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Kin of murder victims ask gov for help

The families of several young people slain in Southeastern Virginia in the late 1980s wrote a letter asking Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to devote more resources to solving crimes long thought to be the work of a single killer or team.

A spokeswoman for McDonnell said he has consulted with police on the cases, and that authorities are "dedicating the necessary investigative resources and activity."

The string of slayings began in October 1986 when Cathleen M. Thomas, 28, and Rebecca A. Dowski, 21, were were found dead in Thomas's car, which had been pushed down an embankment off the Colonial Parkway, a scenic route that stretches from Yorktown to Jamestown. Their throats were cut and they had been strangled.

Their slayings marked the beginning of a series of killings in the Tidewater area that became known as the Colonial Parkway murders. Six people have been killed, and two others are missing and presumed dead. The FBI is investigating four of the killings that occurred on federal land, while the Virginia State Police is the lead agency on the other four.

Some family members, who believe there is a chance other unsolved slayings in the region may be linked, say Virginia authorites are not doing enough. They expressed their frustration in an letter sent Thursday to Marla Graff Decker, the state's Secretary of Public Safety.

"In May of 2010, Governor McDonnell stated My Secretary of Public Safety will contact each of the families [involved with the Colonial Parkway Murders] to provide updates on the status of their cases. In the weeks and months that followed, this statement was met with nothing but deafening silence," the families wrote. "Our message to you and the Governor is simple and is the same one you have heard over the past few months: please do something."

Stacey Johnson, a spokeswoman for McDonnell said in a statement that the governor is "aware of the concerns and frustrations of the families" connected to the unsolved murders along the Colonial Parkway and in the counties of New Kent, Isle of Wight and Culpeper.

"Their pursuit for justice and resolution in the death of their loved ones is understandable," Johnson said. She said the governor and secretary of public safety have consulted "at length" with the Virginia State Police regarding the investigations of these and other unsolved crimes and that authorities are dedicating resources to the cases.

"We have taken and will continue to take the action we promised we would take on cases that are being handled by the state police," Johnson said.

The letter to the governor was signed by "the families of the Colonial Parkway murder victims." Bill Thomas, brother of victim Cathy Thomas, said representatives from the families of each of the eight signed off on the letter.

In the letter, the families ask McDonnell to direct police to make the investigation " a priority," and also to take some specific measures. "Encourage state authorities to meet with the FBI and local/county law enforcement to leverage resources," the letter said. "Direct the Virginia Department of Forensic Science to establish a subcommittee of the Forensic Science Board to concentrate on piecing together the forensic evidence, solving these cold cases, and finding a murderer after two and a half decades of senseless killings."

Although no physical evidence has conclusively linked the cases, but there are many similarities that have led investigtors to believe the same killer or killers may be responsible. In each case, two victims were targeted simultaneously. All were young people traveling in cars.

The killings continued in 1987, the bodies of David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, were found at the Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area on the James River in Isle of Wight County. Both had been shot in the head, and Knobling's truck was parked at the refuge.

Keith Call, 20, and Cassandra Hailey, 19, were never found after their car was discovered on a parkway overlook in 1988, and authorities and family members think they were killed. The following year, Annamaria Phelps, 18, and Daniel Lauer, 21, her boyfriend's brother, were found slain in woods near an Interstate 64 rest stop in New Kent County.

The cases, which had grown cold, drew new attention last year after FBI crime-scene photos were mistakenly released. The FBI renewed its investigation and said it would reexamine evidence using the latest technology.

-- Maria Glod

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By Maria Glod  | November 1, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Maria Glod, Unsolved, Updates, Virginia  
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Comments

'...David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, were found at the Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area...'

caught molesting a minor with summery justice?

Posted by: mloaks | November 1, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Cucinnelli is too busy with his climate change witch hunt.

Posted by: jckdoors | November 1, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

It is time for Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker and the Virginia State Police to keep their promises to the families of the Colonial Parkway Murder Victims. Perhaps the appointment of an state ombudsperson to handle these casess for the Commonwelath is in order.

Bill Thomas
Brother of Cathleen Thomas

Posted by: billthom56 | November 1, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

It is time for Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker and the Virginia State Police to keep their promises to the families of the Colonial Parkway Murder Victims. Perhaps the appointment of an state ombudsperson to handle these casess for the Commonwealth is in order.

Bill Thomas
Brother of Cathleen Thomas

Posted by: billthom56 | November 1, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

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