Decades-old Virginia Murder Cases Linked to Deceased Fishermen
In a significant development, DNA evidence has provided a breakthrough in three-decade-old unsolved murder cases in Virginia. The suspect, now deceased, is linked to the horrific killings that took place in the 1980s, one of which involved the sexual assault and brutal death of a 14-year-old girl.
Virginia State Police announced on Monday, identifying the suspect as Alan W. Wilmer Sr., who passed away in 2017 at the age of 63. Though the exact time frame of when Wilmer became a suspect in these homicides, which took place in 1987 and 1989, remains unclear, authorities have stated that he would have faced charges if he were still alive.
Interestingly, due to Wilmer having no felony convictions on his record, law enforcement agencies were legally unable to collect and test his DNA until his death. Following his death, forensic investigators in 2023 confirmed that genetic evidence connected Wilmer to two murder scenes, one in Hampton, Virginia, and the other in Isle of Wight County.
The Colonial Parkway Murders
One of the unsolved murder cases involved the killing of two individuals, which came to be known as a part of the series of murders called the “Colonial Parkway Murders.” These infamous killings, which took place in southeastern Virginia, involved the deaths of multiple couples and have remained unsolved for decades.
Closure for Victims’ Families
Following the identification of the killer, Virginia State Police Lt. Col. Tim Lyon expressed his hope that this breakthrough would bring some sense of closure and peace to the victims’ families. “Only those who have suffered the loss of a child in this way can truly understand the depth of their sorrow and the frustration over not knowing who was responsible for taking their loved one’s life in such a violent and cruel way,” Lyon said in a statement.
About the Colonial Parkway Murders
The “Colonial Parkway Murders” refer to the deaths of three separate couples between 1986 and 1989. In 1987, David Knobling, aged 20, and Robin Edwards, aged 14, were found shot dead along the shoreline on the south bank of the James River in Isle of Wight County. Investigators concluded that Edwards had been sexually assaulted. The murders of Knobling and Edwards soon became a part of the chilling series of unsolved double homicides known as the “Colonial Parkway Murders.”
Other Homicides Linked to Wilmer
Wilmer was also identified as the main suspect in the 1989 murder of Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell, age 29, in the city of Hampton. Howell’s death, however, is not considered a part of the “Colonial Parkway Murders.” Howell’s body was discovered in a wooded area near a now-defunct nightclub. She had been sexually assaulted and then strangled to death, according to Virginia police.
Relief for Victims’ Families
During a Monday news conference, joint statements from the families of Knobling and Edwards were read out, expressing their gratitude to investigators for their relentless efforts in solving the cases. “For 36 years, our families have lived in a vacuum of the unknown,” the statement said. “We have lived with the fear of worrying that a person capable of deliberately killing Robin and David could attack and claim another victim. Now we have a sense of relief and justice knowing that he can no longer victimize another.”
Wilmer: A Person of Interest in Other Cold Cases
Investigators continue to consider Wilmer, a person of interest in other unsolved cases. Before his death, Wilmer owned a small commercial fishing boat, the Denni Wade, which he used for clam and oyster farming. He also ran a Better Tree Service business and was known to dock at marinas in the Virginia counties of Gloucester and Middlesex.
Appeal for Information
The FBI and Virginia State Police continue to appeal for anyone with information related to these cases, with FBI Norfolk Special Agent in Charge Brian Dugan encouraging people to step forward with any relevant information. Tips can be submitted anonymously via the FBI’s tip line, online, or by contacting the Virginia State Police directly.