The Freeway Phantom | Serial Killer


(Top left: Brenda Faye Crockett, Brenda Woodard, Carol Spinks. Bottom left: Diane Denise Williams, Darlenia Johnson and Nenomoshia Yates. Picture credit:

As someone who has read and worked on a number of various true crime cases over the years I am shocked and have to admit that I had never heard of the ''Freeway Phantom'' case. Earlier this week I was putting a list together of various cases including unsolved cases and requests from my Patreon subscribers when I stumbled across this one. I felt straight away that I had to research this case and share it on here.

This is a horrible case where six young African American girls (the victims were aged between 10 and 18) were abducted and murdered, in most cases, sexually assaulted, most of them had been found with no shoes on and their bodies were left along roadsides in Washington D.C. 

The murders were said to have been carried out between April 1971 and September 1972 by a male perpetrator known only as the ''Freeway Phantom''. 

I think it's important for this case to be shared and talked about more as there could be someone out there with crucial information. It would be ideal if Netflix made a documentary or if the case was to feature on Unsolved Mysteries. Even though it is classed as a cold case and the murders took place in the 1970s, you never know what may happen, we've seen historical cases being solved in the past, I have covered some of them here on my blog. It's important not to give up and hopefully one day the families of these girls will get some kind of justice and closure. 

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Back to the case...

According to investigators, the Freeway Phantom was responsible for six murders and the case remains unsolved to this day.

The first victim that we know of was 13 year old Carol Denise Spinks. Carol was running an errand going to the grocery store to get some essentials for her sister and some soda for herself on the 25th of April 1971. I assume that Carol must have visited the store previously and probably felt safe with it being a public place, the store was located about half a mile from her home. But something happened on that day in April, Carol didn't return home with the shopping and she was reported missing. Members of her family together with volunteers searched the local area but they could find no sign of her. Six days later her body was found behind a hospital. She was found with her clothing on but her shoes were missing and there were signs that she had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled. Some green fibres were found on her clothes but investigators could not determine where they came from.

The second victim was said to have been 16 year old Darlenia Denise Johnson who didn't live that far from Carol. Darlenia was on her way to work at her summer job at Oxon Hill Recreation Center when she vanished on the 8th of July 1971. A witness came forward to say that they had seen Darlenia in an old black car along with an older African-American man. Darlenia regularly took this route to her work and had plans to stay over at the center that night so when she didn't return that evening, her mother assumed she was there however Darlenia didn't make it to work. When she didn't return home the next day her family became worried and they reported her missing. Sadly, Darlenia's body was found 11 days later located just 15 feet from where Carol's body had been found. Darlenia's body was badly decomposed and she had to be identified by her fingertips which had to be removed. 

The third victim of the Freeway Phantom murderer according to investigators was 10 year old Brenda Faye Crockett. Like Carol, Brenda was sent to a local grocery store on the 27th of July 1971 but failed to return home. As time went on her mother went out to look for her whilst her partner and Brenda's sister stayed at home. At some point in the evening the phone rang and Brenda's sister answered to find Brenda at the other end of the phone. Brenda told her sister that she had been abducted by a white man and taken to Virginia but that she would be returning home soon in a cab before the call cut off. Around twenty-five minutes later, the phone rang again and this time the partner of Brenda's mother answered. It was Brenda calling again and he asked her if she knew where she was in Virginia, Brenda asked if her mother had seen her. There was a sound of footsteps in the background before Brenda said ''I'll see you'' and then hung up. There were no phone calls after this. 

Sadly, Brenda's body was found eight hours later. Investigators found that she had also been sexually assaulted, strangled and green fibers were also found at the scene.

The fourth victim according to investigators was 12 year old Nenomoshia Yates who had also gone missing after going to a local grocery store on October the 1st 1971. Her body was found just three hours after she went missing, again there were close similarities with the crime scene as there had been in the previous three cases. A neighbour had earlier spotted Nenomoshia getting into a blue car around the time of her disappearance but didn't think anything of it at the time. Investigators later found the bag of groceries that Nenomoshia had bought from the grocery store, the items were strewn across the street as if someone had just grabbed her and pulled her into a car. 

The fifth victim was said to have been 18 year old Brenda Denise Woodard who was travelling home in Baltimore, Maryland after spending the evening at a night class and then later having dinner with a high school friend on the 15th of November 1971. She was last seen boarding a bus home and sadly the next day her body was found. The circumstances of her murder and the crime scene were similar to those of the previous four murders but a couple of things were different, Brenda had defensive wounds on her body, especially her hands which indicated that she tried to fight against her attacker. A note from her killer was also found in her coat pocket which read:

''this is tAntAmount to my insensitivity to people, especiAlly women. I will Admit the others wheN you cAtch me if you can! FRee-wAy PhanTom''

(The note found in Brenda's coat pocket. Picture credit:

Investigators believe that the paper used was that of Brenda's notebook. They also believe that the killer forced Brenda to write the note.

After Brenda's murder the killer did not strike again until 10 months later when he claimed his final victim, that of 17 year old Diane Denise Williams. Diane went missing after visiting her boyfriend's house on the 5th of September 1972. Diane's body was found a few hours later in similar circumstances to the previous victims but investigators couldn't determine if she had been sexually assaulted. Traces of semen were found on her body but Investigators assumed those to have belonged to her boyfriend but he claimed that he and Diane had not had sexual activity in the hours leading up to her going missing. 

During the police investigation into the cases they had interviewed a number of people and potential suspects but found no evidence to link them to the murders. One person did stand out however and that was a man named Robert Askins. Robert had a history of sexual violence against women and the police searched his home and car. Various items were found during these searches including: pictures of young girls, female scarves, buttons and a gold earring. However, the police could find no evidence to tie him to any of the murders and none of the fibers in his home or car marched the fibers that were found at the crime scenes. Robert died in prison in 2010 after serving time for the abduction, rape and murder of two other women. He was 91 years old. 

A group of men by the name of the 'Green Vega Rapists' were also looked upon as strong suspects. The gang were known for sexual violence against women. After an investigation into each of the members, it was found that there was no evidence to tie them to the Freeway Phantom murders.

This case has been opened and closed a few times with no leads. In 2001 it was re-opened and an award for $150.000 has remained in place for anyone with information. The original investigation into the murders was poorly handled and a lot of evidence and important files (and the semen DNA which was found on Diane Denise Williams's body) went missing. 

It's heartbreaking to think that this case has a high chance of never being solved unless the killer themselves (if it is even possible that they are still alive or someone the killer knew who knows valuable information) comes forward. I will be talking about this case and my thoughts on my mini podcast over on my Patreon page.

RIP to Carol Denise Spinks, Darlenia Denise Johnson, Brenda Faye Crockett, Nenomoshia Yates, Brenda Denise Woodard, Diane Denise Williams.

Thank you for taking the time to read my latest case.

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  1. Cold cases such as these are hard to understand how they can become cold cases. So many deaths in such tragic circumstances yet no one knows anything. Considering the time that has passed since these murders happened they probably will never have a true closure leaving those families with nothing but heartache and a sense of loss. Brilliant work I truly loved this!

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my latest posts and for all of your comments. I really appreciate it x x x x