top of page

Freeway Phantom Killer

Investigative Writer: Kimberly Jones

Imagine walking to a gas station to buy groceries a half a mile from your home. On your way returning home you vanish.. without a trace. That's what happened to 13 year old Carol Denise Sprinks sent to the nearby 7 eleven just across the border in Maryland by her sister. Sprinks disappeared on April 25th, 1971 and her body was discovered 6 days later at 2:46 pm, in a grassy embankment, next to the North bound lanes of I-295 behind St. Elizabeth's Hospital which was just 1,500 feet south of Suitland Parkway. During her examination it was discovered that she had been physically and sexually assaulted and strangled. When her body was found she had only been dead a few days and was fully dressed but her shoes were missing. During the next year and a half this unidentified killer would strike a total of six times killing young girls and teenagers. His killing spree went from April 25, 1971 to September 5, 1972. Darlenia Denise Johnson would be the killers next victim. Johnson was 16 at the time she went missing and was abducted while going to her summer job at Oxon Hill Recreation Center. Johnson would go missing on July 8th, 1971 from Congress Hill. A witness reported seeing Johnson get into an old black car that was driven by an African American man not long after her abduction. Eleven days later, her body would be found only 15 feet from where the first victim Sprinks was located. Per Johnson's murder, police had been notified of where the location of the body was a week earlier by an anonymous caller. The details of this latest find could have only been known by the killer. Johnson's body, which was also dressed and missing her shoes, was so far decomposed that her cause of death could not be determined if she had been sexually assaulted, but police were able to determined that Johnson had been strangled. On July 27th 1971 Brenda Faye Crockett 10 years old would be another victim of the killer. Crockett was from the Northeast area when she failed to return home after she was sent to the store by her mother. Two hours later at 9:20 pm the Crockett residents receives a phone call which was answered by her 7 year old sister who was home while her parents were out searching for Crockett. She was crying on on the other line and stated" A white man picked me up, and I'm heading home in a cab". Crockett also mentioned she believed she was in Virginia before she abruptly said "bye". Not long later the phone rings a second time, this time it was answered by her step father and once again Crockett repeated what she stated earlier but this time stated," di