CHRISTIANSBURG — The parents of two Virginia Tech students slain almost a decade ago pleaded Friday for anyone with information to come forward.
“After 10 years, it’s time,” said Dr. Keith Metzler, the father of David Lee Metzler, who was killed on the night of Aug. 26, 2009, with his girlfriend, Heidi Lynn Childs, in a parking lot of the Jefferson National Forest.
It’s hard to believe, Keith Metzler said, that after so long, “a cold-hearted, merciless murderer is walking around, maybe quite close to here.”
For nearly a decade, a task force led by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has searched for the person or persons who shot the two Virginia Tech sophomores. Investigators announced in 2012 that they had found DNA evidence. But no culprit has been found.
Now the task force is being revamped, with the lead role taken by the Virginia State Police, officers said at a Friday news conference at the sheriff’s office headquarters in Christiansburg. The relaunched investigation will include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with an array of other agencies, including the Montgomery Sheriff’s Office.
State police said investigators will start at the beginning, re-examining all evidence collected so far and hoping that new perspectives and new technology will bring arrests. Lt. Col. Timothy Lyon, who leads the state police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations, said that a new website will feature information about the case and will be a place where the public can send tips: https://vspunsolved.com. State police also have a phone hotline for the case at (540) 375-9589.
Dave Kadela, the FBI’s supervisory resident agent in charge in Roanoke, said the bureau has added $28,000 to an already established reward for information leading to an arrest, bringing the total reward to $100,000.
Officers and family members said repeatedly that they think whoever killed the teens might still live in the region and that there are Montgomery residents who know what happened.
“We have specific individuals we are interested in pursuing. ... We have new leads coming in, but we still need the public’s help to put the pieces together,” Lyon said.
Metzler, 19, and Childs, 18, were killed during a date to the Caldwell Fields recreation area of the Jefferson National Forest, which is a popular hangout spot for Tech students that is located in Montgomery about 16 miles from campus. The two had been sweethearts since meeting in a church youth group during high school and took their guitars to Caldwell Fields to play music together, state police said. Metzler was an engineering major from Lynchburg; Childs, of Forest, studied biochemistry.
Childs’ mother, Laura Childs, said through tears Friday that the two did not plan to stay out late because Childs had homework — and an 8 a.m. appointment with her adviser to switch to a pre-med curriculum.
Instead, it was about 8 a.m. when a man walking his dog found the students’ bodies.
Investigators said in 2012 that the two students were killed with a .30-30 rifle. On Friday, Keith Metzler said they were shot “at point-blank range.”
Lyon said that the students never made it out of Metzler’s car. The state police investigator declined to answer questions about the DNA evidence and said he would not discuss other specifics of the case.
He said it was “not easy” to stand in front of reporters and say that the case remained unsolved. Still, he and other officers insisted that investigators have continued working all the years since the homicides. Montgomery Sheriff Hank Partin said the investigation was not a cold case, “nor has it ever been.”
Childs’ and Metzler’s parents thanked officers for their efforts and said they were glad a new task force has formed. Both families recounted the events their children had missed — marriages, the births of nieces and nephews, vacations and holidays.
“We have lived these last 10 years with lost dreams. ... Our family will never be whole,” said David’s mother, Susan Metzler.
Keith Metzler said that his son, the only boy among four children, had been “my best male friend” and that they had enjoyed golfing and hunting together.
Laura Childs and her husband, Don Childs, a retired state police helicopter pilot, recalled their daughter, the fourth of eight children, as a caring person. She was known by the nickname “Smiley” from a young age. She met David Metzler at the age of 14, they said.
Heidi Childs was home-schooled and began working on college material at age 16, they said.
“What we do know is that Heidi and David are in heaven,” Laura Childs said.
Saying they were speaking to anyone with information about the case, including the perpetrator, the Metzlers and Childses said there must be an enormous weight of guilt after 10 years — and that it could be lifted by contacting police and helping relatives find closure.
“Someone can’t keep quiet any longer,” Don Childs said. “Someone wants to get this off their chest.”