Posts tagged “Keith Call

Prowlers on the Parkway: SF’s Take on the Colonial Parkway Murders

To view this article, checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You coming to in December 2012.


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010

Cadaver Dog Hit Brings Hope to Victims’ Families

YORKTOWN, VA, June 5, 2010 — At approximately 1:15 p.m., cadaver dog searchers from K-9 Alert Search and Rescue “hit” on a location along the Colonial Parkway in an area not covered by the original permits obtained by the victims’ families.

Several searchers present on the Colonial Parkway, as well as other members of the news media, have asked about the meaning of a “hit.”  Cadaver dogs are trained to search for human remains only.  As such, they instinctively bypass the remains of animals. 

During today’s Colonial Parkway search, after the first successful hit, handlers separately brought two additional cadaver dogs to the location in question.  These dogs also detected human remains.  

“I’ve never seen three dogs independently hit on a location where human remains weren’t found,” one of the searchers told SF. 

But just whose remains lay just off the historic parkway?

Jonathan Connolly, a CRM Specialist for the Colonial National Historic Park, is responsible for the Colonial Parkway’s compliance with federal preservation laws.  He also has a background in archeology.  In 2007 and 2008, the William & Mary Center for Archeological Research conducted an extensive excavation project along the entire route of the Colonial Parkway.  Those involved dug holes every 15 meters along the scenic parkway no further than 250 feet from the road’s center line and did not recover any human remains. The area of today’s cadaver dog hits is only yards from the parameters of the 2007 and 2008 William & Mary dig.  

“I’ve checked the area against our records,” Connelly told SF, “and I don’t believe the area where the dogs hit is one where historical remains are located.”

Connolly further noted that the area on the banks of the York River, now known as the Colonial Parkway, was once home to native American Indians and then, since the early 1600s, European settlers.  A plantation was once located near this area; however, after examining the ground near the cadaver dogs’ hit, Connelly believes the location is not the grave of slave.  He noted that the burial grounds of slaves tend to rise six to eight inches above the surface.  The location of the cadaver dog hit is level to the ground. 

When SF left the scene at approximately 3:30 p.m., an agent from the FBI was standing by.  My understanding is an FBI evidence response team is en route to explore the area of the hit.

“In most instances,” said Connolly, “we cannot just dig up remains.  Since this is a criminal matter, they [the FBI] can.”

Are the purported remains located beneath the surface just off the Colonial Parkway those of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey? Only time and further examination will tell.

Yet the members of the Call and Hailey families present during the search are hopeful this new discovery will bring them closure.


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010

NPS Gives a Little Ground, Literally

YORKTOWN, VA, June 5, 2010 — As the search for the remains of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey continues, it appears that the National Park Service (NPS) has had a change of heart.  NPS Ranger Steve Williams, who, also was the victim of an unfortunate rear-end car accident, gave consent to the families to search an additional area of the Colonial Parkway. 

The area set to be searched, is virgin territory, so to speak, as investigators have yet to comb this particular segment of the scenic parkway. 

Reading between the lines, I believe the presence of the FBI agent investigating four of the eight Colonial Parkway homicides may have played a role.  After all, common sense dictates that the cadaver dogs should visit unexplored grids. 

Before proceeding further, the weather in historic Yorktown, which abuts the beautiful and wide York River to the east, is a bit steamy.  The temperature is 93 degrees at noon.  The sticky humidity is cause for searchers to frequently hydrant.  The ticks in the Colonial Parkway are as persistent as mosquitoes after a rainy, Wisconsin summer afternoon. 

Yesterday, while the Spingola Files (SF) visited the crime scene near I-64 in New Kent County — where hunters discovered the remains of the Lauer/Phelps homicides — ticks permeated the clothes of searchers  In fact, this morning, one of the dog-handlers jokingly mentioned Virginia doesn’t have state bird just a state insect — the tick.

Hopefully, a search of this new area turns up that bread crumb of information needed to point searchers in the right direction.


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010

Let the Search Begin — Well, Kind of

YORKTOWN, VA, June 5, 2010 — Not far from historical Yorktown, a search is underway for the remains of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey, a couple who had left an April 10, 1988, party about 15 miles from the Colonial Parkway but were never seen alive again.

A park ranger and Call’s father later observed Keith’s 1982 Toyota abandon on the Colonial Parkway.  Investigators later observed the couple’s clothing piled, as if they were dropped, on the rear seat.

Today’s organized, private search — conducted with very little expense to taxpayers — is being hindered by bureaucrats being bureaucrats.  National Park Service Ranger Steve Williams explained that the families permit allows cadaver dog-handlers to search only two limited areas of the Colonial Parkway.  “This is a historical park with sensitive areas,” Williams explained to SF. 

During the Spingola Files’ (SF) visit, SF spoke with sources that presented various theories  — some of which overlap — pertaining to these complex investigations. However, the National Park Service (NSP) is unwilling to show some flexibility, prohibiting a search of any additional areas under their jurisdiction.  Six cadaver dogs and their handlers from K-9 Alert Search and Rescue ( made extensive preparations to handle a detailed hunt for the remains of Call and Hailey, but the rules-are-rules bureaucrats have put a damper on the overall operation. 

About an hour ago, Burt Drummond, search and rescue organizer, held a briefing for the families, volunteers and members of the media.  Updates on the search are forth coming. 

On another note, the families of Colonial Parkway murder victims held a get-together last night at the Ocean Breeze Restaurant.  SF would like to thank the families for their hospitality.  The restaurant’s staff did a wonderful job hosting the private event.  During the meeting, I discussed the cases with family members, all of whom are looking for closure.

Prior to the meeting, I spoke with Channel 12’s Tara Morgan regarding SF’s efforts:

Check this site throughout the day, as I will post updates regarding the search.


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010

Taking the Sense Out of Sensitivity

The late Tip O’Neill once a said, “All politics is local.”  If the former Speaker of the House was correct, then the residents of central Virginia need to contact their congressional representatives and US Senators to politely ask why the National Park Service is throwing-up a bureaucratic roadblock to the search for Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey — two probable victims of a serial killer that roamed Virginia’s Colonial Parkway.

On April 9, 1988, Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey went on their first date.  The next day, a park ranger discovered Call’s abandoned 1982 Toyota Celica on the Colonial Parkway.  The couple literally disappeared off the face of the Earth, although investigators suspect they became victims of a killer targeting couples in so-called lover’s lane areas. 

As readers of this Web site know, the Spingola Files (SF)  — at the request of the victims’ families — is set to visit Virginia’s Colonial Parkway early next month.  SF was looking forward to assisting the June 5 search for Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey, along with dozens of other volunteers, including Kim Bidwell and her cadaver dog-handler associates.

Today, Jen Phelps, the sister-in-law of Colonial Parkway murder victim Annamaria Phelps, along with other victims’ family members, received word that the National Park Service (NPS) would limit the search to just 15 persons.  The reason: the NPS is concerned that the search may interfere with the pleasure the park may otherwise provide to visitors.

To read more about this breaking story visit:,0,5422028.story

Obviously, this is a case of bureaucrats being bureaucrats. Why any governmental body would prohibit an organized search — one conducted by volunteers and costing taxpayers nothing — is beyond logical reasoning. 

Below is the contact information for Virginia’s two U.S. Senators:

Senator Mark Warner, (202) 224-2023

Senator James Webb, (202) 224-4024

I encourage readers of this Web site to contact these two gentlemen and request that the National Park Service show some sensitivity and compassion for the Call and Hailey families. This valuable search should go on as scheduled June 5, even if it takes some behind the scenes political maneuvering to overrule the rationale of the rules-are-rules bureaucrats at the NPS.


Steve Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010

Prowler on the Parkway

In Virginia, a killer — more likely a handful of killers — are at large.  From 1986 to 1989, at least eight people became homicide victims on or near the Colonial Parkway.  Within hours after a passerby found the first victims, Cathy Thomas and Becky Dowski, inside a white Honda, investigators told family members that they believed the suspect was either a law enforcement officer or a police impersonator. The perpetrator bound Thomas and Dowski before slitting one of the women’s throats with enough force to cause partial decapitation.

While some believe the Colonial Parkway murders ended in 1989, and that the suspect is either dead or currently incarcerated, the May 1996 homicides of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams in a remote area of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park are strikingly similar.  The two hikers were found bound and gagged with their throats slit.

In fact, the remains of David Knobling, Robin Edwards, Daniel Lauer, Annamaria Phelps, Alicia Reynolds, and Morgan Harrington, have dotted the Virginia country side.  The bodies of another couple — Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey — have yet to be located. All of these investigations remain open.  

Over the course of the past month or so, I have had the privilege to communicate with some of the victims’ family members.  This dialog caused me to do more research and dig a little deeper.  These brutal, unsolved homicides are extremely troubling. A good possibility exists that more than one killer is fulfilling his violent fantasies and remains at large to commit yet another heinous offense.

Last night, Virginia’s WAVY Channel 10 broke the news of my upcoming visit to the Richmond area.

While the report claims the Spingola Files is conducting an “independent investigation” from the FBI, I will not be acting in a law enforcement or private investigative capacity.  Instead, I am exploring these cases from the perspective of an investigative journalist.  Hopefully, my coverage of these events will call out volunteers to assist in the search of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey, cause a person with relevant information to come forward, or somehow uncover a small piece of the puzzle needed to unlock the anonymity of the killer(s).  

Visit this Web site for updates on the Spingola Files visit to Virginia in early June.  I plan on posting information — in some cases live — as I speak with those involved in these complex investigations.


Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010