Michael Nicholaou or Fred Atwell could be the Colonial Parkway Killer

If you’ve never heard of the Colonial Parkway murders, you can start here for some details. There were four couples that went missing, and were later found deceased, between 1986 and 1988 (or 1989, give or take). The first couple to go missing was a lesbian couple — more on that later — and the next three were heterosexual pairings. As of 2014, it’s officially not solved. It’s in the “Cold Case Spotlight” at Dateline NBC now, actually.

There have been numerous theories about this case over time, but you need to begin with one central idea: perhaps the four murders aren’t even connected. It’s possible that 1-2 of them are, but maybe not all four. Steven Spingola, a well-known homicide detective from Milwaukee who often consults on other cases, wrote a book about this case in which he links the initial murder — the lesbian couple — to the murder of another lesbian couple (Lollie Winans and Julie Williams), about 180 miles away, in 1996. If you believe that, then you may see the Colonial Parkway murders as three interconnected cases.

Fred Atwell

One big name in the case has always been Fred Atwell; he was a deputy at the time of the initial cases. His story is admittedly a bit sketchy:

While the FBI and the Virginia State Police looked into the Colonial Parkway cases, the families of the victims joined together to support each other and conduct their own investigation into the cases. During this time, Atwell became a constant figure among them.

“He always tried to insert himself into the investigation and into the families,” Thomas’ brother, Bill Thomas, told The Huffington Post.

In the beginning, the support was appreciated but over time, Atwell began acting strange, according to Thomas.

“He would spin the most elaborate tales you’ve ever heard,” he said. “Last January he called me and said he had been contacted by an attorney outside the country who claimed to have a client who was involved in the murders. He said they wanted $20,000 to reveal the locations where Keith and Cassandra’s bodies could be found. The tale got more fantastic as it went on. We were very skeptical and at some point in the spring he dropped it.”

You always hear that criminals like inserting themselves back into the scene / the families (for some measure of control), so that theory has some potential.

Michael Nicholaou

Others have centered on Nicholaou, now deceased (by his own hand). A Florida-based detective believes he absolutely did it. As for Nicholaou, he wasn’t exactly the most stable person in human history: he’s likely responsible for the disappearance of his first wife (Michelle Nicholaou), then ran over his second wife with his car. As she recuperated, he shot and killed her, then killed his adult stepdaughter — then finally killed himself. This case eventually made it to the emotional heights of The Dr. Phil Show:

Here’s a bit more on Nicholaou, who is also a suspect in the Connecticut River Valley Killings.

The Cop Theory

In some of the cases, the driver’s side window had been rolled down and there weren’t drastic signs of a struggle. That could indicate that the crimes were committed by a cop, or someone pretending to be a cop (had the car, etc.) This theory has been pushed forth by Pat Brown, a criminal profiler. (This could also point to Atwell, mentioned above.)

The CIA Theory

There’s a different theory that a rouge CIA agent could be involved — predominantly because there’s a training ground not too far away at Camp Peary.

Virginia As A Whole

Virginia may be for lovers, but it has a spotty history with crime — obviously there’s this whole Hannah Graham case right now, but there were also the Route 29 murders and a series of unsolved homicides in central Virginia. Could all these have different interconnections? It’s theoretically possible.

What do you think? Any theories/ideas/leads/other context? 


Ted Bauer


  1. 04-09-2010, 11:29 AM
    Curt Rowlett
    Junior Member
    Join Date: Apr 2010
    Posts: 4
    Originally Posted by billthom56
    Sorry, typing too fast, Curt Rowlett is a writer who writes about crime and the occult.
    He runs the Labyrinth 1 website.
    The Chris I mentioned runs the Crimeshadows website.
    Bill Thomas
    Brother of Cathleen Thomas
    Hello Bill:
    This is my first post and I wish to take a moment to tell you how sorry I am for the loss of
    your sister, Cathleen. Having lost a brother myself, I know only too well the nature of your
    The area of my website where I have posted information about the Colonial Parkway
    Murders, the Route 29 Stalker and the Shenandoah Park Murders is something that I felt was
    needed; at the time that I created that webpage, very little information existed online about
    those crimes, and the information that was available was spread out all over the Internet and
    not centralized in one place. I felt that having all of the information consolidated on one
    webpage might aid others who are actively seeking answers that could assist police agencies
    in solving those terrible crimes.
    I apologize to those of you who may at times be unable to access that webpage through the
    URL that you have posted. I pay for all of the bandwidth on my site and at times, the
    webserver is overwhelmed by the amount of traffic that the page now gets (this was not
    always the case when the webpage was first uploaded, but, over the years, interest has
    grown for all three of those cases and the site gets much, much more traffic now than it used
    to). Just be patient and keep trying, as one member of this message board has suggested.
    Also, I have indeed removed sections of that page since I first uploaded it, most notably, the
    information there about Michael Nicholaou and the Connecticut River Valley killings. I
    personally felt that particular discussion was more along the lines of speculation and that the
    webpage would be better suited to simply focus on those crimes that happened in Virginia
    and by sticking to the more solid facts of all of the cases.
    If at anytime you or anyone else can think of anything that I should feature on that webpage,
    or if there is anything that needs to be changed, please let me know.
    A Must Read – Route 29 Killer – Remember Morgan Harrington http://findmorgan.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3070
    5 of 8 7/11/2010 8:42 PM
    Hello Mr.Bauer, As you may or may not know I have investigated and researched the now dead serial killer Michael Nicholaou since October 6, 2001. That was when my father Mr. Carty and my step mother Mrs. Carty’s dear friend and neighbor, the mother of Nicholaou’s common law wife and grandmother of 2 of his children asked me to take the case for free. I shared many of my findings with many people. Some become outright mean and nasty to me. One example of this is someone named Curt Rowlett whose thoughts and opinions regarding the relevance and accuracy of my work, are posted here above. I also shared many of my findings on Michael Nicholaou with Mr. Bill Thomas and the CParkway wing man at the time Fred Atwell. I alerted Mr.Thomas to serious problems with Atwell that I was having far before any of them surfaced as Atwell tried to con me and worse. My concerns were totally ignored by Mr. Thomas. It was only when Atwell got caught lying, steeling and holding a woman at gun point during his armed robbery of her that Mr. Atwell was finally thought of as somewhat less than stellar. That’s when Atwell’s negative actions did begin to matter, when he was carrying out illegal acts ON the CP family members. You can read for yourself in the information posted above exactly what both men Curt Rowlett and Bill Thomas had to say about my 13 years of investigation work and findings regarding serial killer Michael Nichoalou. I have actually been told by one of the men in the CP click to drink decaf coffee. I was also told not to use such judgmental phrases such as the words ” detour to justice” when referring to the unsolved decades old Colonial Parkway murder cases… if i aspire to ever have a ” working relationship” with them. I recently shared my latest findings received from the Government which obviously you have been made away of and taylored your Nichoalou posted info to. No worries. I will be more than happy to keep the explosive most recent case proving information that was given to me this week completely to myself. No need to bother the guys with any of it. Hopefully all of you big strong men with large brains can get to the bottom of all this by using the free work that I was happy to do on the case and that I have been vilified for ever since. Go Get Em’ Boys.

      • 04-09-2010, 11:42 AM
        Senior Member
        Join Date: Feb 2010
        Location: Los Angeles, CA
        Posts: 232
        Thank You
        Thanks for all you are doing, and for the update on your site. I agree that the information on
        Michael Nicholau and the Connecticut River Valley murders is speculative, and I regarded it
        as a distraction. Thanks for taking it down, and keeping the conversation focused.
        Please let me know where I can send a check to help you with those bandwidth costs.
        Best regards,
        Bill Thomas
        Brother of Cathleen Thomas

  2. Not all 4 couples were found deceased. Keith and Cassandra have never been found

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