Murder victims’ family: Investigators need more cooperation

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The brother of a victim in a string of local murders says a lack of communication among investigators has hampered the search for his sister’s killer.

Cathleen Thomas was 27 in Oct. 1986 when she and her girlfriend Rebecca Ann Dowski were found inside their car dead near Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg. They were strangled and their throats slashed. The car had been pushed to the bottom of a ditch.

Three other couples were killed in the same area over the next three years. The homicides became known as the Colonial Parkway murders.

“This is probably the highest profile potential serial murder in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Bill Thomas, Cathleen’s brother.

He said he believes the lack of communication between law enforcement agencies about all eight murders is part of the reason the killer has never been found.

“My family’s been hearing about this friction between agencies and cross jurisdictional problems for decades,” Thomas added. “And when you’ve heard something dozens of times over 28 years, there’s some truth to it.”

Thomas said he’s encouraged by what he sees as an increase in cooperation among agencies in more recent cases, such as the death of Hannah Graham this fall, and Alexis Murphy last year. Thomas points to the Virginia State Crime Commission’s recent effort where state police and the FBI worked together.

The agencies are also listening to the recommendations of Gil and Dan Harrington of Roanoke. Their daughter Morgan disappeared in 2009 and was found raped and murdered in January 2010. The Harringtons support the creation of a resource guide for families when a loved one goes missing.

“I’m thrilled the legislature is looking into taking steps like this, and I think Dan and Gil’s recommendations are spot on,” Thomas said.

The Crime Commission will vote Dec. 2 on recommendations for new laws involving inter-agency cooperation.



WSLS contributed to this report.

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