|“||This is tantamount to my insensitivity to people, especially women. I will admit the others when you catch me if you can!||”|
— The Freeway Phantom's note left in the coat pocket of the fifth victim
The Freeway Phantom is an unidentified pedophilic and ephebophilic serial killer, rapist, and abductor active in Washington, D.C. from April 1971 through September 1972. He may have begun with a series of attacks dubbed the "Green Vega Rapes" which occurred from 1968 to 1970.
The Freeway Phantom case has seen a myriad of investigators and garnered much interest over the years. Numerous investigative tips came from the general public by a telephone hotline operated by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC) and information also came by way of the mail. Some people believe that the Phantom himself called in tips to mislead police and stall the investigation. All these leads were investigated to their logical conclusion. Some leads were easily proven not to be viable, while others required substantial investigation. The investigation was conducted by a law enforcement task force that included Detectives from the MPDC Homicide and Sex Squads, investigators from Prince George's County and Montgomery County, Maryland, Maryland State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Common practice at the time was that case files at MPDC Detective Divisions were retained in files maintained by the detectives assigned to the case. As a result, the Freeway Phantom case files have been lost, along with the associated notes, and all investigators assigned as primary or task force have either long retired, or are deceased. With current evidence and any information of the case from when it happened, no leads produced sufficient evidence for prosecution. This case is open as a cold case in the MPDC Homicide Division as of September 2018.
The Freeway Phantom targeted female children and teens ranging from 12-17 years of age. The Phantom would abduct them, usually when they were on their way to or returning from work or an errand. The Phantom would then rape, strangle them (usually manually), and dump their bodies in grassy areas near freeways, hence the name. In the case of the third victim, Brenda Crockett, the Phantom forced her to call her family twice, likely as a way to both taunt them and throw the Police of the trail, very similar to the way The Gilgo Beach Killer taunted his victim's families with phone calls. The Phantom also strangled her with a scarf. The Phantom also stabbed his fourth victim and left a taunting note in her coat pocket.
The Freeway Phantom has been described as a loner motivated by rage that was focused on overall society. He might have received some kind of psychiatric treatment to help deal with negative emotions, like depression and anger towards women. He also could've complained about how society was wronging him, and probably tried contacting a person of power by some means; however, said person presumably refused to listen to him, further fueling his anger and leading to the murders. The Phantom also most likely lives in the Washington area, as he seems to have knowledge of the region, especially the local stores. He also owns a car or truck, which he would drive the distances between the stores where the victims were abducted. The Phantom after abducting his victims is assumed to have taken them to abandoned houses where he proceeded to rape the victims multiple times before killing them. He would probably be masked and not want to show his victims his face. Coroner reports of the Freeway Phantom's victims tell us that the victims were brutally raped with penetration up to 9 inches deep, with both anal and vaginal assaults taking place. Due to the brutality of the crimes the police suspected the offender to be a psychopath. With a deep and misogynistic hatred towards women. The killer may have military experience due to the skill displayed during the abductions and the lack of evidence at the crime scenes. The perpetrator might have served in the Army during the Vietnam War and may have been responsible for some war crimes such as rape and murder during massacres.
- April 25: Carol Spinks, 13 (abducted on her way home from a 7-11; found six days later)
- July 8: Darlenia Johnson, 16 (abducted on her way to her summer job; found eleven days later)
- July 27: Brenda Crockett, 10 (abducted on her way to the store; was made to call her family twice; strangled with a scarf)
- October 1: Nenomoshia Yates, 12 (abducted on her way home from a store; found few hours later)
- November 15: Brenda Woodward, 18 (found six hours later; stabbed and strangled; left a note in her coat pocket)
- September 5, 1972: Diane Williams, 17 (abducted presumably after a bus ride)
- Note: The note left in Woodward's pocket claimed that the Phantom killed additional victims. This has yet to be verified.
- Green Vega Rapists
- Among those individuals considered suspects were members of a gang known as the Green Vega Rapists. Members of this gang were collectively responsible for numerous Washington D.C. and surrounding Maryland vicinity rapes and abductions that occurred near the Washington Beltway. Logical investigation and intimate knowledge of the modus operandi of the Green Vega Gang brought them to the forefront. The Green Vega Gang members were individually interviewed by MPDC Homicide Detectives Fickling, Irving, and Richardson, at Lorton Prison in Virginia, where the gang members were serving sentences in conjunction with the successful prosecutions of those crimes in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. During these interviews, one gang member initially implicated another gang member, who he said told him he was involved and gave information as to one of the beltway homicides. This particular inmate was also serving a sentence at Lorton Prison for the Green Vega convictions. The inmate being interviewed stipulated that he would provide the information only if he could remain unidentified, which was agreed upon. He identified the man who gave him the information, the date and location of the crime, and signature detail which was not provided to the public, but which was known only to the perpetrator, and to detectives. That signature information was correct. The inmate who provided the information said he was not involved in the homicide, and provided an alibi which was found to be verifiable. During this period, an election was being held in Maryland, and one of the candidates publicly announced to the press, that a break had occurred in the Freeway Phantom investigation, and provided that an inmate at Lorton Prison had given the information. After that announcement, the inmate who provided the information declined any further interviews, and denied that he had ever provided any information.
- Edward Sullivan and Tommie Simmons
- Sullivan and Simmons, two ex-cops, were arrested for the murder of Angela Denise Barnes. Barnes, 14, was at one point thought to be a victim of the serial killings. Authorities later determined that Barnes was not a victim of the Freeway Phantom and resumed their investigation on the murders.
On Criminal Minds
While the case has yet to be directly mentioned or referenced, the Freeway Phantom appears to have been an inspiration for the following unsubs:
- Season Four
- Armando Ruis Salinas ("Catching Out") - Both were serial killers who dumped their victim's bodies along freeways and once stabbed a victim.
- Hugh Rollins ("A Shade of Gray") - Both are pedophilic serial killers, serial rapists (budding in Rollins' case), and abductors who targeted children and strangled them.
- Season Six
- Lee Mullens ("Remembrance of Things Past") - Both are serial killers and abductors who targeted young females, abducted them from public places, stabbed them (once in the Phantom's case), forced victims (only once in the Phantom's case) to call their families before their deaths, and were given nicknames for their crimes.