FCPD asking for info on 1972 murder of Fairhaven girl

The Fairfax County Police are asking for the public’s help in solving the 1972 murder of 12-year-old Karen Spencer, a Fairhaven resident whose body was found in a field off of North Kings Highway.

The police said in a press release that the case is one of the oldest unsolved murders in the county, and still “a mystery” to detectives.

“[Spencer’s] death remains a mystery to our Major Crimes Bureau Cold Case Squad detectives who are seeking the public’s help to solve this cold case and bring resolution to Karen’s family,” the police said in the press release. “Karen’s murder is one of nearly 100 unsolved homicide cases that our detectives are investigating … .”

The police’s release on Spencer’s murder also comes as Fox 5 is scheduled to broadcast a segment on the 47-year-old case. Reporter Lindsay Watts tweeted a preview of the report earlier on Wednesday. It will air tonight at 10 p.m.

Picture of yearbook photo
From Hayfield’s 1973 yearbook.

Spencer was beaten to death and left in what was known as “Fifer’s Field,” a property between Richmond Highway and North Kings Highway that was a popular place for kids to play at the time. A video in the FCPD’s report shows that her body was found roughly where the Courts at Huntington Station now stand.

Spencer, a 7th grader at Hayfield Secondary School, went missing on November 29 and was found Dec. 2 by kids playing in Fifer’s field. The police indicate in their release that Spencer’s family did not report her missing.

The police report mentions a friend of Spencer’s, but does not indicate if he is a suspect. That person, James “Jimmie” Edwards, was 16 at the time of Spencer’s murder. He died in the 1990s, however.

Police are asking anyone with information on Karen’s death or who may have been an associate of Karen or James Edwards to call the Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800.

A longtime mystery

Spencer was from a large family who lived on Fairhaven Avenue, and her death shook the community when it happened. In recent years Spencer’s death has sometimes been discussed in a Facebook group for the Route 1 area by people who grew up around the same time.

Newspaper reports from the time say Spencer’s family said she was last seen leaving the house around 10 p.m. on November 29. Spencer told her family she was picking up books from a classmate’s house, according to the reports.

The field where Spencer was found was just blocks from her house. News accounts say Spencer was partially covered in leaves, with a ripped blouse. An autopsy was said to have determined that she died the same night she went missing, according a December 4, 1972 report in The Washington Post.

A report in the Janissary 20, 1973 edition of the Alexandria Gazette said that then-Fairfax County Police Chief William Durrer told reporters that police had found a “prime suspect” after a few weeks of investigation, but that there was no enough evidence to charge him.

“Since the initial interview of the suspect, Col. Durrer reported, the individual — described for the present only as an unidentified male — has retained the services of a local attorney who has advised county police that ‘no further interviews will be permitted,'” the Gazette reported.