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June 22, 1992: Psychologist: Parkway killer probably had partner
Larry McCann believes a serial killer is responsible for the deaths of six people and the disappearance of two others, and even though the slayings apparently have stopped, the state police psychologist thinks the killer is still out there.
Typically, ``somebody of this type doesn't just stop. If the killings stop that means he's either died, gone to jail or moved out of the area,'' said McCann, a behavioral psychologist.
But in this case, McCann believes the killer may have been stymied by the death of an accomplice. A search of the FBI database on violent crimes shows there have been no killings in the past 2 1/2 years anywhere in the United States, Canada or Australia that fit the pattern of the Virginia crimes. Interpol also reports no similar crimes in Europe.
That indicates to McCann that the killer is not operating elsewhere unless it is in the Third World.
McCann said if the killer has died, police probably will never know. ``If that is the case, it was likely a violent death. Violent lives generally end in violent deaths,'' he said.
If the killer is in jail, McCann said the pattern of killing probably will resume when the killer is released.
Two years ago, McCann and the FBI went public with their belief that the killings of three couples and the disappearance of a fourth in the general vicinity of the historic Colonial Parkway were the work of one person.
After an extensive study of the four crime scenes, McCann compiled a psychological profile of the killer. McCann declines to discuss the specifics of the profile.
``There is some behavior that tells us something about this man that we just don't want to release,'' he said.
Two years ago, McCann said there was a second person who had an ``intimate knowledge'' of the crimes. He implied that the second person might be in danger.
McCann said last week that his statements two years ago were intended to warn the second person.
``I was trying to let this person know, `Hey, you're next on his list,''' McCann said. ``It's a pretty good possibility that that second person is dead.''
From his study of the crime scenes, McCann concludes the second person may have been a helper to the killer.
``I don't think one person could have controlled the victims,'' he said. ``I think there needed to be two. These were not easy targets. These were young, healthy, strong individuals. It would have been too much for one person to handle.''
The crimes began in October 1986 with the killings of Cathleen Thomas, 28, of Norfolk and Rebecca Dowski, 21 and a student at the College of William and Mary, on the Colonial Parkway near Williamsburg.
The women were found in the back seat of Thomas' car. They had been strangled and their throats slit. There were no signs of a struggle, nor had the women been raped or robbed.
Thomas' car had been pushed over an embankment along the parkway.
In September 1987, the bodies of David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, both of Newport News, were found at the Ragged Island Game Refuge on the James River. Each had been shot in the back of the head. Again there was no sign of a struggle.
Knobling's pickup truck was found in the refuge parking lot with its keys in the ignition. His wallet was found on the truck's seat.
In April 1988, not far from the site of the Thomas-Dowski killings, Richard Call, 20, of Gloucester County and Cassandra Hailey, a 19-year-old Christopher Newport College student, disappeared.
Call's vehicle was discovered at an overlook along the parkway with its keys in the ignition. Hailey's purse and Call's wallet were in the car. No trace has been found of the couple despite numerous searches.
In September 1989 near Interstate 64 in New Kent County, Daniel Lauer, 21, of Amelia County and Annamaria Phelps, 19, of Virginia Beach were reported missing.
Their bodies were discovered in a nearby wooded area about a month later.
Because the bodies were badly decomposed, authorities were uncertain of the exact cause of death. Both Lauer and Phelps had been stabbed.
Lauer's car was found at a nearby rest area with its keys in the ignition. Phelps' purse was found in the car. Authorities said Lauer was not known to carry a wallet.
McCann's theory that the second person is now dead would help explain why the killings appear to have stopped.
``The situation has changed dramatically. Without the second person, the killer would be in danger of losing control of the situation. And I think it would be difficult to recruit another follower,'' McCann said.
McCann was trained by FBI specialists to draw up profiles of serial criminals. The bureau began looking at the psychological makeup of serial murderers, rapists, pedophiles and arsonists in the late 1960s.
Using information from the crime scene, profilers are able to draw a psychological picture of the suspect that often includes some physical characteristics.
``This is not something that is on the back burner,'' McCann said of the search for the killer. ``We get one or two tips every week or so. We are still looking. ... He's going to make a mistake. And when he does, we'll catch him.
``Every cop in Virginia is after him.''