People sharing tips about 1984 murder of young couple in West End woods
HENRICO COUNTY, Va. – Two siblings, a team of Henrico detectives, and a lot of people in Richmond won’t rest easy until a 31-year-old cold case is cracked and the suspects finally behind bars.
Family, friends and investigators have been frustrated for years, wondering who brutally murdered Donna Hall, an 18-year-old Freeman High School graduate and Mike Margaret, a 21-year-old graduate from Tucker High School.
The couple, who dated approximately four years, were last seen alive on August 17, 1984. Four days later they were found stabbed to death, with their throats cut. Pictures from the crime scene show multiple stab wounds, what detectives would call “overkill’ — usually a revenge crime. Mike’s feet, in Converse, are near Donna’s body. She has on no shoes and is clutching pine needles in one hand.
Mike fought back, as evidenced by defensive wounds, while Donna showed no signs of struggle.
With the recent publication of two stories highlighting the murders, believed to be drug-related, detectives are appreciative of the incoming tips.
Detective Thomas Holsinger, who works within the Henrico Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit, said they have received approximately five or six calls a day since Henrico Monthly wrote an article in late June.
That number doubled, at least, after CBS 6 reporter Greg McQuade’s special report ran this week.
TIPS COMING IN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
On Wednesday, July 22, Holsinger said they received about 14 calls. Before noon on Thursday, they had taken seven.
Ten to fifteen years ago, people were not quite ready to talk, Holsinger said. Now the graduates who knew of Donna and Mike, or partied with them at some point, have kids around the age of the murdered couple.
That’s when the guilt kicks in, Holsinger said, that’s when enough time has passed that the gravity of such a ferocious, unsolved mystery starts to weigh on the conscious.
And maybe people realize no one cares now about the drugs they were doing back in the 80s.
That’s when people pick up the phones.
Detectives are getting calls not just from Freeman and Tucker graduates, but also from the private schools, from people who went to Collegiate or St. Catherine’s.
See, rivalries between schools was a big factor then, but your school district also tended to predict what your typical party drugs were, Holsinger said.
Private schools and the Freeman district tended to dabble more with cocaine and hallucinogens, or prescription drugs, he said.
“They were experimenting,” Holsinger said of Donna and Mike. “I wouldn’t say they were huge users.”
But they were “moving from just marijuana realm into heavier drugs, increasing the quantity –buying and selling.”
“I think they realized it was a quick way to make money,” he said.
Now Holsinger said he’s “learning who all the major players were,” and “learning about the drug trade,” though they haven’t had anything “earth shattering like an eyewitness.”
He said some of the people Donna dealt with in drugs have called, and he emphasized “we are interested solely in the killers,” not the drugs.
And he’s very interested in who may know about people who were using Demerol back then.
“Maybe someone will say, ‘I remember this guy – he used to break into pharmacies,’” Holsinger said.
Donna and Mike’s bodies were found behind what most know as the suburban spot called King’s Crossing, at Gaskins and Weston, near Patterson Avenue.
It was a rural spot occupied by a farm, fields and woods, where people went four-wheel driving and were always hanging around. In fact, people have come forward and said they remember seeing Mike and Donna there the weekend before.
It was the couple’s destination that Friday, when they told family they were going camping. Detectives who processed the scene found packed suitcases, and a blanket near the Jeep, but they didn’t have the traditional camping gear one would expect.
It was a remote place where someone buying, selling or doing drugs would really only meet with someone they knew, with whom they felt comfortable.
Both Mike and Donna had Demerol, a narcotic sedative similar to morphine, in their systems. Donna had an “extreme amount.”
“Demerol would have made it easier to fight them,” Holsinger said.
“It doesn’t appear anyone tried to flee,’ he said and added that there were probably two suspects.
CASE WOULD HAVE BEEN SOLVED FASTER IF TECHNOLOGY WAS DIFFERENT
And while the detectives are getting enough calls to almost fill their mailbox, they “don’t know who did this.”
Holsinger said that if such a crime occurred present day, it “probably would have been solved within a week.”
They would be able to ping the cellphones, track where they went that day, see what calls they made over the past month.
Modern advances in technology would have made a forensic difference back then. New technology can pull DNA that isn’t even visible to the eye.
The last DNA test they did was in 2006, before that 1987.
There is a third, unidentified blood type that was found at the scene, but there is no DNA profile associated with it.
There was a torrential downpour Saturday, August 18, Holsinger said. The Jeep was completely rinsed off. The back plastic of the Jeep was rolled up, which is how a little blood splatter -- cast off from the attacker – was found, some of it on a suitcase.
Holsinger said that over the years the rumors of certain suspects have been investigated.
“Alibis have been checked out, polygraphs given,” he said.
Still, he noted that a lot of people who had been mentioned as suspects by others, never called in with their own tips to help police.
“[It] would be great to have a call where they said ‘I saw this, it’s eating my conscience alive,’ this is what I want to tell you,” he said.
“The other thing that would be great is to get a hit when we send out physical evidence, a name that can be connected to everything we have been told.”
Anyone with information about this crime is urged to call Detective Thomas Holsinger at (804) 501-5276.