In our podcast on the Washington DC serial killer, the Freeway Phantom, we dive into the victims. I wanted to provide listeners with some additional material to augment the podcast.
One of the more disturbing mishandlings of cases is that of Darlenia Johnson. Her remains spotted by a motorist along I-295, just 15 feet from where Carol Spinks had been found, but the police didn’t recover her for over a week. Officers were dispatched, but they drove by, not seeing her, rather than get out of their car. She remained unattended in the hot July sun for days.
Brenda Faye Crockett stands out because the Phantom allowed her to call home while she was his prisoner…twice. Both times she claimed that a white man had driven her to Virginia and would send her home in a taxi. On the second call, she asked if her mother saw her. This is important. Was the Phantom worried that he had been seen with her in his vehicle? Did personally know Mrs. Crockett and was afraid that she was sending police after him?
Clearly the references to a “white man” and “Virginia” were deception. No serial killer would allow his victim to give out actual useful clues to the family and authorities. If anything, this should have helped investigators narrow their search to not include white suspects or residents in Virginia. But at the time, the concept of a serial killer was unknown. You had repeat offenders, but the phrase “serial killer” was years away from these crimes.
Nenomoshia Yates was only 12 years old when she was abducted, raped, and strangled by the killer. She was found the day after her abduction on Route 50 in Prince George’s County Maryland. She was just 3/10’s of a mile over the border from the District of Columbia. So had the killer put here there to muddy the investigation by bringing in another agency? Why not leave her along I-295 as he had his other victims? What was so different with her or the road that night that compelled him to leave her elsewhere?