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Five Decades After 7th Grader Was Murdered Borrowing A Book, Detectives Say They've Found Her Killer

Karen Spencer was found murdered and concealed under a pile of leaves in a Virginia park in 1972.

By Gina Tron
Detectives Say They've Solved 1972 Murder Of 7th Grader

Detectives in Virginia say they have solved a case of a slain seventh grader nearly five decades after her tragic murder. 

Karen Spencer, 12, left her home in Fairhaven on the night of Nov. 29, 1972 after telling her family she was going to borrow a book from a classmate, Virginia outlet Covering the Corridor reported last year. She was never seen alive again. 

Her body was discovered days later, on Dec. 2, in a nearby park by a group of young boys, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement made last week. Her body was concealed under a pile of leaves, according to Covering the Corridor.

Her killer had inflicted repeated blunt force trauma to her upper body, resulting in her death.

Spencer's murder remained unsolved for decades even though several persons of interest were interviewed in the years following her death. James “Jimmy” Edwards, who was 16 at the time of Spencer’s killing, was one such person of interest. Police said he is believed to have been Spencer’s boyfriend. He maintained he was innocent and he died in 1997.

Recently, people who were once close to Edwards relayed information to police.

“In the summer of 2018, two independent acquaintances of Jimmy revealed to detectives that in the early 90’s, Jimmy confided in them he killed a girl and buried her in a field when he was a teenager,” police said in their statement. “Over the next year and a half, detectives received additional tips that supported this information and other previous investigative findings that implicated Edwards.”

Police added that based on exculpatory information, other persons of interest were disqualified and Edwards became the number one suspect. By December 2019, the Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney determined that they had enough evidence to arrest and prosecute Edwards if he were still alive. 

He is now considered the killer. The case is considered closed.

“For nearly five decades, Major Crimes detectives remained steadfast in their pursuit of justice for 12-year-old Karen Lee Spencer and her family,” Major Ed O’Carroll, Bureau Commander, Major Crimes said in the statement. “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.”

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