People are supposed to die in “acceptable” ways — old age, illness, even by car accidents. But when your father or sister or husband is murdered, there’s something more: a profound sense of violation, of all the rules being broken. Unlike a “normal” death, where grief is dulled by the passage of time, murder still stings. There’s always the feeling that This Shouldn’t Have Happened.
At its very simplest, murder is theft. Clint Eastwood’s character, Bill Munny, said it best in the 1992 Western Unforgiven: “It’s a hell of a thing killin’ a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”
When arrests are made, families get closure, but closure doesn’t bring back the dead. When arrests aren’t made, killers run loose and questions stay unanswered. The families of victims of unsolved homicides live in constant limbo, a daily seesaw of mystery and fear. Here are more of their stories.
Date: Dec. 15, 2002
Location: 2903 Floyd Ave.
The Richmond Police Department has a policy of posting the photos of each murder victim from a calendar year in its headquarters. When 18-year-old George Mason University honors student Vicki Parent was killed during a street robbery on quiet, residential Floyd Avenue in the Museum District on Dec. 15, 2002, her photo was added to the wall.
“Vicki was up for two weeks and – poof! – She’s gone! These pictures should stay up until they’re solved,” says attorney Betty Layne DesPortes, whose law firm, Benjamin and DesPortes, is representing Vicki’s mother, Patti Parent, pro bono in her search for justice. Some might say the quick disappearance of Vicki’s photo could be a metaphor for how Richmond Police have handled Vicki’s case from the very beginning.
On the night of Vicki’s murder, she left her mother’s house in Prince George County at 9 p.m. to spend the night with her best friend, 21-year-old Sarah Wheatley, who lived at 2903 Floyd Ave. Sarah was on her way home from work, and she and Vicki called each other by cell phone shortly before 10 p.m. to confirm that they would be arriving at the same time for safety.
Sarah pulled into her off-street parking space, and Vicki had parked on the street and was heading up the walkway to Sarah’s apartment building when a man approached Vicki. From inside her car, between a garage and her apartment building, Sarah heard “yelling or a scuffle. … I looked up and saw Vicki take a step forward and I saw her get shot and fall down.” She didn’t get a look at Vicki’s assailant, who fled the scene, stealing Vicki’s purse. Sarah called 911 and rescuers took Vicki to the hospital, where she died the next morning of a gunshot wound to her head.
Other eyewitnesses in the area described hearing two gunshots and seeing a man around 5-foot-8, with a slim build and wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, flee the scene down Colonial Avenue toward Carytown. Another witness claimed to see three people flee the scene.
Since then, Patti Parent has been a severe critic of how police have handled the investigation of her daughter’s murder. “I have gone so far out of my way to cooperate, to be helpful, to be patient, but quite frankly I’m at the end of my rope here,” she says.
Richmond Police refused comment about the Parent case for this story.
A week after the murder, the lead detective in the case, Vernon Vaughn, went on vacation, and Patti Parent says she was told by a supervisor that Vaughn had taken the file home with him and no one else was working on it. A couple weeks later, Vaughn informed Parent that he had recovered a small vial of perfume from the scene, which he said might be important since Vicki worked in a perfume store. But Vicki had never worked in a perfume store; she worked at Outback Steakhouse and was scheduled the morning after her murder to begin a seasonal job at Abercrombie & Fitch at Regency Square.
On Jan. 25, 2003, a little more than a month after the murder, a Richmond policeman called the Parent home asking to speak to Vicki because her ID, credit card and calling card had been turned in to First Precinct by a person who said they found them in North Side in a vacant lot in the 2900 block of Fourth Avenue near Brookland Park Boulevard. The policeman didn’t know Vicki had been murdered or that he was handling evidence in a murder case because he hadn’t turned the evidence in to the property department or entered it into a police database as required by department policy.
On Jan. 29, 2003, Richmond Police Chief Andre Parker called Patti Parent and admitted to “irregularities” in the handling of the case, she says. Patti Parent then began calling witnesses whose names had been entered into the police report by responding patrol officers at the murder scene. Patti Parent found that, in the six weeks following the murder, only Vicki’s friend Sarah had been interviewed by Vaughn, the detective. Neither he nor any other detectives had interviewed any of the other witnesses who gave their names and numbers to police at the shooting scene.
Patti Parent says Parker later told her that Vaughn was subjected to an administrative review because of his handling of the case. Parker would not tell Parent the outcome of the review, but Vaughn now serves as a patrolman, according to a phone operator at
Third Precinct. In a March 7, 2003, letter, Parker apologized to Parent “for the manner in which things were initially handled,” and wrote, “I have taken appropriate steps to address the personnel related issues you raised.”
“When you see that detectives fail to interview eyewitnesses to capital murders in even the good parts of town, I’m left to conclude they don’t care,” says lawyer Steve Benjamin, who’s also representing Patti Parent. “Most ordinary citizens would do a better job of investigating. An ordinary citizen would know to interview witnesses.”
On Feb. 3, 2003, Vicki’s case was reassigned to Detective Louis “Boo” Quick, who that same day traveled to the location in North Side where Vicki’s cards were reported found 10 days earlier. Quick recovered Vicki’s purse, eyeglasses and other belongings, and a suspect fled from Quick at the location where the purse was found. Quick later interviewed a thief known to discard property in North Side but didn’t get anywhere. As of July, investigators could find no match on the shells in a ballistics database and had no leads.
When Patti Parent noted in an e-mail in summer 2003 to the chief of police and detectives how massive resources were devoted to the murder of Officer Doug Wendell that were not devoted to her daughter’s murder, Chief Parker responded in an e-mail to Patti Parent that “despite the tone and tenor of your correspondence, please know that we will continue to seek the person or persons responsible for your daughter’s death.”
As a result of local media coverage, Benjamin and DesPortes offered their services for free to Patti Parent and so did a private investigator.
“This is not just about giving Ms. Parent closure,” says DesPortes. “It is about the fact you have someone willing to commit capital murder who is still out there.”
However, since Benjamin and DesPortes took on the Parent case, police have been more open, DesPortes says. “It needs to be acknowledged that they are treating Ms. Parent with more respect, and they appear to be working on the case with more enthusiasm.” In fact, after the Richmond Times-Dispatch published a story revisiting Vicki Parent’s murder in late 2003, police received a tip and, working from that tip, identified and questioned a suspect in March, Benjamin says.
Says DesPortes, “We are committed to finding the answers in this case for Vicki and Ms. Parent and bringing the person who did this to Vicki to justice.”
Benjamin and DesPortes want to speak with the person who turned in Vicki’s belongings to the police. They are also searching for a couple named Adrienne and Kenny whose last name may be Hamilton. They lived near Floyd and Colonial and could have been in position to see the killer flee. If you have any information, call 788-4444.
Date: Dec. 6, 1980
Location: Off Cold Harbor Road, Hanover County
“In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines, I would shiver the whole night through.” — “In the Pines,” Traditional blues song
On Wednesday, Dec. 3, 1980, it had been a week and a half since 6-year-old Alex Glanz’s babysitter unexpectedly quit. A precocious first-grader at Highland Springs Elementary, Alex had quickly gotten used to his new routine as a “latchkey kid.” After the school bus dropped him off at his house around 3:30 p.m., he would let himself in and call his mother, Diane Glanz, at work to let her know he had gotten home safely. Diane Glanz, a single mom who then worked at Medical College of Virginia Hospital, would usually arrive home about an hour later.
“Unfortunately,” says Henrico Police investigator Robert Hewlett, “on Dec. 3, 1980, she didn’t get a call.”
When she got home that day, Diane Glanz found Alex’s keys in the front door and his books inside, next to the door. At first, she thought Alex might have gone looking for a missing cat, but after a couple hours, she grew worried and called police.
About 100 police officers and 200 volunteers, from Air National Guardsmen to volunteer firefighters and civic groups, searched for miles around Glanz’s East End home at 330 Oakleys Lane, off Nine Mile Road. Helicopters swarmed overhead, police divers looked in neighboring creeks and the Chickahominy Swamp, and bloodhounds scoured the grounds. Hewlett and investigator D.A. Sullivan, his partner in Henrico’s two-man cold-case homicide unit, were both rookie patrolmen then and participated in the search. “It was pretty extensive in terms of manpower,” Hewlett recalls. Many of the policemen were assigned to man phones and receive tips, which came in from all over, none proving useful. The search would go on around the clock for nearly three days. (One of the supervisors of the investigation was then-Henrico Police Capt. Roger L. Foster, the father of Richmond magazine executive editor Richard Foster, the author of this article.)
Three days later, at 9 a.m. on Saturday Dec. 6, deer hunter Amon V. Stinson Jr. came across Alex’s body about six miles northeast from Alex’s home, lying in a Hanover County field about 20 yards off Cold Harbor Road between state routes 619 and 630. It was a pitiful sight: The skinny 43-pound, 3-foot-9-inch young boy was face down, clad only in white briefs and a pair of tube socks, his ankles and wrists bound tightly with rope. Newspaper accounts at the time said he was found clutching a clump of grass in one hand.
“It was right rough for about six months. Every time I went by there, I could see him laying there. I still see it if I think about it,” says Stinson, now a 63-year-old retired tree-cutter who lives near where he found Alex. “I’m scared to go look in the woods now because you don’t know what you’re going to walk up on in there.”
Stinson, who had been hunting that stretch of woods with friends and family during the time Alex was missing, believes Alex was dumped there the previous night. “I was all in [those woods] all week,” Stinson says. “If he had been in there, I would have seen that. … I hunted both sides of the road for years.”
Police believe Alex was dropped off, alive and tied up, about 250 yards inside the woods at an undetermined time before he was found. He apparently hopped or crawled to where he must have dropped, losing consciousness and dying of exposure. (Medical examiner Marcella Fierro also found evidence Alex had been sexually assaulted.) In the couple days before Alex was found, temperatures dipped to overnight lows from 28 to 40 degrees. That’s more than cold enough to cause the death of a nearly naked small child, says Tidewater deputy chief medical examiner Dr. Leah Bush.
A neighbor, now dead, told police that they had seen Alex on his porch the day of Alex’s disappearance. The neighbor also saw a suspicious vehicle, a red-and-black pickup truck, parked in the driveway of Alex’s mother’s house. In previous news reports, police have said they believe the driver of that vehicle was Alex’s abductor. Also, Hewlett says, “We believe he probably approached other children in this truck.”
After almost 25 years, police say they expect an arrest may finally be coming in Alex’s abduction, abuse and murder. Foreign hair recovered from Alex’s body is currently being tested for mitochondrial DNA, and the cold-case detectives are waiting for a match. “We have a very strong suspect, we believe,” says Hewlett, who will not publicly discuss the suspect’s identity, though he says he believes Alex’s murder is linked to similar cases from the same time period. A WWBT 12 report this year stated that police said the main suspect in Alex’s murder is in prison for a similar crime in which similar ropes with similar knots were used.
Stinson, the deer hunter who found Alex’s body, says he has heard over the years that police are looking at “the one who kidnapped those two girls from Studley. … The one who had them tied up in the woods and they escaped.” That would be John Bradley Crawford, who is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence for the May 1981 abductions of sisters Kelly June and Lea Ann Sutton, then 10 and 15 respectively. The girls were taken from their Studley home and were found alive, tied to trees in woods about six miles southwest of their home, and about a mile from Crawford’s home. At the time of the girls’ disappearance, police said they were seeking the driver of a pickup truck. Just 20 at the time of his arrest for the Sutton girls’ abductions, Crawford worked for his father at Mechanicsville-based Crawford Exterminating Inc. Crawford also was arrested in March 1980 and charged with sodomizing a 4-year-old Hanover boy while under the boy’s home doing extermination work. The charge was dismissed, though a prosecutor said Crawford failed a lie-detector test.
Now 43 and jailed at Brunswick Correctional Center, a medium-security prison near the Virginia-North Carolina border, Crawford is scheduled for mandatory parole at age 45 in September 2006.
Meanwhile, those who loved Alex are still waiting for justice. If he had lived, Alex Glanz would have been 30 this year.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” said Alex’s mother, Diane Glanz, in a March 2004 interview with WWBT 12’s Gene Lepley. (She could not be reached for this story.) “Time doesn’t make it any easier. But not having the case solved makes it like there’s a feeling of hanging, just waiting for it to be closed.”
Kenneth and Anjanette Murphy
Date: April 14, 2000
Method: Multiple gunshots
Location: 3010 Montecrest Ave.
By all accounts, Kenneth and Anjanette Murphy were not the kind of people you’d expect to be at the center of a double murder. The married parents of children ages 3 and 12, the Murphys were devout churchgoers at Second Antioch Baptist Church in Powhatan.
At about 12:30 a.m. on April 14, 2000, between two and five men broke down the French door of the Murphys’ quiet brick house at 3010 Montecrest Ave. near Jefferson Davis Highway in South Richmond. Anjanette, 30, was immediately shot multiple times and killed. Her husband, Kenneth, 31, came out of the downstairs back bedroom, wearing only a T-shirt and underwear, to see what was happening. He was shot at least twice in the chest. Neighbors reported seeing three men flee the scene.
The Murphys’ 12-year-old daughter came downstairs from her bedroom to find her father on his knees and bleeding from the chest. The 3-year-old never awoke during the incident. After rescue workers arrived and loaded him into an ambulance, Murphy said the names of some men but didn’t say whether they were the shooters, says Richmond Police Det. Levin J. White. Kenneth Murphy later died at the hospital.
One of the guns used in the murder was a handgun stolen from a Henrico County sheriff’s deputy’s car, White says. Portsmouth police later recovered the gun in 2001 when suspected drug dealers fleeing police threw it into an ice-cream cooler.
Two men of interest to police in the investigation, according to an affidavit given by White supporting a search warrant filed in New Jersey, are Kenneth Murphy’s childhood friend Gregory “Craig” Denarr Mills and Mills’ brother-in-law, an internationally notorious boxing trainer named Carlos “Panama” Lewis, whose clients included former world heavyweight champ “Iron” Mike Tyson.
“I do believe both of these individuals were either there or have direct knowledge or have information that can help us,” White says of Mills and Lewis. “The trainer, he’s been interviewed, and it’s been determined that he’s been less than truthful. I’m not suggesting this trainer was the shooter, but does he have knowledge? Yes, he has knowledge.”
Nothing was taken from the scene of the murder, White says, and robbery was not a motive.
Family members and police say that Kenneth Murphy, who worked as a truck driver for E&S Contract Carrier Inc. in South Richmond, and Mills, who at one time had a power-washing business, were close friends, and Murphy was concerned about Mills’ lifestyle and wanted him to become a churchgoing man like Murphy. Mills was charged in 1993 with a felony count of cocaine possession with intent to distribute, but he pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
A year or two before the Murphys were killed, Mills introduced Kenneth Murphy to Lewis, his brother-in-law. Lewis served a year in prison in the 1980s for fixing a fight, after he removed the padding from welterweight fighter Luis Resto’s boxing gloves during a bout at Madison Square Garden. Resto’s opponent, Billy Collins Jr., was injured so badly he never fought again and died a year later, a suspected suicide. Permanently banned as a fight trainer in the U.S., Lewis took to training foreign champs and worked for Mike Tyson in recent years, though Lewis wasn’t permitted ringside at Tyson’s fights.
Laura Murphy, Kenneth’s mother, says her son went to Florida in summer 1999 on a fishing trip paid for by Mills and Lewis. Even though Laura Murphy describes her son Kenneth as struggling financially, on the night of the murder, police found a brown paper bag in Kenneth Murphy’s house containing several hundred dollars. Laura says that as she was going through Kenneth’s effects she discovered receipts showing that for a couple years Kenneth had been wiring about $500 every few months to someone in Florida via Western Union on Mills’ behalf. (Mills and Lewis could not be reached for comment.)
Seven hours after the murders, according to the affidavit, Mills met Lewis at Richmond International Airport, where Lewis caught a plane to Vermont and then got a ride over the border into Canada. Police say Mills, who lives in South Richmond, then stayed in a Richmond hotel for several days following the murders. Once in Canada, Lewis contacted a lawyer who called Richmond Police to tell them that Lewis had not fled the country but had traveled to Canada on business to train Canadian middleweight champ Dave Hilton Jr.
On Aug. 18, 2000, Lewis showed up at Richmond Police headquarters and asked to see White. Lewis “just showed up at my office and said, ‘Here’s where I was.’ He had plane tickets, copies of his ticket stubs, and copies of receipts, not things you would typically carry around with you,” White says. In police questioning, Lewis at first denied he had ever been in the Murphys’ home, White says, but confronted with a polygraph test, he admitted that he had been in the Murphy home. Similarly, Mills initially denied to police that he knew Lewis, his own brother-in-law. Mills is no longer cooperating with police. White tried to get police in New Jersey, where Lewis was living above a boxing gym, to take Lewis’ palm prints in a search warrant to compare against prints found in the Murphy house after the murder. However, Lewis had apparently moved, and police were unable to get the prints.
“This murder, it’s just a brutal, senseless killing,” White says. “We need some help from the community on this.”
If you have any information about this case, call Metro Richmond Crimestoppers at 780-1000.
Murder, Most Foul
Many other high-profile area murders remain unsolved. Here are some:
Patricia Allison Prince
On Sept. 17, 1974, Prince, 24, left her job at the Thalhimers store in Cloverleaf Mall to attend classes at VCU. She was last seen driving with an unknown man in her silver-blue Volkswagen Beetle through a Powhite Parkway toll. More than five years later, her skeletal remains were found on a cliff behind Riverview Cemetery. She was identified by dental records and a St. Joseph’s Medal.
Colonial Parkway Murders
FBI and State Police believe a serial killer murdered four young couples in Virginia between 1986 and 1989. The victims included Annamaria Phelps, 18, and Daniel Lauer, 21, whose bodies were found by hunters in New Kent County woods near an Interstate 64 rest stop seven months after they were reported missing on Labor Day weekend in 1989.
Deborah Ferguson & James Sherrin
Ferguson was a VCU art student who may have gotten into trouble with marijuana dealers over missing money. Friends theorized that she looked up Sherrin, her ex-boyfriend of a year before, so she would have protection. They were both last seen leaving his Fan apartment on May 18,1990. Their bodies were found a few weeks later on a hill in Mechanicsville.
Dollar Store Murders
Cheryl Sonya Edwards, 25, and Charlita Singleton, 36, employees of the All for One dollar store at Cloverleaf Mall, were found in the store’s rear office, stabbed to death after a robbery on Nov. 7, 1996. Edwards was the mother of a 4-year-old boy; Singleton had six children. A year after the murders, police said they had no leads.
The owner of Honeybrook Antiques, 5707 Grove Ave. in the Grove and Libbie area, Weatherford, 50, was found, shot multiple times, lying on a sofa in his North Side home on June 13, 1994. The day before, he attended a musical at Collegiate School with a young, clean-cut white male with medium-length black hair who went by the name of “Matt,” which may have been an alias. “Matt” is considered a person of interest in the murder, and Henrico detectives are seeking information about him.
Henry Edward Northington
On March 1, 1999, early-morning strollers found Northington’s head neatly placed on a James River Park footbridge. An HIV-positive homeless man, Northington, 39, was disliked in local gay clubs for being pushy but was a talented piano player. The slaying attracted national attention from The Village Voice and gay groups who called it a hate crime. A suspect who police say was with Northington the night he died remains in a New York prison for an unrelated crime but will not talk.
On Sept. 5, 2000, the popular West End hairstylist was found dead in her bedroom of a gunshot to the back.