The Freeway Phantom
In the early 1970’s, a mysterious killer targeted young black girls along the Washington Beltway. This boogeyman would become known as the D.C. region’s “first profiled serial killer,” and their crimes continue to haunt investigators and loved ones close to half-a-century later…
Romaine Jenkins is a retired police officer, who - during her tenure in law enforcement - became a pioneer.
In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Jenkins joined the Washington D.C. police force. She was the region's first female homicide detective - a feat made all the more incredible when you factor in Jenkins' ethnicity. She, like the majority of people in Washington DC, also happens to be black.
During her time as a homicide detective, Jenkins mainly investigated the deaths of children and babies. These were the type of cases that her male colleagues tried to avoid. A number of these grisly cases were heartbreaking, consuming much of Jenkins' time with tragedy.
However, in all of these cases, one kept Romaine Jenkins up at night. It wasn't even a case she investigated at the time, but watched unfold from afar. It's a story that continues to haunt her, more than two decades after her retirement.
It's the story of six black girls, who were all abducted and brutally murdered over the span of a year-and-a-half. Some had been sexually assaulted, and some of whom were found with very little evidence for investigators to chew over. All had been killed by a mysterious killer - or group of killers - who seemed to embrace the nickname that the media gave them.
This is the story of Washington D.C.'s first known serial killer, the Freeway Phantom.
In 1971, Carol Denise Spinks was a thirteen-year old that lived in Washington, DC. Just one of eight children, Carol had an identical twin sister named Carolyn. Described as both shy and petite, Carol had just cracked five feet tall, and was near the end of her seventh grade year at Johnson Junior High School.
There was nothing about Carol Spinks that stood out: she seemed relatively normal, and she liked to fill up her time with friends and games - in particular, jumping rope and hula-hooping.
On April 25th, 1971 - a Sunday, which was described as being unusually warm for the springtime - Carol and her siblings were shut up inside their apartment, in Washington D.C.'s Congress Heights. Their mother, Allenteen - a strict disciplinarian - was heading out to visit a nearby relative. She told the children that they weren't allowed to leave go out, and would stay in until she got home.
The children knew that failure to comply would result in a severe punishment - such as being hit with a switch or a belt - but that did not deter young Carol Spinks.
Valerie, Carol's 24-year old sister that lived across the hall in the apartment building, asked the kids if any of them would walk down to a nearby store for her. She was asking for some groceries - all of which could be picked up from a 7-Eleven convenience store just down the street. In return, they could pick up a soda for themselves. Carol obliged, and accepted the five dollars from her older sister.
She began walking down the street, towards the 7-Eleven. It was just about half-a-mile away from home... across the state border, in Maryland's Prince George's County (also known as "PG County" to locals).
Carol, who knew that she was risking punishment if it was discovered she had left the family's apartment, walked briskly along Wheeler Road. However, along the way, she encountered her mother, who just-so-happened to be returning home.
Allenteen spotted her defiant 13-year old daughter, and let her know that her punishment would be waiting for her at home. Carol was allowed to continue her small grocery run on this Sunday evening.
We know that Carol made it to the store - a 7-Eleven along Wheeler Road - because a clerk working that evening later told police that they sold the girl some items - TV dinners, bread, and some soda - before watching her leave. Shortly after leaving the store, another kid from the neighborhood saw her walking back home, with a bag of groceries in her hands.
However, in the half-mile distance between the 7-Eleven convenience store and her family's apartment, Carol Spinks disappeared. When she failed to return home in a timely manner, her mother called the police and was able to file a missing persons report that night. In addition, Allenteen - a single mother of eight - would organize a neighborhood search for the missing teenager that evening, but the volunteers (primarily friends and family members) would be unable to find any trace of Carol Spinks.
Unfortunately, their questions regarding her fate would be answered less than a week later.
On Saturday, May 1st, 1971 - six days after the disappearance of Carol Spinks - a group of kids were playing in a grassy area behind St. Elizabeths Hospital.
St. Elizabeths Hospital was less than a mile away from the scene of Carol's disappearance, and was the area's primary mental health facility. It had housed everyone from psychotic killers to returning Vietnam veterans suffering from undiagnosed PTSD.
As the group of kids were playing in this area, just off of Interstate 295's northbound lanes, an 11-year-old boy wandered off. He ended up walking roughly 1500 feet south of Suitland Parkway, towards a grassy embankment along the Anacostia Freeway, where he discovered the body of a murdered young woman. A short distance down the road, he was able to flag down a police officer, who reported the scene.
Detectives John Moriarty and Roy Lamb were called to the scene, amidst Vietnam War protests, and began canvassing the neighborhood. During this search, they began looking for those that knew the victim, and were able to quickly link this case to the missing 13-year old that had disappeared less than a week beforehand.
Romaine Jenkins, the homicide detective I introduced in this episode's introduction, wouldn't be directly involved in this case. As it was with all of the other murdered girls, she simply did her best to stay in-the-loop, and watched the investigation unfold from afar. She read the case notes and offered insight whenever possible, but that was really all she could do.
The remains of this young victim were brought in for an evaluation and autopsy. It was discovered that the victim had been found in the same clothing that she had disappeared in - a red sweater, blue shorts, and brown socks - but most unusually, her shoes were missing.
An autopsy of the victim's body showed that she had been sexually assaulted before her death; in a grisly detail, police also learned that she had been sodomized.
Before her death, it appeared that the victim had been brutalized, having been hit in the face more than once. There were also cuts to various parts of her body: in particular, her face, torso, and arms.
The cause-of-death, though, appeared to be strangulation.
In addition to all of these violent details, it was also discovered during this autopsy that the victim, Carol, had likely been kept alive after her disappearance (which police were now ruling an abduction). It was surmised that the body had only been decomposing for 2-3 days, despite her body being found close to a week after her abduction.
This was also supported by the contents of her stomach, which included some kind of citrus fruit. Police believed that the culprit of this violent death had fed her in the interim few days.
One of the few pieces of evidence that police would find, during a thorough examination of Carol Spinks' remains, were small green fibers that were found on her clothing. It was believed that these had come from a vehicle or a carpet/rug of some kind, but would provide police a very minuscule lead as the investigation began to stretch out over several weeks.
Darlenia Denise Johnson was a 16-year old girl that lived in Congress Heights - the same neighborhood that Carol Spinks and her family had been living in.
More than two months had passed since the 13-year old had gone missing and her remains were found, and the story was a blip on the radar for 16-year old Darlenia. School was out for the summer, and she was occupying her time with her friends, her boyfriend, and her summer job: working as a counselor at a nearby rec center.
On July 8th, 1971, Darlenia said goodbye to her mother, and began walking to work. She told her mom that she was going to be staying the night at the rec center, as they were hosting a sleepover event for kids that would stretch into the following morning.
Her work wasn't too far away - located in Oxon Hill, a neighboring district of Congress Heights - which sat in unincorporated PG (Prince George's) County. It was a short walk that she had made dozens of times before.
Sadly, Darlenia Johnson never made it to work that day. It wasn't until the following day that her absence was truly noted, and suspicions began to be raised about her whereabouts. A missing persons report was filed, and Darlenia Johnson's case was tentatively labeled an abduction.
At least one witness would claim having seen her with her boyfriend that afternoon, but that boyfriend's mother refused to let police speak to her son.
Another witness would state that they had seen Johnson driving around with an older African-American male, in the time period after her supposed abduction. The vehicle was described as an older black model, but no specific details could be given.
As you can imagine, both of this leads led nowhere.
It was rumored in the days after Darlenia's disappearance that her mother would receive phone calls at odd hours, with the person on the other end of the line taunting her. According to at least one person familiar with the family, this unknown caller even made the claim:
"I killed your daughter."
In the days after the disappearance of Darlenia Johnson, it became apparent that police didn't seem very interested in the case. Their apathy would be noted on at least one more occasion.
In the middle of July 1971, an employee of the D.C. Department of Highways and Traffic began experiencing car troubles. He pulled over to the side of I-295 - not too far away from where the body of Carol Spinks had been found a few months prior - and within moments, discovered a body laying in the grass.
This regional employee called D.C. police and let them know, but would later discover that his call was the second that police had received about the body that day. Despite these numerous sightings of a body along the interstate, police seemed very hesitant to dedicate time to the matter.
A couple of beat cops would be sent out to investigate the scene, but made very little attempt to locate the body. They didn't even get out of the car to look for the remains, before using their radio to call in "10-8" (aka "nothing to see here").
Several days passed, and Washington D.C. - already a warm and humid place - began to enter the dog days of summer. With the temperature rising, on July 19th, 1971, one of the original callers that had found the body decided to return to the scene, to see if the matter had been dealt with.
Shockingly, this person discovered that the body was still there - roughly a week after they had originally called it in to police. The remains looked undisturbed, as if nobody had even given the body a glance, but the summer heat was beginning to take its toll.
Infuriated, this caller called their boss and let them know about the police inactivity. Their boss then decided to make a call to a friend of theirs - Charles Baden, a police sergeant in Washington D.C. Baden, was wasn't even on-duty that day, was able to make his way to the scene, where he finally got the police involved.
The body was recovered, and was eventually identified as Darlenia Denise Johnson - a missing 16-year old that had disappeared from the neighborhood earlier that month.
Immediately, the case showed some prominent similarities to that of Carol Spinks, another teenager that had been murdered a few months prior. Not only was Johnson's body found incredibly close to the area that Spinks had been recovered - their bodies had been found a grand total of fifteen feet apart from one another.
In addition, Darlenia Johnson - just like Carol Spinks - had been found in the clothes she was wearing when she went missing, but was missing her shoes.
Unfortunately, an autopsy of the remains wouldn't be very efficient at locating any specific details. The body was too severely decomposed by the time officials got to it, and medical examiners would be unable to determine if the victim had been sexually assaulted before her death.
Because of this decomposition, authorities had to remove the victim's fingers for fingerprinting to determine her identity. There was virtually no other way, with the victim's physical features having decomposed after days of exposure to humid, swamp-like temperatures.
Despite being unable to determine the official cause-of-death, the coroner would later state that there was evidence of strangulation, which was loosely applied to the case of the murdered Darlenia Johnson.
Brenda Faye Crockett was a 10-year old girl that lived with her family in Northwest, about a block away from Cardozo High School. Like several of the other victims, she was known for her incredibly tiny frame - standing just 4.5 feet tall and weighing around 75 pounds.
On the evening July 27th, 1971, at around 8:00 PM, many of the kids in Brenda's neighborhood were settling in for a movie night. She, however, was sent by her mother to a nearby Safeway grocery store to pick up some bread and some food for the family's three dogs: Ringo, Rex, and Romeo.
When Brenda left, she was wearing curlers in her hair and did not seem to be wearing shoes. Her mother, Reatha, later stated that she told Brenda to take a friend with her, but it seems like 10-year old Brenda left by herself.
I have not read anything that indicates she made it to the store, so I can just assume that on her way to Safeway, Brenda was abducted. When she failed to return home in a timely manner, her family began conducting a search for her throughout the neighborhood, knocking on doors and making calls to anyone that Brenda knew.
While most of the family was out-and-about, looking for the missing 10-year old, trouble began brewing at home.
Brenda's 7-year old sister, Bertha, had remained at-home while the rest of her family was out scouring the neighborhood. While at home, anxious and slightly unaware of the situation's severity, the phone rang. Like any kid would, she answered it... only to hear her sister on the other end of the line.
It was around 9:20 PM that this call came in, approximately two or so hours after Brenda had left for the store. Reports on this seem to vary, with some sources claiming that the call came in three hours after she disappeared, but one record listed the specific time, 9:20, so I'm going to stick with that.
Bertha recalls her sister crying on the other end of the phone, and sounding somewhat distracted. Her thoughts seemed to be scattered, and she gave concerning details about her whereabouts. Bertha recalls Brenda stating:
"A white man picked me up, and I'm heading home in a cab."
Brenda then told her younger sister that she was in Virginia, before the call came to an abrupt end.
A second call would be received at the family's home a short time later, at around 10:00 PM. This time, the call would be answered by Brenda's mother's boyfriend, who had returned to the news of the first call. He tried to be more forceful on the phone than Bertha had been, but received most of the same information from Brenda: that a white man had picked her up, and she was going to head home in a cab.
When her mother's boyfriend asked her if she was in Virginia, Brenda replied:
"No. Did my mother see me?"
This question seemed to confuse everyone, and Brenda's mother's boyfriend could only respond:
"How could your mother see you if you're in Virginia?"
The conversation carried on like this for a moment, with Brenda not seeming to have any real information to give. When her mother's boyfriend asked to speak to the other man, he only heard the sound of heavy footsteps on the other end of the line. Brenda said, "Well, I'll see you," and the call came to a sudden end.
The search for Brenda Crockett was - thankfully - not a long way. However, it's end was just as tragic as the first two abductions.
Approximately eight hours after Brenda's disappearance - the early morning hours of July 28th, 1971 - a hitchhiker that was traveling on U.S. Route 50 (near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in P.G. County, Maryland) discovered the body of the missing 10-year old.
Like the other two victims, she had been strangled. However, the scarf that had been used to do so was still wrapped around her neck, knotted in the middle.
Most unusually, her body appeared to have been washed prior to its abandonment alongside U.S. Route 50. She wasn't found with any shoes, but police didn't find that odd - after all, she had left her house without wearing shoes, as far as anyone knew. However, authorities would note that her feet seemed to be incredibly clean for someone that had been walking outside, become an odd footnote in the case-file.
Like the first victim, Carol Spinks, experts were able to find small green fibers on the clothing, which hinted at some link between the two cases.
Police were unable to uncover much evidence other than what I've just described, but noted that the victim had been strangled to death, just like the first two cases.
Investigators would theorize that the phone calls made to Brenda's family were facilitated by the kidnapper, who wanted to feed false information to the police. They noted that both calls seemed to insist upon the kidnapper being a white man, who had taken Brenda to Virginia. However, with her body being found not too far away, just eight hours after her abduction, we can reasonably surmise that wasn't the case.
Detective Romaine Jenkins would later theorize that the kidnapper was someone that knew Brenda's mother, who wanted to make sure that they had not been spotted with Brenda. After all, Brenda had asked specifically "Did my mother see me?" This seems to hint at some connection between Reatha, her mother, and the abduction itself.
It's even possible to imply that Brenda's last words in the phone call - the reflexive "I'll see you" comment - were indicative of her being close to home. Perhaps she knew her abductor, and wasn't too far away from her family's home at the time of the call.
Investigators would continue to ponder this theory over the coming months, as they began to inquire into possible leads. In the first murder attributed to this spree - that of Carol Spinks - it was discovered that she had been held captive for some time before her death. In the second case - Darlenia Johnson - her remains were too decomposed to tell how quickly she had been killed or disposed of.
Now, the victim was found just hours after going missing. This hints at some kind of urgency, such as the killer being rushed. In the coming years, detectives would theorize that this implies some connection to the neighborhood Brenda Crockett lived in. The killer might have been someone nearby that wanted to dispose of the victim's remains as soon as possible.
Nenomoshia Yates - nicknamed "Neno" by those that knew her - was a 6th grader at Kelly Miller Junior High School. The 12-year old girl lived with her father and stepmother in an apartment in Northeast, along Benning Road.
Neno's stepmother had actually just given birth, so the girl's father ended up juggling his time between being at the hospital (to be with his wife and newborn baby) and being at home (to take care of Neno).
This leads us to the events of October 1st, 1971. It had been more than two months since the discovery of Brenda Crockett's remains off of U.S. Route 50. Now, on the other side of town, another child found themselves walking along the side of the road as evening approached.
Nenomoshia Yates had been sent by her family to a Safeway grocery store, which was just down the street from their apartment - literally less than a block away. She had been sent to buy sugar, flour, and paper plates, and all indications would point to her having done so. A store clerk would later recognize the girl from photographs, and state she had purchased the items that evening, just after 7:00 PM.
However, later that night, an employee of Safeway would state that they found those same items outside of the store, scattered along the street. Like whoever had been carrying them had disappeared into thin air.
Less than three hours after her mysterious disappearance, the remains of Nenomoshia Yates would be found. Her body was found just off the shoulder of Pennsylvania Avenue, in P.G. County, Maryland. The body was found by a 16-year old hitchhiker, that had stumbled upon it through mere happenstance.
Like the other murder victims, Neno had been strangled to death. She had also been fully clothed, minus her shoes (which were missing). Coroners would later note that the strangulation was excessive, with the girl's esophagus having been broken. The same coroner would state that she had been sexually assaulted before her death.
In another striking similarity to the other crimes, green fibers would be found on her clothing. This linked it to the Carol Spinks and Brenda Crockett murders.
The investigation into the abduction and murder of Neno Yates was just as unsuccessful as the first three murders. Investigators were unable to link the existing evidence to any real suspects, and the witness statements they could gather were hardly helpful.
The most intriguing testimony they could obtain was that of a neighbor, who saw Neno Yates getting into a blue Volkswagon. This neighbor had thought nothing of it at the time, since one of her family's friends drove a similar car. This, at least, provided investigators with some kind of a lead, but finding the driver of a blue Volkswagon - in 1971 - was like finding a needle in a haystack.
It was only now, following the murder of Nenomoshia Yates, that the deaths of these four young black girls was officially linked.
Detective John Rossi, when speaking to the media about the most recent murder and its possible connection to abductions from earlier that year, stated:
"... there is some reason to believe that there is some connection to some similar deaths."
Following this development, it was announced that the FBI would be getting involved in the investigation. Criminal profiling was still in its infancy, but the FBI was eager to help solve this case, which they had labeled the work of a "repeat offender."
It was only know that the nickname "the Freeway Phantom" was given to the unknown killer, who had eluded investigators through the summer and now, into the fall. The name was coined by reporters at the now-defunct tabloid, the Daily News, who noted that all of the victims had been disposed of alongside major roads and freeways.
As you can guess, this early nickname would stick... and soon, the killer himself seemed to embrace it.
Brenda Denise Woodard was an 18-year old, that lived with her family in Baltimore, Maryland, along Maryland Avenue. In the fall of 1971, she began taking night classes at Cardozo High School, hoping to improve her working skills (such as typing).
On the evening of November 15th, 1971, Brenda met up with a male classmate of her's, and the two had dinner together at a D.C. staple named Ben's Chili Bowl. Following this casual dinner, they each began heading home.
The classmate of Brenda's usually drove them whenever they hung out, but with his car in the shop temporarily, they had to take the city's buses home. They rode together on a bus for a few blocks, but eventually had to split up. Brenda got off to catch a transfer, and said goodbye to her classmate. She hopped on the next bus, and that is when her trail went cold.
In the early morning of November 16th, 1971 - just hours after Brenda Woodard was last seen by her classmate - Cheverly city police officer David Norman happened to be driving in the region near Prince George's County Hospital.
Near the access ramp to Route 202, from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Officer Norman would discover the body of Brenda Woodard. As he later recalled:
"I shined my flashlights into her eyes to see if there was life. She didn't blink. She didn't do anything."
Morbidly, the body of Brenda Woodard had been disposed off of another busy road, near a bus-stop that Brenda's mother used almost every single day. Hours after the body had been discovered, when police had roped off the scene, she would unknowingly stumble upon the commotion. That was when she learned of her 18-year old daughter's brutal murder.
Like the first four victims, Woodard had been strangled... but it appeared that her end had been a much more violent one. Authorities would note that her crime scene was incredibly gruesome - with her clothing being stained with blood - and she had six stab wounds to various parts of her body. Investigators would find defensive marks on her hands and arms, indicating some kind of struggle that ensued between Brenda and the culprit.
The fact that this victim had been stabbed multiple times pointed to this being a separate incident - perhaps one perpetrated by an individual that wasn't connected to the first four crimes. In addition to the stab wounds, investigators considered it bizarre that the victim was found with her shoes. Brenda was still wearing her black boots, which stood in direct contrast to the first few victims.
In the most unusual development in the case thus far, investigators discovered what seemed to be a taunt from the culprit - which was found at the scene.
When Brenda Woodard's body had been found, her coat had been found draped over her body. When investigators would examine this coat, they would find a handwritten note inside one of the jacket pockets.
The note reads, as follows:
"This is tantamount to insensititivity [sic] to people especially women. I will admit the others when you catch me if you can!
Investigators would later theorize that this note was written by Brenda herself; with the FBI later linking it to other writings from her. It appeared to be in her own handwriting, written in pencil, and seemed to be written on a piece of paper that had been torn out from her notebook. Likely, it had been dictated to her by the killer.
An examination of Brenda's clothing would find two different hair samples: one of which, authorities stated, belonged to a Caucasian man. The other, they claimed, belonged to an African American man. Despite finding these two hairs pretty early on, they were unable to make heads from tails of them - unable to confirm if either of them had come from the actual killer.
In the aftermath of this most recent discovery, police struggled to come to terms with the idea that Brenda Woodard had been killed by the same person that murdered Carol Sprinks, Darlenia Johnson, Brenda Crockett, and Nenomoshia Yates.
There were a number of noticeable differences that set it apart. Namely, the fact that this was the first case that the victim had been stabbed multiple times, but investigators excused this with the notion that the victim was much older - the killer had almost exclusively targeted children prior to Brenda Woodward. She, however, had been 18 years old, and likely much more aware of what was happening to her.
To police, this explained the defensive wounds on her hands, and the stab wounds themselves.
However, police struggled to come to grips with some other differences: such as the note found in Brenda's coat pocket - which seemed to taunt investigators - and the fact that Brenda was found still wearing her boots. The other victims had had their shoes taken from them.
These differences seemed to point to Brenda being an outlier, perhaps even an incorrectly-labeled victim. Investigators and websleuths alike have wondered if Brenda Woodard might have been targeted by a separate killer, who tried to place the blame for her death at the burgeoning "Freeway Phantom" by having the victim write a note saying as much.
If that is the case, it perhaps explains the next development in the story.
For close to six months - stretching from April to November - the Freeway Phantom had struck almost regularly. There were long gaps between the crimes (sometimes as long as 2.5 months between each), but five young women had been killed over the span of 1971. With the fourth murder, the FBI had gotten involved, and investigators were now hunting a single killer... a killer that now seemed to accept his nickname.
However, following the murder of Brenda Woodard, the so-called "Freeway Phantom" would disappear for close to an entire year. It wasn't until September of 1972 that investigators would declare him active once again. By that time, FBI agents had been distracted and called off to assist with the ongoing Watergate scandal, and the attention of almost everyone was diverted elsewhere.
Diane Denise Williams was a 17-year old was known for her impeccable fashion sense. An aspiring model, she had just started her senior year at Ballou High School in Washington D.C.
Throughout the summer, Diane had fallen in love with her boyfriend, and she had spent a good chunk of the time off from school with him. On September 5th, 1972, Diane cooked dinner for her family, and then set off to visit her boyfriend for the evening - just as she had done several times over the summer.
Diane would spent the next few hours with her boyfriend, before the time came to head home. He walked her to a bus stop nearby, along Martin Luther King Avenue. This was just a stone's throw away from the first two abduction scenes - those of Carol Spinks and Darlenia Johnson - from more than a year beforehand.
After kissing her boyfriend goodbye, Diane Williams was last seen boarding a city bus, directed towards her family's home in Halley Terrace.
As you can imagine, she never made it home.
The following day - September 6th, 1972 - the body of Diane Williams was discovered by a trucker along Interstate 295. He had pulled over to the side of the road, just south of the border separating Washington D.C. and the state of Maryland. This was less than two miles away from Diane's home.
Police were called to the scene, and it was immediately theorized that Diane was a victim of the dormant Freeway Phantom.
She was found wearing the clothing she had disappeared in, but her shoes had been removed. However, in an unusual twist of fate, they were resting right next to her body, as if they had been gently placed there by the killer after he disposed of her body. The bottom of her shoes bore her first name, "DIANA," in big bold letters.
Like the other victims, Diane Williams had been strangled to death, but an autopsy would find no sign of sexual assault.
However, despite there being no sign of sexual assault, police would find semen on Diane's clothing. At the time, they assumed it had come from her boyfriend - whom she had visited just before going missing - even though the boyfriend insisted they didn't have any kind of sexual activity that night. This semen sample would remain untested for several decades, but needless to say... that would come up much later.
The "Freeway Phantom" was a nickname given by a regional tabloid, but the name seemed to stick. All the nation's press and media, when reporting upon the story, began referring to the killer as such.
The case was investigating primarily by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia - more commonly abbreviated as the MPDC. They had done the brunt of the early investigation, such as speaking to key witnesses and canvassing the neighborhoods of the abductions, but were unable to advance the case in any major way.
The FBI had begun assisting in the investigation following the fourth murder - that of Nenomoshia Yates - when it became clear that this was a repeat offender targeting multiple young victims. However, as I already hinted at, the FBI cooperation had quickly evaporated, when it became clear that the Watergate scandal wasn't going away anytime soon. They would be called back later on, but by that time, the case had grown stagnant.
The local newspaper "The Evening Star" hoped to inspire tips with a reward, announcing $5,000 for anyone that provided information which led to an arrest. This did inspire plenty of tips - primarily through telephone hotlines and mail correspondence - but none of them would prove useful to investigators.
Eventually, the FBI would enter the fray once again in 1974. They started a task force, which included more than 100 detectives and federal agents and had involvement from the following law enforcement agencies: the MPDC Homicide Division and Sex Squads, detectives from Maryland's P.G. and Montgomery Counties, the Maryland State Police, and the FBI itself.
The serial killer dubbed the "Freeway Phantom" had strangled and stabbed five young black girls over the span of six months, before disappearing for the better part of a year. When he returned nearly a year later - in September of 1972 - he had lashed out at another victim in the neighborhood of Congress Heights. This returned him to the scene of the first two crimes, and police would determine that this most recent victim, Diane Williams, had been abducted not too far away from where Carol Spinks and Darlenia Johnson had been kidnapped from.
Despite police attempting to link several other cases to the Freeway Phantom, they were unsuccessful in doing so.
The most notable case, which police had originally attributed to the Phantom, was the murder of 14-year old Angela Barnes. She had been killed in 1971 - wedged in-between the 2nd and 3rd murders - but unlike the others, she had been murdered via gunshot. Police would eventually rule her out entirely, when they solved the case and arrested two ex-police officers for the crime - who were both later convicted.
The other, which Detective Romaine Jenkins believes might be related, was the murder of Teara Ann Bryant, who was killed in November of 1972 - two months after the last known Freeway Phantom murder. This was beyond the date of the known killer's crime spree, and was ruled out as a possible connection due to a lack of evidence, but remains a real possibility.
Investigators had created a timeline of events, which they forced themselves to adhere to. They were giving the Freeway Phantom credit for six murders: those of Carol Spinks, Darlenia Johnson, Brenda Crockett, Nenomoshia Yates, Brenda Woodard, and now Diane Williams (in that order).
All of these victims had a number of traits in common. They were all African American females between the ages of 10 and 18 that lived along the Washington Beltway, who had been abducted while walking, and whose bodies had been dumped off of busy roads (such as interstates and freeways). They were all of a similar build - small and petite - which led investigators to believe that the killer might have mistaken all of them for being in the same age range.
Four victims had their bodies left in Prince George's County, Maryland, while another two were disposed of inside Washington D.C. Investigators believed that this might have been done intentionally, with the killer trying to muddy the waters of the investigation by overlapping jurisdictions.
Most unusually, three of the victims shared the middle name Denise. Two shared the first name Brenda. These were odd correlations that likely had no importance, but were of interest to the media at the time. Early 1970's newspaper reports hint at a perceived hatred of those names by the killer, but police have not stated that this was a belief of theirs.
Three of the victims had been sexually assaulted, including one that was sodomized. However, one of the victims was too decomposed for authorities to rule out it out, and another was found with semen on her clothing - raising the possibility that five had been the victim of sexual assault.
In another coincidence, five out of the six victims were shown to be related via green fibers found on their clothing. One of the known victims didn't have green fibers, and because of the investigation's scarce reporting, I have struggled to determine who the outlier is or was.
Hairs of two unknown males were found on the clothing of Brenda Woodward, hairs whose origin is unknown. Police would use that hair over the coming years to test for suspect validity, but were unsuccessful in linking them to anyone.
One suspect that I haven't seen discussed in any major publications was a young man named James Groom, whose name was mentioned in the October 21st, 1972 edition of the Baltimore Afro American - a regional newspaper.
This was roughly a month after the last crime attributed to the Freeway Phantom, and Groom - who lived in Northwest Baltimore - had just been arrested for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a young woman.
The victim, a 17-year old waitress, had been waiting at a bus stop when a young white man pulled up in his vehicle and asked for directions. As they spoke, her bus had come and gone, so the man offered to give her a ride home. She reluctantly agreed, only to discover that the the man had no intentions of taking her to her destination. He drove her to a secluded area, where she was then sexually assaulted.
At least, this is what the victim had claimed, and was reported in the Afro American at the time. Following this alleged sexual assault, the man had then driven the victim away from the scene, telling her at one point:
"Have you ever heard of the Baltimore-Washington Expressway Phantom? Well, I'm him."
During this encounter, the man also told the victim that he had recently returned from Vietnam, was lonely, and was sick of no one understanding him. He ultimately let the victim go without harming her any further, and the incident was reported to police.
James Groom was later arrested for the incident, and charged with both kidnapping and sexual assault. I can only guess if police investigated him for any involvement in the Freeway Phantom crimes, but it was theorized in the same article that he wasn't the real killer - just perhaps taking the credit to scare his victim. Police had openly speculated that the Freeway Phantom was a black man, and James Groom was white.
It is unknown whether or not police investigated Groom as a legitimate suspect, but I have not found any reporting or mention of him in the months and years after this one incident. It's very possible that he had nothing to do with the Freeway Phantom crimes, but his name is one I haven't seen mentioned before, and thought it worth bringing up.
In 1974, two more names were entered into the suspect fray: Edward Sellman - sometimes referred to as Edward Sullivan in reporting of the case - and Tommie Simmons. Both were ex-cops that were arrested in relation to the 1971 murder of Angela Barnes.
Angela Denise Barnes was a 14-year old that disappeared on July 12th, 1971, just days after Darlenia Johnson had gone missing. She was heading home from a friend's home late at-night, in the middle of the summer, and her body was discovered the following morning, out in Waldorf, Maryland. Unlike the rest of the Freeway Phantom victims, she had been shot in the head, but her case was linked to the others in the immediate aftermath.
For the first few years of the investigation into the Freeway Phantom, police had linked Barnes' death to the unknown killer targeting young black girls in the D.C. region. However, that changed in 1974, when Sellman and Simmons were arrested for the crime, and charged with murder.
Both would eventually be convicted for the crime, and sentenced to lengthy stays in prison. By that point, investigators admitted that the Barnes case was not connected to the other six murders, and they did not believe that Sellman or Simmons had anything to do with the crime spree.
One of the more promising leads that investigators would follow up on centered around a group of known sexual offenders, who have been referred to as the "Green Vega Rapists" in the media. They were a small gang that had operated in the region around Washington D.C. - primarily along the Washington Beltway, but extending out into Maryland.
These men drove around in a Green Chevy Vega, which they used to kidnap and rape young women. Hence their nickname, the "Green Vega's."
All of the known members of this gang had been locked up on charges relating to sexual violence at around the time that the Freeway Phantom crime spree came to an end, and had been incarcerated inside Virginia's Lorton Prison. These members included men such as Morris Joseph Warren, Paul Fletcher, John Davis, and Paul Brooks - whose exploits you can find in detailed newspaper archives.
Some time had passed since the end of the Freeway Phantom's crime spree, when an anonymous tip forwarded to police hinted at some kind of connection between the "Green Vega's" and the still-unsolved crime spree. It alleged that the Green Vega's - all of whom had been locked up for crimes of sexual violence - were responsible for more than 100 rapes in the region.
One of the known acquaintances of the Green Vega's was interviewed by police. Since he wasn't incarcerated at the time, I'll refrain from using his name, but he spoke to police and - over the span of a lengthy interview - was able to positively identify three of the murder victims from a photo lineup. Investigators believed this suggested some kind of connection, so they continued to look into this lead.
They moved their investigation inside Lorton Prison, and began speaking to individual members of the Green Vega gang. One of which began talking: Morris Joseph Warren, who had begun to grow fearful that another member of the gang would turncoat before he did. He didn't want to be left in the dust, but agreed to speak to investigators only if they kept his name out of it. He didn't want to risk being exposed to the other gang members, for fear of retribution. The investigators agreed.
This inmate - Morris Warren - began feeding investigators information about the Freeway Phantom crimes, which he alleged were perpetrated by a member of the Green Vega's. He claimed at least one specific gang member in the murders, and began giving details of specific dates, times, and locations.
According to investigators at the time, Warren had begun providing details beyond what was reported in the media. "Signature details," they called them - intimate details that would be known only by the responsible parties and investigators.
Warren was taken out of prison to specific locations, and began pointing out where victims had been abducted, killed, assaulted, and then disposed of. His information seemed legitimate, albeit somewhat scattered, and investigators took his words seriously. A 1975 memorandum order by D.C. Superior Court Judge Fred B. Ugast read:
"On May 16th, Mr. Warren began to direct the government agents to the locations he had described to them regarding two Freeway deaths. On May 16th, he took them to the areas where Brenda Woodard, a homicide victim, had allegedly been kidnapped, raped, and murdered. On May 17th, he showed them the alleged locations dealing with Darlenia Johnson, although while showing them where her body was abandoned, he took them to the place where Brenda Crockett's body was found. Both Ms. Johnson and Ms. Crockett were victims of the so-called Freeway Phantom homicides."
Despite seeming to know specific details about the various murders, this inmate - Morris Warren - had alibis for the days of several crimes, so investigators began to surmise that he had gotten his information from elsewhere. Likely, the inmate he was implicated in the Freeway Phantom murders.
This lead seemed to be going places... which is why it pains me to say that it eventually fell off the rails. The details of this confession were leaked to the press by P.G. County's State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall, who was running for reelection at the time. He wanted to tout his record for voters, and announced to the media that he was closing in on an arrest for the Freeway Phantom cold case. He mentioned a cooperating inmate at Lorton Prison, who had recently confessed to investigators, and was currently singing like a bird.
Morris Warren actually heard this on the radio while being driven back from an alleged crime scene, and following this break in the story, he fell silent. He was afraid that more details of his cooperation would be leaked to the media, and he refused to give any more statements. He immediately recanted all prior statements and rescinded his prior confessions, calling it an "elaborate hoax" in the process.
As you can imagine, this was as frustrating to the victims' loved ones as it was to the investigators. Here was a lead, that was as promising as any thus far, which had now evaporated into nothing. With the cooperating inmate no longer speaking, this lead quickly wilted.
The investigators that were handling the case at the time would continue to believe that the Green Vega's were responsible for the Freeway Phantom murders - many of them, until the day they died. However, other detectives that have handled or examined the case in the years since have pointed out that most of the information Morris Warren provided was all stuff he could have gotten from news coverage of the murders. They didn't believe him to have any real insider information, and remain doubtful that this gang of perverts was responsible for a serial murder spree.
Nonetheless, doubt continues to linger over the case, and the potential involvement of the Green Vega Rapists.
Robert Elwood Askins was a middle-aged black man that worked at St. Elizabeth's Hospital as a computer technician through the 1970's. He seemed to be an amiable man, who was known for his propensity to use the word "tantamount" - seemingly at random - but a further look at Askins revealed a bit of a sketchy past.
You see, not only was he a current employee of St. Elizabeth's Hospital - a psychiatric facility that focused on mental health. He was also a former patient, that had been sent to the hospital in lieu of a prison. In December of 1938 - when Askins was a much younger man - he had poisoned a sex worker in Washington D.C with potassium cyanide. The cause, he said, was revenge: for him contracting a venereal disease from another sex worker earlier that year. The victim, Ruth McDonald, had actually died as a result of the poisoning, and Askins was later convicted for her murder.
Robert Askins would be sent to St. Elizabeth's Hospital shortly thereafter, until he was mentally fit enough to stand trial. That ended up being 13 years later, in 1952, when he was re-indicted and convicted of the murder charges. He would spent the next several years inside an actual prison, until he was released in January of 1958 - due not to a completion of his sentence or any kind of parole, but a legal snaffu that resulted in his freedom.
For the next twenty or so years, Askins seemed to make a conscious effort to become a productive member of society. He obtained employment at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, where he worked as a computer technician, and lived a quiet life on his own.
That is, until 1977.
That year, a 24-year old woman was abducted at gunpoint by Robert Askins, and taken back to his home. There, she was sexually assaulted and beaten, before being freed by her kidnapper. Police quickly zeroed in on Askins as their suspect, but it wasn't until D.C. detective Lloyd Davis began interviewing Askins, and learned about his past, that he began to connect the man to the unsolved Freeway Phantom murders.
Not only did Askins seem to commit a similar crime in the vicinity of the abductions, but he lived and worked in the region. Police had long theorized that the killer had a tie to the Congress Heights neighborhood of Washington D.C. - where half of the victims had been abducted from - and here was Askins, who not only fit the bill, but worked at St. Elizabeth's Hospital... where one of the bodies had been disposed of.
Askins also seemed to match the criteria that investigators had established the Freeway Phantom would have: he was a middle-aged black man that lived in the neighborhood, had a proclivity for targeting similar victims, and harbored a violent grudge against women.
Investigators eventually obtained a search warrant for Askins' home, and a search revealed many tantalizing clues about the man. He owned many scarves which belonged to women, which were described as "soiled." This stood out, because he didn't live with any women - so where had he gotten these scarves?
In addition, he owned many photos of unknown girls and young women, and police even found a knife that had been used in another crime.
Most unusually, investigators would discover that Askins loved to use the word "tantamount." It was a word that had been used in his prior legal paperwork, during his murder trial from the 1950's and subsequent release, but had also been included in the Freeway Phantom's note. Remember, the note from Brenda Woodard's coat pocket had read: "This is tantamount to insensititivity [sic] to people especially women. I will admit the others when you catch me if you can! Free-way Phantom!" The usage of the word 'tantamount' had often stood out to investigators, and here was a prime suspect that seemed to use the word regularly - as verified by his coworkers, who said as much.
A search of Robert Askin's vehicle the next month ended up raising some more alarms, when police found two buttons and a gold earring underneath his back seat. Unfortunately, they would be unable to link these to any particular victims.
Despite all of the tentative connections investigators had made between Askins and the Freeway Phantom crimes, there was no direct evidence connecting him. Nothing seemed to link him to the six victims, and a comparison of the green fibers that had been found on 5 of the 6 victims' clothing didn't match anything that Askins owned.
Robert Askins would later be convicted on kidnapping and rape charges, stemming from two separate incidents - including the one that had put him on the investigators' radar. He would receive a life sentence, and ended up spending several decades inside a penitentiary. He died in April of 2010, at the ripe old age of 91, outliving his 1938 murder victim by close to a century.
One of the original Freeway Phantom detectives, who long suspected Askins to be the killer, continued corresponding with the convict until his death in 2010. During their correspondence, Askins continued to deny having any part in the Freeway Phantom murders, stating that he did not have:
"... the depravity of mind required to commit any of the crimes."
Askins remains one of the most popular suspects in the media, and many of the original detectives heavily favored him as the Freeway Phantom.
One of the issues I haven't really touched on so far is the topic of race. Which, as you can guess, has played a major role in the reporting of this story over the years.
The area that these crimes unfolded - primarily, Washington D.C. - held a predominant black population. Through the 1960's and 1970's, more than 70% of the region's population was African American, who had had to endure an entire lifetime of racial tension and struggles. The prior decade had seen some major pieces federal legislation - such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 - and the racial divide was still fresh in everyone's mind.
Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 - and the subsequent riots, which caused extensive damage to the Washington D.C. region - the area had been left reeling. After all, Washington D.C. would not establish home rule until 1973, meaning that the local residents had no real representation of their own at the time of the Freeway Phantom murders.
All of this created a lot of animosity towards the local police department - the MPDC - who hired almost exclusively white officers.
To residents, the murder of six girls in their community was a travesty. And, over the next several years, it seemed to the community that the police weren't taking it seriously. They dedicated many more man-hours to political scandals and dealing with Vietnam protests - and to the loved ones left without any answers - it seemed like detectives cared very little about six dead black girls.
When investigators announced that the Freeway Phantom killer was most likely a black individual, this animosity towards the local police force began to turn into widespread distrust. This was, truthfully, based off of statistical analysis at the time - which did show that killers tend to target their own racial demographic, more often than not - but had come after months of inactivity and perceived apathy.
In 1971, a town hall was arranged in Congress Heights by a local antipoverty agency. In this meeting of more than 100 people, residents expressed their disdain for the police response to the murders. In attendance was a local resident named Glendora Thomas, who stated:
"The police are committing crimes by not taking care of our children."
This was the rhetoric that seemed to follow around the case in the early years of the investigation: that the police weren't doing enough to catch the killer. We do know that several investigators were working hard on the case, but simply had very little to work with - this was the 1970's, after all, and barring some kind of explosive eyewitness testimony, there was little for detectives to work with. Right?
However, by the time the 1980's had rolled around, the case was still unsolved. Investigators had now followed up several leads at this point - including Robert Askins and the Green Vega's - but had little to show for it.
In 1980, the Washington Post wrote an article about the case, which included statements from two of the victims' family members. The first of which was from Leon Williams, the father of Diane Williams - the sixth and final murder victim of the Freeway Phantom. Speaking to the Post, Williams stated:
"If it was a white girl, the police would have found the person. I don't believe that police followed the leads they had. Why do they think the person was black? Why don't they investigate whites as well?"
This statement seems to imply that the investigators had either not properly expressed their investigation to the loved ones of the victims, or had simply failed to take their feelings into account. This angry sentiment was also shared by the sister of Carol Spinks, Evander Spinks, who stated:
"You better bet that if these had been white girls, the police would have solved the cases. They didn't care about us. All the cases involving white girls still get publicity. But ours have been forgotten."
One of the cases often pointed to as an example of this very behavior is the disappearance of Sheila and Katherine Lyon - two sisters that disappeared from the Washington D.C./Maryland region in 1975. Despite happening just a few years after the Freeway Phantom murders, the case of the Lyon sisters was worked on constantly over the years, and everything regarding the case was well-documented and preserved... a far cry from the haphazard way the Freeway Phantom crime spree was investigated.
In face, the case of the Lyon sisters was reported on frequently in the media, and in 2017 - just a year or so ago - the case was finally resolved after more than 40 years. Despite the bodies of Sheila and Katherine Lyon never being found, a man named Lloyd Welch confessed to their murders, bringing some resolution to the surviving loved ones. A privilege that the family members of the Freeway Phantom victims have been waiting for for close to half-a-century.
To this day, many believe that police did not give the investigation the necessary resources or manpower. Despite more than 25 D.C. police officer being handed over to the investigative effort at one point, this sentiment is shared by at least one high-ranking police officer - who worked for the department at the time of the murders.
Tommy Musgrove joined the MPDC in 1972, and eventually climbed up the ranks enough to head the entire homicide unit. Now-retired, Musgrove was willing to speak to the Washington Post in 2006, in which he decried the way the victims had been treated in the years since:
"Those black girls didn't mean anything to anybody - I'm talking about on the police department. If those girls had been white, they would have put more manpower on it, there's no doubt about that."
Of those effected by the Freeway Phantom crime spree, none were hit harder than the loved ones - whose children and siblings were taken by the unknown killer, and their lives ended way too prematurely.
Carolyn Spinks Morris - the identical twin sister of Carol Spinks, the first victim - recalls the day that her family learned of Carol's murder. She recalls her mother's devastating sobbing, and the gloom that fell upon the entire neighborhood. In her teenage years, as a result of her sister and best friend's tragic death, she ended up turning to drugs as an escape - a rabbit hole she would struggle to escape over several years of her life.
Valerie Moore - the older sister that had sent Carol Spinks to the 7-Eleven down the street to fetch some soda and TV dinners - was wracked with guilt. She felt responsible for the brutal murder of her little sister, and in return, would often end up walking the same route that Carol had... simply hoping to be approached by the same mysterious man that had taken her sister.
Bertha Crockett, the younger sister of Brenda Crockett, had been the one to pick up the phone on the night she was abducted. She was the one of the few people to speak to Brenda after her abduction, and hear her crying on the other side. She still regrets not going to the store with her older sister, believing that if they had been together, things might have ended differently. Despite being just seven years old at the time, she continues to describe the day she learned of Brenda's death as the "most devastating" day of her life.
Likewise, Lewis Crockett - Brenda's father - states that he was never able to emotionally recover from the death of his daughter. It stuck with him forever - a sentiment shared by Margaret Williams, the mother of Diane Williams, who was not the same following the 1972 murder.
This was also felt by Patricia Williams, the sister of Diane. She remained permanently scarred after the death of her sister, and later became a Washington D.C. police officer as a result. She ended up managing the child abuse squad for several years, hoping to make life better for children around the D.C. region. Now-retired, she always dreamed of being the one to crack the Freeway Phantom case, hoping to be the one to personally handcuff him.
These family members banded together in 1973, to form the Freeway Phantom Organization - a grouping of loved ones, who wanted to support one another in the wake of this tragedy. They made appearances at public events, and tried to keep up with the investigation, hoping to bolster one another and present a brave face. They didn't want to let their lives be forever ruined because of the actions of one mad killer, and joined together to combat that.
As the decades have gone on with no answers, the number of participants in this group have continued to dwindle. Parents, siblings, and other loved ones have passed away in the years since, but those that remain continue to hope that the case can be solved... if not now, then one day.
The investigation into the Freeway Phantom has long been considered a "cold case." By the time the 1980's had come around, the case was already dormant, and it would remain that way for more than two decades. It wasn't until 2001 that the case was officially re-opened, when Detective James Trainum took it on as a personal challenge.
However, upon receiving the case, Trainum realized how much of an uphill battle it would be. Not only were the case files lost - they were altogether missing. The case files had been lost by DC police in the years since, and were nowhere to be found. Trainum was able to recover many of the documents from the Maryland State Police - who had carefully stored the files - but had no idea what had been lost in the preceding decades.
Many of the original detectives had been long-retired, or were even deceased, when Trainum took on the case. But he began working his way backwards, hoping to recreated the investigation that had long since remained inactive.
Even though most of the evidence had been poorly-preserved - if it was preserved at all, and wasn't just missing - Trainum hoped that advancements in DNA technology would allow for a closer look at the Freeway Phantom killer. So he began scouring for anything that fit the bill... and, surprisingly, found something.
Because the body of Diane Williams - the sixth and final victim - had been found near the D.C.-Maryland border, Maryland State Police had initially handled the investigation. They had cataloged the evidence, and kept it all in-storage.
Remember when I told you that police had initially found semen on Diane Williams' clothing, and ruled it out as her boyfriend's? Yeah, that came back into play roughly 30 years later, in 2002, when Trainum submitted that piece of evidence for forensic testing.
Unfortunately, this began a really frustrating period of time, in which the Maryland State Police held the item in a backlog, but were unable to test it in a timely manner. So, Trainum took back the evidence, and submitted it to the FBI forensic database... where the same thing happened. Despite our law enforcement agencies being given so many resources, this piece of evidence seemed to sit in a perpetual backlog, where both local and federal agencies were either unable or unwilling to test it.
So, Detective Trainum then took back the evidence, and re-submitted it to the Maryland State Police. Upon this third - and final - submission, the custody of this evidence became a matter-of-debate.
We know that this article of clothing was not tested for DNA by either the Maryland State Police or the FBI, but it was last in the possession of the Maryland State Police - who have not confirmed that they actually have the evidence. It's really infuriating, knowing that investigators might have come so close to solving at least one of the major mysteries in this case, but it got lost in a sea of bureaucracy and legalities.
It is unknown where this piece of evidence now stands. Maryland State Police have not admitted they have the evidence, but they also refuse to comment about it outright. Detective James Trainum last worked on the case in 2009, and as far as he knew, Maryland State Police had received the evidence but done nothing with it. He retired the next year, 2010, and had received no word in an official capacity from the Maryland Police.
In 2013, an employee at the Maryland Chief Medical Examiner's officer spoke (under the veil of anonymity), and stated that trying to find out any information about the Freeway Phantom case:
"... would lead you to a dead end."
It is unknown if the DNA sample from Diane Williams' clothing still exists, and if it can be tested. Many theorize that the Maryland State Police have since lost the evidence, but are unwilling to admit it... providing an already-aggravating story the most unfortunate ending possible.
The case of the Freeway Phantom remains open in the MPDC Homicide Division, but it is considered a cold case with no active lines of investigation.
James Trainum - the retired homicide detective that resurrected the case more than a decade ago - continues to believe that the killer lived in the neighborhood of the first two victims: Carol Spinks and Darlenia Johnson. Both girls went missing just blocks away from one another, and both of their bodies were found just feet away from one another - likely dumped off of a road overlooking the grassy embankment they had been found in.
Trainum believes that the killed lived in Congress Heights, just south of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, and had likely begun branching once he started to fear being seen or recognized. However, he traces the killer's origins to the neighborhood of Congress Heights, where, as Trainum states:
"He felt safe there, he felt he could do his dirt and get away with it."
Romaine Jenkins, the retired homicide detective that I detailed in this episode's introduction, has maintained a lifelong obsession with the case. She took it on in the mid-1980's, hoping to spark some kind of revival, but lacked the necessary resources and hours to do so. Now, she continues to ponder over the case, which still haunts her.
Jenkins believes that the killer was either in the military, or lived some kind of transient lifestyle. Perhaps he was a Vietnam veteran suffering with some untreated PTSD, or perhaps he was someone with a vicious grudge against law enforcement.
Despite their differences in beliefs regarding this case, Trainum and Jenkins agree on a number of things regarding the Freeway Phantom. They both believe that the killer was a young black man, who was able to fit into the neighborhood he committed his abductions. He was able to get close to his victims, and then overpower them.
According to most behavior analysts - such as John Douglas, the grandfather of the study of serial killers, who wrote the popular book "Mindhunter" - most serial killers tend to target those in their own racial demographics. Both Trainum and Jenkins stick with this analysis, which provides a small insight into most serial killers - again, most serial killers, not all of them.
Regardless, both of these retired homicide detectives continue to stick to their guns. They believe that the Freeway Phantom was a young black man in his 20's or 30's, and agree with the FBI profile. The FBI profile of the Phantom Killer stated that the killer would likely:
- Be employed
- Have at least a high school education, with either "average or above-average intelligence"
- Be a charming young man, who often struggled to maintain healthy relationships
- Likely lived alone or with an older woman (creating some kind of resentment towards females)
- Having known the neighborhood that he committed his crimes in
If the killer fit this profile, and was in his 20's or 30's, it is possible that he is still alive. If he was as young as investigators believe, he would now be entering his twilight years - of retirement age, at least, or quickly approaching it.
The 50-year anniversary of the Freeway Phantom's crime spree continues to loom large over the D.C. region, and - despite the efforts of many hardworking investigators - the case is unlikely to be solved anytime soon.
A reward exists for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of people or persons responsible, totaling $150,000 as of this year. If you may know anything, please contact Washington D.C. authorities or the FBI.
As of this episode's recording, the storeis of Carol Spinks, Darlenia Johnson, Brenda Crockett, Nenomoshia Yates, Brenda Woodard, and Diane Williams remain unresolved.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Published on December 16th, 2018
Borrtex - "Black Out"
Blue Dot Sessions - "Arbic Tallow"
Graham Bole - "Lurking"
Percival Pembroke - "Pembroke-Schaffer Manifold (Parts 1 & 2)"
Vitus Von Degen - "Pieta"
Rest You Sleeping Giant - "Dead Waters"
ROZKOL - "If These"
Sann Gusmao - "Reescrever Fotografias Sobre Dias Que Me Rasgam"
Organoid - "Cassini"
Krackatoa - "Under An Ending Sun"
Other original music created and composed by Ailsa Traves
Sources and further reading
Indiana Evening Gazette - “Washington, D.C. Police Seek Clues To ‘Freeway Phantom’” (November 19th, 1971 issue)