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The Freeway Phantom: Six Girls Missing in Broad Daylight

Unsolved Murders in Washington, D.C.: The Chilling Case of the Freeway Phantom and the Challenges of the Investigation

By Sally APublished 2 months ago 4 min read


In the early 1970s, Washington, D.C., was gripped by fear as a mysterious figure known as the Freeway Phantom abducted and murdered six young girls in broad daylight. Despite extensive investigations, the case remains unsolved to this day, highlighting the devastating impact of these tragic events on the victims' families and the community. This article delves into the details of the crimes and the challenges faced during the investigation.

The First Victim: Carol Spinks

The story begins on April 25, 1971, when 13-year-old Carol Spinks was sent to the store by her older sister. Carol, described as shy and petite, lived with her large family in a close-knit neighborhood. Despite her mother's strict instructions not to leave the house, Carol was persuaded to run a quick errand to the nearby 7-Eleven.

While walking to the store, Carol encountered her mother, who admonished her for leaving the house but allowed her to continue to the store, watching her enter safely. However, Carol never made it back home. After some time, her siblings and neighbors began searching for her, but their efforts were in vain. Six days later, on May 1, Carol's body was found near St. Elizabeth's Hospital, with signs of strangulation and physical assault.

The Second Victim: Darlenia Johnson

Just two months later, on July 8, 1971, 16-year-old Darlenia Johnson went missing on her way to her summer job. Witnesses reported seeing her in an old black car driven by an African-American male. Her mother received a series of disturbing phone calls, one of which included a man confessing to killing her daughter. Despite an anonymous tip to the police about a body, it was not until July 19 that Darlenia's body was found near I-295, just 15 feet from where Carol Spinks had been discovered. The body was severely decomposed, making identification and cause of death determination difficult.

The Third Victim: Brenda Crockett

On July 27, 1971, 10-year-old Brenda Crockett went missing after being sent to a grocery store half a block from her home. Brenda called her family twice while crying, stating that a white man had picked her up and that she was being sent home in a cab. Tragically, her body was found the next morning along Route 50. Like the previous victims, Brenda was fully dressed but missing her shoes, and she had been strangled with a scarf.

The Fourth Victim: Nenomoshia Yates

On October 1, 1971, 12-year-old Nenomoshia Yates was asked by her father to go to the store a block away. She was seen leaving the store but never made it home. Three hours later, her body was found off Route 4 in Prince George's County. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled, and green fibers were found on her clothing, linking her case to the other victims.

The Fifth Victim: Brenda Woodard

On November 16, 1971, 18-year-old Brenda Woodard was found on the freeway ramp of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Brenda had been stabbed multiple times and strangled. Her shoes were still on, and a velvet coat, which did not belong to her, was placed over her chest. Inside the coat pocket, a handwritten note was found, which read, "This is tantamount to my insensitivity to people, especially women. I will admit the others when you catch me if you can. Freeway Phantom." The note was written on Brenda's own notebook paper, but there were no signs of stress in the handwriting, leading investigators to believe she might have known her killer.

The Sixth Victim: Diane Williams

On September 5, 1972, 17-year-old Diane Williams was returning home after visiting her boyfriend. She never made it home, and her body was found hours later on Route 295. Diane was fully dressed but missing her shoes, and semen was found on her clothing. Green fibers similar to those found on other victims were also present.

Investigation and Challenges

The investigation faced numerous challenges. Despite the similarities in the cases, such as the missing shoes, green fibers, and strangulation, the police initially failed to connect the murders. The community was frustrated and distrustful of the police, believing that more effort would have been made if the victims had been white.

The media played a significant role in putting pressure on the police, but it was not until the FBI stepped in that significant progress was made. They confirmed that all four of the initial victims had been strangled, were missing their shoes, and had green fibers on their bodies, leading to the conclusion that they were likely killed by the same person.

The Freeway Phantom

The Freeway Phantom was believed to be Washington, D.C.'s first serial killer. Profilers suggested that the killer was a psychopath, likely between the ages of 27 and 32, who hated women and was overly confident, abducting victims in broad daylight and in busy neighborhoods. They believed he might have known some of the victims and lived or worked in the area.

Suspects and Dead Ends

Several suspects were considered, including Robert Askins, a computer technician with a history of violence and a penchant for the word "tantamount." However, no physical evidence linked him to the murders. Other suspects included two ex-cops arrested for the murder of another young girl, but again, no solid connections could be made.

The Green Vega Rapists, a local gang, were also investigated. One inmate provided information that seemed credible but later recanted after fearing for his safety due to a political candidate's public statements about the case.

The Lost Evidence

In 1987, a new sergeant reopened the cold case and discovered that nearly all physical evidence had been destroyed, making it impossible to re-examine the evidence with modern technology. This destruction of evidence led to further distrust in the police and a significant setback in solving the case.


Despite the efforts of dedicated investigators and advancements in forensic technology, the Freeway Phantom case remains unsolved. The tragic loss of six young lives and the failure to bring their killer to justice is a stark reminder of the importance of thorough and unbiased investigations. The families of the victims continue to seek closure, and the case remains open, with police urging anyone with information to come forward. If you have any information, please call Prince George's County Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS.


About the Creator

Sally A

Animal lover 🐾 | Health enthusiast 💪 | Self-development junkie 🌱 | Beauty explorer 💄 | True crimes & mystery enthusiast 🕵️‍♀️ | Let's journey together! 💫

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Comments (1)

  • Esala Gunathilake2 months ago

    Sally you are a wonderful researcher.

Sally AWritten by Sally A

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