On Sunday, I needed to burn off some creative energies after too much disappointing football, so I decided to return to a favorite haunt for some reflection and possibly some good lighting. Nothing sets my mood better than good sun reflecting dust, a hazy sunset with bright trees sprouting out of rocks, or a quiet churchyard.I learned it was Mile Marker 8. Not really anything special. A nice overlook into the Shenandoah Valley, but it wasn’t my destination. I did notice the unusual gaggle of state patrol vehicles barricading the overlook. I first wondered if I had reached Raven’s Roost, a popular spot for rock climbing. Did someone fall? I hoped for the best in their search as I cautiously drove by, not realizing how close I was to a fresh crime scene.
Monday came with the news that the body of UVA grad student Elizabeth Haftner had been found Sunday and the suspect, William Ashby, was being pursued. Ashby was already wanted in Georgia on robbery charges. The car he had stolen had been found at MM8 and Haftner’s car was now missing.
The chase didn’t last long. Ashby was soon found in Florida driving Haftner’s car, and shot dead after an altercation. More news revealed that he was a potential suspect in up to five additional unrelated homicides.
Monday News At Eleven shared pictures of Haftner on the Blue Ridge Parkway with family, happy and smiling. Her family had readily identified the body as Lizzy’s and began the sorrowful task of alerting others in Columbia, SC, of her murder. My legs went numb during the report.The mystery for me is what brought Ashby to Virginia? How did he know Haftner? Or did he? Was it just a strange coincidence that they ended up at one of her favorite places? Did the killing happen before or after they got there? It just feels too specific to be some random chain of events— driving to a small college town, the Parkway, the meaningless murder of a bright student, no public connection thus far. Psychopaths do exist but make up such a small percentage of the general population. Potentially Ashby was one. We don’t know. The only two people who know what happened aren’t available for comment.
From a local news-weekly. The guy had some violent fantasies on his MySpace page and it has been determined as "a crime of opportunity." This reminds me of a nineteen year old who raped and killed a nine year old after posting such desires on his blog. It's all a bit frightening, really. How do you determine who is just letting off some steam and who is plotting some heinous act?
Remember to lock up tonight.