Suspect named in 3 Virginia cold cases, including ‘Colonial Parkway Murders’

Posted at 8:53 AM, January 9, 2024

SUFFOLK, Va. (Scripps News Richmond) —Police in Virginia named a deceased hunter and fisherman as a suspect in three unsolved murders that dated back to the 1980s.

Police said investigators used DNA evidence to link Alan Wade Wilmer Sr. to the 1987 murders of David Knobling and Robin Edwards in Isle Of Wight, and the 1989 murder of Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell in Hampton.

combo image of cold cases murder victims and suspect alan wilmer

These photos provided by the Virginia State Police show murder victims David Knobling (Top, Left), Robin Edwards (Bottom, Left), Teresa Lynn Howell (Center, Left) and suspect Alan Wade Wilmer Sr. (Center, Right) (Virginia State Police)

Wilmer Sr., died in December 2017 in Lancaster County, Virginia, at the age of 63. Officials with the Isle of Wight County and City of Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorneys said if Wilmer were still alive, charges would be filed against him.

“I want to thank the Edwards, Knobling, and Howell families for their patience and understanding over the years,” Lt. Col. Tim Lyon, Director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said. “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.”

The first murders connected to Wilmer happened in September 1987.

On September 23, 1987, David Knobling and Robin Edwards were found shot to death along the shoreline of the Ragged Island Wildlife Management and Refuge Area on the south bank of the James River, according to Virginia State Police.

Knobling and Edwards were just 20 and 14 years old at the time of the murders.

Edwards, police said, had been sexually assaulted.

Over time, their murders were lumped into a series of unsolved crimes that spanned from 1986 to 1989 known as the Colonial Parkway Murders.

“Many in this region will recognize the Isle of Wight County double homicide as one that occurred during a series of double murders collectively known as the Colonial Parkway Murders,” Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said. “Although the similarities in these series of double homicides that spanned a three-year period cannot be ignored, at this time, there is no forensic nor physical evidence to link the Isle of Wight County homicides to those other double murders. The remaining double homicides, the two in York County that occurred on the Colonial Parkway, and the one that occurred in New Kent County are still active investigations and our combined investigative efforts continue.”

The third murder police attributed to Wilmer happened in the city of Hampton on July 1, 1989.

In that case, Teresa Lynn Spaw Howell, 29, was seen outside of the Zodiac Club in the city.

Later that day a construction crew found women’s clothing near their worksite and Howell was found dead. She had also been sexually assaulted.

Detectives said Wilmer had no felonies on his criminal record, so his DNA was never obtained until it was needed to identify him following his death.

“The Virginia Department of Forensic Science in 2023 issued a ‘Certificate of Analysis’ confirming a genetic match to Wilmer based on evidence collected from the Isle of Wight County and City of Hampton homicide victims,” Virginia State Police wrote in a release.

Police would not elaborate on the tip or tips that prompted them to request Wilmer’s DNA.

Now authorities are hoping that the public can help them in their investigation. “… we’re asking the public to come forward and share information about any encounters they may have had with him,” said FBI Norfolk Special Agent in Charge Brian Dugan.

Wilmer was 5’5” and weighed around 165 pounds.

“He had sandy-brown hair, blue eyes, and would sport a close-cropped beard,” State Police described. “Wilmer drove a distinctive, blue 1966 Dodge Fargo pickup truck with the Virginia license plate EM-RAW.”

Wilmer worked as a fisherman in the 1980s, according to investigators, farming mainly clams and oysters on his custom-built wooden boat named Denni Wade.

“He also ran a business called Better Tree Service,” police described. “He was an avid hunter and belonged to at least one hunt club located in the Middle Peninsula region.”

Anyone who may have worked with Alan W. Wilmer Sr. or hunted with him is encouraged to contact the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or submitting a tip online at Anyone with information can also reach out to the Virginia State Police by email at [email protected] or the Peninsula Crime Line.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Richmond, an E.W. Scripps Company.