The Mystery of The Freeway Phantom

50 years later, the identity of the serial killer who targeted black women is still unknown.

Verity Partington
9 min readMar 24, 2021


The reward poster asking for information on the Freeway Phantom killings (Source: Washington DC Metropolitan Police)

In the early 1970s in the Washington DC area of the USA, a killer had begun abducting and murdering girls and young women off the streets. They were all African-American, all deemed ‘low-risk’, and the way in which they were slain suggested a serial offender.

After a 17-month reign of terror, the murderer suddenly stopped and — astonishingly — his true identity has never been revealed. Now, the victims’ surviving family members have been left wondering if they will ever get answers.

The killings start

Carol Spinks was just 13 when she set out to a grocery store near her home on April 25th 1971. She never returned and after a frantic search, her body was discovered on an embankment known as I-295 six days later.

Police and the medical examiner concluded she had been dead for two to three days and that someone had apparently been feeding her while keeping her hostage for the remainder of the time she had been gone. Carol was missing the blue tennis shoes she had been wearing.

On July 8th, 16-year-old Darlenia Johnson disappeared after setting off to walk to work. Two witnesses reported seeing the young girl: one thought she was with her boyfriend, while the other saw her in the company of an older black man in a black car.

Eleven days later, Darlenia’s badly decomposed remains were found within a few feet of the location in which Carol’s body had been dumped months earlier. In a shocking revelation, a passerby had already reported having seen what he thought was a body beside the freeway and asked police to look into it several days prior to the discovery.

It was later admitted that although a police patrol had been sent out to investigate, the officer had not got out of his vehicle. He therefore failed to spot the body as he drove by and instead reported it as ‘nothing to see’. Darlenia’s shoes were also missing when she was eventually discovered.

Mere weeks later on July 27th, ten-year-old Brenda Faye Crockett vanished on her way to buy pet food at a local grocery store. While her family looked for…



Verity Partington

A writer and author of crime thrillers living in the UK. Partial to books, stationery, papercrafts and walking. You can find her books on Amazon here: https://a