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DNA links fisherman to 3 cold-case murders in Virginia in the 1980s

The suspect had no criminal history, so his DNA was not obtained until his death in 2017. It has now been confirmed he's a match to the murders.
DNA links fisherman to 3 cold-case murders in Virginia in the 1980s
Posted at 12:41 PM, Jan 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-10 13:41:54-05

The DNA of a smalltime fisherman has linked him to three cold-case murders that occurred in Virginia in the 1980s.

The suspect, Alan Wilmer Sr., died in December 2017 at the age of 63. 

Two of the killings were part of a series of unsolved double homicides known as the Colonial Parkway murders, according to Virginia State Police. 

Police and the FBI said the evidence pins Wilmer to the 1987 killings of 20-year-old David Knobling and 14-year-old Robin Edwards, and the 1989 murder of 29-year-old Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell. 

"I want to thank the Edwards, Knobling and Howell families for their patience and understanding over the years," Lt. Col. Tim Lyon, director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said in a press release. "Only those who have suffered the loss of a child in this way can truly understand the depth of their sorrow; and the frustration over not knowing who was responsible for taking their loved one’s life in such a violent and cruel way. I do hope the identification of the killer brings some sense of closure and peace for them. Moving forward, we continue our work to ensure other families have their day, too, and a chance at closure and justice."

Wilmer had no criminal history, so his DNA was not obtained until he died, for identification purposes. In 2023, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science confirmed he was a genetic match to DNA evidence found on the murder victims.

Knobling and Edwards had been found shot to death on Sept. 23, 1987, along the shoreline of the Ragged Island Wildlife Management and Refuge Area in Isle of Wight County. Edwards' body showed he had been sexually assaulted. The two were one of four mysterious separate double homicides coined the Colonial Parkway murders, which spanned from 1986 to 1989. 

Howell was last seen alive outside Zodiac Club in Hampton, Virginia, at 2:30 a.m. on July 1, 1989. Later that morning, a construction crew working on Butler Farm Road discovered women’s clothing near the work site. She was found dead shortly after. Howell had been sexually assaulted and died of strangulation.

Investigators are looking into other crimes Wilmer may have been responsible for. They ask that members of the public who had encounters with him come forward. 

The FBI asks that anyone who may have hunted, fished, hung out with or docked boats next to Wilmer contact them at 1-800-CALL-FBI. People can also contact Virginia State Police by emailing questions@vsp.virginia.gov.


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