The next morning, 7 a.m. Sunday April 10, Keith’s father is driving to work along the scenic parkway. He sees his son’s car parked in the turnout. He stops, looks inside, calls, and waits. Nothing. He drives off. What he thought, well, we don’t exactly know. But his son had had a date and maybe they were strolling along the parkway or had fallen asleep on the river bank somewhere down from the turnout.
A park ranger must have called a little louder around 9 a.m.. He waited and got no reply as well. He listed the car as abandoned and it was towed.
The ranger may have been a little more disturbed when he had first looked inside the car. In the back seat there was the clothes of a young man, cast aside by some clothes of a young woman. There was also a woman’s purse on the back seat floor. On the driver’s side dash there was a man’s watch and a pair of glasses. The car keys were just laying there on the driver’s seat cushion. Skinny dippers, he thought.
It didn’t make sense that they would be skinny-dipping in such cold water and off such a steep overlook like the York Turnout, but who knows. The ranger assumed they could have drowned. It wasn’t long before boats were out and divers thrashing about, but no bodies were found and soon the Feds— their territory— got involved and wondered about the connection with Dowski and Thomas. It would take 3 days for bodies to surface in the river, they were told. So until then the Feds considered what they had. They had nothing but the car, the contents, and its location.
An examination of the articles left in the car made for curious clues. Keith’s wallet was in back with 12 dollars in it. Whether it was in his pants’ pocket or loose we do not know. Even more curious, the woman’s wallet wasn’t in her purse. How much did the Feds have on the Ragged Island double murders of last autumn? I don’t know. They may not have had a lot. That was Virginia State Police territory. But if they had any information or requested it and got the full scoop, they would have uncovered that Robin Edwards’ wallet was gone, but that Knobling’s wallet was present and on the dash of his pickup.
Those 2 had been found nude about a mile from their car, and it certainly seems that Keith Call and Sandra Hailey had been nude or practically when taken by fate, for lack of a better word. They hadn’t been skinny-dipping here. The bodies never surfaced. They had to have been swimming somewhere, somewhere where they could park relatively close to the water and leave their clothes in the car. More and more it was looking like the “killer” had taken Keith’s car to the York Overlook and parked it there. The keys on the front seat was a very suspicious gesture. Unless he brought a bicycle with him, it sounded like the killer had an accomplice that followed in his own car. Irv Wells, head of the Norfolk field office of the FBI, had thought there was an accomplice in the Dowski and Thomas murders.
Putting these 3 cases together and it sounded like a serial was afoot. He killed couples by the rivers at petting spots— Dowski & Thomas here or somewhere off the York; Knobling & Edwards at Ragged Island off the James; . . . and Call and Hailey— where?
Each was a remarkably different case. The first was a slashing; the second a shooting; the third a disappearance. But they were tied together by the inference that Colonial Parkway was the dumping site and not the murder site. Nevertheless, the clues indicated that all three couples were taken by surprise at a petting spot, with the Ragged Island male-female couple found nude and this male-female couple presumed to have been surprised while nude. The female-female couple were found clothed and unmolested.
If the 3 cases were connected they presented quite a problem. They were 3 very distinctive types of murder, but each murder was connected by the fact it was a drawn-out affair— binding/strangling/choking/slashing all takes time; Ragged Island was a very drawn-out shooting in which the couple was marched out over a mile in pitch darkness into a wildlife refuge; and now a total disappearance in which it seems the bodies had been neatly hidden and the car driven who knows how far.
Something else united these cases— the jurisdictions. Colonial Parkway belonged to the Fed, who aren’t used to street investigating murder, and a scenic parkway isn’t exactly the “street” with pushers, pimps, dopers, hookers, and other potential witnesses that can be grilled for information. The other was State Police jurisdiction. They also aren’t used to street investigating murder. Not like big city police departments and county sheriffs anyway. And Ragged Island was a marshy wildlife refuge.
The killer sounded like some Jason Voorhees. He struck along rural areas, by a river, emerging from the woods. Yet it seemed he had to have a car or an accomplice.
Several questions need to be asked in the Call and Hailey disappearance. Why try and hide the actual location of the attack? It must have been by a swimming hole. If not that then he must have forced them to strip where they had been parking. Thus he planted the clothes inside as false clues. The killer of Knobling and Edwards apparently made them strip though it seems he also took them by surprise in Knobling’s pickup before he marched them out to the beach. Did he do that here or did he carry most of Keith Call’s clothes back to the car but only a few of Hailey’s clothes. Why?
Personally, for me there is reason to suspect that the killer at Ragged Island arranged the circumstances in Knobling’s pickup. Door open, window down, wipers on, wallet out on dash. Some of their clothes was therein. The scene made it look as if they had been stopped by a cop. But neither a real cop nor an imitator could risk leaving a pickup in those circumstances while he marched out his victims over a mile. If a real cop had come along and found a pickup in this condition and another empty car next to it, he would have certainly looked around and taken down the licenses. How could the killer have risked that? But what if the killer arranged Knobling’s pickup before he left the scene?
If the clothes inside was not planted, then Keith and Sandra had parked somewhere close to where they could skinny-dip. Somewhere along a river bank or a lake, like something out of Friday the 13th, the killer approached them and . . . well, who knows how long the ordeal was? At Ragged Island it must have been quite extended.
Cathy Thomas’ wallet found loose— OK, maybe a cop or nut playing copper. Knobling’s wallet on the dash. Given the circumstances, possibly also a nut feigning cop. But a car driven to a location and abandoned, with the wallet and clothes in the back seat? That doesn’t sound like a cop. If the wallet was loose in back, then it would indicate a guy playing cop. He made Call, nude, go back up to the car and show him his I.D. Yet driving the car and dropping it at another location. Who would believe that a cop on duty could do this? Keith Call’s Toyota Celica seems to contradict the clues that suggest a cop or someone playing cop was the culprit. Could the killer have been that stupid to think the Feds wouldn’t check on the tides and the length of time it would take for a body to bloat and come to the surface? Standard procedure. Until this mistake the killer had been clever. Now he merely seemed very confident he couldn’t be traced.
No, whatever happened to Call and Hailey happened somewhere else and the killer didn’t want the car left with the bodies. An abandoned car would be found, far more quickly than bodies in a wood somewhere. There was incriminating evidence in this case, and the killer couldn’t afford for it to be found.
The young couple remain missing to this day.