In the late 1980s, the Colonial Parkway murders sent a cold shiver through Virginia. For four years in a row, random couples driving along the 23-mile stretch of road between Yorktown and Jamestown would be found dead in or somewhere near their cars, often on holiday weekends. But as quickly as the murders began, they came to an abrupt end. The Virginia serial killer was never caught and many investigators within the FBI believe that this killer or killers who targeted couples is still at large.
Serial killers often aren't caught for a long time. And many of them take years to get to a place where they’re comfortable murdering large groups of people in a short period of time. If the FBI is correct, the Colonial Parkway Killer wasn’t like other serial killers. The Colonial Parkway Killer probably moved around, changed their M.O. and may have taken extended breaks to let the heat cool on their crimes. This is one of the most fascinating unsolved murder sprees ever recorded, and the Colonial Parkway Killer is truly one of the most frightening serial killers who was never caught.
Lovers Cathleen Thomas and Rebecca Ann Dowski Were Horrifically Murdered In Their CarPhoto: WAVY TV 10 / YouTube
The first murders in this string of roadside crimes occurred on October 12, 1986. Cathleen Thomas and Rebecca Ann Dowski, two women in their 20s, had yet to come out about their secret relationship and often traveled down the highways of Virginia for some alone time. Their bodies were discovered in Thomas' car; they'd both been strangled and their throats were cut so badly that they were nearly decapitated. To add insult to injury their bodies and the car had been doused in diesel fuel which had failed to ignite. There were signs of a struggle, but it was obvious from the scene that they hadn't been able to put up much of a fight against the perpetrator. The only key piece of evidence from the scene that the police were able to gleam is that the murders weren't due a botched robbery; both Thomas and Dowski's purses were intact.
David Knobling And 14-Year-Old Robin Edwards Were Murdered Execution-StylePhoto: YouTube
Almost a year after the deaths of Cathleen and Rebecca, the bodies of David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, were discovered in the Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge, on the south shore of the James River in Isle of Wight County, near Smithfield, Virginia. They were both shot in the back of the head, execution style, a completely different approach from the earlier set of murders. Knobling's car was found three days prior to the discovery of the bodies. His keys were in the ignition, his wallet was on the seat, and the radio was still on. According to reports there was a bullet in Knobling's left shoulder as well as his head, leading investigators to believe that he tried to break away from the killer.
Cassandra Lee Hailey and Richard Keith Call Went Missing After A PartyPhoto: Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY)
The third set of murders that have been assigned to the Colonial Parkway Killer happened a few months after the discovery of Knobling and Edwards. While Cassandra Hailey and Richard Call's disappearances has similarities to the previous murder, the case once again presents a different M.O. Hailey and Call were both students at Christopher Newport University and after going to a party in Newport News on April 9, 1988, the couple simply disappeared. After their disappearance Call's red 1982 Toyota Celica was found at the York River Overlook with a few pieces of clothing inside. That's where the similarities to the previous case ends. Neither Hailey nor Call's bodies were ever discovered and the two students are presumed dead. Investigators think it's possible that the couple went skinny dipping and drowned, but Call's family finds this explanation to be dubious at best.
Annamaria Phelps And Daniel Lauer Weren't Found Until Their Bodies Had Decomposed Into SkeletonsPhoto: WAVY TV 10 / YouTube
The final murders attributed to the Colonial Parkway Killer once again have a slightly altered methodology and they're confusing to say the least. Annamaria Phelps, 18, and Daniel Lauer, 21, went missing on Labor Day weekend, 1989, during a trip to Virginia Beach. According to sources, Phelps was dating Lauer's brother but there is suspicion that Annamaria and Daniel were up to something due to Lauer's car being discovered at a rest stop on the westbound side of the road in New Kent County - which is in the opposite direction of Virginia Beach.
Their bodies were discovered by a pair of hunters six weeks later on October 19, 1989, in the woods near Richmond. The corpses were covered in an electric blanket that had been taken from Lauer's car. Despite intense decomposition investigators were able to surmise that Phelps had been stabbed multiple times, but at the time it was impossible to determine the cause of Lauer's death.