Discussion in 'Serial Killers' started by marylandmissing, Jun 26, 2006.
The story mentions that there was not much press interest in this case. It is certainly not very well known today in the Washington DC/Maryland area.
Interesting to note that four of the six girls were either abducted or their bodies dumped in Prince Georges County, Maryland. I wonder if this detective might be able to find some significant investigation reports, notes, and evidence in the files of PG County Police, or Maryland State Police?
There is a lack of interest from the press, media, etc. This is the first time I've heard of these string of murders.
The linked article in the Washington Post is well written and it brings to light a lot of information about this string of murders. Strange, however, that it refers to them as "the most notorious unsolved serial killing cases in District history". They are certainly heinous and brutal, but the word "notorious" would mean that a lot of people know about them.
Certainly - as seen in the article - the family members and friends, and some police investigators have been intimately involved in the cases since they began 35 years ago. But I wonder how many newspaper articles have been written about them between then and now.
The cases all seem so similar and are evidently linked through fiber analysis (and other similarities) to be the work of a serial killer. But who was he? Why did they begin and end so suddenly? Was this the work of a killer who got out of prison and then re-entered it? Was it the work of someone who traveled to Washington DC and then simply left to kill elsewhere?
Can anyone find similarities in this series of murders and others of the same time frame?
One might think that the word "notorious" means that a lot of people know about a crime but one must also consider the fact that these crimes were widely known by individuals who live in the immediate or surrounding area where these crimes were committed. As for those of us who live either out of this state and/or across the country, these old crimes are new news to us.
If this monster killed several women in the 70s, chances are he has committed other crimes, maybe not murder, but who knows? I just hope that these families can get some type of closure.
So far it sounds as if Askins is a very good suspect.
I could not find Askins in the North Carolina Inmate Locator. Does anyone know if he is still living?
For the past two nights, WUSA Channel 9 TV in Washington DC has been featuring this Cold Case. Here are some links to those features. There are photos of the victims and a lot of video that can be seen.
Cold Case: Freeway Phantom - Part 1
WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- The streets of Southeast DC look different now - nothing like they did that April night in 1971 when 12 year-old Carol Spinks went to the store. Her body was found six days later along I-295.
Carol Spinks vanished from Wheeler Road after leaving the 7-Eleven, a half-mile from home.
So began the longest, unsolved serial murder case in the history of Washington, DC - young black girls, ages 10 to 18. No one saw who grabbed them, who raped them, or who strangled them. No one saw their bodies dumped along the highway.
The news media called the killer "The Freeway Phantom."
Evander Spinks, Carol's older sister, says she can't forget her sister, "I think about her all the time. I talk to her ... I just say that I hope she's okay ... I'm sure she is."
Two months after Carol Spinks body was found, the body of 16 year-old Darlenia Johnson was dumped in the same location along I-295.
DC Police Detective James Trainum says that was the killer's territory: "He felt safe there, he felt he could do his dirt and get away with it."
Detective Trainum now works the Cold Case that exploded in the summer of '71. He drives the same streets the killer did. A killer who, Trainum says, likely fantasized about his crimes until "one day, he just happened to see one little girl walking down the street and he took the opportunity."
The monster was unleashed. Parents warned their children in Southeast so the killer went to 14th and U Streets, Northeast to grab 10 year old Brenda Crockett. Nenomoshia Yates was taken from Benning Road, Northeast. Brenda Woodward vanished after leaving a bus stop on M Street, Northeast. Five girls in six months.
The body of Diane Williams was also found along I-295 in September, 1972. Her younger sister, Patricia, is now a DC Police Lieutenant. She says she dreams of having the killer caught and convicted and, more importantly, hearing him confess. "I would want him to come out and say, I did it."
Evander Spinks also dreams of, one day, being able to tell sister Carol, "Now we know who it is ... it's settled."
If you have any information regarding this case please call DC Police at 202-727-5037 or the Cold Case Tip Line at 202-895-5750.
Or you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
WUSA9.com | Cold Case: Freeway Phantom - Part 1
Cold Case: Freeway Phantom - Part 2
Written by Todd McDermott
Created:11/5/2007 5:20:27 PM
Last Updated:11/6/2007 2:43:54 PM
WASHINGTON, DC. (WUSA) -- In the spring of 1971, young girls began to disappear and die in the District. All were petite, all were black.
Six victims snatched from the street, raped and strangled. Thirty-six years later, DC Police Detective James Trainum says, he's still looking for that killer.
"The reason they get away with it is because they are not much different than you and I, and they can pass unnoticed," says Trainum.
Police paint this profile of the killer:
looking to control his victims.
Now, there's even a geographic profile; he likely killed in his own neighborhood first.
The first two victims were killed two months apart and were left in the very same spot on I-295. Their bodies were found by hitchhikers.
Through the spring, summer and fall, the killer stalked and killed and saw his headlines multiply.
He even grew bold enough to leave a note, dictated to one victim, cut from her school notebook paper and left in her pocket.
In the note, the killer spoke of his insensitivity to women. She must have fought back because, unlike the others, he stabbed her. He made her sign the note with the nickname the newspaper gave him: the Freeway Phantom.
More clues: 10 year-old Brenda Crockett, who was taken from her U Street NW neighborhood, called home to say she was with a white man, in Virginia. Trainum says the killer thought he had been spotted, "He had her call to see if he was safe, had time to do what he wanted to do. So of course we know he's not white, not from Virginia."
Green carpet fibers, maybe from a car or a bathroom, were found on four of the bodies. One of the victims was last seen in an old black car driven by a black man. But the physical evidence from the murders-clothing, hair-disappeared or disintegrated long ago.
Detective Trainum says, he's been hoping for a long shot to solve the case, "I think about somebody coming forward and confessing because it's been years now and they want to get this off their chest."
Now, the key to solving this coldest of cases may be in an old box of evidence found just last year: Diane Williams' clothing. Could there be DNA evidence there? Trainum is ever hopeful, "absolutely, absolutely ... we're just keeping our fingers crossed."
If you have any information that could help solve this case call DC Police at 202-727-5037 or the Cold Case Tip Line at 202-895-5750. Or you can send an email to: email@example.com.
WUSA9.com | Cold Case: Freeway Phantom - Part 2
I was in the DC area when the freeway phantom occurred. There was much publicity in the area when it happened. The thing that always bothered the police was how the "phantom"-most of the time-unloaded the bodies on a busy freeway without being seen by anyone.
We used to keep a schedule where I worked of the weeknights that the phantom would leave a victim, noting the day of the week to see if he ordinary killed on certain nights. Can't remember the details too well, but I do remember it was a scary time. My theory back then that it might be a DC cop. Of course, that probably isn't true at all.
They never caught whoever was doing this and it's hard to believe after all the years, it is still unsolved.
'Freeway Phantom' Slayings Haunt Police, Families
Six Young D.C. Females Vanished in the '70s
By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 26, 2006; Page A01
D.C. police Detective James Trainum leans over a rusty guardrail and stares into a den of weeds, trees and brush that snarls an embankment of Interstate 295 in Southeast Washington.
As cars flash past, Trainum mulls over question after question. Why did the killer toss his first two victims down this hill? Was he pressed for time? Did this spot, across from Bolling Air Force Base and near St. Elizabeths Hospital, mean something to him?
For two years, Trainum has sifted through old police and FBI reports, read faded newspaper clippings, hovered over embankments and interviewed victims' relatives. He is trying to do what has eluded three generations of investigators: crack the most notorious unsolved serial killing cases in District history.
During a 16-month period that began in spring 1971, the Freeway Phantom, as he came to be known, killed six females, ages 10 to 18, three with the middle name Denise. At least three were raped, and every one of them was strangled. Their bodies were found on or near busy roads or highways in the District or Maryland.
A cold case detective who is a fan of intellectual challenges, Trainum has a job made more complicated because most of the police files are incomplete and all of the physical evidence has been lost or destroyed, ruling out today's sophisticated forensic tools.
"I know this is a long shot," Trainum says. "But we live for long shots."
Thirty-five years ago, the Freeway Phantom slayings triggered one of the largest investigations the region has seen. Two dozen detectives were assigned to the hunt initially, and the FBI was called in -- until Watergate diverted the agency's manpower. The failure to solve the homicides continues to haunt families of the victims. And current and former investigators find they can't dislodge the Phantom from their minds.
In reexamining the slayings, The Washington Post reviewed thousands of FBI files and police reports and interviewed dozens of former and current detectives, witnesses and victims' family members. A note recently obtained by The Post and never before published shows how bold and taunting the killer became after abducting his fifth victim. The note, tightly guarded by investigators for many years, was found in the dead teenager's coat pocket.
"This is tantamount to my insensititivity [sic] to people especially women," reads the note, which police determined was dictated by the Phantom and written by his victim. "I will admit the others when you catch me if you can! Free-way Phantom."
The slayings of the victims -- all black and seemingly chosen at random -- came during a time of political and racial tumult in the city. Washington did not yet have home rule. And it was still reeling from the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. More than 70 percent of the District's 757,000 residents were black, and there was widespread distrust of the police department, which was more than 60 percent white.
Although the racial makeup of the police department has changed -- now, the chief and many top commanders are black -- anger lingers among the victims' relatives.
"You better bet that if these had been white girls, the police would have solved the cases," says Evander Spinks, a sister of the Phantom's first victim. "They didn't care about us. All the cases involving white girls still get publicity. But ours have been forgotten."
Starting From Scratch
Trainum, 51, wears rumpled shirts and slacks and has a mass of messy hair. A member of the D.C. police department for 23 years, he has long been intrigued by the Phantom killings. How could it be that the city's most fabled serial killings had gone unsolved?
The Phantom was cunning, former detectives said, so smart that he eluded one of the biggest federal and local police dragnets assembled in the area. But Trainum, an iconoclast who helped solve the 1997 triple slayings inside a District Starbucks, doesn't believe in myths.
"Part of my goal is to separate the fact from the fiction here," he says, sitting in his dusty office, where stacks of files are perched precariously on cabinets. "I think this guy just got lucky."
Because most of the D.C. police reports and all the evidence in the cases had been lost or destroyed, Trainum, who started working the case in late 2004, first had to go outside his department to build a record of the police investigation. He found a trove of FBI reports at the bureau's Washington field office and about 200 pages of scattered Prince George's County police files. But even the reports he obtained were missing pages, including basic notations about whether suspects had been ruled out.
Maya Long, an intern in Trainum's office, organized the reports, news clippings and investigative notes into a dozen blue-and-white binders. She often likens Trainum's efforts to someone trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle -- without the border pieces.
Using the incomplete files as a guide, Trainum went through the cases one by one.The first girl, Carol Spinks, 13, was abducted April 25, 1971, a typical Sunday for her family on their quiet block of Wahler Place SE. It was a warm evening, and Carol was sent to the store by an older sister to buy TV dinners, bread and sodas.
Carol trekked the half-mile to a 7-Eleven on Wheeler Road, just across the Maryland line in Prince George's County. She paid for her items and left the store. Her body was discovered six days later on a grassy embankment next to the northbound lanes of I-295, about 1,500 feet south of Suitland Parkway.
Darlenia Johnson, who lived a few blocks from Carol, was next. The 16-year-old left her apartment about 10:30 a.m. July 8 for her summer job at a recreation center. Her body was found 11 days later on the side of I-295, 15 feet from where Spinks's body was found. It was too badly decomposed for the coroner to determine a cause of death.
Eight days after Darlenia's body was discovered, 10-year-old Brenda Crockett was sent to the store by her mother. The Crocketts lived in a quiet neighborhood of rowhouses at 12th and W streets in Northwest, about a block from Cardozo High School.
Brenda was very responsible for a 10-year-old, recalls her sister, Bertha, and when she didn't return in an hour, her family got anxious. Bertha, then 7, waited at home as other family members searched the neighborhood."Even at that young age," Bertha says, "I knew something was wrong."
... Much more...
Washington Post; 'Freeway Phantom' Slayings Haunt Police, Families - washingtonpost.com
In response to your question about Askins. When you looked him up in the prison inmate locator, did you check the Federal 'Joints' in North Carolina? In fact, I don't know if the 'Feds' even have an inmate locator.
I do not recall if I checked the Federal Inmate Register, but there is such a website. Here is a Link to a free website, and there is within the site a place where you can check for Federal Inmates. No photos are available at the Fed site, but many of the state sites include them.
That was the quickest responce I ever received! Was it an echo?
I think I FOUND him. Robert F. Askins, 09365-007, black, male, 88 yrs old., pulling 'life' at the Fed 'Joint' in Lewisburg,PA.
I read this thread about a week ago (first I heard of the FP) and now my mind keeps coming back to it.
I agree that Askins looks like a good possibility. I think they're looking for a black man with no Virginia ties, just like one of the detectives believes. I find it odd that he left just the one note.
I wonder what Askins drove back then and where he was living and working, if he worked.
can anyone tell me where the name Askins came in! I have been all over the net and cant get nothing to come up. Please let me know. Back in 1971 and 1972 I was in high school in Bladensburg and remember the news stories.
He's mentioned in the linked story. One of the detectives who worked the case thinks he's the Phantom.
i found it and now he is in Cumberland and not Lewisburg anymore
I cant find anything else on this man. The washington post online does not goes back that far. Can anyone help me find out about this man
Bumping this case up. This case was often compared with that of another Washington DC case known as the Green Vega Rapist(s). It was believed at the time (1970's) that a gang of up to eight men were responsible for those attacks and some investigators thought the two cases might be linked.
Separate names with a comma.