Posts tagged “Ralph Leon Jackson

Northern Illinois University Homicide No Walk in the Park

The case of a missing young, Naperville, Illinois woman illustrates that predators continue to view college campuses akin to shooting fish in a barrel.  

Antinette “Toni” Keller, an 18-year-old freshmen at Northern Illinois University, was last observed just before noon as she left her dormitory, Neptune Hall, on October 14, 2010. Keller told acquaintances she was going for a walk in Prairie Park, a 150 acre DeKalb municipal park, located just south of campus.

To their credit, local authorities made use of a plethora of resources.   A methodical grid search of the large park was conducted with cadaver dogs and by assets from the air.  Late last week, searchers found human remains inside a wooded area.  DeKalb’s Police Chief Bill Feithen didn’t waste any time calling in the heavy hitters—the Major Case Squad, a task force that includes DeKalb police, Northern Illinois police detectives, as well as investigators from DeKalb County and the Illinois State Police.

While Feithen classified the discovery of human remains as a “death investigation,” requesting the services of the Major Case Squad clearly points to a homicide.  

At a late night October 23 press conference, police disclosed they had discovered items belonging to Toni Keller inside Prairie Park.  The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the property belonging to Keller was located just south of Illinois State Highway 38 (also known as Lincoln Highway) near a line of railroad tracks.  While the remains have yet to be officially identified, investigators clearly believe the body is that of Toni Keller. 

The Keller case is eerily reminiscent to another ongoing investigation that occurred nearly 850 miles and five states to the east—the murder of 20 year-old Morgan Harrington.   Coincidently, Harrington disappeared on October 17, 2009, almost a year-to-the-day that Keller went missing.  She was last observed thumbing for a ride on the Copeley Road Bridge that hovers above a set of railroad tracks on the University of Virginia campus.  Harrington’s body, however, was found on a farm several miles from campus, suggesting that she was transported in a vehicle.  In July, the Virginia State Police released information indicating that DNA linked Harrington’s killer to a 2005 Virginia sexual assault.  A composite sketch of the suspect in the 2005 rape depicts an African-American male with a round face and beard.

The Harrington and Keller homicides are, of course, likely unrelated, but the similarities illustrate that predators see college campus as a hunting ground for naïve or inebriated women who, for whatever reasons, walk or stagger alone.  It is the isolation of the victims that creates the opportunity for these killers to fulfill their demented sexual fantasies of power and control. 

Reading between the lines, authorities in DeKalb are keeping the details of the Keller crime scene close to the vest.  Only a week old, the victim’s remains will probably provide investigators with the physical evidence needed to forensically identify the perpetrator.  Crimes of opportunity typically involve disorganized slayings; whereby, the suspect’s actions are poorly planned. 


Two weeks ago, Augusta County, Virginia prosecutors dismissed a homicide case against Ralph Leon Jackson, a 57-year-old mechanic and the alleged perpetrator in the slaying of Timothy P. Davis on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

But a lack of evidence is not the reason for the state case being dropped.

Instead, federal authorities have decided to prosecute Jackson in the April double shooting.   Authorities from the Augusta County DA’s office readily admit that the reason for the federal prosecution is that Jackson would likely face a tougher sentence.  Because Davis was shot but likely died due to a fall off a bluff, under Virginia law, Jackson would likely be ineligible for a capital murder sentence.  However, since the Blue Ridge Parkway is U.S. property, federal guidelines may call for a death sentence.

Is it possible that prosecutors believe that Jackson may be involved in other Virginia slayings and are simply upping the ante in an effort to get him to cooperate for sentencing considerations?



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

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI,2010

The Mysterious Whereabouts of Ralph Leon Jackson

To read this article, purchase The Best of the Spingola Files, coming to’s Kindle store in January 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

Shooting Suspect Invokes His Penile Rights

A search warrant filed in a Virginia court confirms that purported Blue Ridge shooting suspect, Ralph Leon Jackson, made statements against his penal interests about his penile interests.

During a search warrant executed at Jackson’s Howardsville Turnpike home, investigators discovered two plastic containers with the words “male enhancement” written on them.  A detective later spoke to Jackson, who said that the substances made him “foggy.”

In an earlier column, I discussed the significance of the Blue Ridge Parkway incident:

Reading between the lines, however, the substances marked “male enhancement” are not, in all likelihood, physician prescribed, which means they could be anything Jackson believed would enhance “male” behavior, such as ecstasy or other mood altering medications.

Reports claim that Jackson suffers from advanced prostate cancer and is under going chemotherapy.  In many instances, prostrate cancer spreads to the bones, creating a particularly excruciating condition.  Severe pain sometimes leads the afflicted to self-medicate with non-prescribed drugs.  As such, it will be interesting to hear the toxicology results.  

Moreover, media reports indicate that police have filed the paperwork needed to retrieve Jackson’s DNA.  Typically, unless a preliminary test is fast tracked, two to nine months are needed to compare samples with CODUS, a national DNA databank maintained by the FBI.

On another note, readers of this site are keenly aware of my interest in these Virginia cases.  A possibility exists that one suspect — whether it is the Colonial Parkway murders, the Route 29 stalker case, the Shenandoah National Park slayings, or the Morgan Harrington homicide — may have had a hand in these other incidents.  

Over the course of the last month, I have communicated with family members of the Colonial Parkway victims.  In the near future, the Spingola Files will travel to Virginia to highlight these troubling cases. By raising the profile of these unsolved offenses, it is possible that persons with knowledge of these crimes will come forward and shed some light on the identifies of these nefarious killers.


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

Blue Ridge Parkway Shooting Update

The man charged with the bizarre Blue Ridge Parkway shootings of two people is undergoing drug treatment for cancer. 

According to the news magazine The Hook, the co-owner of the business employing Ralph Leon Jackson, age 56, describes the accused gunman as “nice guy” and “a good worker.”  Barbara Lambert, of Delmar’s Auto Repair, further notes that Jackson is suffering from advanced prostate cancer and undergoes chemotherapy treatment, which may result in noticeable weight loss. 

As I noted in an earlier posting, the similarities between Jackson and a 1996 composite drawing of the alleged Route 29 stalker are striking.  In the composite sketch, the suspect appears more robust with thicker hair. 

According to the Web site :

“…weight loss after chemotherapy is associated with side effects of chemo that can sometimes interfere with your ability to eat or drink and affect your ability to maintain your healthy weight.  Chemotherapy weight loss may occur as a result of: poor appetite, eating less, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and dehydration.”

Moreover, the subsequent dismissal of the federal indictment against Darrell Rice revealed the presence of DNA belonging to another individual at an associated crime scene. Investigators will now compare Jackson’s DNA against the person of interest.

Hopes of an expeditious resolution to other investigations are apparently premature.  While Jackson initially cooperated with detectives, he has now exercised his Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel. 

Nonetheless, investigators from the Virginia State Police are likely scouring Department of Transportation records in an effort to ascertain what vehicles Jackson owned or operated in the mid-1990s.  The suspect’s occupation may complicate matters.  As a mechanic, Jackson probably had access to vehicles he serviced, both at his place of employment and while doing work on the side.


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

A Break in the Case?

A possible major break has occurred in the Colonial Parkway/Route 29 stalker investigations.

On April 7, the Augusta County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Department apprehended Ralph Leon Jackson, age 56, at his home on Howardsville Turnpike.  On the evening of April 5, authorities allege Jackson shot two people, with no apparent motive, at a scenic overlook on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. 

As the couple, 18-year-old high school senior Christina Floyd and WNRN operations manager Timothy Davis, 27, took in the sights; Jackson allegedly fired at least three shotgun blasts.  One of the rounds struck Davis, who tumbled 150 feet down a cliff.  Investigators believe Floyd wrestled the shotgun away from the shooter.  

The news magazine The Hook, reports that Jackson had “no known connection to the victims whom he began shooting from his vehicle, a burgundy Kia Sephia.”

Jackson, a life-long area resident, made admissions linking him to the shootings. 

Considering that nearly 14 years have eclipsed, a composite sketch of the Route 29 stalker — a man responsible for the 1996 death of Alicia Reynolds — looks similar to Jackson. 

To view a booking photo of Jackson visit:

To view a 1996 composite sketch of the Route 29 stalker, created from witnesses’ descriptions, visit:

The Colonial Parkway murders began in 1986.  A jogger discovered Cathy Thomas’ vehicle — a white Honda — on an embankment along the York River south of the Cheatham Annex.  The suspect(s) strangled Ms. Thomas and Becky Dowski with ropes and then slit their throats. Over the course of the next four years, two other couples were found murdered and another couple, still missing, is presumed dead.

The Route 29 stalker used the ruse of potential car trouble to encourage women to pull to the side the road.  From January 17 to March 2, 1986, the suspect made at least 23 contacts with female motorists.  Most of the women ignored the suspect’s demands to pullover.  In two instances, those who accepted assistance left the suspect’s vehicle unscathed.  The suspect attacked another woman, Carmelita Shomo, who managed to exit the vehicle.  In open court, Shomo identified Darrell Rice as her abductor.  A fourth woman, Alicia Reynolds, accepted a ride.  A man walking his dog discovered her body on May 7, 1986, near a rural road in Culpeper County. 

Convicted of the attempted abduction of Ms. Shomo, the federal government indicted Rice for other crimes, but when DNA for another individual was located, federal prosecutors dismissed these charges.

Jackson’s arrest has the potential to tie many of the loose ends, especially if he cooperates. 


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