Victims, families and America’s thirst for true-crime stories

For Bill Thomas, his sister Cathy’s murder is a deeply personal tragedy. For millions of true-crime fans, it’s entertainment.


I had been with Bill Thomas for only a few hours when a woman came up to us in tears. She had heard him recently on a podcast talking about his sister Cathy’s still-unsolved 1986 killing and recognized his face from the social media accounts he uses to push out updates and thoughts on the case. Coincidentally, she was about to go camping near the site of the murder, the Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg, Virginia. “It’s been so heavy on my mind,” she said in a choked voice.

She wanted to know if anything bad had happened on the parkway since the so-called Colonial Parkway Murders – a potential serial killer case involving the deaths of four young couples, including Cathy and her girlfriend, Rebecca Dowski.

Thomas spoke in a comforting voice. “Well, the

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