reopened and possibly solved.

      Another advantage with old cases comes simply with the passage of time.

      “Every five years the world just totally turns over,” said McCann. “Allegiances have changed, boyfriends, girlfriends have changed, husbands, wives have changed, and people that were afraid to talk about somebody are no longer afraid.”

      McCann believes the knowledge to solve the case is out there. It’s just a matter of piecing it together.

      “I’m always looking for avenues to get the information out because somebody, somewhere, is going to read this and think, well I know a little bit about that case and I think I know who did it,” he said. “The right tidbit of information could come to light, who knows, this afternoon.”


    3. #3
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      FBI doubles reward in 'Colonial Parkway murders'

      Published: December 19, 2009

      NORFOLK -- The FBI is doubling the reward to $20,000 in the Colonial Parkway slayings and is sending fingerprints and trace evidence for advanced scientific testing at its laboratory in Quantico, bureau officials said at a news conference yesterday.

      Alex J. Turner, special agent in charge of the Norfolk FBI office, said he could not promise when that blood and fiber evidence would be tested for DNA but said that "the FBI laboratory has committed to expediting the examinations."

      "I think the focus is it is being done," Turner said. "That's the positive that we're looking at right now."

      Turner also revealed how an FBI slideshow of Colonial Parkway crime-scene photographs was leaked to the public. He said a "nonagent" FBI photographer removed the slides without authorization to use as a presentation at a civilian security company.

      Turner said the photographer retired in 2001 and has since died. The slides remained at the company, which continued to use them, Turner said. He declined to identify the photographer or the company.

      The slideshow contained crime-scene photographs, including autopsy images, taken during the investigations of the six slayings and two disappearances on the Colonial Parkway and other rural roads in the region.

      In October 1986, Cathleen Thomas and Rebecca Dowski were discovered in Thomas' small Honda, shoved off a Colonial Parkway bluff. The killer had slit their throats. They were the first in a series of slayings and disappearances that became known as "The Parkway Murders," which ended in 1989.

      The slayings remain unsolved.

      "As of this date, the Norfolk FBI has seized all slides and copies of the crime-scene photographs from the former employee's estate, the civilian training agency, and two other individuals identified during the course of the investigation," Turner said.

      Turner repeated yesterday many of the updates he provided by phone Thursday night to victims' families. Turner told the families:

      •An analysis found fingerprints and trace evidence that could be useful to the case. •All reports and statements have been digitized and agents will use intelligence analysts to help review the files. •Despite the absence of concrete evidence linking the cases, agents still believe they all are the work of a serial killer or killers. "That's the working theory," Turner said.

      Bill Thomas, brother of Cathleen Thomas, said the conference call with Turner was wide-ranging and, in many ways, reassuring to families who had felt ignored by the agency for two decades.

      "After 20 years of neglect by the FBI, the Thomas family is pleased to see the investigation moving forward," Thomas said from Los Angeles.

      "We were pleased with the phone call. We feel like Special Agent Turner and his team are making this case a priority."


    4. #4
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Search Saturday in Colonial Parkway murders cold case

      Posted: Jun 04, 2010 10:01 PM EDT

      CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A search gets underway in the decades old cold case known as the Colonial Parkway murders. The victim's families met with a special investigator Friday night in Chesterfield, to talk about their plan of action.

      Saturday morning, former Milwaukee homicide detective Steve Spingola will join the victim's families and a team of cadaver dogs to search for the remains of two of the eight victims. After reviewing some evidence, Spingola doesn't believe all the cases are related. The goal is to answer some questions that have lingered for over twenty years.

      Joyce Call-Canada's nightmare started April 9, 1988, when her brother Keith and Cassandra Hailey disappeared on their first date. Keith's father found the car abandoned at the York River overlook off the Colonial Parkway. The focus of Saturday's search.

      "We're hoping that we find something - some kind of clues maybe remains. It has been a long time," said Call-Canada.

      Highly trained cadaver dogs will canvass the dense woods.

      "Some of those dogs have been known to recover the remnants of people killed in the civil war," said Spingola.

      On the eve of the search, Spingola met with the victim's families. Over the last two days, talked with investigators and walked the crime scenes.

      "I don't believe the bodies are going to be right in that area if we find them. I think that car was dropped off by somebody. I think they may have been disposed of along the way," said Spingola.

      Spingola also doesn't believe all the cold cases are linked. But DNA testing by the FBI is still underway.

      "They're spread out. There's different modes of death - gunshot versus manual strangulation versus knife," said Spingola.

      Aside from Spingola's work, a private investigator has also volunteered to track down leads. Joyce says she's both realistic and hopeful.

      "We never thought anything would go on this long. We thought we'd find answers and we're still hunting," said Call-Canada.

      One challenge for searchers and the dogs will be the heat and humidity.

      Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.

      The search is scheduled for four hours.


    5. #5
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Years later, search for Colonial Pkwy. pair resumes

      June 6, 2010


      William Phelps knows what it's like to not know.

      You are a character in a horror film - you must be - because people don't vanish in real life.

      You spend six weeks as an outsider looking in at your life.

      Then one day, two hunters stumble on a pair of skeletons less than three miles from the abandoned car your sister and her friend had been in.

      Science will confirm what you already know.

      You bury your sister. She is 18. You are 16. Nothing is ever the same after that fall day in 1989.

      But there is a measure of closure.

      Three more stories unfolded much like this one in Hampton Roads during the late 1980s.

      One had a different ending. Some say it had no ending at all.

      On Saturday - 22 years later - Phelps and a dozen others hoped to change that.

      Phelps gave Petra a pat on her golden head. He and the Labrador stood at the Colonial Parkway overlook where a young couple went missing a year and a half before his sister and her friend.

      Petra is a cadaver dog with K-9 Alert, a group from Powhatan that aids in search and rescues in Virginia. Petra and her handler were one of six teams who came to Yorktown on Saturday to search for the remains of Richard "Keith" Call and Cassandra Hailey.

      The couple is one of four believed to be the victims of a serial killer. Theirs are the only bodies never found.

      None of the cases was ever solved.

      More than 20 years after the slayings of young couples on and near the Colonial Parkway inexplicably stopped, the FBI and Virginia State Police are retesting evidence from each of the cases using new DNA technology.

      The news has brought the victims' families together again.

      If a serial killer really was at work, the missing couple might be within three miles of where their car was found - just like Phelps' sister and her friend.

      This parkway overlook was Hailey's teenage hangout.

      She and one of her best friends, Amanda Wimmer, would park here to smoke and drink beer before dances. Few people ventured down this unlined road then.

      But Wimmer is sure that their remains are within miles of this spot, she said Saturday.

      If the search teams turned up empty-handed on this day, Wimmer said, she would come back every day and look herself.

      "It's a long shot," said Joyce Call-Canada, the sister of one of the victims. "But it's a shot."

      If the killer buried the couple, the odor of decomposition would have spread over time, making their exact location difficult to pinpoint. If they were not buried, wildlife may have scattered their bones.

      But a cadaver dog is keen enough to locate a body underwater from a boat. It is keen enough to sniff out decades-old remains.

      Petra and her search team emerged less than an hour after they entered the woods adjacent to the overlook.

      The FBI had scoured this area again recently. They'd worked for hours, searching the woods and the roadside and the shore of the river. They'd stopped just short of a place called Belfield Plantation, about two miles from where the missing couple's car was found.

      As far as the families knew, no one had ever searched farther.

      Now they would.

      An FBI agent led a caravan of vehicles piled with dogs and handlers and family and friends of the lost.

      The Belfield Plantation area is beyond a side road blocked to regular traffic that juts off Colonial Parkway.

      Trees cast tall, cool shadows, and towering cattails pop from sticky marshes farther back. There are paths and fields.

      Three cadaver dogs went to work.

      Well-trained canines will race past a decomposing deer. They will sit on a spot where they sense human remains. This is called a hit. Some dogs bark. Others refuse to move.

      At a single place at Belfield Plantation, near a tree and just off a path, all three cadaver dogs made a hit.

      Nothing was visible to the human eye. But the dogs remained adamant.

      The area was roped off with red tape and readied for excavation.

      Days could pass before investigators know what's there.

      It might be nothing.

      It could be a century-old burial site.

      Or it could be Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey, overlooked all these years.


    6. #6
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      October 29, 2010

      Families of Parkway murder victim seek creation of task force

      Unsolved string of Virginia slayings dating to 1986 have confounded investigators

      A sister-in-law of a victim in the Parkway Murders case has written a top state official asking that the 20-year-old killings and disappearances become a state priority — along with three unsolved 1996 killings along Route 29 in the Shenandoah Valley and the recent, unsolved slaying of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington.

      Jennifer Phelps, whose sister-in-law, Annamaria Phelps, was killed in 1989, wrote the Oct. 28 letter to Marla Graff Decker, the state secretary of Public Safety. Phelps pleads with Decker to "please do something" and make the investigations a priority. She signed it on behalf of the familes of Parkway Murders victims.

      Phelps also wrote that Decker's office has not followed through on a May pledge made by Gov. Bob McDonnell to contact each of the families in a series of killings betweeen 1986 and 1989 that are linked to the Colonial Parkway.

      "I am hoping for a response," Phelps wrote in an e-mail to the Daily Press. "We have been paitently waiting since May for a phone call and we have heard nothing."

      McDonnell is aware of the concerns and frustrations of victims' families, said spokeswoman Stacey Johnson.

      She said the governor and Decker have consulted at length with state investigators in each of these cases and the state and other local and federal law enforcement agencies are dedicating the necessary resources and activity to the cases.

      "We have taken and will continue to take the action we promised we would take on cases that are being handled by the State Police," Johnson said. "We cannot speak to, nor interfere with the status of, cases handled by other law enforcement agencies."

      Families of the victims want a task force created involving the Virginia State Police, FBI and local law enforcement to "get to the bottom of our cases as well as other unsolved cases around Virginia," Phelps said.


    7. #7
      Michael's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Toano Man Pleads Guilty in Scam of Colonial Parkway Victims Fund

      By Sam Thrift Thursday, March 22, 2012

      A former Gloucester County Sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty Tuesday in York-Poquoson Circuit Court to taking money from a group that was trying to raise money to keep the three-decade-old Colonial Parkway Murders in the public eye.

      Fred Atwell Jr., a 63-year-old Toano man, was arrested July 15 after representatives from the Colonial Parkway Victims Fund claimed he committed fraud, according to Lt. Dennis Ivey of the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office.

      According to prosecutors, Atwell drove a new vehicle to the group’s meeting and offered it for a raffle the families were doing to raise money for the fund. Atwell asked members of the fund for $270 for the Department of Motor Vehicles fees to change the title of the vehicle in the Colonial Parkway Victims Fund’s name. After the raffle took place, organizers discovered the winner of the raffle was Atwell’s son-in-law, who lived in Kansas, and the car that Atwell had offered was a car he had taken on a test drive.

      Atwell said in court that when he found out he wasn’t able to secure the car to donate, he cashed the check from the families and spent the money.

      Atwell pleaded guilty to obtaining money by false pretenses and will be sentenced on May 22.

      According to a 2010 press release from the Norfolk branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Colonial Parkway murders were a string of murders near or on the Colonial Parkway in the late 1980s. Six people were found murdered and two people are still missing. All the cases are unsolved.

      The FBI says the first incident took place on Oct. 12, 1986. The U.S. National Park Service received a report that a white 1980 Honda Civic was found in a wooded area off Colonial Parkway between the Ringfield Plantation overlook and the York River. Police found Cathleen Marian Thomas and Rebecca Ann Dowski inside the vehicle. Both women had been stabbed and strangled. They were last seen alive three days before at a computer lab at The College of William and Mary.

      On April 9, 1988, Richard Keith Call and Cassandra Lee Hailey went on their first date, according to the FBI press release. They were last seen at a party in Newport News. Call’s father found his son’s vehicle abandoned at the York River overlook off the Colonial Parkway near Yorktown the next day. Clothes belonging to the victims were found inside the vehicle. The victims have never been located.

      Two other cases occurred around the same time, according to the FBI press release. On September 20, 1987, David Lee Knobling and Robin Margaret Edwards were found dead at the Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge in Isle of Wight County. Two years later, on September 5, Daniel Lauer and Ann Marie Phelps were found dead in the vicinity of a rest area off Interstate 64 in New Kent County.

      No murder can be so cruel that there are not still useful imbeciles who do gloss over the murderer and apologize.

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