Cold Case – The Colonial Parkway Murders

When I was a kid, I remember hearing about these murders. To this day, I still stare at the signs that point out the Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg, VA and have never gone on the parkway. I will admit, it is out of fear, even though the murders happened over 20 years ago.

It all began on October 12, 1986. A lesbian couple, Cathleen Thomas, 27, and Rebecca Ann Dowski, 21, were found inside their car. The car was pushed down an embankment in an area popular among homosexual couples. They had been strangled and their throats slashed. There were no signs of robbery or sexual assault.

About a year later, in September of 1987, David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, were found murdered in the Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge. They were last seen on September 19. David’s Ford truck was found on September 21, with the driver’s door open, keys in the ignition, the radio on and David’s wallet on the dashboard. When their bodies were found, they were partially clothed with Robin’s bra wrapped around her neck. Police believe the two were probably marched more than 1 1/2 miles through the woods and down a wooden pier, where they were executed and dumped into the river.

On April 9, 1988, Cassandra Lee Hailey, 18, and Richard Keith Call, 20, were reported missing. They had been on their first date. Keith’s 1982 red Toyota Celica was found abandoned on the Colonial Parkway in Yorktown, with couple’s clothing, including underwear, on the back seat. They have never been found, but are presumed dead.

In October of 1989, the skeletal remains of Annamaria Phelps, 18, and Daniel Lauer, 21, were found in New Kent County by a hunter in the woods near a rest area on Interstate 64 between Williamsburg and Richmond. They were last seen on September 5, 1989 at that rest area. Daniel’s old 1973 Chevrolet Nova was found at the rest area with Annamaria’s purse and Daniel’s clothing inside.

Thanks to the Parkway Murders website for the information. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of pictures of the victims out there, nor is there a lot of information on the murders.

There is a new FBI Agent in charge of the Colonial Parkway Murders case. If you have any information about the Colonial Parkway case, please FBI Special Agent Crosby Brackett at 757-435-4708.

17 thoughts on “Cold Case – The Colonial Parkway Murders

  1. There is a lot of information out there about the Parkway Murders,but you're wasting your time going to the State Police or the FBI.The families of the victims need to get together & demand the information be shared with them.

  2. The crime scene photos from the Colonial Parkway Case were indeed leaked.

    Check out the story by reporter Mike Mather on the WTKR (CBS Affiliate) Norfolk VA website. There are two stories, which are also avaiable on Youtube. If you search for “Colonial Parkway Murders” on or on Youtube you can see them: … re=related

    The Thomas Family is thrilled that Mike Mather and WTKR have devoted so much coverage to this important story, where 8 young people, including our sister Cathleen Thomas, were murdered, a crime that remains unsolved to this day. We are pleased that FBI Agent Brian Hanlon committed the FBI to a “top to bottom review” of the Colonial Parkway case during his interview with Mike Mather of WTKR, and that the FBI will be meeting with the Virginia State Police to review all of the available evidence in the next week.

    Bill Thomas
    Los Angeles, CAbillthom56

    Posts: 1
    Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2009 9:24 pm
    Private message

  3. Following the coverage on WRTR/CBS and WAVY/NBC in Norfolk, and with the other media outlets seem to be looking at the case again, the FBI will be meeting with member’s of Keith Call’s family today, 10/7/09.

    Other FBI meetings with the other families are expected to follow.

    Bill Thomas, brother oof Cathleen Thomas
    Los Angeles, CA

  4. I was in high school in “The County” when this was going on – actually, trying to get my drivers license (my poor parents!) and know all of the spots well. It’s just bizarre and really, truly haunting if you know the lay of the land down there. The drive is so beautiful and peaceful and it’s really disturbing to think that if you were stuck on the side of the road on the Parkway….let’s just say I’d like my luck walking back along the River in the mud, not waiting for help to arrive.

    It’s hard to believe these crimes were never solved (and DNA testing was never done)…God bless the victims’ families.

  5. There is a new FBI Agent in charge of the Colonial Parkway Murders case.

    If you have any information about the Colonial Parkway case, please FBI Special Agent Crosby Brackett at 757-435-4708.


    Bill Thomas

  6. I am the sister-in-law to AnnaMaria Phelps. We are hoping for a great outcome this year. It is hard for my family to keep reliving this, but if something good comes out of it, it will be worth it. I am so glad someone lit a fire underneath the FBI to get them going again. Keep us updated. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

  7. I am so sorry to hear the news about Morgan Harrington’s murder. Clearly, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, the Virginia State Police Bureau of CriminiaI Inforcement (BCI), the FBI and local law enforcement need to be looking at the pattern of murders in this area over the last 23 years. Starting with the Colonial Parkway Murders, which claimed 8 young people including my sister Cathleen Thomas and her friend Rebecca Dowski from 1986 to 1989, the Route 29 stalker, the killing of the Williams and Winans women in the Shenandoah National Park in 1996, the murder of the two Virginia Tech students in August 2009, Morgan Harrington in October 2009, and others, there is a distinct pattern of unsolved murders in that part of Virginia. With the exception of the two Virginia Tech students, all of these murders happened within a two hour drive of one another. Time for the Commonwealth of Virginia to step up and create a Task Force to break these cases. Much of the evidence held by the Virginia State Police BCI in the Colonial Parkway Murders has never even been tested for DNA using the latest forensic techniques. How many more people need to die before we solve these cases?

    Bill Thomas
    Los Angeles, CA
    Brother of Cathleen Thomas

  8. After more than 20 years, the FBI moved forward in January 2010 with advanced forensic and DNA testing on 80 pieces of evidence from the 1986 murder of Cathleen Thomas and Rebecca Dowski, and 50 pieces of evidence from the 1988 disappearance of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey. That is the good news. The bad news is that it will take 6-9 months for testing results.

    The other two cases in the Colonial Parkway Murders, that of David Knobling and Robin Edwards, killed at the Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge and Annamaria Helps and David Lauer who were murdered near a rest stop on I-64 in New Kent County, Virginia, are being handled by the Virginia State Police.

    Bill Thomas
    Brother of Cathleen Thomas

  9. I grew up in Franklin Virginia and remember so well all of the murders from this serial killer. I always wondered if the Parkway killers had anything to do with the Franklin, Southampton rapist. In the early 80’s from about 1983-1985 we experienced a series of rapes of young girls. Two men posed as cops and would pull them over and then rape the young females and then take them to some back woods place and leave. A good friend of mine was one of there 1st victims. Soon after the rapes stopped the killing started. The rapes were never solved.Anyone that doesnt know where Franklin is it is like 30 min. from James River Bridge.

  10. Fred Atwell, the whistleblower who helped break the story that the FBI
    had lost control of 84 highly graphic crime scene photos in the
    Colonial Parkway Murders now appears headed for jail himself. Our
    sister Cathy and her friend Rebecca Dowski were the first two victims
    in the Colonial Parkway case. in which at least four young couples were
    murdered near Williamsburg, Virginia from 1986 to 1989. The FBI and the
    Virginia State Police are still working on the case.
    Here is the link to the latest story:

    If you have any questions or thoughts regarding the Colonial Parkway
    Murders, please feel free to contact me.

    Bill Thomas
    Brother of Cathleen Thomas
    Los Angeles, CA

  11. I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody else encountering problems with your site.
    It seems like some of the written text within
    your content are running off the screen. Can somebody
    else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too?

    This may be a problem with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen previously. Cheers

  12. Save the date: we just learned that the Colonial Parkway Murders in Virginia will be featured during the Wednesday, April 10, 2013 broadcast of “Dark Minds” on the Investigation Discovery channel.

    Thanks as always.

    Bill Thomas
    Brother of Cathleen Thomas
    Los Angeles, CA

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