Local murder case reopened
April 13, 2010
A cold case that remains fresh in the memories of many local residents could soon be re-examined.
After newly discovered crime scene photos of the so-called Colonial Parkway murders were leaked in March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has said there is possibility of a complete review of the killings.
FBI Department of Internal Investigations said that the leak came from a former photographer for the agency.
“The agents that have been assigned to the [cases] are mandated to do regular case reviews,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
The bodies of Cathleen Thomas and Rebecca Dowski ’87 were found in a ditch by the side of the Colonial Parkway east of Interstate 64 Oct. 12, 1986. The case has remained unsolved — with no new leads — since 1989.
A string of three potentially related homicides occurred within reasonable distance soon after the deaths of Thomas and Dowski. The bodies of David Knobling and Robin Edwards were found in 1987 near Isle of Wight, across the James River from Newport News. In 1988, Richard Call and Cassandra Hailey disappeared near the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, and are presumed to have been murdered, although no remains have ever been recovered. In 1989, the bodies of Anna Phelps and Daniel Lauer were found at a rest stop near I-64 in New Kent County.
While none of the cases have been closed, the leaks have led the FBI — which led the investigations of the original murders — to begin a complete review of the cases, using technologies that were not available in the 80s. The reward for the cases has also been doubled to $20,000.
While the murders came to a halt in 1989 without an arrest, the investigations have been open for more than 20 years. The original investigators — and many of their replacements — have since retired, or moved to new positions within the police force.