For those of you that follow my blog, you know I take the anniversaries of victims of unsolved crimes seriously. April 9 marks the 29th anniversary of the disappearance of Richard “Keith” Call and Cassandra Hailey. I say, “disappearance,” because their remains have never been recovered. While it is surmised that they were murdered, we do not know what their final fate was. We only know that they have never been seen since the night of their journey into the unknown.
Over two years ago I had no idea who they were or how they were intertwined to the murders dubbed the “Colonial Parkway Murders.” A lot has changed in two years. Like most cold cases, the story is often treated as a footnote in the annals of law enforcement. Keith and Cassandra are not a mere statistic, they were vibrant young people with the world and lives ahead of them.
In working on our book on these murders (A Special Kind of Evil) we’ve had a chance to interview Virginia State Police, FBI, and, most importantly, family members of this pair. I can’t call them a “couple.” They disappeared on their first date, and it was not a romantic affair but a trip to a movie and a visit to a college party off-campus near Christopher Newport in Newport News, VA.
It started out so innocently – like a scene from a 1980’s teen movie. Keith picked up Cassandra at her parent’s home. They went to the movie then onto the party and mingled, and Keith left to take her home. That’s the short version. In the early morning hours, only a short time later, Keith’s car was spotted on the Colonial Parkway by several people…including his brother. It was at a pull-off right after Yorktown heading north on the Colonial Parkway, less than 15 feet from the road in plain sight. Keith’s father found the car on the way to work but was not entirely alarmed by what he saw.
The majority of their clothing was in the car and the National Park Service rangers proposed to the media that they had gone skinny dipping in the York River. It was a preposterous suggestion – it had been in the low 40’s that night and just getting to the river would have been treacherous, especially if you were naked and in the pitch darkness of the historic roadway.
On top of that, both of them had an aversion to the Parkway. Two years earlier, a mile or so from where Keith’s red Toyota Celica was found, there had been a brutal killing of Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Dowski. Their deaths were horrific and proved to be the first of four pairs of killings on the Virginia peninsula. Their murders cast the first shadow on the Colonial Parkway.
Most in law enforcement have contended that Keith and Cassandra went there to make out. Empty beers were found in the back seat of the car near their clothing. When you find clothing and an abandoned car in a place known for wild partying and young couples parking to do what young couples do when they park, it almost made sense. Almost. The thing was that Keith was in a serious relationship at the time. He and Cassandra had not demonstrated any romantic inkling towards each other. Many authorities still cling to the concept they went there to park. This was reinforced by search dogs that seemed to indicate they were taken separately from the vehicle to the icy cold York River.
I favor Major Ron Montgomery’s (York County) thinking however. In my interview with him he told me he doesn’t believe they were ever on the parkway…that was just where Keith’s car was abandoned. Honestly, there’s a lot to back that theory up. There is no tangible physical evidence that verifies they were on the Parkway. On top of that – the Parkway is past where Cassandra’s house was. They would have had to driven her past her home to go to the Parkway, and when they left the party Keith’s intention was to get Cassandra home before curfew.
I used to love driving the parkway before I worked on this book. Now I drive it and I go slow, noting the changes to the terrain over three decades. I am always torn between the natural beauty of the drive and the horrible things that happened there.
All of the crimes tied to the parkway murders are horrible. This one stands out for most people for one reason – there were no bodies. Keith and Cassandra were simply gone. Having a body does not ease the pain but it is important beyond description. It means their remains are someplace known. I cannot fathom the anguish of not knowing where your loved brother, sister, or child is. Keith and Cassandra left that party and drove off into nothingness. It is an open wound that tears at you as a writer or as a human being.
The sad part is that someone out there must now something about what happened to them on the drive between Christopher Newport and Sandra’s home in Grafton, VA – most likely on or near Route 17, J. Clyde Morris Boulevard. In that short distance, someone had to see something – even if it was a faux police car pulling over Keith’s red Toyota Celica. At the time you probably didn’t give it a second thought. Today your information could help re-energize this 29 year old cold case. There is no such thing as an inconsequential tip.
If you do have any information, please contact the FBI at (757) 455-0100 or me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be passing along any tips directly to the authorities.
Having spent considerable time crawling through these murders each one is special…and I will cover them as each couple’s crime arrives on the calendar. Today however it is about Keith and Missy (as she was known to her family.) Today, we need to focus on solving their disappearance.
And to the insidious monster that was responsible for these crimes – my daughter Victoria and I are your worst freaking nightmare. We are going to get the full story out, as full as possible, and we are going to generate new tips and leads. Our books on cold cases generate tips for law enforcement all of the time – and this book will do the same. Your days of living free thinking you got away with these murders are limited. Why? Simply put, we are not alone. The people of the Tidewater want justice and the families demand it. We won’t let this story be a footnote. We want it to be page one.
It is time for us all to work together to bring Keith and Cassandra home once and for all. It is time for justice.