Inside the terrifying mystery of the ‘lovers’ lane’ murders: True-crime series revisits Virginia road where EIGHT people were brutally killed in the 1980s – as all four double homicides remain unsolved
- WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES
- Oxygen’s two-night true-crime special Lovers’ Lane Murders focuses on the slaying of eight men and women at the Colonial Parkway in Virginia
- The double homicides took play over a four-year span, starting with the murder of Cathy Thomas, 27, and Rebecca ‘Becky’ Dowski, 21, in October 1986
- Nearly a year later, David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, were found shot in the head along the bank of the James River in September 1987
- Christopher Newport University students Richard CallLess, 20, and Cassandra Hailey, 18, vanished in April 1988 after attending a party together
- CallLess’s car was found at a York River, but their bodies were never discovered
- In September 1989, Daniel Lauer, 21, and Annamaria Phelps, 18, went missing on their way to Virginia Beach, but their bodies weren’t found until a month later
- All four double homicides remain unsolved and are active investigations
A new documentary is exploring a string of unsolved double homicides that occurred at a ‘lovers’ lane’ in Virginia more than three decades ago, as experts try to figure out if the murders were the work of a serial killer or just a gruesome coincidence.
Premiering on February 11, Oxygen’s two-night true-crime special Lovers’ Lane Murders focuses on the slaying of eight men and women at the Colonial Parkway, a 23-mile stretch that links the historic towns of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.
‘Urban legends usually come out of some seed of truth,’ former prosecutor and Lovers’ Lane Murders co-host Loni Coombs explains in a preview clip. ‘Lovers’ lanes — they are places that killers target.’
Scroll down for video
Unsolved mystery: A team of experts delve into the Colonial Parkway murders in Virginia in the 1980s in Oxygen’s two-night true-crime special Lovers’ Lane Murders
Deep dive: Forensic criminologist Laura Pettler explains in a preview clip that her job is to ‘take everything we know and we reconstruct the scene’
The site: The Colonial Parkway in Virginia – a 23-mile stretch of road known as Lovers’ Lane (pictured) – was the site of four double homicides in the 1980s, all of which remain unsolved
Cathy Thomas, a 27-year-old graduate of the Naval Academy, and Rebecca ‘Becky’ Dowski, a 21-year-old student at the College of William and Mary, were the first two known victims in the homicides that have been dubbed the Colonial Parkway murders.
They had been dating for several months and went missing on October 9, 1986, after they were seen leaving the College of William and Mary computer lab together.
Three days later, over Columbus Day weekend, their bodies were found bound with rope inside Thomas’s white 1980 Honda Civic, which had been pushed down an embankment off of the Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg.
They had been strangled and their throats were slashed, though there was no evidence of sexual assault. Diesel fuel had been poured over the bodies and their car, but it failed to ignite. Without any leads, the case went cold.
Nearly a year later, David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, were found shot in the head, execution-style after their bodies had washed up along the bank of the James River at Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge on September 22, 1987.
The two had been missing since September 19, though Robin’s family initially thought she had run away as she had in the past.
Knobling had taken Edwards out with his younger brother and cousin that day. After he dropped her off that night, she snuck out to meet him.
It’s unclear what they were doing together.
Knobling, who worked at his father’s landscaping business, was expecting a baby with his longtime girlfriend.
The locations of the two sets of murders were just 30 minutes apart, and investigators linked the cases together, but both of them have remained unsolved.
Clue? Thomas’s wallet was found open and face down on the floorboard of the driver’s side
Horrific: Their bodies were found bound with rope inside the vehicle
On April 10, 1988, Christopher Newport University students Richard CallLess, 20, and Cassandra Hailey, 18, vanished after attending a party together in Newport News. It was their first date.
A day later, CallLess’s Toyota Celica was found at a York River overlook that was only a few miles away from where Thomas and Dowski had been murdered two years prior.
CallLess’s wallet and Hailey’s purse were found inside the car along with most of their clothing. Investigators have never been able to locate their bodies, but they’re presumed dead.
A year and a half later, Daniel Lauer, 21, and Annamaria Phelps, 18, went missing on September 5, 1989, following Labor Day Weekend.
They were headed to Virginia Beach together, but they weren’t a couple. Phelps was dating Lauer’s brother at the time.
Gruesome: Thomas and Dowski had been strangled and their throats were slashed, though there was no evidence of sexual assault
Crime scene: Pettler questioned if the women knew their killer, noting that Thomas’s throat wound was far more severe than Dowski’s
Lauer’s gold 1972 Chevrolet Nova was found abandoned at the I-64 New Kent rest stop in New Kent County. However, the car was. heading in the wrong direction, away from their destination, which confused police.
Their bodies were badly decomposed when hunters found them covered in a blanket from Daniel’s car. The cause of death remains unknown, though forensics suggested that Phelps may have been stabbed.
This case, like the others, has gone unsolved, but all four double homicides remain active.
In preview clips for the Lovers’ Lane Murders special, forensic criminologist Laura Pettler and former FBI profiler Jim Clemente are among the team of experts who are tearing apart the cases, looking for clues.
‘As a forensic criminologist, we take everything we know and we reconstruct the scene, each piece of evidence, breaking it apart, analyzing everyone individually, and then reassembling them into the mosaic that is the crime,’ Pettler explains.
The forensic criminologist notes that Thomas and Dowski’s murders — the first in the series — have ‘earmarks of a victim-offender relationship.’
Break down: Former FBI profiler Jim Clemente suggested the killer may have posed as law enforcement and reenacted what that would have looked like
Loss: Nearly a year after the first double homicide, David Knobling, 20, (L) and Robin Edwards, 14, (R) were found shot in the head along the bank of the James River in September 1987
‘Statistically, a lot of the personal attacks that we have on victims close to their faces are someone they knew,’ she says. ‘
The wound to Becky’s neck is nowhere near the degree that the wound to Cathy’s neck is. Becky’s wound isn’t as deep as Cathy’s wound. They’re very, very different in force and intensity to the victim.’
The team of experts has reenacted the crime scene down to Thomas’s wallet being found open and face down on the floorboard of the driver’s side.
‘That tells me that either they were getting ready because they thought they were pulled over by a police officer or a park ranger, or whoever approached them pretended to be a cop or was a cop,’ Clemente suggests.
‘That would give the offender the opportunity to actually get them out of the car, lean them against the car, maybe handcuff them.’
Still missing: Christopher Newport University students Richard CallLess, 20, (L) and Cassandra Hailey, 18, (R) vanished in April 1988 after attending a party together
Last: In September 1989, Daniel Lauer, 21, (L) and Annamaria Phelps, 18, (R) went missing on their way to Virginia Beach, but their bodies weren’t found until a month late
The Colonial Parkway murders may not be as well known as others, but those who are aware of the series of homicides have warned about the area over the years. Mentions of the deaths have even found their way into some TripAdvisor reviews.
‘There is no toll or charge but it is run by the Forest Service so don’t get caught speeding and you might want to keep a lookout for the Colonial Parkway Murderer of the 80’s — He was never caught,’ one person wrote in 2013.
Three years later, someone else added: ‘Beautiful and yet one of the scenes of a serial killer…that has never been solved and featured in one of Patricia Cornwell’s earlier novels. No worries now, although I wouldn’t go there at night.’
However, Katherine Ramsland, a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University and author of ‘How to Catch a Killer: Hunting and Capturing the World’s Most Notorious Serial Killers’ told Oxygen that there are also plenty of people who would visit an area like the Colonial Parkway just because it was the scene of a murder.
‘People are attracted to spots of strong emotion,’ she said. ‘Murder scenes have the sense of an aura.’ She added: ‘The fascination depends on the level of publicity.’
Source: Read Full Article