Candlelight service remembers student victims, murders haunt community after 10 years

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Photo by Marty Gordon
Susan Reed, a Craig County resident, places a tea light into a memorial for Heidi Childs and David Metzler, who were killed August 26, 2009 at a Caldwell Field parking lot outside of Blacksburg.

Marty Gordon

A small group of people gathered Sunday evening at Caldwell Fields on Craig Creek Road for a candlelight service to remember Heidi Childs and David Metzler, two Virginia Tech students who were killed there 10 years ago this week.

Shot while sitting in the parking lot of the Jefferson National Forest camping area on the night of August 26, 2009, Childs’ and Metzler’s murders remain unsolved.

Susan Reed, who lives along Craig’s Creek Road just two miles from the site, stopped by Sunday to remember the couple. She joined other visitors to light candles and lay tea lights near a makeshift memorial in the rural park.

“I just felt we had to come by after reading about the event on Facebook. It’s a shame what happened here,” she said.

An overhead photo shows the location of Caldwell Fields and where police found the bodies of two Virginia Tech students.

But what did happen here? The crime has haunted nearby residents and law enforcement who seem no closer in solving the murders today than they were ten years ago, but there is some renewed hope in the case.

Lisa Lucas-Gardner of Christiansburg organized a candlelight service shortly after the couple’s death and has continued it ever anniversary since.

“I just felt compelled to do it, but I am bothered that many people have not shown up to remember this precious young couple. We need to keep doing this until someone is brought to justice. Someone out there knows something and they need to step forward and tell law enforcement about it,” she said.

The event comes two days after a police task force looking into the case announced an increased reward leading to the arrest of the individual or individuals responsible to $100,000.

The parents of the couple are still looking to bring their children’s killer to justice, and they spoke on Friday.

Their faith has helped them to get through these past 10 years, they said, and both said they have gotten to a place of forgiveness.

Don Childs, the father of Heidi, told reporters he is thankful that a new task force is in place. “We are hopeful the person or persons responsible for our daughter’s murder and David will be held accountable,” he said.

Childs, who is also a former state trooper, thanked law enforcement officials for their ongoing work and asked the public for assistance. “They, the person or persons responsible for this, are still walking free and carrying on their lives. If someone knows something, they need to share this information with law enforcement,” he said.

Both families joined the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Blacksburg Police Department, Christiansburg Police Department, Virginia Tech Police Department, Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Virginia State Police, FBI, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia at a recent press conference at the Montgomery County Public Safety Building.

David’s father, Dr. Keith Metzler spoke directly to the killer. “I can imagine the traumatic, violent images you created that night haunt you to this day, the guilt you must carry with you.” He encouraged this person to come forward.

The two young people were found shot to death in the parking lot of Caldwell Fields. The murder weapon was determined to be a 30/30 caliber rifle. What was unusual about the shooting was the fact police found no brass from the 30/30 weapon, apparently meaning the shooter picked them up before leaving the parking lot.

The suspect or suspects stole Heidi’s purse containing various items, including:
1) Silver Motorola Razor cell phone with a translucent blue cover,
2) Silver Sony Cybershot camera 7.2 MegaPixel,
3) Identification card,
4) Virginia Tech lanyard, and a
5) credit card.

The purse and its contents have not been recovered.

The murders occurred on a Wednesday night, and many people were traveling to and from church services on Craig Creek Road. Police believe someone might have observed the suspect’s vehicle along the roadway.
Police had been searching for several vehicles including: a green sedan (possibly a Taurus or Intrepid) stopping in front of residences on Craig Creek Road around 6 p.m. that evening, a dark blue Dodge Caravan seen parked at the Montgomery County/Craig County line near a logging site around 8:30 p.m., a dark-colored, older model van or minivan parked at Caldwell Fields after dark. a dark-colored Ford Crown Victoria or Chevrolet Caprice seen driving on Craig Creek Road around 10 p.m., a red or red/white Dodge pickup with dual exhaust and oversized tires, tinted windows and extended cab driving up Lee Road at approximately 11 p.m. that night. Lee Road is directly across the road from Caldwell Fields, and a gray or cream-colored Pontiac Bonneville early 2000 model parked near Caldwell Field around midnight.

At the earlier briefing, police said the owners of these vehicles are not necessarily suspects, however, they may be able to provide information that would be helpful to the investigation.

During the latest media briefing, investigators said they have DNA from a vehicle, but would not go into detail. Instead, they asked for the public’s increased help in bringing the perpetrator to justice.

Lt. Colonel Tim Lyon, the director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, appealed to the community.

Investigators brought in recruits from the New River Criminal Justice Training Academy to help search for more clues about the couple’s slaying at Caldwell Fields.

“It’s been 10 years,” he said, “and it’s time to come forward and let these families find some sense of peace. Heidi’s parents and siblings, David’s parents and siblings, their friends…have all been held hostage long enough,” he said.

Lyon said the task force has specific individuals they are interested in and are pursuing leads related to this case.

“We have an extensive inventory of evidence collected from the scene and from vehicles seized during the course of the investigation. We have DNA and are working to take advantage of 10 years’ worth of technological and scientific advancements in DNA testing and criminal databases, and we have new leads still coming in that we are pursuing. But we still need the public’s help to fit all of these pieces and parts together to bring justice to Heidi, David and their families,” he said.

To leave tips into the case, go to www. vspunsolved.com. That Virginia State Police website features photos, a video tribute, and additional information on what happened that night.

There is a section dedicated to receiving online tips from the public and tipsters can remain anonymous if they choose. Tips can also be received by phone at 540-375-9589.

The task force plans to take advantage of new DNA testing and has been receiving new leads daily.