Updated: May 11
Between the years of 1996 - 2014, an unusually high number of women have fallen victim to disappearances and murders along the Route 29 corridor in Virginia calling the suspect the…Route 29 Stalker.
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ROUTE 29 STALKER
On March 2nd, 1996, Alicia Showalter Reynolds of Baltimore, Maryland, said good-bye to her husband and left her home. It was a Saturday at about 7:30 A.M. Alicia planned to drive more than 150 miles to spend the day shopping with her mother in Charlottesville, Virginia. She left early, giving herself plenty of time to be at the mall by 10:30. Alicia’s mother arrived on time, expecting her daughter at any moment. But when Alicia was late, Sadie Showalter became worried:
“Right about 11:00, she wasn’t there, and I said, ‘This is not like Alicia. I wonder what’s going on?’ But I made myself wait until 11:15, and I then finally called her husband, Mark.”
“At that point, I said, ‘You know, the weather is kind of bad this morning. You know, there was a little fog, there was a little drizzle. It could’ve been some slick roads. Maybe she just slowed down a little bit, so give her a little while and give me a call back.’”
He told women they had car problems
Sadie continued to wait. An hour passed, then two, but Alicia never showed up. At 6:00 that evening, a Virginia state trooper found Alicia’s car abandoned along a highway near Culpepper, Virginia, 50 miles from the shopping mall. A white paper napkin had been tucked under the windshield wiper, a commonly used signal of car trouble. When the car was examined, however, there were no mechanical problems.
The next day, the local news began broadcasting reports of Alicia’s disappearance. Police set up a roadblock where Alicia’s car was found, hoping to track down people who may have seen something. At least three people claimed they saw Alicia talking to a clean-cut white man with a dark-colored pickup truck. Close to 20 women called to say that they had recently been approached on the highway by a man fitting that exact description. Police began to realize that whatever had happened to Alicia might have been a plot that had been evolving for weeks. According to Special Agent Thomas Carter with the FBI in Fredericksburg, Virginia:
“Most of the witnesses talked about a man who would come up behind them or beside them in a dark, small pickup truck flashing his headlights, honking his horn, looking in any way he could to attract their attention. Most of the women that did have some concern for their vehicle did manage to pull off to the side of the road. He immediately jumps underneath the vehicle, conducts an examination, comes out, and then engages them in a very polite conversation about the mechanical difficulties that he has allegedly uncovered.”
Her body was found in a wooded area
At that point, the helpful stranger usually offered to drive the woman to the nearest phone. At least two women accepted his offer and nothing happened to them. Other women found the stranger to be anything but courteous. Agent Carter:
“Some of the women would not pull over for him, but merely went to the next exit or to their destination and had someone else look at their vehicle. The only instances where we have found the individual became agitated were those instances where women either refused his assistance or refused to pull over for him. And in those instances, there was a display of anger by him such as pounding his fist on the steering wheel or murmuring things under his breath.”
Rick Jenkins with the Virginia State Police believes the stranger was performing dry runs:
“Looking at all of the stops he made, I think we pretty much all agree that he was getting his courage up, if you will. He was practicing, getting comfortable at what he was doing with stopping these ladies, until he found someone that trusted him enough for him to carry forth what he intended to do.”
One week before Alicia disappeared, a woman driving in a neighboring county apparently fell for the same trick. Master Det. Leo J. McDonnell with the Prince William County Police spoke to her:
“She said from the first moment she met him, he was soft-spoken. He seemed to be trustworthy. She had no problem with it at all. And she knew that she needed a ride home. She didn’t know how to get home. So she accepted the ride. As they were going along the road, he would slow down, and make the excuse that he couldn’t see because of the vehicles behind him. And he pulled off the road. He did this three times. We believe that he was trying to establish a place to do something. She became very frightened. She fought him, and he decided he didn’t want to fight with her, so he pushed her out of the car.”
The woman broke her ankle, but she got away. Seven days later, Alicia Reynolds was not so lucky. On May 7th, 1996, two months after she disappeared, her body was found in a wooded area 15 miles southeast of Culpepper. She had been murdered, perhaps on the same day she disappeared. Rick Jenkins with the Virginia State Police suspects Alicia’s killer may be doing the same thing somewhere else:
“It is possible that the individual has fled this area, possibly the state, and may be in another community now, where he may be preparing to start this same type of behavior again.”
Route 29 Stalker Podcast (full series by Watts Creative Studios in 2016-2017)
Police ask anyone with any information related to the abduction and murder to call the Virginia State Police Culpeper Division at 1-800-572-2260, or the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 1-888-300-0156. You can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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