Eight years have passed since the deaths of Heidi Childs and David Metzler at Caldwell Fields, a popular camping area frequented by Virginia Tech students just outside of Blacksburg. Childs and Metzler were found shot to death there in 2009.
The school year was about to get underway just like now. No one really knows why the couple had driven to the spot, but college students have typically found the Jefferson National Forest location to be quiet and tranquil—what happened that night was neither. An early morning walker found the two dead in a grassy parking area.
Every year, Lisa Lucas Gardner has hosted a candlelight vigil to remember the couple and tragic event that cut their lives short. This Saturday, she walked with a candle near the area where their bodies were found.
As Virginia Tech students arrive for a new school year, Gardner feels they should know about what had happened that tragic night.
“When this happened, it was another shocking event that occurred in our community–two years after the massacre at Virginia Tech. These murders seemed to be much more personal to me because of where they occurred in an area where my family has lived for over 200 years,” Gardner said.
As a former police officer, she was shocked at the viciousness and brutality of the murders of Childs and Metzler.
“It was very personal and hard for me to accept knowing that someone in our community could do something like this. The murders of these two Hokies were different from the VT killings because it is believed that the suspect was a person who is local to our area and familiar with the Caldwell Fields,” she said.
She has been very determined to do everything possible to remember the incident and the two youngsters that lost their lives that night, thus the candle light ceremony every year at its anniversary.
Police have received thousands of leads, but still have not identified a motive or anyone that might have been involved.
The murders remain a mystery—a cold case that Montgomery County authorities continue to examine still to this date.
The bodies of Heidi Childs and David Metzler were found in the parking lot of the Caldwell Fields camping area of the Jefferson National Forest outside of Blacksburg.
Classes at the university had just started, and both students were in their sophomore year. Childs was an aspiring biochemistry student, and Metzler was studying industrial engineering.
Metzler’s 1992 Toyota was found sitting in a small parking spot of the activity area. Both had been shot and killed. Caldwell Fields is 13 miles outside Blacksburg. Edward F. Hertling Jr. is the captain of investigations for the Montgomery County sheriff’s department and heads up a task force that continues to examine the case.
This past April, he said the task force continues to follow up on tips and other things that have popped up over the last couple years
“The taskforce meets regularly and leads are still regularly assigned and followed up on,” he said.
Metzler’s body was found inside the car, while Childs’ laid in the parking lot, which showed she might have tried to run from the shooter or shooters. Childs’ purse, cell phone, credit card, digital camera and Virginia Tech ID had been taken.
Gardner hopes to keep attention on this crime and to bring awareness to other students and young people in the community to hopefully keep this from happening again.
“We can’t undo the past but with keeping this out in the open we can hopefully develop new leads to find the suspect. Most new Hokies who come here each year don’t know about it, and Heidi and David are forgotten. I want to keep their memories alive and seek justice for their murders so doing the candle light memorial is my way of honoring them,” she said.
This is the eighth year that Gardner has held the event, and she hopes someone out there might still step forward with information in the case.
Over the years, she has become disheartened about the lack of publicity and progress on this case. “I had become critical of law enforcement investigators and believed that the case had grown cold; however, I have learned that it is still actively being investigated and leads are still coming in. Everything is being done to solve this crime and suspects have been developed,” Gardner said.
This year, she invited a deputy from the Task Force that is still investigating the case to come to the memorial. Sadly, the two were the only ones that showed up this weekend.
“I did receive a message from Heidi Childs’ mother who continues to reach out to me each year. She appreciates the fact that I have been doing this every year and hopes that they will be remembered so justice may someday be served,” Gardner said.
Again, this case happened in the shadow of the much larger shooting at the Blacksburg university.
This past year, Gardner had the opportunity to speak to a survivor of the shootings at Virginia Tech. “Clay” was the only student that wasn’t injured in the classroom shootings on the day of the massacre.
“I told him about my mission to not forget about these Hokies. Clay told me that he felt that it was over shadowed by the tragedy at VT two years earlier and that he felt really sad about how it seemed that Heidi and David have been forgotten and not memorialized like other murder victims at Virginia Tech,” she said.
Investigators are still hoping someone will provide information that could remove the words of “cold case” from its file.
Gardner has developed a Facebook group called “The Caldwell Fields Murders” that provides details and information about the crime.