The first two known victims were Cathleen Thomas, 27, and Rebecca Ann Dowski, 21. The lesbian couple liked to park on the Colonial Parkway for privacy. On October 12, 1986, their bodies were found inside their car, which had been pushed down an embankment on the parkway near an area of the parkway that was popular with gay couples. An autopsy found rope burns on their necks and wrists, signs of strangulation, and their throats had been slashed. Their purses and money were found inside the car, and there were no signs of a struggle. Both women were fully clothed and there was no evidence of sexual assault. (As an aside, Thomas was one of 100 women in the United States Naval Academy class of 1981, which was the second graduating class that was coeducational at federal service academies.)
In September 1987, David Knobling, 20, and Robin Edwards, 14, were found murdered in the Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge, on the south shore of the James River in Isle of Wight County, near Smithfield, Virginia. Knobling's truck was found at the refuge several days before the bodies were discovered.
On April 9, 1988, Cassandra Lee Hailey and Richard Keith Call were reported missing after their first date together. Call's vehicle was found, unoccupied, on the Colonial Parkway the next day. Neither body has been found, but both are presumed dead.
In October 1989, the bodies of Anna Marie Phelps, 18, and Daniel Lauer, 21, were found in New Kent County by a hunter in the woods near a rest area on Interstate 64 between Williamsburg and Richmond. They had been missing since the previous month.
In 1996, the unsolved case of the Colonial Parkway Killer was presented on national television on the program Real Stories of the Highway Patrol, a series that aired from 1993-1999. Actor Steve Altes portrayed the killer.
As of November 2005, the killer has not yet been identified. Investigators have speculated that the suspect might be a law enforcement officer, someone impersonating one, or perhaps a rogue operative from the Central Intelligence Agency, which has a training facility nearby at Camp Peary in York County. Other investigators believe the killings were committed by more than one person working as a team.
Since the incidents, many highly-embellished urban legends have arisen concerning the 'Colonial Parkway Killer,' most of which grossly distort or otherwise incorrectly portray the circumstances of the case.