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.
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.
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:
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?