Cold Case Murder of 12-Year-Old Virginia Girl Karen Spencer Solved After Nearly 50 Years

(Fairfax County Police Department)

The murder of a 12-year-old Virginia girl has been solved nearly 50 years after she was killed, authorities said.

Karen Spencer was last seen alive on Nov. 29, 1972, at about 10 p.m., when she said she was going to a friend's house to borrow a book. Three days later, her body was found in the woods of what was known as Fifer’s Field. The site is now the Huntington Metro station.

The seventh-grader died from massive blows to her upper body, an autopsy showed. The field where she was found was blocks from her house and was a gathering site for neighborhood kids, police said at the time.

Fairfax Police Department investigators identified several persons of interest, including 16-year-old James “Jimmy” Edwards, whom some believed was her boyfriend. He denied any involvement in her death and he died on Aug. 23, 1997. 

In the summer of 2018, two acquaintances of Jimmy's independently told detectives that in the 1990s, Edwards told them he had killed a girl when he was teenager and buried her in a field.

Over the following 18 months, investigators said they received more information that implicated Edwards as well as eliminated other suspects, police said in a statement this week.

“For nearly five decades, Major Crimes detectives remained steadfast in their pursuit of justice for 12-year-old Karen Lee Spencer and her family,” the statement said. "The fact that they never gave up combined with our community’s willingness to come forward with information were critical in solving this case.”


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