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Fairfax County detectives solve ’72 cold case murder of Karen Lee Spencer

The suspect, James "Jimmy" Edwards died in 1997.

April 5, 2020

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — Police say they have solved the murder of a 12-year-old Virginia girl, who was last seen alive in 1972.

The Cold Case Squad at the Fairfax County Police Department believes Karen Lee Spencer's alleged boyfriend at the time killed her in the Huntington area of Fairfax County. The suspect, James "Jimmy" Edwards died in 1997. He was 16 years old when Spencer disappeared and denied involvement at the time, police said.

The Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney determined in December 2019 that there was enough evidence to support Edwards' arrest and prosecution if he was alive. This started in 2018 when two different people told detectives that Edwards' told them "he killed a girl and buried her in a field when he was a teenager." Edwards' alleged confession to his acquaintances happened in the early 90s, police said.

"For nearly five decades, Major Crimes detectives remained steadfast in their pursuit of justice for 12-year-old Karen Lee Spencer and her family," said Major Ed O'Carroll, Bureau Commander, Major Crimes. "I am proud of the work of Detective Flanagan and all detectives who contributed to the closure of this case. The fact that they never gave up combined with our community's willingness to come forward with information were critical in solving this case."

In June 2019, the police department released a call for assistance in this case, and said it is one of their oldest cold cases.

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