Note in Murder Victim’s Belongings Continues to Spur Controversy

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in or Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler and Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010

7 Responses

  1. Susan Friend

    Dear Mr. Spingola – I was born and raised in Williamsburg and was in college at the time these murders started. I have followed with interest your re-opening of these cases and applaude how you are helping these families. I must say, however, that I was shocked by the remarks made by this particular family member in the article you mentioned this past Saturday in the VA Gazette. Does she not WANT your help? Does she not want all possibilities investigated? If I recall correctly, members of the other victims families got together and BROUGHT you to this area…what s UP with this lady? I want you to know that I support you and your efforts whole heartedly. I bought your ebook and I wish there was more I could do to help. Sincerely, Susan Friend

    August 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm

  2. Steve Spingola


    Thank you for your comments and support.

    I certainly understand the grief of family members whose child was taken from them in a homicide. First, there is the guilt. A parent asks themselves if they could have done something to prevent the crime. Then there is the realization that they never will see their loved one again in this life. But the next phase should be the ‘I want this SOB found and convicted’ stage. As far as the Colonial Parkway murders, this is where we currently are. SF wants to see the people who committed these crimes held accountable.

    Individuals and families grieve differently. My hope is that this note leads to the person responsible so Jewel Phelps will have closure and a sense of knowing why this horrific crime that took her daughter’s life took place.

    August 31, 2010 at 9:32 pm

  3. Susan Friend

    Mr. Spingola – thank you for your reply :) I figured her response had something to do with her grief…I just felt bad for you and your team because you are trying to HELP SOLVE THE CASE. Again, you and your team have my complete support…I will keep you guys and the families, including Jewel Phelps, in my prayers….
    Sincerely, Susan Friend

    PS – if I can be of any assistance, in any way, please feel free to contact me at the email address I listed, or at

    September 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm

  4. Donna

    Mr. Spingola:

    I just read the article about you in the VA Gazette. I give you so much credit for doing what you are doing. It looks like the more people poke around the parkway the more flack they catch. Like yourself and retired deputy Atwell. I know it is the era of Obama and profit has become a dirty word. I am sure you put many hours into your blog and running down information. I bought your article because I want to help your SF group open more eyes. I think this reporter got some things wrong. She said your theory of a police impersonator in the New Kent killings as “wilder” like you are way off base. Isn’t this pretty much the same conclusion that other cops have come to? Seems to me that this note shows the victims were going to meet someone at a rest stop. It is either a coincidence or an important piece of information. If people like this reporter are going to claim your ideas of what happened are “wilder” shouldn’t they tell their readers why you are wrong and what their ideas of what happened are? Sounds like a reporter with a chip on her shoulder to me.

    September 4, 2010 at 10:03 pm

  5. Steve Spingola


    Thank you for the note, although it’s not fair to slay the messenger. I’m sure the reporter didn’t just pick-up the telephone and call a particular individual out of the blue. Someone—and it’s not rocket science to deduce—probably put a bug in the reporter’s ear. She is simply doing her job, although you’re right: the police impersonator aspect of the Lauer-Phelps homicides is the mainstream theory.

    I’ve been in the investigative business—as a police officer, detective, lieutenant of detectives, and investigative journalist—for over 30 years now. During the course of this journey, defense attorneys, members of the public and others have, at times, pointed fingers. Criticism goes with the territory. As long as the criticism is constructive, I encourage others to state their case, publicly, as it relates to the three-couple homicides and the disappearance of another on or near the Colonial Parkway. Few will do so for fear of getting egg on their faces.

    In reality, however, it really does the families of the victims little justice to argue about theories or nitpick about this or that. SF’s goal it to get creditable information into the public eye so possible tipsters or others withholding information might be compelled to come forward. Whenever people have stepped forward, SF has dispatched this information to law enforcement for further review.

    September 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm

  6. Bill Thomas


    I think your last comment is very well said and bears repeating. My family, and I think the Colonial Parkway Murders families, care about theories only if they lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who murdered our loved ones. The rest of of it does not matter.

    As the brother of a murder victim, I feel very strongly that if family members continue to attack those who are trying to help us solve this multipart murder, then no one will help us at all. October 9, 2010 will mark the 24th anniversary of my sister Cathy Thomas and her friend Rebecca Dowski’ murders — 24 years without a single arrest. Articles like yours, and your ongoing efforts, have helped the families bring attention to this long-neglected case.

    Many thanks for your hard work.

    Bill Thomas
    Brother of Cathleen Thomas

    September 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

  7. Kara Bailey

    Hello; I have a question…or two. Question one; would it be unusual for a killer to travel some distance to perpetrate his crimes? I wonder if maybe the reason the Parkway murderer wasn’t found was because he lived far away. I also remembered seeing a profile on the Parway suspect which suggested a ” a 35-45 year old white male with a knowledge of boating.” A report I recently saw on Oba Chandler’s triple murder in Florida makes me ask if it would be ridiculous to compare the knots on the victims or to track Chandler’s whereabouts between 1986 and 1989. What do you think? The women he killed in Florida were from his home state of Ohio. He met them and wrote directions for them and arranged to meet them later. The women were bound behind their backs…etc. What if their killing was less planned and more about their connection to his home state and that is why he was caught? A profiler also stated during the initial investigation that he had likely killed before because he was comfortable with more than one victim and possibly enjoyed making victims watch each other’s death. The Parkway killings stopped in 1989, the same year when the Florida victims of Oba Chandler were found. Am I reaching?

    May 31, 2012 at 5:10 pm

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