A decade after two Virginia Tech students were gunned down in the gravel parking lot of the Caldwell Fields recreation area in the Jefferson National Forest, authorities hope new technology and an increased reward will finally help solve the case.
At a press conference last week, it was announced that ten agencies, led by Virginia State Police, will re-examine the extensive inventory of evidence collected from the scene of the murders of Heidi Childs and David Metzler in Montgomery County.
Lt. Colonel Tim Lyon, Director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, emphatically stated, “We have DNA and are working to take advantage of 10 years worth of technological and scientific advancements in DNA testing and criminal databases.”
A new website, vspunsolved.com, has been established by the Virginia State Police as a resource for the public to gain information about the case, as well as a location to send anonymous tips.
The reward for information in the case has been increased to $100K.
In an interview with Dateline, Lyon stated, “We know there are people in Montgomery County and across the New River Valley who know exactly what happened that evening of August 26, 2009, in that parking lot at Caldwell Fields at the edge of the Jefferson National Forest.”
“Now’s the chance to share whatever details, suspicions, odd behavior, and/or information anyone has in connection with these unsolved murders.”
The attendance of Heidi and David’s parents at the press conference was a somber reminder that there is more at stake than simply clearing an open case from the books. There are families still grieving the loss of two young lives abruptly ended by a seemingly random act of cruelty.
“There is someone out there who knows something,” David’s mother declared. “We plead with you to come forward.”
“The university continues to hold Heidi, David, and their families in our hearts. Virginia Tech Police will remain engaged in the continuing investigation,” Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski told ABC News on Monday.
Ten years later, officials hope a $100k reward and a new website will help spark a renewed interest in solving the…
Who were Heidi and David?
Heidi and David were both natives of the Lynchburg area of Virginia. They met through their church youth group and remained close friends in the years before they entered Virginia Tech. The pair started dating once they got to college and reportedly became inseparable.
Heidi was home-schooled prior to being accepted into Virginia Tech and started taking college courses in the 10th grade. She ran cross country, played basketball for her church team, and loved camping, skiing, and hiking with her friends.
She enjoyed going on mission trips and sharing her faith with her youth group through praise and worship. She played the guitar and sang, but preferred to be in the background.
Heidi’s father, Sgt. Donald Childs, a retired aviation sergeant with the Virginia State Police, said his daughter was an honors student attending college on a full academic scholarship. She enjoyed her freshman year at Virginia Tech studying biochemistry with hopes of eventually going into the medical field.
The 18-year-old was two days into her sophomore year when she decided to enroll in Virginia Tech’s program designed for those interested in a pre-med career path. She phoned her parents on August 26 to tell them the exciting news.
“She had an appointment with her college advisor the following day. “Heidi called that day and was talking very quickly, as she often did when she was excited,” her father shared with Dateline.
Sadly, that would be the last time she would speak with her parents.
David wanted to have a special evening with Heidi on August 26. He made plans to take her to visit Caldwell Fields so they could play guitar and talk about Heidi’s exciting news.
David previously visited the location one time with a church group and thought Heidi would enjoy it.
David’s family are devout Christians who moved to Lynchburg after serving as missionaries in China. His father, Keith Metzler, practices medicine in Lynchburg.
David was an All-American boy who enjoyed watching football, playing golf and strumming his guitar. In high school, he took a shop class where he learned to enjoy woodworking. It was something he had hoped to pursue more.
David was described as good-natured and generally a “homebody.” Even as a teenager he was family-oriented and enjoyed sharing common interests, like deer hunting, with his father.
David was accepted into Virginia Tech’s prestigious College of Engineering and was majoring in Industrial & Systems Engineering.
John Vasvary, retired assistant principal and athletic director at Brookville High School spoke highly of David’s character as a student and soccer player.
“He was the kind of kid you liked having at the school. He was fun.”
Deborah Guthrie, retired assistant principal at Brookville High School, recalls, “David was a wonderful student, gifted student academically and just kind to everyone.”
Gerald Kroll, a retired pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Lynchburg, commented that Heidi and David were both were very active in the church and would be missed by everyone.
“They were both very faithful and wonderful young people, and it’s a tragic loss.”
The official name of the area located off of Rt. 460 in Montgomery County is “Caldwell Fields Family Campground.” The fields are nestled on a section of Craig Creek Rd., approximately 8 miles from Rt. 460, on Jefferson National Forest property. It’s about 15 miles from the campus of Virginia Tech.
The campground is comprised of three areas, each named after one of the Caldwell brothers who lived in the area: Addison, Milton, and George.
Addison, or Add as he was called, is credited as being the first person in 1872 to enroll at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, now Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He walked approximately 26 miles to register for classes.
Virginia Tech also has ties to the area. A sign displayed on an information board in the parking lot reads, “Every year, the freshman class of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, complete a 26-mile march known as the Caldwell March. The March commemorates the journey of Addison Caldwell.”
In 2009, two miles of the road leading to the fields was unpaved. The Collegiate Times described the area.
“…the fields are off of a dirt road, surrounded by mountainous peaks and heavily wooded area. Cell phone service is scarce, and you can go a mile without passing more than a hunting tree stand.”
It’s difficult to appreciate the remoteness of the area without visiting it. During the daytime, you can see a variety of wildflowers with the mountains in the background. A small creek runs behind the fields.
The road has very little traffic, sometimes only one car passes each hour. Drivers are cautious of the deer that often dart out onto the road.
Once the sun sets, the fields become silent except for the sound of crickets and bullfrogs. Headlights of approaching vehicles can be seen well before they pass the parking lot.
After turning from Rt. 460, and prior to reaching the fields, drivers pass a shooting range a mile up the road and 4 miles further pass a Christian campground, Camp Tuk-A-Way.
The sun had just fallen down behind the mountains, and the temperature was a comfortable 70 degrees, on a fateful night that Heidi and David were killed.
David picked Heidi up from the off-campus apartment that she shared with five friends. They left shortly after 8:00 p.m. on the night of Wednesday, August 26, 2019.
Classes had started a couple of days earlier, and the pair didn’t plan on staying out late because Heidi had homework. The plan was to arrive around sunset, talk and play guitars.
The couple arrived in David’s navy blue 1992 Toyota Camry right before the sun went down, around 8:15.
What happened next is unclear. Heidi and David were discovered the next morning around 8:00 a.m. by a man who came upon the horrific scene while walking his dog.
David’s body was found in the driver’s seat of the car; glass scattered the gravel beside the driver’s side door. The 19-year-old had been shot through the driver’s side window.
Lisa Lucas Gardner, a former Blacksburg police officer, who was not involved in the investigation, has actively followed the case from the beginning. She told CrimeOnline that Heidi’s body was discovered outside of the vehicle and that the teen had been shot in the face with a .30-.30 hunting rifle.
Gardner, who also has a law degree and is an Uber driver, is known around Blacksburg as “Mama Lisa.” For the past ten years, it has been her mission to bring awareness to the unsolved murders and hopes that the release of new information will spur the community into action.
“Heidi was a beautiful young lady and had a wonderful heart. The suspect had to look into her eyes and shoot her. That person is an animal….less than a human being…to have such malice, violence, anger, and disregard for another person’s life.”
Heidi’s purse, her silver Motorola Razr phone, silver Sony Cybershot camera, ID card, Virginia Tech lanyard, and a credit card were missing from the scene.
Prior to the first press conference in March of 2012, few details were released about the murders, aside from the location of the bodies, according to New-Era Progress.
State, local and federal authorities comprised a task force challenged with solving the case and a reward of more than $70,000 was being offered for information.
The first press conference revealed that investigators had DNA evidence believed to be from the killer. It was also the first time that the weapon used to kill the couple was a .30-.30 rifle.
Montgomery County Sheriff Whitt requested the public’s help in identifying the owners of six vehicles:
• A green sedan, possibly a Ford Taurus or Dodge Intrepid, was seen stopping in front of residences on Craig Creek Road around 6 p.m.
• A dark-blue Dodge Caravan was seen parked near the border of Montgomery and Craig counties, near a logging site, around 8:30 p.m.
• A dark-colored van or minivan was parked at Caldwell Fields after dark.
• A dark-colored Ford Crown Victoria of Chevrolet Caprice was seen driving on Craig Creek Road around 10 p.m.
• A red or red and white Dodge extended-cab pickup with dual exhaust, oversized tires and tinted windows was seen driving up Lee Road at about 11 p.m., directly across from Caldwell Fields.
• A gray or cream-colored early 2000s model Pontiac Bonneville, parked near Caldwell Fields around midnight.
Whitt also asked the public to report anyone who may have exhibited odd behavior after the killings.
According to Southwest Times, Whitt stated that a person responsible for this type of crime will sometimes act differently in the days after the crime was committed or around anniversary dates of the crime.
Such behaviors might include excessive interest in the case, increases anger, increases consumption of alcohol or drugs, and possibly moving from the area.
Local residents were reported to have cooperated with authorities by providing DNA samples.
“It is highly likely that someone observed the suspect on Craig Creek Road that night,” Whitt stated.
Investigators believe the murders were random, but do not know a motive behind the killings.
The sheriff spoke directly to the killer(s), “We have DNA evidence. We are actively and aggressively pursuing you. We will not rest until you are apprehended.”
At a press conference last week, Lt. Colonel Tim Lyon, director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, stated that new leads are being investigated.
“We have specific individuals we are interested in,” stated Lyon. “But we still need the public’s help to fit all of these pieces and parts together.”
Tips can now be submitted anonymously at the new website: vspunsolved.com. Anyone with information can also call 540-375-9589.
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[Feature Photo: Heidi Childs and David Metzler/Virginia State Police]