Virginia police use DNA to tie dead fisherman to three 1980s murders

Alan W. Wilmer Sr., who died at the age of 63 in 2017, has been accused of killing at least three people in Virginia in the 1980s. Photo courtesy Virginia State Police/release
Alan W. Wilmer Sr., who died at the age of 63 in 2017, has been accused of killing at least three people in Virginia in the 1980s. Photo courtesy Virginia State Police/release

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Authorities in Virginia have identified a deceased fisherman as the prime suspect in the deaths of three people who were killed during what has become known as the Colonial Parkway Murders of the 1980s.

Alan W. Wilmer Sr. died in December of 2017 at his residence in Lancaster County, Va., and DNA obtained for his body for identification proposes following his death has linked him to the September 1987 fatal shootings of David L. Knobling, 20, and Robin M. Edwards, 14, and the July 1989 strangulation death of Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell, 29, officials said this week.


"As a result of the forensic findings, both Isle of Wight commonwealth's attorney and the city of Hampton commonwealth's attorney confirm if Alan Wilmer Sr. was alive today, he would be charged in all three of these homicides," Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told said during a Monday press conference.


The Colonial Parkway Murders were a series of double homicides that occurred in south-east Virginia during the late 1980s that have yet to be solved.

Among those considered victims are Knobling and Edwards who were last seen together Sept. 19, 1987. State police said they were found shot to death four days later along the shoreline on the south bank of the James River in the Isle of Wight County.

Though not necessarily considered a victim of the Colonial Parkway Murders, Howell died amid the killing spree. Police said she was last seen at about 2:30 a.m. on July 1, 1989, outside a since-closed nightclub. At about 10 a.m. later that day, her clothing was found by a construction crew and her body was found shortly afterward in a nearby wood line. Police said she was sexually assaulted and died as a result of strangulation.

Virginia State Police on Tuesday published statements from the victims' families expressing appreciation to the authorities for providing them with answers but also dismay.

"For 36 years, our families have lived in a vacuum of the unknown," the Knobling and Edwards families said in a joint statement. "We have lived with the fear of worrying that a person capable of deliberately killing Robin and David could attack and claim another victim. Now, we have a sense of relief and justice knowing that he can longer victimize another.


"His death will not allow us to seek out the answers to the countless questions that have haunted us for so long," the statement continued. "We also recognized this is a difficult time for the Wilmer family and ask that the public extend the same grace to them as we do."

Wilmer had no criminal record at the time of his death, and was not a suspect in the cases. However, police are asking for the public to come forward with information about the deceased fisherman as they investigate him for potential other crimes, including homicides.

"We recognize that this announcement has been a long time coming, especially for the families of these victims," Geller said during the press conference. "While we do hope this provides a sense of closure to them, we recognize there's still other families related to the Colonel Parkway victims still hoping for answers.

"That is why we continue to push forward with our investigations," she said.

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