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'Colonial Parkway Murders' of Couples Terrorized Va. in 1980s. Now, a Suspect Has Been ID'd in 2 of Them

Alan W. Wilmer Sr., who died in 2017, is believed to have killed David L. Knobling, Robin M. Edwards and Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell

<p>Virginia State Police</p>  David L. Knobling, Robin M. Edwards and Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell

Virginia State Police

David L. Knobling, Robin M. Edwards and Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell

A series of murders that occurred in Virginia might have finally been solved decades later. A fisherman who died in 2017 was identified as a suspect in three unsolved killings from the late-1980s.

Virginia State Police say that Alan W. Wilmer Sr., who died at age 63 was responsible for the murders of David L. Knobling, 20, and Robin M. Edwards, 14 as well as Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell, 29.

On Sept. 23, 1987, Knobling and Edwards were found shot to death on the shoreline of a wildlife management area in Isle of White County, state police say. Edwards had been sexually assaulted and the pair were last seen four days prior.


The murders of Knobling and Edwards was one of four double homicides from 1986 to 1989 that were dubbed the “Colonial Parkway Murders.”

Howell was found dead outside of a club in Hampton on July 1, 1989, according to police. She was identified three days later, after a missing persons report was filed. Howell had been sexually assaulted and died as a result of strangulation, police say.

<p>Virginia State Police</p> Alan Wade Wilmer Sr.

Virginia State Police

Alan Wade Wilmer Sr.

DNA evidence confirmed that the same person was responsible for the three murders, state police claim. But because Wilmer had no criminal record, he never had to submit DNA until his death, when it was obtained for his identification.

In 2023, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science issued a “Certificate of Analysis,” which confirmed that Wilmer’s DNA matched evidence collected at the scene of the separate murders. State police say if Wilmer had not died in 2017, he would be facing murder charges.

“I want to thank the Edwards, Knobling and Howell families for their patience and understanding over the years,” State Police Lt. Col. Tim Lyon says in a statement. “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.”

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Wilmer had a commercial fishing boat named the Denni Wade, and during the 1980s made his living as a fisherman farming clams and oysters, police say. He drove several pickup trucks, including a distinct blue 1966 Dodge Fargo with a Virginia license plate that read “EM-RAW.” State police also say he owned a business called Better Tree Service and was an avid hunter.

Anyone who might have known Wilmer, hunted with him or docked next to him at marinas in the Northern Neck, Hampton Roads or Middle Peninsula areas are asked to call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submitting a tip online at

“As investigators look toward solving other crimes the suspect may have committed, we’re asking the public to come forward and share information about any encounters they may have had with him,” FBI Norfolk Special Agent in Charge Brian Dugan says in a statement. “We recognize relationships and loyalties change over time, as do people and their perspectives. There are occasions where people who may have had knowledge of an incident didn’t feel comfortable coming forward with that information in the past, but we want them to know it’s not too late for them to step forward.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to

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