The Parkway Predator – My Thoughts

I have never been able to decide which side of the fence my beliefs firmly rest in this case although if I was forced to pick a side, I would have to believe there was a serial killer on the loose. Granted this case does not fit the typical pattern where the MO of the offender is identical in every case however, the cooling off period and the geographic location in each instance makes the possibility of a serial offender too difficult to ignore.

Five young couples cut down before they could even experience the prime of their lives by an individual who seemed to kill for his own twisted purposes and to see how he could increase the excitement he felt with each attack. What ever was going on in such an obviously psychotic mind seemed to enjoy the experimentation of each instance. Unfortunately we may never gain an insight into this deranged mind, serial killer or not.

The Dowski-Thomas may fit all the hallmarks of a Hate Crime, Just like the Call-Hailey case may seem like the work of a stalker or a jealous partner. Perhaps all of these cases were tragically a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the one thing that discredits this possibility to me is how could couples have been controlled by a single individual. Like the commonly considered factor that it would have been simple for an authority figure or someone impersonating one.

A Police Officer, Park Ranger or a failed attempt at one. Someone who tried to gain acceptance within their ranks but at some stage either became intoxicated with the status of said position or someone who tried to be one but failed and set out on a path of revenge. An individual who decided that he would show law enforcement what he was capable of doing when they told him he was not cut from the cloth they sought.

The way the driver’s side window at least partially rolled down as if they were preparing to greet such a public figure in a routine procedure of checking their identification and simply scoping out the behaviour of those individuals present in any given area. This commonality in each case proved to be the genesis for my belief that this series was the work a serial killer. However given the somewhat failed attempt to cover their tracks in the Dowski-Thomas case, a new consideration came into my mind.

Although now I reside in the United States, I spent most of my life in Australia. In Australia, the name Ivan Milat is synonymous with cold blooded murder. A man who abducted tourists and brutally murdered them in the Belanglo State Forest of New South Wales. The similarities to me are somewhat striking. A calculating individual who lured unsuspecting, good willed people to their deaths by preying on their forgiving nature.

He would lure them into a false sense of security for brutally murdering them, much like the suspect I believe in this case would have done. Yet to this day some of those involved with this case believe that Ivan Milat did not act alone in the cases that he his attributed to. The Milat family had a long history of clashes with law enforcement and made ideal candidates to be considered co-conspirators in a case of serial murder. Perhaps Ivan involved his brothers, Perhaps he did not. Still the crimes seemed like it would be farfetched for a single individual to have carried out.

Controlling another individual while you are caught up in the murder of another. I find it hard to believe that I would not try to escape and get help while a deranged killer took the life of my friend. Yes, I have never been in that situation so I cannot testify to how I would react but it simply seems like an instinctual behaviour to try and preserve ones self.

This is what I cannot help wonder about The Colonial Parkway Predator, did he act alone? For someone Law Enforcement agencies cannot agree upon as a single perpetrator, it can surely not be too much of a stretch to consider that a third party took part in these heinous acts. After all, the suspect would have needed to control two people who are terrified and doing whatever they must to survive.

In the Call-Hailey case, it would most likely suggest that the perpetrator did not immediately make his evil intentions clear as the next morning came and Keith’s father did not notice anything suspicious about the vehicle. If the suspect had of immediately proceeded to engage in murderous intentions then there would have been some form of indication present at this time. This is where I feel the suspect failed in covering his tracks in a manner of speaking. The evidence present in vehicle or lack there of gives us the same MO as the other cases in that the offender or offenders managed to remove the suspects from the vehicle before any sense of alarm was raised.

Like Milat, One can only believe that the suspect gained some initial form of trust with their victims and it was not until they were completely vulnerable would he strike. Like any predator, they would wait until the victims were completely unsuspecting of any misgivings before their intentions became apparent. Perhaps he engaged them in dialogue of some kind along the lines of “how was your night?” and “Where are you headed?”. Then when he had them drop their guard, it was time to engage in his horrific plans.

By the time the victims realised what was happening it would have been too late, the suspect would have been in complete control of the scene. After then all we can do is speculate up until the victims were found after the fact. But that raises even greater questions, who was the The Colonial Parkway Killer and more importantly, where is he now?. Like I have already mentioned, I would not even consider it a stretch of the present facts to consider it a question of – who were they and where are they now?…

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The Parkway Predator

In the 1980’s along a historic parkway, the cliche Hollywood horror film was being carried out in the state of Virginia. Beginning in 1986, over a three year course four couples were murdered along the Colonial Parkway and to this day – this case remains unsolved. Were these cases connected? Was a Serial Killer responsible? Perhaps we will never know… 

 

The series began on October 12, 1986 when a couple was found brutally murdered in their car. It was a popular spot for couples given the seclusion this particular spot provided. However somebody managed to find Cathleen Thomas, 27, and Rebecca Dowski, 21. While they enjoyed each others company, the suspect approached the car and caught them off guard. He then forced them from their car and tried a number of different techniques to murder the two women before strangling and cutting their throats. They would be found days later stuffed inside Cathy’s car after it had been pushed down an embankment.

 

Before pushing the car down the embankment the suspect had made a futile attempt to set the car alight using diesel fuel and matches. The level of violence displayed by the killer shocked many of those involved with this case. It lead some to believe that this could only have been committed by someone who knew both of the victims and had some form of score to settle. Both of the victims former partners were investigated but never charged and there was no evidence of sexual assault. This lead some to believe a far more sinister scenario…

 

The drivers side window was rolled down and Cathy’s wallet with her drivers license lay on the floor just next to the door, giving birth to the theory that the suspect may have been a Park Ranger or another form of authority figure. Investigators found complaints against a Ranger from a number of women that claimed he had harassed them and made a variety of inappropriate comments towards them. However, the Ranger in question was interrogated by Police but never charged. 

 

Some may have thought this terrible tragedy as an isolated case until almost a year later, the unthinkable happened again. September 22nd, 1987, David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, stopped at another lovers lane along the James River only 20 miles South from where the Dowski-Thomas murders took place. At some point during the course of the night a suspect must have walked up to their car and forced them to exit the vehicle. Again the drivers side window was rolled down partially but this time the terror would play out differently. 

 

Knobling and Edwards were marched into the woods at gunpoint by the suspect and were eventually gunned down in cold blood. The scene suggests that Robin was killed first and after realising was happening, David tried to make a run for it before being cut down the killers bullet. They again would be found three days later lying in the mud. David’s truck was first found abandoned before their bodies would be located by David’s father. 

 

Some were skeptical that these two cases were related given the different approach taken by the suspect to commit the crimes. That debate still exists today. However those who do believe in the connection believe the suspect was in a stage of evolution in his approach to murder. They particularly note that much like the former, the state of the vehicle suggests the couple had an encounter with an authority figure of some kind. The partially rolled down window might suggest to some that they thought it was mere routine encounter with law enforcement and thought they just wanted to question them. Could it have been a Park Ranger, a Police Officer or worse – Someone impersonating one…

 

Someone who approaches the car with a torch pointed towards the car much like Police Officers do. Given the level of control the suspect exhibited in someone forcing both couples from their vehicles before carrying out his crimes. It is not hard to procure the necessary items to impersonate a member of law enforcement, particularly if you only need a few moments to establish control over a couple sitting in a vehicle. But by this point in the investigation, detectives had no idea that shroud of darkness that has enveloped this case would only continue to grow.

 

On April 9th, 1988, A Third Couple were believed to have been murdered when Cassandra Hailey, 18 and Keith Call disappeared while driving along the Parkway. On their first date together, they were going to the movies and then to a party at the university. Around 1.30AM, Keith and Cassandra were seen walking through the parking lot as they left the party. What happened next? Perhaps we will never know…

 

The next morning Keith’s father would find his son’s car abandoned next to an overlook along the Parkway, not far from where Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Dowski were found murdered almost two years earlier. After stopping to observe the car, he noticed the keys were not in the ignition and there was no trace of Keith or Cassandra. But that would not be the case when the investigators would arrive at around 7.00AM.

 

When they arrived to the scene, Keith’s car was littered with items of clothing belonging to both him and Ms. Hailey. Which could only lead to one conclusion and that is somebody had returned to the vehicle after forcing both Keith and Cassandra from the car. Initially they believed that the couple had gone swimming in the lake and drowned and would be found in a few days. But even then they felt that theory was a stretch given the incline of the hill down to the lake next to where the car was found and how cold the water was at that time of year.

 

Even so the idea that a serial killer being active at this stage of the series was yet to be considered so without a body, they had almost nothing to go on. But when days turn into weeks and weeks to years, the mystery of what happened to Keith and Cassandra that night along the Parkway remains uncertain. However, the only conceivable option is that they encountered the same individual responsible for the Knobling-Edwards and Dowski-Thomas murders in years past.

 

This would not be the last time the suspect would strike. On the 19th of October 1989, hunters found the bodies of Annamaria Phelps, 18 and Daniel Lauer, 21 in the woods near a rest stop along the Interstate 64 between Williamsburg and Richmond. Ms. Phelps was helping her Dan move into from Amelia County into the home she shared with her boyfriend, Dan’s elder brother, in Virginia Beach.

 

But as the next morning came and went, nobody had heard from Anna or Dan. Their vehicle was then located but on the opposite side of the freeway from the direction they were travelling. Some would suggest that this would indicate that the killer used Dan’s car to dump the bodies. A theory further supported by the vegetation found underneath the vehicle matched to that of the surrounding woods. But by the time they are found, much of the physical evidence had been washed away by the elements. All they were able to determine was that it was likely the victims were stabbed by the perpetrator.

 

However, one of the most consistent trademarks of the suspect was apparent. The slightly rolled down window suggesting they had stopped to talk to the suspect as if he were some of law enforcement figure. Maybe it was a Park Ranger, Maybe it was a Police Officer, but to this day nobody knows. By now one thing was apparent to all those involved, a serial predator hunting apparent young lovers along the parkway. 

 

Even to this day, that is all we know. There isn’t even a composite sketch of the suspect. The closest thing to even identifying the suspect we have on record occurred the night Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey disappeared. Keith’s older brother was driving home late that same night and noticed a dark coloured van speeding away from the same area of where his brothers car would be found only hours later.

 

No suspects have ever been named in these crimes, only theories as to who the offender was. Families have been left in complete disarray by these crimes and it appears we are no closer to a resolution. Some even believe that this was not the work of a serial killer despite the similarities in each of the cases. Some believe that the Dowski/Thomas case was a hate crime.

 

Almost ten years later, some believe the suspect struck again. In May of 1996 at the Shenandoah National Park, another couple was found brutally murdered in a manner that resembled the Dowski/Thomas murders. Julie Williams and Lollie Winans were a couple simply seeking an escape to a place where they could be together and enjoy each others company. 

 

Until an evil, sadistic individual had other ideas. The couple would be found with their throats slashed from left to right – just like the Dowski/Thomas case a decade prior. Albeit nearly 200 miles from where the Dowski/Thomas case occurred, one cannot help but wonder if the two cases are related given the obvious similarity in the modus operandi of the offender.

 

Perhaps  these cases are all unrelated except for the Williams/Winans & Dowski/Thomas cases and we are hunting multiple suspects rather than a single individual. But one thing should remain constant in the minds of all those who ever research this case, that no matter if it is proven to be one offender or multiple, the victims and their families deserve the justice that they have sought for the past nearly thirty years.

 

Maybe one day we will know the truth in its entirety, but until then all we can do is hope. Hope that Law Enforcement finds whomever or whoever was responsible for these heinous crimes and will be bought to trial. One thing remains certain in this case and that is that five couples were murdered and that each deserve to see justice. Regardless of whether it is with this prosecution of a single individual or multiple, Ten young people were taken just when they had the world at their fingertips and they deserve to have their voices heard in a court of law. 

 

 

 

 

The Springfield Three

The Springfield Three

Graduation – A proud time for both students and parents alike. When children take one of the final steps into adulthood and begin on the path they have chosen for their lives. Parents can take a moment to reflect with pride on the success they have had praising their child. The end of high school is simply one of the most significant times in every person’s life.

On the 6th of June, 1992 in Springfield, Missouri, two young girls had just graduated and were ready to begin the celebrations that come with the occasion. Stacy McCall and Suzanne Streeter arrived at a party thrown by one of their peers for what should have been a joyous occasion. After celebrating the occasion with friends like anyone would until approximately 2 AM on the 7th of June. Originally planning to spend the night at a another friends home, they chose to return home to Suzie’s mother’s home after their friends home became too crowded

Suzie’s mother, Sherrill Levitt was a single mother who had moved into a nearby property and became their solution for a place to stay after the party. Especially close to her daughter Suzie, Sherrill was a hardworking hair stylist who was highly sought after in her local area. She had moved into her new home after her marriage fell apart but she capitalized on her situation by laying plans to renovate and make a profit on her new home.

However she would never get that opportunity, by the next morning the three women would have disappeared completely. Sometime during the night between 2 AM when Suzie and Stacy left their friends home and 9 AM when friends and family began calling Stacy, the three women vanished. By the end of June 7th 1992, it appeared as if the three women had disappeared without a trace.

A friend by the name of Janelle Kirby along with her boyfriend were the first to arrive at the house after having plans with Stacy and Suzie. Upon her arrival nothing seemed to be wrong but as she approached the front door that perception would quickly change. Broken glass was spread across the front door step from the porch light casing, however the bulb itself remained intact.  

In doing what they thought what was a friendly gesture, they grabbed a broom and swept up the glass. However this may have proved a hindrance to the later investigation as although done with good intentions, they may have contaminated a possible crime scene. Upon entering the home, there were no signs of struggle and all of the three women’s belongings were left untouched.

Detectives cannot confirm if that were the case, however numerous individuals passed through the scene after the fact that it would be difficult to be certain. This also lead many to think that the three missing women would turn up in due time and everything would be fine. But hours turned into days, it became clear to all those involved that something was seriously wrong.

Janelle and her boyfriend also discovered that the family dog was acting rather distressed as if something was wrong and left unattended which was highly unusual for an owner like Sherrill. While feeling slightly confused they assumed the girls had gone to the Water Park like they had planned already and prepare to depart the home to meet them.

Just before exiting the property however, the home phone began to ring and Janelle answered in the hope of gaining insight into the whereabouts of her friends. However she was greeted what she believed to be a prank call as the caller gave no identification and only communicated obscure sexual innuendos. Believing this to be a simple joke as the call ended abruptly, the couple departed home albeit slightly concerned.

The next visitor to the home would be the mother of Stacey McCall. Frustrated by her daughters abrupt change of plans as she was given no form of notice by her daughter but knows there is nothing she can do. Stacey made a last minute decision to stay at Suzie’s house as she had previously had other plans. After almost twenty four hours of wondering where her daughter could be as they had plans for the day she arrived at the house.

It did not take her long to also notice that something was wrong as she entered reluctantly. She noticed that her daughter’s clothes were neatly folded and left on one of the floor. Every item of clothing was present except for her daughters underwear. Also each of the handbags of all three ladies were lined up next to each other on the floor. Whilst continuing around the house, she also noticed the handbags of all three missing women lined up neatly. Finally before leaving she noticed that the television screen has all fuzzy and distorted.

Departing reluctantly, Janice contacted the police. The next morning a missing persons report was filed for the three missing women. It was then that law enforcement requested asked Janice to track down dental records for the three missing women. It was now that the tragedy of this event began to come to bare. Mrs McCall however, decided to be proactive given the tragic situation. Only twenty-four hours after graduation, she generated and distributed missing person’s posters of her daughter and the other missing women…

To be continued…

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