City Cast

The DC Serial Killer Who Deserves a Netflix Series

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on July 21
The Freeway Phantom got his name for dumping his victims on local highways. (Famartin/Wikimedia Commons)

The Freeway Phantom got his name for dumping his victims on local highways. (Famartin/Wikimedia Commons)

From 1971 to 1972, a serial killer who called themselves the Freeway Phantom killed at least six Black girls in D.C. and terrorized their communities. They were never caught, but journalist Celeste Headlee thinks someone out there knows something. She’s been investigating the case.

Why do you think so few people have heard of the Freeway Phantom?

“There are so many movies about other serial killers who have killed fewer victims and yet no one’s heard about the Freeway Phantom. Why? Firstly, we are talking about a period of time that was pretty chaotic. It was about the same time the Vietnam War protests were beginning. But, mainly, it's because these were young Black girls, and they were lower in socioeconomic status.”

Was there anything that connected the victims?

“They were all young Black girls, many were in a school uniform, they were all petite, they were all from the same lower-middle class area of D.C. Also, several of them had a green fiber on their bodies somewhere. The police ended up thinking it may have come from the person's trunk. So, there are quite a few things that connect them, it just took them a long time to realize that they were all killed by the same person.”

Are there any suspects?

“One of the biggest suspects was Robert Atkins who ended up dying in detention. But there were a lot of assumptions made about the Freeway Phantom that ended up being inaccurate when we got an actual scientific profiler to take a look. I think there's somebody else out there. I know there is still somebody alive who knows something, and they may not realize they know something. I think we could solve this, and I think we could bring some justice to these families.”

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