CULPEPER COUNTY, Va. (WPIX) – The twin brother and younger sister of Alicia Showalter Reynolds, a 1996 murder victim in Virginia, think an old state police sketch of the elusive suspect looks just like accused Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex Heuermann.
“When I saw the picture of Rex Heuermann, subtract 27 years from the way he looks now, it’s the first time I’ve seen anyone look like any of the composite sketches that were done at the time of my sister’s abduction,” said her brother, Dr. Patrick Showalter.
Showalter’s sister, Barbara Josenhans, felt the same way.
“The similarities are striking,” Josenhans told Nexstar’s WPIX. “The eyes and the cheeks, the face structure.”
Alicia Showalter Reynolds, a 25-year-old PhD student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was driving to meet her mother in Charlottesville, Virginia, on March 2, 1996. The two were going to buy dresses for Patrick’s upcoming wedding.
The student never made it.
Alicia’s car was discovered that evening, abandoned on the shoulder of Route 29 in Culpeper, Virginia, with a white napkin under her windshield wiper. This was traditionally an indicator that someone had car trouble.
“They think that a man flagged her down, told her that he saw sparks coming from under the car, and that he could take her to the dealership,” Barbara Josenhans said.
The student’s sister said several witnesses had seen a tall white man in the area, and a couple of sketches were later made.
Investigators said he tried the “car trouble” ruse on other women in the weeks leading up to Alicia Showalter Reynolds’ disappearance.
“All reports indicated it was a man in his 30s or 40s,” Barbara Josenhans recalled, “and that he was driving a dark-colored pickup truck, but that’s all they knew. No one had a license plate number.”
Two months later, the body of Alicia Showalter Reynolds was discovered in a shallow grave, about 11 miles southeast of Culpeper.
“He (the killer) distributed her credit cards and her purse and some other belongings around town, but her body was found in Lignum, Virginia,” the victim’s brother told WPIX.
The brother and sister point out that Rex Heuermann’s mother, Dolores, had relocated to Palmyra, Virginia in 1994, which isn’t far south from Culpeper, where the student disappeared.
“I think they should look at him,” Patrick Showalter said. “His mom, I was told, lives in Palmyra. If he was traveling from New York to see her, from what I’ve read, [the route] goes right through Culpeper.”
Barbara Josenhans told WPIX one suspect was arrested in her sister’s murder, but the charges were later dropped.
“When I’ve looked at some of the other suspects they’ve tried to pin it on, when I look at their pictures compared to the sketch, there’s not really as much similarity as there is between Rex and the sketch,” Josenhans said.
Heuermann, a married architect and father of two from Massapequa Park on Long Island, was accused in July in the murders of three women discovered on Ocean Parkway in 2010 in the Gilgo Beach area of New York’s south shore. The location is a 15 minute drive from his home.
Heuermann has pleaded not guilty.
While the remains of Alicia Showalter Reynolds were discovered in Virginia in May 1996, the partial remains of the earliest known victim tied to the Gilgo killer had been found in April 1996. That’s when two female legs washed up in the Davis Park community of Fire Island. The victim’s skull was discovered in 2011 during the Gilgo investigation on Ocean Parkway. This year, after Heuermann’s arrest, the Fire Island victim was identified as Karen Vergata.
“If he kept souvenirs of his victims, I just wonder if there’s evidence in his house that investigators have that would somehow link him to my sister’s death,” Patrick Showalter said.
Local and state police spent 12 days combing through Heuermann’s house, even digging up his backyard.
“I would like them to look at the DNA evidence again,” Barbara Josenhans said of her sister’s Virginia case, “and see if there’s any sort of correlations, now that we have all these new tools with genetic databases.”
Josenhans recalled how she drove home to Virginia from college on her 21st birthday to attend her sister’s funeral.
Dr. Patrick Showalter said he was three days away from his medical school graduation — and a month away from his wedding — when Alicia’s body was found.
His slain sister was working on a vaccine to combat parasitic infections in developing nations when she was killed. A lecture series was later named for her at Johns Hopkins University, and Alicia Showalter Reynolds received her doctorate posthumously.
WPIX placed a call to the Virginia State Police and sent an email to the agency’s communications director, asking for a status report on her case, but has not heard back.