David Metzler decided to take advantage of the warm weather and spend some time outside on the evening of August 26, 2009. The 19-year-old, who was a sophomore at Virginia Tech, told his roommates that he was going to take his girlfriend to Caldwell Fields in nearby Jefferson National Forest. David was somewhat familiar with that area because he had visited it on a church retreat over the summer, and he wanted to share it with his girlfriend, 18-year-old Heidi Childs. His roommates watched as David placed his guitar in his car and then drove off in the direction of Heidi’s apartment.
Heidi was ready when she saw David’s dark blue Toyota Camry pull up outside of her apartment building. She told her roommates that David planned to light a fire and play his guitar for her, then he would bring her home. She mentioned that she still needed to finish some homework so she didn’t expect to stay out very late. With a final wave to her roommates, Heidi grabbed her purse and rushed out the door.
Caldwell Fields was located about 15 miles away from the Virginia Tech campus. Although the area attracted a large number of tourists, especially in the summer, it was quite isolated with few amenities. There were no paved roads running through the forest, and cell phone service was spotty and unreliable. There was an unpaved parking lot located off of Craig Creek Road at Caldwell Fields, and this is where David parked his Camry.
Heidi never returned to her off-campus apartment that night. Her roommates were concerned but didn’t want to overreact; they thought perhaps Heidi had decided to spend the night at David’s apartment. When there was still no sign of her the following morning, they started to repeatedly call her cell phone; it went straight to voicemail.
At David’s apartment, his roommates were also beginning to get worried, as he had also failed to return home the night before. Eventually, one of them decided to call over to Heidi’s apartment to see if David had spent the night; the call sent Heidi’s roommates into a panic. They told David’s roommates that Heidi had never come home and wasn’t answering her cell phone.
Two of David’s roommates tried to calm Heidi’s friends down by reminding them that cell phone service was notoriously unreliable in Jefferson National Forest; they thought it was possible that David’s aging Camry had simply broken down, and they told Heidi’s roommates that they would drive over to the area to look for the couple.
His roommates never got to go look for Heidi and David because they heard the terrible news that Heidi and David had been killed before they could leave the apartment. Someone out for a walk with his dog found their bodies in the Caldwell Fields parking lot early that morning. David was found slumped over the steering wheel in his car. He had never made it out of it. Heidi was found outside the car, looking like she had tried to get away to safety. Each of them had been shot straight on.
People at Virginia Tech were shocked by the deaths. David and Heidi met through their church and fell in love in high school. Around campus, they were known as really nice teens who never said anything bad about anyone. They had been dating for about four years. They were very involved with Campus Crusade for Christ at Virginia Tech and didn’t know anyone who was against them. It was hard for everyone to figure out how they were killed in such a cruel way.
The murders made everyone in the school feel bad, even though the fall semester had just begun two days before.
A funeral service for both David and Heidi was held. Heidi’s family called her “Smiley.” She was majoring in biochemistry and wanted to work as a physician’s assistant. David was in the Virginia Tech program for industrial and systems engineering. He planned to become an engineer after he graduated. The teens’ pastor said they were the best of the best, and people in the church had a hard time understanding how they could have died so violently.
David’s dark wooden coffin was buried next to Heidi’s pink coffin. They had planned to get married and spend the rest of their lives together, so it made sense that they were buried together.
The families were able to deal with some of their grief by trying to find the person who killed their loved ones after the funeral. David’s father was a doctor, and one of his coworkers started to raise money for a reward. By the end of the month, the fund had grown to over $40,000!
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office didn’t say much about how the couple had been killed at the start of the investigation. They were hopeful that they would soon have a suspect in custody and didn’t want to put the investigation at risk by giving out too much information. Only saying that both victims had been shot was all they would say. They wouldn’t say what kind of gun was used or how many times each victim had been shot.
Don Childs, Heidi’s dad, was a sergeant with the Virginia State Police. Unfortunately, his experience as a police officer made it very easy for him to imagine how that night’s events would have gone, and he was really scared. There were several public calls for help. People who lived near Craig Creek Road were asked to remember anything strange that happened on the night of the murder. Law enforcement could use something that didn’t seem important at the time in a big way.
Police said the killings happened on a Wednesday night, most likely between 8:30 pm and 10:00 pm. Most people in the area went to church on Wednesday nights, so it’s likely that they were driving around when the murders happened. Detectives asked them to call if they remembered seeing any strange cars in the area because someone might have driven right by the killer.
Near Caldwell Fields, there was a shooting range. People who lived in the area were used to hearing gunshots coming from the range, so it’s possible that they heard the shots that killed Heidi and David but thought it was coming from the range. They were not able to give the police any useful information.
It became clear very quickly that the person would not be arrested right away. After months, there wasn’t much progress to report. By October 30, the reward for information that led to the killer’s arrest had grown to up to $70,000. However, the number of tips had dropped, and the investigation seemed to have stopped moving forward. Police thought the murder was a random act of extreme violence and that the killer probably had nothing to do with Heidi or David. It was just that they were somewhere else at the wrong time.
The killer had not been found a year after the crime. After following up on more than 1200 tips, detectives still didn’t have any solid leads. People thought that the killer knew the remote area where the crime happened; if they didn’t live there, they probably visited it a lot.
Even though Caldwell Fields could get very crowded on summer weekends, police thought that the parking lot was almost empty the night Heidi and David were killed. In that area, you could camp, but you needed a permit, and none had been given out for that date.
In 2012, police released additional details to the public. They announced that Heidi and David had been shot by a .30–30 rifle; they also noted that they had obtained DNA from the crime scene. They noted that robbery had been ruled out as a possible motive; although Heidi’s purse had been taken, David’s wallet had not. Investigators believed that the killer might have grabbed Heidi’s purse as an afterthought. It had contained her cell phone, a digital camera, a credit card, and her student ID card, which was attached to a Virginia Tech lanyard. None of these items had been recovered; the killer might have kept them as souvenirs.
At the 2012 press conference, officials also noted that they were looking for several vehicles that had been seen in the area on the night of the murders. They included a green sedan, a dark blue Dodge Caravan, a dark Ford Crown Victoria or Chevrolet Caprice, a red Dodge pickup truck, and a gray or cream Pontiac Bonneville. All of these vehicles had been seen on Craig Creek Road or in the Caldwell Fields parking lot; none have been identified.
Although the 2012 press conference renewed hopes that the killer would be found, the case soon stalled once again. There was an increase in publicity in 2019 as the 10th anniversary of the crime approached, and the Virginia State Police announced that they were taking a fresh look at the case. A $100,000 reward for information was offered, and several billboards were placed on the highway near Caldwell Fields to advertise this reward.
Despite the renewed push to find the killer, the case remains unsolved. The Virginia State Police remain determined to obtain justice for Heidi and David; they believe that DNA evidence will likely be the key to solving the case. They have set up a website with information about the double homicide; a $100,000 reward is still being offered and anonymous tips may be submitted through the website at https://vspunsolved.com/.
It has been nearly 12 years since Heidi and David were brutally murdered. Their families have struggled to adjust to life without them, and they continue to hope that the person responsible for their deaths will one day be held accountable. If you have any information about the double homicide, please contact the Virginia State Police tip line at 540–375–9589.