The Colonial Parkway Murders — A Tale of Two Killers?

Quinn Zane
Published in
9 min readSep 21, 2021


By Famartin — Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Thursday night was theirs — a time when they could be alone together despite living so far apart, despite living in such an unwelcoming world — every Thursday night, they were able to live as they wanted.

Cathy Thomas would drive up from Virginia Beach to visit her girlfriend, Becky Dowski, at the College of William and Mary on Thursday nights.

It was 1986. Ronald Reagan was in office, unions were being crushed, HIV/AIDS was decimating the gay population and the government didn’t care, our hair was as big as our homeless population, and our anti-Russia sentiment was even bigger.

At the time, a young graduate of the United States Naval Academy who was fluent in Russian would be assumed to have a glowing career of patriotic service ahead of him — but the same would not be true for a graduate of the Naval Academy whose name was Cathy.

Cathleen Thomas was born on July 29, 1959, to an Irish Catholic family in Massachusetts. Her father was a graduate of the Naval Academy and Cathy and her brother both followed in his footsteps — becoming the first father-son-daughter team to graduate from the Academy when Cathy graduated as an Ensign in 1981.

After graduation from the Naval Academy, sailors are required to perform five years of active duty, which Cathy did in Norfolk, Virginia. She served as a Logistics Officer on the L.Y. Spear, in charge of the movement of cranes and torpedoes.

L.Y. Spear in 1983 by USN — U.S. DefenseImagery photo VIRIN: DN-SC-86–06737, Public Domain,

Cathleen Thomas was one of the first female sailors to become Surface Warfare qualified.

Cathleen Thomas

If Cathleen Thomas had been heterosexual or male or (luck of the gods!) both, she would be alive today and this article would be about her stellar military career, or her talent at the art of diplomacy, or even about a senator who was a former naval officer now running for the highest office in the land.