Victims’ family members say DNA testing on old evidence from Colonial Parkway murders has not produced new leads

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Long-awaited DNA testing on old evidence from the Colonial Parkway serial murders has not produced new leads, according to family members of the victims.

In an email to other family members, Bill Thomas of Los Angeles, brother of Cathleen Thomas, revealed what the FBI told him.

“The forensic and DNA results from the FBI in my sister Cathy (Thomas’) and Rebecca Dowski’s case have been inconclusive, and the FBI has told me that they need more time for testing,” Thomas wrote in an email obtained by NewsChannel 3. “Nothing on the hair or fingernail clippings. We are looking at mid October now for more results for blood, rope fibers, and the many partial prints left behind.”

Nearly a year ago the FBI promised to re-examine some of the long-stored evidence with modern DNA science. The promise came after a NewsChannel 3 investigation revealed someone in the FBI had leaked gruesome crime-scene photographs from the serial murders. From 1986 through 1989, four couples fell victim to what the FBI considers to be a serial killer. The first victims, Thomas and Dowski, were the only ones located in their car. The other victims had been led away from their vehicles and slain. In all the other cases, police did not find the bodies for days or weeks. Cassandra Hailey and Keith Call were never found.

The leaked crime-scene photographs from the first murders show pieces of knotted rope in Cathleen’s hair. Both victims had rope burns around their necks, and their necks had been slashed. Also, a review of the medical-examiner’s records from the time show FBI agents were given fingernail clippings from both victims, as well as strands of hair found in Cathleen’s hand. Although DNA testing was not in practice back then, experts said last year new testing on those pieces of evidence had the highest chances of uncovering genetic clues.

Thomas said the lack of results so far has been disappointing.

“So far, August and now September (have) been very frustrating months for us in the Colonial Parkway Murders,” Thomas wrote.

He also said the FBI’s top local agent, Alex J. Turner, informed him the cold-case agent now in charge of the Parkway Murders would leave Hampton Roads next spring.

“Special Agent Crosby Brackett … is going to be transferred in April, 2011, to another FBI office,” Thomas wrote. “We will be starting over with another FBI Case Agent in a very complicated case.”

Family members, including Thomas, have consistently praised Brackett’s efforts in the past year.

Although the FBI spearheaded the investigation back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the agency is now only digging into the cases that happened on the Colonial Parkway, which is federal property. The other cases involving David Knobling and Robin Edwards, and Daniel Lauer and Anna Maria Phelps, happened on state property and are being investigated by state police. Sources say there is DNA evidence from one of the state-police cases, but it can’t be tested yet.

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