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The Northeast neighborhood of Washington, D.C. was haunted by Freeway Phantom serial killer from April 1971 to October 1972 killing six young black girls aged between 10 and 18. He is known as the first serial killer of D.C. The girls were snatched, strangled, and were murdered near the heavily traveled roads. Three girls were raped, one was sodomized and the other was badly decomposed and the way she died was hard to find. This case underwent many investigations and gained much interest over the years. But did they find the killer? Who is the real killer? 

Freeway Phantom’s murders

Freeway Phantom serial killer targeted young African American girls in the Washington Post. 

Freeway Phantom

On April 25th, 1971, Carol Spinks was his first victim who was just 13 years old. Her mother left her and her siblings home alone to visit a family nearby. Carol left home one night to go to a 7-Eleven, she went grocery shopping, and there she was seen by a clerk and her mother. But on her way home, she went missing. After 6 days a group of children was playing on the Freeway embankment and there they found her body. The autopsy revealed that she was raped and the death was due to strangulation. They found that she was alive for three days after getting kidnapped.  

Darlene Johnson, a 16-year old girl was the next target and she was found dead in the place 15 ft from where Carol’s body was dumped. It happened on July 8th, 1971 she went to a workplace informing her mother that she will stay the night. So her disappearance was noted a bit later. Two weeks later her body was found with no shoes like Carol’s. Due to racism, the police did not answer the multiple calls they receive about the disappearance of the girl. Due to the delay, the autopsy was unable to conclude whether she was assaulted or not. 

Similarly, Brenda Crockett, a 10-year-old girl went missing a week later when she went to see a movie. Nenomoshia Yates, a 12-year-old girl went missing after going to the supermarket to get groceries. Brend Woodard an 18-year-old girl was taking the bus home after grabbing dinner with a friend and she is found as the fifth victim. The last victim was Diane Williams, a 17-year-old who went missing after spending time with her boyfriend.

Every Murder had similarities where the victims were raped, strangled and five of them had their shoes removed. Brenda Woodard was brutally murdered and it was hard to find how she was killed. They had the same green fibers on their clothing except for Woodard. There was a note on her body that reads “This is tantamount to insensitivity to people, especially women. I will admit the others when you catch me if you can! Free-way Phantom!”. Two different hair samples were found on her where one belonged to an African American man and the other to a Caucasian man. 

Brenda Woodard’s murder was not the same.

Freeway phantom serial killer

Brenda Woodard’s murder was different from the other murders and there was a note on her body and it was dictated to her to write out. The former D.C. police detective said that the handwriting of Brenda did not seem to be with compulsion, so she might have known her killer and did not realize the seriousness of the situation, as there were no signs of nervousness. 

But the police believe that she would have realized her fate and might have fought back as she was strangled and she was the only victim to be stabbed and had defense wounds. And moreover, her shoes were on her. 

Who is Freeway Phantom? 

Freeway phantom serial killer

The  Geographical point of the killer was St. Elizabeth’s Hospital which is a mental Asylum in Washington DC. According to the geographical point, it suggests that the killer was familiar with the facilities and so he might be a doctor, patient, or a worker.  The Freeway Phantom kept trophies of his victims like textbooks from one girl, and shoelaces from another.  He stopped his murders in 1972 and investigators believed that he might have died or might have moved away from that area. 

In the 1970s there was a rapist group and the police believed that they might have been involved Freeway Phantom murders. One of the members of the gang confessed that his colleague committed the crimes but when his allegation became public he stopped communicating. 

Askin was a kidnapper and rapist who was charged 3 times before with homicide.  And he stayed as a patient in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and when the police raided his home he had saved an appellate court’s opinion where the word “tantamount” was used and they found that he would use that word often in conversations.  But there was no physical evidence and he denied the connection to the Phantom Highway murders and died in the prison in 2010. 

Freeway Phantom washed his victim’s body to destroy evidence and so his DNA was not been recoverable.  He disposed of the bodies in different states to keep different police departments from piecing the crimes together.  The race of the victims also played a part as it is believed that the police department did not give much attention as the girls were black. So it ended up as an unsolved mystery.

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