Between 1986 and 1989 a serial killer murdered four separate couples in lovers’ lanes along the Colonial Parkway (pictured) in the heart of historic Virginia.
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Blaine Pardoe, a New York Times best-selling author, and his daughter Victoria Hester share a love of true crime and they have collaborated together for the first time with a new book, A Special Kind Of Evil, which tells the story of a serial killer in Virginia who has never been caught.
Victoria told Totalcrime: “Even as a little kid I was interested in true crime.”
“I wouldn’t have won any Father of The Year awards because I used to take her to notorious crime scenes when she was a girl,” joked Blaine.
Although he was born in Newport News, Virginia, in 1962 he had moved to Michigan by the time the Colonial Parkway Killer had claimed his first victim in 1986, and Victoria had not even been born.
So why did they choose this case to write a book about together?
“It’s a very historic area. Williamsburg and Jamestown were the first colonies in America (and nearby Yorktown is where the British surrendered in 1781) and it’s only a few hours away from where we live,” said Blaine.
Blaine said: “Cold cases are always interesting. It’s a sub-genre of true crime. People like to be given all the facts and everyone can come to different conclusions.”
Victoria said: “There have been lots of books about Jack The Ripper or The Zodiac Killer but there is no other book about the Colonial Parkway Killer. It’s an old case and it’s almost forgotten.”
As they researched the crimes and wrote the book Blair found himself describing the era to his daughter.
“The 1970s and 80s were my decade. It was my music, my era. But things were different. People hitch-hiked, there was no internet or cellphones and attitudes were very different,” said Blair.
The Colonial Parkway Killer killed eight people – four couples – between 1986 and 1989.
The murders were very different but they all took place in the Colonial Parkway area, a scenic route (pictured, left) which in summer is popular with tourists visiting historic Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown.
Their bodies were found on October 12, 1986, in Thomas’s Honda Civic car. They had been strangled, their throats slashed and an attempt had been made to set fire to the car. There was no evidence of robbery or sexual assault.
“They were a lesbian couple but in those days gay people were persecuted and were forced to endure a closeted lifestyle,” said Blair.
Thomas had graduated from a US military academy but quit the Navy shortly before the murder, disillusioned because women at the time were not allowed on combat vessels. She quit and became a stockbroker.
Thomas and Dowski are believed to have been “making out” in the car, which was parked in a lovers’ lane just off the Colonial Parkway.
All of the killers’ victims were attacked in cars in lovers’ lanes.
Almost a year after Thomas and Dowski were murdered, with the police clueless about who had been responsible, the killer struck again.
On September 22, 1987, David Knobling, 20, and 14-year-old Robin Edwards were shot dead. His pick-up truck had been found at the Ragged Island wildlife refuge and three days later the bodies discovered on a riverbank.
But few people made the link between the first and second murders.
It was only after the third attack that the story really hit the headlines.
On April 9, 1988, Keith Call, 20, a student, and Cassandra Hailey, 18, went missing. Call’s red Toyota Celica was found the next day near the Colonial Parkway but neither body has ever been found.
“Local news covered it extensively after the third murder. The state police put together a taskforce and the FBI became involved,” said Blaine.
But the police and FBI had drawn a blank when, on October 19, 1989, the bodies of Daniel Lauer, 21, and his brother’s girlfriend Annamaria Phelps, 18, were found by hunters just off Interstate 64.
That was the last killing ascribed to the Colonial Parkway Killer and nobody has ever been charged with the crimes.
“At one of the scenes the killer hung a roach clip from the window (pictured, left) and police felt it was a taunt,” said Blaine.
“The investigators believed if they solved one it would solve all of them, but it didn’t work and the families have suffered so much angst over the years,” said Blaine.
Several suspects have been identified over the years, including Michael Nicholaou, who committed suicide after killing his wife Aileen and stepdaughter Taryn Bowman in Florida in 2005.
He was living in Virginia at the time of the murders and reportedly had bondage items, whips, chains, and hard-core porn tapes, including scenes of bestiality, at his pawn shop but there is very little hard evidence to link him to the crimes.
The other suspect, Fred Atwell, a police officer, only emerged in 2009 when he claimed crime scene photographs from the Colonial Parkway case had been inappropriately taken from the FBI’s office.
He was later convicted of a felony related to fraudulent fundraising and remains in jail.
But Blaine says: “Everything we have looked at with Fred Atwell has ended up as a dead-end. He inserted himself into the case and drew interest from the FBI. But when you expose the failings of the FBI you incur their wrath.”
Blaine and Victoria spoke to seven of the eight families involved.
“They just want closure. They have gone through years of not knowing what happened. We are hoping the book will help. Hopefully somebody saw something and will come forward,” said Blaine.
A Special Kind Of Evil is out now.