Silent ZODIAC –The Phantom of Colonial Parkway

I’ve touched on my True Crime agenda for 2017, and although always mentioning the Phantom of Colonial Parkway (The Colonial Parkway Murders) I didn’t think I would be able to get there this year and put up some preliminary pages on my website regarding the crime scenes. Fortunately, a careful independent investigator who is familiar with my crime scene photography and reconstruction has visited the locations and has graciously given me many photos.

Let’s just touch on the Jullianne Williams and Lollie Winans double murder location here. Though it occurred far from the historic parkway,  there is a possible link between it and the first of the Colonial Parkway lovers’ lane murders between 1986-1989.

It occurred some time in late May 1996 in the Shenandoah National Forest, not far from the Skyline Drive road, the main road that services the area. It was just off Bridle Trail, in a small clearing about 500 yards from the road. In this clearing they pitched camp. It overlooked a small creek. It was therefore not a remote a location as it might sound from the general write-ups. It was 400 to 500 yards from the road.

I’m not going to go into the details of the crime here. I’ve written about them before. The facts in a nutshell are that on June 1, 1996, their bodies were found. Lollie was in the tent and Julianne was about 40 feet away in her sleeping bag next to the gentle creek. Both had been bound and murdered, their throats cut. Their dog Taj was later found wandering around the forest “apparently” unharmed.

My intrepid indie inves. has visited the Bridle Trail a number of times, guided by much of the report that has been made public. Some of the pictures in preliminary here will help the reader to envision how the killer had to arrive at the crime scene.

sign

 

Close to where the pair was last seen. They had been dropped off by a ranger at 5:30 p.m. on May 24, 1996. Opposite the road is the entrance to Bridle Trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

entrance-bridletrail

 

 

The entrance to Bridle Trail. In January 2017 it was 35 degrees and cold and desolate. The indie inves. saw only one owl the entire time. No other life or birdsong. In late May it would be lush, but the trail, largely designed for horse back riding, would have been the same. It would be the only quiet way the killer could arrive at the campsite. We must deduce that he knew there were campers down the trail. He may have come across them in the days before the murder and chatted idly with them before returning. Taj the dog could even have become familiar with him.

 

 

 

enter-if-you-dare

Above, about 400 yards down Bridle Trail, off the left, is the clearing. The report contradicts, saying in one entry that they proceeded 190 yards in and 500 yards in to make their camp. The indie inves. was careful and paced it off. At 190 yards there was no sign there had ever been a clearing. At 400 yards and by the creek he came upon this clearing.

perhaps-on-top-attack-site

Possibly right on the crime scene area– at the clearing and looking down at an angle on the creek. Williams was found by the creek in her sleeping bag. It is hard to imagine how anyone could sneak up. There is no path down to the creek. There is a noisy carpet of decay.

creek-from-clearing

The creek straight down from the clearing.

ano-angle-from-clearing

The creek trickling along toward the clearing.

possible-spot

The clearing.

We can hold up on any detailed analysis of the area for the page on the Q Files, but I think it is clear that the killer could not just walk up and have taken them by surprise unless both were asleep. The dog would have to be a heavy sleeper as well. Either the killer had ingratiated himself in the days before  . . .  or?

However, we now have an idea of the location and the underwood. Except for the narrow trail it is a fairly noisy underwood and ground cover. The killer knew there was a couple there. I think it is safe to say that. He wasn’t just strolling the path one night fully prepared to bind and murder a couple.

I don’t like getting into the “hate crime” classification issues. It is a joke of a description to me, since it implies their is murder from love. But to touch on it here we must. The couple was suspected to be lesbian. Of course, some killer stumbling along at night wouldn’t be able to even know that. One girl was in a sleeping bag 40 feet from another in a tent. From the distance of a prying eye in the underwood, the said prying eye couldn’t even determine who was in the tent and probably could not determine the gender of either of them. From the general location and circumstances it seems he made contact with them before, knew how long they would remain at the campsite and then came back. He might therefore have known or suspected they were lesbians (if true)  and that was his demented motive.

However, if we are to link this double murder with the double murders of Colonial Parkway, we have to wonder if the killer simply preyed upon couples. There was a vaguely similar way in which one of the Colonial Parkway couples was murdered. Of the other pairs found murdered, only one was a female couple. The others were not. It was the female couple that had their throats slit, though the circumstances were quite different (they were in their car parked at a turnout on the historic parkway). Yet it seems the same Phantom of Colonial Parkway who had killed the heterosexual couples thereafter had also killed them. If so, there could be a link to this brutal and in many ways still vague double murder 10 years later in the Shenandoah National Forest. Yet it seems the killer here had to take far more preplanning than that required for the more spontaneous lovers’ lanes killings along the Parkway. . .

I am indebted to the intrepid independent investigator who has taken the trouble to help clarify and bring some order to this crime in order to facilitate its solution.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

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