Colonial Parkway Murders
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|Colonial Parkway Murders|
Span of crimes
The Colonial Parkway Murders were committed by an apparent serial killer believed to have murdered at least eight people along the Colonial Parkway of the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia (or nearby) between 1986 and 1989. During that time, three couples were murdered and one couple is missing and presumed to be dead. The killer has never been identified, and his or her whereabouts remain unknown.
- 1 Colonial Parkway Murders Victims
- 2 Media Coverage, Television Reports and Podcasts
- 3 Assistance of Detective Spingola
- 4 Profile
- 5 Criticisms
- 6 Books based in the Colonial Parkway Murders Case
- 7 Colonial Parkway Murders Investigation Status
- 8 References
- 9 Additional sources
Colonial Parkway Murders Victims
The first two known victims were United States Naval Academy Class of 1981 graduate Cathleen Thomas, 27, and College of William & Mary senior Rebecca Ann Dowski, 21. On October 12, 1986, Columbus Day weekend, their bodies were found inside Thomas' white 1980 Honda Civic at the Cheatham Annex Overlook along the Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg, Virginia. An autopsy found rope burns on their necks and wrists, signs of strangulation, their throats had been slashed, and diesel fuel was poured over the bodies and the car but apparently failed to ignite. Their purses and money were found inside the car. It appears that Thomas may have struggled with her attacker as a clump of hair was later found between her fingers. Both women were fully clothed and there was no evidence of robbery or sexual assault. It was considered a murder.
On September 22, 1987, David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, were found shot to death in the Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge, on the south shore of the James River in Isle of Wight County, near Smithfield, Virginia. Knobling's black Ford Ranger pickup truck was found at the refuge parking area next to the James River Bridge with the wipers and radio on and some articles of clothing inside. Three days later, the two bodies were discovered by Knobling's father and a search party along the water's edge of the James River.
On April 9, 1988, Christopher Newport University students Cassandra Lee Hailey, 18, and Richard Keith Call, 20, were reported missing after attending a party in the University Square area in Newport News during their first date together. Call's red 1982 Toyota Celica was found, unoccupied, at the York River Overlook on the Colonial Parkway the next day with some articles of clothing inside. Neither body has been found, but both are presumed dead.
On October 19, 1989, the bodies of Annamaria Phelps, 18, and Daniel Lauer, 21, were found in New Kent County by hunters in the woods near a rest area on Interstate 64 between Williamsburg and Richmond. Phelps had been dating Lauer's brother at the time they went missing on September 5, 1989, Labor Day weekend, when they vanished en route to Virginia Beach. The hunters discovered the bodies on a logging road about a quarter-of-a-mile from Courthouse Road, a location about a mile from the I-64 New Kent rest stop where Lauer's gold 1972 Chevrolet Nova had been found heading in the wrong direction, away from their intended Virginia Beach destination. At least one of the badly decomposed bodies appears to have suffered knife wounds.
Media Coverage, Television Reports and Podcasts
In 1996, the unsolved case of the Colonial Parkway Murders was presented on national television on the program Real Stories of the Highway Patrol, a series that aired from 1993-1999. Actor Steve Altes portrayed the killer.
In 2007, the disappearance and presumed murder of Cassandra Hailey and Keith Call were featured in the Investigation Discovery program Sensing Murder, whereby investigators brought in psychics Pam Coronado and Laurie Campbell to gain new insights into the crimes. The show mentioned that this disappearance may be part of the Colonial Parkway Murders. Psychic Pam Coronado felt that the killings were all related but that the location of the cars were not where the actual violence occurred.
In 2008, E! Entertainment Television presented a full-length documentary, "THS Investigates Serial Killers on the Loose," which features a segment on the Colonial Parkway Murders.
In February 2016, journalist/attorney Allison Hope Weiner interviewed Bill Thomas, brother of murder victim Cathleen Thomas, as part of an overview of the Colonial Parkway Murders on her Los Angeles based show Crime Time.
In February to May, 2016, the Unsolved Podcast in Baltimore, MD did a four-part podcast series, each episode focused on one of the double homicides in the Colonial Parkway Murders.
In August and September 2016, the "Real Crime Profile" podcast produced in Los Angeles, CA ran a series with four hour-long episodes featuring retired FBI Profiler Jim Clemente, writer/producer on Criminal Minds and New Scotland Yard Behavioral Analyst Laura Richards speaking with Bill Thomas, brother of Colonial Parkway Murders victim Cathleen Thomas.
In October 2016, there was extensive coverage of the 30th anniversary of the Colonial Parkway Murders, including an 8 part multimedia presentation by the Daily Press Newspaper.
In January and February 2017, the "Shattered Lives" podcast featured two episodes with Parkway victim's siblings Bill Thomas, Joyce Call and Jennifer Phelps discussing the 30th Anniversary of the Colonial Parkway Murders and the status of the investigation.
In September 2017, the True Crime Critique podcast with host Jeremy Ryan welcomed Colonial Parkway Murders brother and advocate Bill Thomas.
On May 4, 2018, the Colonial Parkway Murders were featured in a live panel discussion at CrimeCon 2018 in Nashville, TN with former FBI agent Maureen O'Connell moderating a panel with true crime author Blaine Pardoe, and victim siblings and advocates Joyce Call Canada and Bill Thomas.
On July 7, 2018, The Murder In My Family podcast launched with host Mike Morford and guest Bill Thomas discussing Cathy Thomas and the Colonial Parkway Murders.
Assistance of Detective Spingola
In June 2010, the victims' families requested the assistance of a retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and featured investigator on Cold Justice Steve Spingola, a detective with a national reputation for excellence. After visiting the crime scenes, Spingola spoke with family members, tipsters, and law enforcement veterans. In August 2010, Spingola released Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders, a 29-page magazine article that detailed his findings.
Spingola proposed that the murders are the work of different killers, especially the slayings of Cathleen Thomas and Rebecca Dowski. The former homicide detective believes the Thomas-Dowski crimes are directly linked to the deaths of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams who were found with their throats slashed in the Shenandoah National Park, 180 miles west of the Colonial Parkway, in 1996.
After Spingola's team of investigative journalists (known as the Spingola Files (SF), after their Web site's online moniker) visited Yorktown, Virginia, a family member of one of the victims searched the belongings of her deceased relative. A note was discovered that may identify a possible person of interest in one of the couple-homicides. While the Virginia State Police claim the information in this note was previously examined, one of the lead investigators at the time of 1989 murders told a television reporter from WAVY that he could not recall such a note.
Spingola's lengthy magazine article has its critics. A family member of one of the victims claimed the former detective sought to profit from his writings. In Predators on the Parkway, Spingola also described the vehicle of a possible person of interest mentioned in the recovered note, which a family member of a victim dubbed "irrelevant" to the overall investigation. But Spingola and his SF staff insist that the note found in a victim's belongings is "very significant" and that the proceeds from Predators on the Parkway are used to off-set costs associated with records requests and travel to explore other unsolved homicides.
Books based in the Colonial Parkway Murders Case
"A Special Kind of Evil: The Colonial Parkway Serial Killings", a new book on the Colonial Parkway Murders by true crime authors Blaine Pardoe and Victoria Hester, was released by WildBlue Press on July 12, 2017.
Colonial Parkway Murders Investigation Status
In September 2009, after the story broke on CBS News affiliate WTKR that nearly 80 highly graphic crime scene photographs of Colonial Parkway Murders victims were used inappropriately to instruct a class by a retired and now deceased former FBI photographer, the FBI reopened its investigation of the Colonial Parkway murders. Former WTKR Investigative Reporter Mike Mather and investigators soon found that much of the evidence, stowed for over two decades, had yet to be tested for DNA and other trace evidence.
Responding to the resulting media and family member criticism, a team from FBI Norfolk and FBI Headquarters met with the victims' families in January 2010. FBI agents were reassigned to what had been a cold case, and dozens of pieces of evidence were then submitted to the FBI Quantico crime lab for DNA and other trace analysis. The FBI told the victims' families that the results of some of the DNA testing should be available initially the latter part of 2010. Testing of additional crime scene evidence and interviews of suspects have continued through 2017, and the Colonial Parkway Murders families have requested new forensic techniques be utilized.
As of July 2018, the killer or killers have not yet been identified, and the investigation continues. FBI and Virginia State Police investigators have speculated that the suspect might be a law enforcement officer, a National Park Service Ranger or someone impersonating one, or perhaps a rogue operative from the Central Intelligence Agency, which has a training facility nearby at Camp Peary in York County. Some investigators believe the Colonial Parkway Murders were committed by more than one perpetrator working as a team.
October 9–17, 2016 Parkway: Three Years Eight Deaths No Answers 8 part series Daily Press, Newport News, VA
- Lohr, David (September 6, 2011). "Fred Atwell, Controversial Figure In Colonial Parkway Murders, Arrested In Georgia". Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- Colonial Parkway Killer, Steve Altes, John O'Callaghan, Michael C. Pizzuto, 1996, retrieved 2018-01-28
- "Sensing Murder" Parkway Mystery (TV Episode 2007), retrieved 2018-01-28
- "The Colonial Parkway Murders | Dark Minds". www.investigationdiscovery.com. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
- "The Parkway". Flat Hat News. 2015-10-23. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
- Galore, Heidi. "Unsolved Podcast". www.unsolvedpodcast.com. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
- "Parkway". Daily Press.
- Jon Burkett (May 17, 2010). "New Investigator Looking into the Colonial Parkway Murders". Archived from the original on May 20, 2010.
- "The Spingola Group". Badgerwordsmith.com. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
- Spingola, Steven (August 3, 2010). Predators on the Parkway: A Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders (Spingola Files Book 2) (1st ed.). Badger Wordsmith LLC. p. 37.
- "Spingola Files". Badgerwordsmith.com. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
- "New details published in Colonial Parkway murders". wktr.com. August 10, 2010. Archived from the original on October 31, 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
- "Is note a break in Colonial Parkway murders?". Wavy-TV 10. August 10, 2010. Archived from the original on October 30, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
- "A SPECIAL KIND OF EVIL Sheds Light On the Horrific Colonial Parkway Serial Killings • WildBlue Press". WildBlue Press. 2017-07-12. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
- Zen4Dummies., The Zen Cart® Team. Webmaster Support by. "23 Miles Renee MacKenzie- by Renee MacKenzie - lesbian ebooks  - $7.99 : Affinity Rainbow Publications Lesbian Publishers, Our company is committed to produce quality, affordable works of fictional literature". affinityrainbowpublications.com. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
- Mackenzie, Renee (2015-02-28). 23 Miles (1 edition ed.). Affinity Ebook Press NZ LTD.
- Mike Mather (September 22, 2009). "Sensitive FBI photos from Colonial Parkway murders leaked to the public". Wtkr.com. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
- Mike Mather (September 23, 2009). "FBI takes new approach in hunt for Colonial Parkway killer". Wtkr.com. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
- October 8, 1989 Unsolved Cases Lead To QueryDaily Press (Virginia)
- June 22, 1992: Psychologist: Parkway killer probably had partner Daily Press (Virginia)
- July 24, 1996: FBI looks for link in hiker deaths Daily Press (Virginia)
- Aug. 4, 1996: Scenic road still associated with murdersDaily Press (Virginia)
- September 22, 2009: Crime Scene Photos from Colonial Parkway Leaked by FBI WTKR-TV, Norfolk, Virginia
- September 23, 2009: New DNA Approach May Help Solve Colonial Parkway Case WTKR-TV, Norfolk, Virginia
- October 7, 2009: FBI Meets With Family of Serial Killer Victim WTKR-TV, Norfolk, Virginia
- October 8, 2009: Crime Scene Photos from Parkway Case in Public Domain Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia
- April 2, 2010: Authorities Reexamine 'Colonial Parkway' Killings in Virginia Washington Post, Washington, DC
- April 16, 2010: Agent stalks dark path of serial killer Part 1 in series Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, Virginia
- April 16, 2010: Serial Killer's Trademark: Cool, in Control Part 2 in series Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, Virginia
- April 16, 2010: Scores of Suspects-- But No Serial Killer Part 3 in series Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, Virginia
- April 18, 2010: A Cold Case Heats Up: The Colonial Parkway Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, Virginia
- May 9, 2010: Families Seek Action on Unsolved Slayings Freelance Star, Fredericksburg, VA
- October 24, 2010: Victims Families Are Still Waiting Freelance Star, Fredericksburg, VA
- August 3, 2010: "Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders" Badger Wordsmith
- August 12, 2011: Colonial Parkway Murders by Michelle McNamara, True Crime Diary
- September 6, 2011: Fred Atwell, Controversial Figure in Colonial Parkway Murders Arrested by David Lohr from The Huffington Post
- October 14, 2012: The Colonial Parkway Murders: 26 years Cold by Jennifer Bland, Cold Case Squad
- October 29, 2012: The Colonial Parkway Murders, The Stories Project
- April 10, 2013: Dark Minds: Colonial Parkway Murders, Season 2, Episode 7, The Investigation Discovery Channel
- November 20, 2014: Murder Victim's Family Says Investigators Need More Cooperation, WAVY-TV. Norfolk, VA
- June 1, 2015: Fiction book 23 Miles by Renee MacKenzie, based on the 1986 Thomas/Dowski murder, Affinity Books
- October 29, 2015: from "Flat Hat 2015 3-part podcast series, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA
- February 4, 2016: Crime Time Colonial Parkway Murders with host Allison Hope Weiner, TheLipTV
- May 30, 2016 Unsolved Podcast 4 part podcast series, Baltimore, MD
- August 16, 2016 Investigators, loved ones still seek answers in Colonial Parkway murders, WAVY-TV, Norfolk, VA
- August 18, 2016 Families of Murdered Loved Ones Search for Answers 30 Years Later, WVEC-TV, Hampton Roads, VA
- August 28, 2016 Unsolved: Colonial Parkway Murders Near 30th Anniversary As Families Hold Out Hope, WTKR-TV, Hampton Roads, VA
- August 18, 2016 Real Crime Profile Podcast 'Colonial Parkway Murders One,' Episode 32, Los Angeles, CA
- August 24, 2016 Real Crime Profile Podcast 'Colonial Parkway Murders Two,' Episode 33, Los Angeles, CA
- August 31, 2016 Real Crime Profile Podcast 'Colonial Parkway Murders Three,' Episode 34, Los Angeles, CA
- September 7, 2016 Real Crime Profile Podcast 'Colonial Parkway Murders Four,' Episode 35, Los Angeles, CA
- October 12, 2016 Special Report: The Colonial Parkway Murders - 30 Years Ago WAVY-TV, Norfolk, VA
- October 9-17, 2016 Parkway: Three Years Eight Deaths No Answers 8 part series Daily Press, Newport News, VA
- October 8, 2016 The Killer Could Still Be Out There Somewhere, Virginian-Daily Pilot, Norfolk, VA
- October 8, 2016 Link to Map of Colonial Parkway Murders Sites, Virginian-Daily Pilot, Norfolk, VA
- October 8, 2016 After 30 years, Relatives of Victims in Parkway Murders Hope for Break in Cases, Richmond Times Dispatch, Richmond, VA
- January 7, 2017 30th Anniversary of Colonial Parkway Murders, Shattered Lives Podcast
- July 12, 2017 True Crime Book Released: A Special Kind of Evil: The Colonial Parkway Serial Killings
- August 7, 2017 Father-daughter authors hope their new book will help solve the Colonial Parkway Murders
- September 11, 2017 Is the 'Colonial Parkway Killer' Still Out There? Investigation Discovery Crimefeed
- September 14, 2017 The Colonial Parkway Murders: A Brother's Refusal to Surrender with Bill Thomas True Crime Critique Podcast New York, NY
- September 18, 2017 The Colonial Parkway Murders 30 Years Later: Robin Edwards WVEC 13 News Now, Norfolk, VA
- September 21, 2017 The Colonial Parkway Murders: 30 Years Later WAVY-TV, Norfolk, VA
- September 25, 2017 Unsolved: Mystery Continues 30 Years After Colonial Parkway Murders WTKR 3 News Norfolk, VA
- November 15, 2017 Family: New DNA testing Could Crack Colonial Parkway Murders Case WVEC 13 News Now, Norfolk, VA
- December 17, 2017 Interview with Bill Thomas, brother of Colonial Parkway Murders Victim Cathleen Thomas in Books, Bullets and Bad Omens Blog
- March 4, 2018 Article and Interview with Bill Thomas in True Crime Alley Blog
- April 9, 2018 30 Years Later, Still No Sign of Keith Call or Cassandra Hailey WTKR 3 News, Norfolk, VA
- April 10, 2018 Call and Hailey Families Search for Answers 30 Years Later WVEC 13 News Now, Norfolk, VA
- April 9, 2018 30 Years Later: The Colonial Parkway Murders Part One WAVY-TV, Norfolk, VA
- April 10, 2018 30 Years Later: The Colonial Parkway Murders Part Two WAVY-TV, Norfolk, VA
- July 7, 2018 The Murder In My Family podcast with host Mike Morford and guest Bill Thomas discuss Cathy Thomas and the Colonial Parkway Murders