The Colonial Parkway Murders: A Special Kind of Evil

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) - 10 On Your Side continues to look at eight cold case murders that have haunted police for decades; the Colonial Parkway Murders.

Hundreds of investigative eyes have looked at these cases, but to date there has been no justice for the eight victims. So, are they the work of a serial killer or killers?

There is a new book that examines in detail the killings, extensive background on the victims, and explanations on what may have happened.

"Anybody who would do this is someone who really tapped into a special kind of evil in our minds," says author Blaine Pardoe who for the last two years has investigated what is now known as the murders with his daughter Victoria Hester.

The two have just published a new book entitled "A Special Kind of Evil: The Colonial Parkway Serial Killings."

We met Pardoe at the crime scenes.

"This is where the bodies were found, but this isn't where it happened," Pardoe says referring to the first killings of Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Anne Dowski. He says there is do doubt the eight were killed by a serial killer.

"There is a separation between the victims and the vehicles, the killer exerting extreme control over the scene," he says.

At the heart of Pardoe's theory, the common serial thread, the victims were killed away from their vehicles and three of the four vehicles staged for theft.

ARCHIVE: Remembering Robin Edwards

Archive video of Andy Fox's Report from Sept. 24, 1987, the day after Robin Edwards' body was found. Friends, family and classmates remember Robin and who she was.

In September 1987, at the Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge, the keys were in the ignition of David Knobling's pickup truck. David's and Robin Edwards' shoes were found in the pickup. Pardoe says the killer was exerting authority by taking away the victim's shoes.

"How are you going to run away if you don't have your shoes on, he has the upper-hand," Pardoe explains.

Looking at the crime scene photos David's pick-up is parked front in. Family members tell us David would always back in when parking. Not this time. Did the killer drive the pick-up and not know how David always left his pick-up?

There was something else about how the killer left the pickup.

"David had direct wired his radio, so you didn't have to put the keys to the accessory position to play the radio," Pardoe is saying the killer did not know he could just turn on the radio, he did not need to put the key in the ignition. "It's clear whomever the killer was set that vehicle up in hopes someone would come by and steal it."

Seven months later in April 1988, Keith Call was taking home Cassandra Hailey to her York County Home. Pardoe thinks somewhere on J. Clyde Morris Boulevard, which was the direct route they would be coming from a party near Christopher Newport University to Cassandra's home, they got stopped by someone in a position of authority with a gun.

Report: Investigators, loved ones seek answers

A collage of images in the Colonial Parkway Murders investigation. 10 On Your Side returned to the scene of the murders in August of 2016. Investigators and family members have been seeking answers for decades. (Click on the image to read the story).

The authority figure does not need to be someone acting like law enforcement, it could simply be someone with a gun. Cassandra's home is before the Colonial Parkway turnoff.

We obtained crime scene photos of Keith's Red Toyota dumped by the killers on the Colonial Parkway.

The door is left open. The keys are left in plain view, and whomever did this is trying to mislead the investigators hoping someone would steal that car and further contaminate the crime scene," Pardoe says.

Pardoe says it was the National Park Service Rangers who patrol the Colonial Parkway that contaminated the crime scene by taking out belongings from the car thinking Keith's car after it had been abandoned.

"When they realized it was a potential crime scene, they came back and put back the clothes re-contaminating the crime scene twice." Pardoe concludes, on Keith and Cassandra, "Their bodies were missing and that's because they were never on the Parkway. There is no forensic evidence in the car that they were ever here."

Report on David and Robin — 30 Years Later

David Knobling and Robin Edwards were killed in the early morning hours of Sept. 20, 1987. Thirty years later, 10 On Your Side's Andy Fox spoke to family, friends and investigators about murder of David and Robin. (Click on the image for the full story.)

On September 4, 1989, Daniel Lauer and Annamaria Phelps stopped at the eastbound I-64 rest area in New Kent County on the way to Virginia Beach. Pardoe thinks they were taken by force to a logging trail at the next exit and killed.

The killers then left Lauer's Chevy Nova at the westbound rest area with a little present with feathers left on the car window.

"The car is left with a roach clip hanging on a half open window and keys in plain sight," says Pardoe. Was this a message to investigators? Why was Phelp's locket left where her skeletal remains were found?

For his book, Pardoe spent a lot of time interviewing former Virginia State Police Psychological Profiler Larry McCann who helped convince Pardoe two serial killers are responsible for all eight Colonial Parkway Murders.

"I subscribe to the belief that there are two people. You have a leader and a follower, the leader sets things up for the follower to do and the follower does it. They are either dead or in prison, but they would not stop unless they are dead or in prison," McCann said in 2009.

ARCHIVE: The Search for David and Robin

Archive video of Andy Fox's report Sept. 23, 1987, on the search for David Knobling and Robin Edwards.

McCann and Pardoe think the killers began their killing spree with Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Anne Dowski. Crime scene photos show Thomas' Honda Civic and both were killed away from the car. Cathy was found dumped in the back hatch of the car, which is an indication they were killed away from the car and them placed back in it.

In the Thomas-Dowski murders, and Pardoe believes in all the cases, the killers bring everything they needed to carry out the murders.

"In this case the bodies were soaked in diesel fuel. There was a piece of nautical line found in Cathy Thomas' hair, the sharp knife that cut their throats. Cathy was nearly decapitated," says Pardoe.

It should be noted the FBI investigated a possible waterman connection, but it never panned out.

ARCHIVE: Bodies of David and Robin Found

Archive video of Andy Fox's report Sept. 23, 1987 after the bodies of David Knobling and Robin Edwards were found in Isle of Wight County.

Danny Plott was a Virginia State Police investigator in the Knobling-Edwards and Phelps-Lauer cases, "I am so sorry we did not find these cold blooded killers. I think the persons who did this, I believe, are probably deceased, that is my feeling. If they are deceased, I hope they died a horrible death. There are eight victims to start out with, but now with all the time passing the victims families are victims themselves and they have been through a nightmare."

McCann and Pardoe believe it's possible the killings stopped only after the leader killed his follower and couldn't find another partner to carry out.

"Larry McCann says you have a better chance of winning the lottery than these crimes not being connected. There is a clear and indelible fingerprint," Pardoe says about this special kind of evil.

Report: The Colonial Parkway Murders

Rebecca Ann Dowski and Cathleen Thomas. Andy Fox spoke with a now retired Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Division about their murders in an Oct. 12, 2016 special report. (Click on the image for the story).

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