Parkway Slayings

The Davis-Perry Case

Parkway Slayings

"we don’t believe he’s our man"

On May 30, 1969, a New Jersey State trooper came across a 1966 Chevrolet convertible abandoned by the Garden State Parkway. The vehicle belonged to two young women on vacation who had not been seen since earlier that day. The Parkway Slayings victims were identified several days later, after the bodies of Susan Davis and Elizabeth Perry were found not far from the Parkway.

Both victims had been stabbed to death, but the remains were too decomposed to determined if either had been sexually assaulted. There was little evidence at the scene, and it didn’t appear that robbery had been the motive, but a man seen hitchhiking in the area at that time was considered a possible suspect by police.

The case of the murdered women soon went cold, then in 1980, a serial killer was arrested who would later confess to the crime. Gerald Stano, who admitted to the murders of some forty-one women, claimed the Parkway Slayings as his first murders. But his involvement has never been confirmed.

During his time on Death Row, Stano was housed with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, who himself confessed to the crime during a 1986 prison interview. Bundy’s involvement in the Parkway Slayings has also never been definitively established, but it is likely he committed far more crimes than those he confessed to in his last days.

Beginning in 1974, a serial killer began stalking the women of Washington State, leaving a trail of dead and missing along the northern states of the West Coast. This killer was a personable law student, who charmed his female victims into trusting him, even telling them his real name, Ted.

When Bundy was on death row awaiting execution, having been convicted for the murders of several women and young girls, he finally began to talk to investigators about his crimes. In 1988, two New Jersey detectives tried to interview Ted about the Parkway Slayings, but he refused to discuss the case. Prior to this, another serial killer had claimed responsibility for the crime, so who was the killer of two young women?.

The New Jersey Murders

Susan Davis and Elizabeth Perry, both 19-years-old, had recently graduated from junior college and wanted to enjoy some sunshine and fun. The friends began their vacation on May 27, 1969, and had been staying in Ocean City over the next few days.

At 4:30am, on May 30, 1969, the began their return journey back to Pennsylvania in the hopes of beating the traffic, and decided to stop to have breakfast at Somers Point Diner before heading North on the Garden State Parkway. They were seen at the diner by several witnesses, and about and hour later they left. At this point, the sequence of events are unknown, but soon after the two young women went missing.

When the girls failed to return home, their parents notified authorities. A state trooper found their powder-blue 1966 Chevrolet convertible abandoned by the Garden State Parkway around noon that day, and had it removed. Three days later, on June 2, 1969, the bodies of the two young women were found by a maintenance worker, Elwood Faunce, hidden under piles of leaves.

This was in a dense wooded area alongside the northbound lanes of the Parkway, about 150 yards from the abandoned car. The scene of the crime was located in Egg Harbor Township, just outside of Ocean City, and around 2 miles from the Somers Point Diner, where the girls had last been seen.

Davis was completely nude lying face down, with her clothes found in a neat pile near her body, including her blue jacket bearing her initials, a blue prints dress, her underwear and purse. Her neck had been tied to a tree with her bra, and in some accounts it is mentioned that he hair had been intertwined causing an “unusual method of restraint.”

Perry was clothed except for her underwear, which was missing. Each girl had been brutally beaten, and the killer used a sharp instrument, thought to be a pen knife, pocket knife or a paring knife, to stab both victims between 4-5 times in the upper chest and neck region, causing numerous wounds.

Elizabeth Perry

The murder weapon was not located at the crime scene.  It is unknown if either victim had been sexually assaulted, with some reports mentioning that Perry had not been raped, while no determination could be made for Davis.

Other reports seem to indicate that both bodies were far too decomposed to make any kind of determination. Other accounts mention that there was “some evidence of sexual assault” but did not elaborate further on what that was, while later news articles stated that neither woman had been raped. At the scene, police found a men’s diver-style watch without a wristband, believed to belong to the murderer.

It appeared the motive for this crime had been neither rape nor robbery, as the victims’ money was still inside their purses and their suitcases had not been disturbed. Elizabeth Perry had also been wearing expensive jewelery, which was found untouched. The car keys were found ten days later, tossed to the side of the road a short distance away from the bodies.

The full extent of the savagery these women endured was revealed during the autopsies. The coroner found that Davis had died from a wound in her neck that cut her larynx. But she also had four wounds on the left side of her abdomen and a non-fatal wound on right side of her neck. It was the opinion of an investigator that because of the these wounds, it was his belief that the killer was at some point in the backseat of the convertible.

Susan Davis

There he launch and attack, jabbing at Davis as she drove in order to force her to pull over. Perry had died of a penetrating stab wound to her chest that had penetrated right lung, and she also had three stab wounds in her abdomen and side of her neck.

Food found in their stomachs indicated that they had eaten breakfast about an hour before they were murdered, and the time of death was given as approximately 6:00am. The coroner did find they had eaten breakfast about an hour before they were murdered, and gave the time of death to be approximately 6:00am.

This meant that they were killed within a time frame of 45 minutes from the time they finished breakfast at the Somers Point Diner. They had arrived at the diner at daybreak, roughly 5:30am, and were seen leaving at around 6:15am.

Witnesses came forward to report that a man had been seen in the area with his arm in a sling, parked in a dark colored Mustang near to where Susan’s blue convertible was later found. Staff at the Somers Point diner said they saw the victim dining with two young men, but when questioned the men swore they did not leave together, and both passed a polygraph test.

A diner came forward to say he recalled seeing the two victims sitting in a convertible, as well as a young man they had picked up. He described him as about 20-years-old, wearing a yellow sweatshirt and carrying a duffel bag and said he appeared to be hitchhiking. This potential suspect was eventually identified. An 18-year-old had been questioned after acting suspiciously in Philadelphia, and admitted to having been in Ocean City the previous week.

Police appeal to the public for information.

Under questioning, the young man described taking a bus to Ocean City on the previous Thursday, and then hitchhiked back to Philadelphia on the Friday morning, the same time that the murders were committed. Reports at the time indicate that he failed a polygraph test, having given “fuzzy answers to crucial questions.”

He also made odd statements about “visions” he had about “two girls driving a convertible, and I was in the back, and their hair was blowing in the wind.” With only circumstantial evidence linking him to the crime, he was ultimately released on lack of evidence after police were unable to place him at the scene.

Detectives from the New Jersey State Police’s Major Crimes Unit later questioned three young men who had slept in their car and were near the crime scene on the morning of the murders. The men, from Pennsylvania, had run out out of gas along the Parkway, and had pulled over onto the shoulder to sleep near milepost 31.9, at about 4:30am.

They said when they awoke 3 hours later, they saw the girls’ convertible at around 7:15am, parked about 100 feet away. They said they hadn’t seen who had parked the car, and reported hearing no screams or anything else that might indicate a crime had occurred. They were cleared any suspects.

Composite sketch of the Parkway Slayer

Two further witnesses came forward and claimed they had seen a “lanky, slender teenager with curly brown hair,” a “narrow face,” with “sunken cheek bones,” and wearing a white T-shirt lingering near the abandoned car on the morning of May 30th, at about 8:00am. At the time, police announced; “we are not sure if this is the murderer. He was simply seen near the car.” During the Summertime, a composite sketch of this suspect was released to the public.

A series of similar murders in which young women were targeted in Ann Arbor, Michigan were investigated because they were committed by a similar-looking suspect, but this line of inquiry produced no further leads and the cases were eventually determined to be unrelated.

Gerald Eugene Stano

Eventually all leads fizzled out, and the case went cold. Then in 1980, someone made a shocking confession to the crime. Serial Killer Gerald Stano was arrested on April 1, 1980, and eventually confessed to the murders of as many as 41 women on the east coast, including those of Elizabeth Perry and Susan Davis, calling it his first murders.

Stano would often attack his victims, stabbing them to death without sexually assaulting them, as the perpetrator of the Parkway Slayings had done. In order to determine if Stano had committed the crime, New Jersey police sent two detectives down to Florida State Prison to interview him in 1982.

There Stano signed a confession, admitting culpability for the murders. However, in his statement, he described the murders as taking place on the wrong side of the Parkway, and got many other details wrong. Detective Sgt. Robert Maholland said about the confession: “at this point, we don’t believe he’s our man. I’m not convinced at all.”

Detectives who investigated Stano’s crime believe he often exaggerated the number of killings, believing the resulting investigations would indefinitely delay his execution or give him more media attention and better treatment.

A mugshot of serial killer Gerald Stano

He was found guilty of nine murders and received eight life sentences and one death sentence, for which he was housed on Death Row. His execution was carried out on March 23, 1998, by electric chair and Florida State Prison.

Stano’s final statement proclaimed innocence, and he recanted his admissions of guilt, directing blame for his false confessions at the lead investigator. He said, “I am innocent. I am frightened. I was threatened and I was held month after month without any real legal representation. I confessed to crimes I did not commit.”

Ted Bundy: The Lady Killer

During his time on death row at Florida State Prison, Stano was housed with another infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy, who had been convicted for the brutal attacks on five sorority sisters at the Chi Omega sorority house, that resulted in the deaths of two women, Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman.

He received another death sentence for the murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, a crime that was his last murder. Bundy had never confessed to his crimes, despite his convictions, and always steadfastly denied having been the serial murderer known as “Ted” by some of his victims.

Former detective Robert Keppel writes in his book, The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer, that Bundy explained he was able to read some of the documents containing Stano’s confession. “I last was with Gerry—we were both on death watch, as a matter of fact, together, and we also lived in the same wing together for some time…”

“I read a very confidential report, a presentence report prepared by some state agency. It went into great detail about his confessions and his past life… And so getting to know Gerry was fascinating, ’cause he’d tell me stories about things that happened, and then I’d read that something else had happened in the police report.”

When other agencies were attempting to solve unsolved crimes in their jurisdictions, multiple investigators requested to interview Bundy about his possible involvement in cold case crimes, owing to the prolific nature of his suspected victims.

One of the original detectives who worked the Davis-Perry murder case, Investigator Major Thomas Kinzer, said that two New Jersey detectives tried to interview Bundy in 1988 about his possible involvement in the crime, but he would not discuss the case. “There was never enough evidence to be sure that he did it,” said Kinzer.

His suspected involvement in Parkway Slayings was not viewed as substantial or with enough credible evidence to be included at the FBI conference in 1989, where police and the FBI met to re-examined a number of unsolved crimes as a result of Bundy’s last-minute confessions.

A spokesman for the New Jersey State Police said that the meetings were limited to law enforcement officials who had strong evidence linking Bundy to certain crimes. Bundy confessed to many of the crimes for which he had been a suspect, including the Washington murders, those in Utah, Idaho and Colorado. In total, Bundy confessed to as many as 37 murders of young women, committed from 1974 to 1978.

But there were also many that he denied any involvement, including those committed prior to 1974. Shortly after Bundy’s execution in January 1989, forensic psychologist Art Norman contacted the New Jersey State Police claiming that Bundy had confessed to him in October of 1986 to having committed the New Jersey murders.

He provided a tape recording of Ted talking about his time in on the east coast in 1969. In the recording, Bundy explained the Norman that around that time he developed a taste for violent pornography, and had been visiting the “flesh shops” along 42nd St. in New York City.

Ted said on the 1986 tape: “Talk about being pushed to the edge with the most sophisticated, explicit pornography available in this country.” [Here he begins speaking in the third person] “…he decided to take a little bit of a jaunt to what they call the shore – the Jersey Shore. This is early summer. So, after being more or less detached from people for a long period … didn’t have any friends, didn’t really go anywhere, just more or less had school and then sort of entertained himself with his pornographic hobby and drove the shore…”

“…and watched the beach and just saw young women lying on the beach. You know, it’s like an overwhelming kind of vision… he evidently found himself tearing around that place for a couple of days. And eventually, without really planning anything, he picked up a couple of young girls. And ended up with the first time he had ever done it. So when he left for the coast, it was not just getting away, it was more like an escape.”

A mugshot of prolific serial killer Ted Bundy

Norman believes that the reason that neither victim at the Parkway suffered sexually assault, unlike all of Bundy’s subsequent victims, was because he was “overwhelmed by the magnitude of the crime… it was quite a wild scene… that’s why it was very important because it was a start.”

Although it is unclear if these were Ted Bundy‘s words, or if Norman had merely inferred it from their conversations. “I’m convinced he did it,” Norman said. “And I believe that it was the first two murders that he got into. He had no reason to lie to me, and if he was lying, he had been saving this information for 20 years just to con somebody,” he said.

“Or is this just an amazing coincidence, that he just happened to be there on Memorial Day before he went back to the West Coast, and two girls disappeared in that area at the time? That is an amazing coincidence then, and I don’t think he had a little book of crimes that he knew about that he could use to throw his psychologist off.”

“Everything else he told me has been borne out, so why should he lie just about that? I believe him.” When Norman came forward with this information, investigators looked into his claims, but ultimately, the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office called Norman’s report inconclusive.

Bundy’s attorney Polly Nelson said that when Norman interviewed Ted, it was at a time when he only spoke of his crimes in the third person, so as not to incriminate himself, often exaggerating what he had done, and purposefully adding misleading details.

Shortly before his execution, Bundy repeated the story of his east coast trip to psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Lewis, however this time with major differences. He claimed to have visited Ocean City in the spring of 1969, where he attempted to abduct a woman, but was unsuccessful.

Bundy with his lawyer Polly Nelson (31/07/79)

Polly Nelson explained in her own book, Defending the Devil, that Bundy said; “Well, later on that same year, in the spring, I went to Ocean City. And just hanging out at the beach, and looking at the young women, trailing them around. And my plan again was– I had never done anything like this before– I was… compelled to… act out this vision. (…) Okay, so I was just stalking around the downtown area of this small resort community and I saw a young woman walking along. (…)”

“I didn’t actually kill someone this time, but I really, for the first time, approached a victim, spoke to her, tried to abduct her, and she escaped. (…) But that was the first– the kind of step that you just… that I couldn’t ever return from. (…) In Ocean City, I realized just how inept I was. And so that made me more cautious, and so I didn’t do that again for a long time.”

Bundy’s whereabouts from that time are known, however there still remains doubt. He was enrolled at Temple University in Philadelphia from January to May, 1969, and travelled back to the west coast sometime in May, staying with friends in San Francisco and then visiting his ex-girlfriend Diane Edwards for several weeks.

He then returned to Washington state and began renting a room in the Rogers’ boarding house, however, the exact dates for these movements are unknown. The crime occurred on Memorial Day weekend in 1969, the last weekend in May.

In her interviews with Seattle police, his ex-girlfriend Diane Edwards claimed that Ted had surprised her, showing up unexpectedly in San Francisco in the spring of 1969. Edwards had previously moved there in March of that year, and so remembered it was in May 1969.

This would appear to place him across the country on the West Coast in San Francisco before the beginning of Summer, which traditionally kicks off after Memorial Day weekend. There is little-to-no evidence that Bundy was in New Jersey on Memorial Day weekend, however there at least two separate pieces of information which place him in California at the time.

In addition to Diane Edwards’ assertion that Bundy was with her, his whereabouts at that time were also mapped by detectives. Bundy’s Diagnostic Study Report, created to investigate his background prior to sentencing in the Carol DaRonch kidnapping case in 1976, states:

“In May of 1969, following Theodore’s experience at Temple University, he traveled to San Francisco, California, stayed there for approximately two to three weeks with friends, then he moved to Tacoma, Washington.” Ted’s Aunt Audrey, his mother Louise’s sister, who lived in Philadelphia, disputes the suggestion that her nephew could have travelled to the Jersey Shore that weekend.

In 1989, she recalled how Ted Bundy, who was 22-years-old in May 1969, had been involved in an auto accident, and was wearing a cast on his leg. There are no records in support of such an accident. In some of his crimes, Bundy would affect an injury in order to appear less of a threat to his victims, and often wearing a sling or cast on his arm, would elicit their help so he could get them alone.

It would certainly match his later MO to fake an injury, something that would have lured Elizabeth Perry and Susan Davis into believing he was in need of help. Bundy did use a container of plaster casting material and crutches he stole from Ped-Line, a medical supply company for which he had been a driver, however this was not until May 1970, a full year after the Parkway Slayings.

The man seen by a witness with his arm in a sling could have been Bundy using his later ruse, but again he had not yet refined this method of ensnaring his victims. In fact, in his conversations with FBI agent Bill Hagmaier, Bundy went into great detail about the beginning of his serial murders, which he attributes to the years 1972-73, when he started to pee on women before progressing to stalking women. If this is taken into account, then Bundy rules himself out as the perpetrator of the Davis-Perry crime.

Besides the last murder he committed, that of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, who is believed to have had her throat cut, Bundy never used a knife in his attacks, preferring to strangle his victims as an act of his dominance over them.

If he was responsible for this crime, when it is entirely possible that Bundy attempted a different MO in this, what might have been his first crime, before refining his method to strangulation. The lack of evidence of sexual assault is another factor which points away from Bundy, who targeted his female victims purely to gain control, something that fuelled his violent sexual fantasies.

When Gerald Stano wrongly confessed to the crime, a new witness surfaced in May 1983. This person claimed to have seen a young man wearing a yellow sweatshirt, who they said was definitely not Stano, who had been walking along the the road on the day of the slayings at about 6:30am.

When the suspect saw the witness coming, he hid himself in some bushes. When shown a series of photographs, the witness easily picked out the suspect, and chose the same young man wearing a yellow sweatshirt while hitchhiking, who had been originally been questioned and released back in 1969.

The unnamed man was living in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and worked as a long-haul truck driver. In December 1983, this unnamed suspect was again cleared when the county prosecutor’s office decided not to pursue charges, again citing a lack of evidence.

It is most likely that the young man wearing the yellow sweatshirt was the killer of Elizabeth Perry and Susan Davis, who was neither Gerald Stano or Ted Bundy, but a person who has remained publicly unidentified to this day. His odd statements to police in 1969 about “visions” he had about “two girls driving a convertible” are highly suspicious.

The evidence in the case against Stano and Bundy is largely circumstantial, with little information pointing to either suspect as having committed the crime. Stano’s confessions were mostly unreliable, while the whereabouts of Bundy on the day of the murder, although never definitive, would appear to exonerate him as the killer.

Although Ted Bundy never admitted any involvement in the Parkway Slayings, he was considered the perpetrator in the minds of the victim’s families. Elizabeth Perry’s mother Margaret later said: “we are convinced that when Ted Bundy died, our daughter’s killer got his comeuppance.”

Written by Nucleus

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