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   Field of Nightmares: Caldwell Fields

David Metzler & Heidi Childs

   Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
   Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
   Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
   O Lord, kum bay ya.


True Crime Index

     Itís a frightfully folksy scene. I am in many ways translated back to my own childhood in the 1970s when the image of a green field daubed with the yellow flower of the wild mustard weed conjured the innocence the time so heavily sought in the wake of the antiestablishment movement. Such a field, natural and primitive, projects endless youth  . . . except for the distant wall of green trees which marked a dark forest. Camp counselors strummed a classic guitar and everybody Childs-Metzler-iconsang: ďMichael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah.Ē

   Young men and women courted each other to this innocent backdrop. Campfires crackled and flickered. The singing went on. Couples held hands. Itís Campfire Americana. The ritual, if you will, continues to this day. Summer camps still exist in the woods. They became the way Americans get back to our roots, to the days when our ancestors tamed and won the west, lived in log cabins, fur trapped, and ate off the land. A largely rural people, Americans remain suspicious and often contemptible of the big cities and ďcity slickers.Ē Yet it is acceptable and even required in many city households today that the kids go to summer camp, learn woodcraft, get assailed by any number of carnivorous bugs, and contract poison ivy. At one point or another Americans shed their pride and get back to nature.

     Nestled in the shadows of the nearby woods, it was easy to do for Virginia Tech students. Jefferson National Forest was just up Highway 460 from the campus. It was essentially a valley within a range of low mountains. The students went to Caldwell Fields regularly, to the fire pits by the lazy Craig Creek. For 2 students it ended in gunshots.


           First Victims
       Dowski & Thomas

         Second Victims
   Knobling & Edwards

           Third Victims
  Keith Call/Sandra Hailey

         Fourth Victims
         Lauer & Phelps

           Fifth Victims
       Winans & Williams


Donna Hall & Mike Margaret

David Metzler & Heidi Childs

     For just a couple of hours singing and cuddling one warm August evening, their faces are now forever frozen on the parking lotís billboard along with the reward to catch the murderer.

     Craig Creek Road, a narrow country road looking more like a gravel track than a road, led from the highway up the valley, past a Christian summer camp, Camp Tuk-A-Way, and on into the cleft-like valley in the rolling forested hills. Eventually, about a mile up from the summer camp, there one comes to three fieldsó Addison, Milton and George. They are mowed flat, a stark contrast to the primitive woods all around. Civilization yet again. In a way. The fields are delineated by wood posts. There are restrooms at Milton. A few picnic benches. Addison field is largely the gravel parking lot. It isnít civilization. But civilization has been here. It is unobserved civilization.

     The billboard in the parking gives the reader a little history. The three fields have a solid connection to Virginia Tech. Addison Caldwell was the first student to enroll. His brother Milton enrolled later the same day. George has no relation, but thereís a field named for him too. Itís property of the National Forest now. You must call and reserve usage of a field for anything major. But for Virginia Tech students they came, parked at Addison, walked hand-in-hand alongAP-crime-scene-icon a rustic path and over a little tributary of Craig Creek, and to the fire pit at Milton.

     This is what 19 year old David Metzler and his girlfriend of 4 years, 18 year old Heidi Childs, did on the evening of August 26, 2009, arriving around 8 or 8: 30 p.m. at sunset. Virginia Tech was in session only 2 days, so they were probably one of the first couples to head out to the traditional wooing spot. Itís a beautiful scene that ended in tragedy. A lot of details are unknown, but a few help us to try and understand.

     Next morning a man was walking his dog. He walked past the parking lot. A 1992 Toyota Camry was parked therein. A young womanís body was outside the car. A young manís inside. Both were shot multiple times. David and Heidi were both dead. 30.30 shells littered the gravel parking lot.

     Their exact positions we do not know. We donít even know how many times they were shot. It took years for the sheriffs to admit that Heidiís purse with her belongings therein, including cell phone, credit cards, Hokie pass (for Virginia Tech), I.D., and camera was missing. The credit cards were never used by the killer. Apparently Davidís wallet was still in his pants pocket, so we can assume he was seated in the car when shot and the killer did not disturb him to get the wallet. The sheriffs also announced they had touch DNA. They were sure it was the killerís. We can tentatively deduce from this that the killer opened a car door in order to get Heidiís purse and touched a few things. 

     The sheriffs were on safe ground to believe this was a random killing. The kids had only been back to school for 2 days. There was little time to have irked somebody and incited some twisted revenge. A few locals live off the road or frequented the area. Each was ruled out by a DNA comparison.

     If a random killer, what kind? It wasnít a serial killer. There were no more incidents.

     Montgomery County Sheriffs waited almost 3 years to even give out the few bits of information mentioned above. Were they stigmatized by the tragedies that had befallen Virginia Tech of late?ó the mass shooting, the beheading in the cafeteria. Bad things seemed to have been plaguing the otherwise safe and distinctive campus. But no serial seemed to materialize. This wasnít the first installment of a loversí lane killer. It started and stopped here. Did some crazed student come out there and shoot them just for the fun of it?

     Logically, we must deduce it was someone who knew the fields and their connection to the campus life of the students. Moreover, it was therefore someone who also knew there was little chance of cell phone contact out here. The parking lot billboard even warns campers of this fact and gives them directions to the local hospital. In this context, it is hard to believe it was spontaneous, at least in the impulsive sense. It was only two days since university was back in session. Someone knew and possibly stalked the area waiting for a pair of romancing students to arrive.

       Why did this murderer not go on to commit a serial killer spree? 

       It didnít, as we know. But there was no reason for David Metzler or Heidi Childs to be killed for revenge, jealousy, betrayal, anything. What kind of person would go to this trouble just to randomly pop off two kids?

       The killer used a common hunting rifle. Since he used 30.30 caliber bullets he probably used a Winchester lever action. Other rifles fired the 30.30, but if it was a more unusual model youíd think the sheriffs would have a good clue and even announce the fact. The 30.30 was made for the Winchester and it is a popular deer hunting rifle. Lots of deer hunting along Craig Creek and thereís even a shooting range, but the latter is far down the road by the entrance from Highway 460.

       So on the surface it looks like one of the redneck deer hunters went berserk and stole the female victimís purse but not the manís wallet.

     Friends at campus knew that David and Heidi was coming out there tonight, and that Dave was going to play his guitar for her. They were a good, Christian young couple. Dave sat around the fire pit, played, and they sang together.

     Thereafter the sequence of events are hard to figure. The sheriffs believed the couple had been at the site for a couple of hours, so this means the detectives probably checked to see if the fire pit at Milton was warm. They might have looked for shoe prints in the dirt to see that the kids had been down there. So how to reenact the events of that night?

     Based on the topography and what few clues we have, I would have to venture that the killer arrived much later and waited in the parking lot. I would think it highly unlikely that he came down to the fire pit. To speculate that he arrived just as they were leaving seems to invoke a kind of coincidence that reflect a mindset that is naive at best. He probably waited in his parked car until they came back to the parking lot. He must have had a flashlight handy. . . and that 30.30.  Even at night it wouldnít be hard to know there was only 2 of them at the fire pit and they were boy-girl. The fire pit is easily seen from the road, especially when lit. They could be watched from the parking lot, even through the trees.

     Others think that maybe a drug deal went down and the kids were in the wrong spot at the wrong time. This would mean that the drug dealers drove a long way to transact a deal and arrived just as the kids were in the parking lot. I canít imagine all this was just for robbery. This would require the same coincidence: that the killer/robber arrived just as they were leaving. But someone made it look like robbery by taking Heidiís purse.

     The killing was an enormous shock on the campus. It was described as ďbrutal,Ē though we still do not know how many times they were shot or their exact positions.

     Thus a sequence of events, and thus again the killerís movements and possible mistakes, calculations and motives, cannot be logically back-worked. However, the general circumstances indicate someone who was looking for kids to be at the spot.

     Since there is DNA from the Mike Margaret and Donna Hall double murders of 25 years before this, and DNA here, I assume there was a comparison and no matches were made. Yet with the available information, the tragic killing remains eerily similar to the National Forest murders in the 1980s and 1990s commonly lumped together as the ďColonial Parkway Murders,Ē the principle subject of this study.

     The murderer of David and Heidi apparently has no serious record. He has never been booked for anything that required his DNA. There has been no match up yet.

     The photo essay below will help the reader contextualize the circumstances of that August 26, 2009.

VT-information map-VO-icon
VT-main building-VO-icon VT-more-VO-icon
VT-Student Lawn-VO-icon Virginia Tech Campus2-VO-icon Virginia Tech Campus3-VO-icon
VT-buildings-VO-icon Stadium-VO-icon
On 460 to Craig Creek Rd-VO-icon On460-acros from Craig Creek-VO-icon CC-entrance from across 460-VO-icon
Craig Creek Rd sign-VO-icon
Craig Creek--first thing seen-VO-icon
Dead dear at range-VO-icon
Camp Tukaway4-VO-icon Camp Tukaway3-VO-icon Camp Tukaway6-VO-icon
Caldwell-Fields-all3-overhead-icon CaldwellFields-Google3-icon CaldwellFields-Google5-icon
Milton-George-Google-angle-icon Milton-George-Google-fire pits-icon
At Entrance-VO-icon Craig Creek at lot--direction came-VO-icon Craig Creek at lot-other direction-VO-icon
Death Lot-angle2-VO-icon Zoom in-Gate-VO-icon Death Lot-angle5-VO-icon
Death Lot-angle6-VO-icon Death Lot-angle8-VO-icon Death Lot-angle10-VO-icon
Fields-VO-icon Death Lot-angle7-VO-icon Addison view-VO-icon
Addison PL-forests from gate-Milton-VO-icon
Addison Lot-gate to Milton-VO-icon
Death Lot-Billboard-VO-icon
Emergency placard-icon
Gate at lot-VO-icon Milton4-VO-icon Milton2-VO-icon
Craig Creek-angle on-VO-icon Steps down to CraigsCreek-VO-icon Creek--all three lots-VO-icon
Milton-angle-firepit-VO-icon George-from Milton-VO-icon
Down into Milton-VO-icon Milton-from Craig Creek-VO-icon Milton5-VO-icon
Death Lot-Looking back to road-VO-icon

 Someone's crying, Lord, kum bay ya;
   Someone's crying, Lord, kum bay ya;
   Someone's crying, Lord, kum bay ya,
   O Lord, kum bay ya.

The Website of Gian J. Quasar