1972 killing of 12-year-old Fairfax County girl has been solved, police say

Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, said they have solved the killing of a 12-year-old girl that happened over 45 years ago.

Karen Lee Spencer
Karen Lee Spencer, 12, was found dead in 1972. (Courtesy Fairfax County police)

Karen Lee Spencer was last seen alive Nov. 29, 1972 in the Huntington area. Her body was discovered a few days later on Dec. 2 in what was then known as Fifer’s Field, a wooded area located near what is now the Huntington Metro Station.

She died from repeated blunt-force trauma to the upper body, the autopsy revealed.

Police now say there is enough evidence to have arrested James “Jimmy” Edwards, who was believed to be Spencer’s boyfriend, for her killing.

Edwards, who was 16 years old at the time of Spencer’s death, died Aug. 23, 1997.

Edwards was among several people police questioned, and he denied any involvement in her death.

In 2018, two people who knew Edwards told police that in the early 1990s, Edwards told them that he killed a girl and buried her in a field when he was a teenager.

James "Jimmy" Edwards
Police say James Edwards killed Karen Lee Spencer. (Courtesy Fairfax County police)

Police received additional tips that supported what Edwards’ acquaintances said, along with findings from a previous investigation. Police were also able to disqualify other suspects.

Last December, the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office had enough evidence that would have supported the arrest and prosecution of Edwards, a Fairfax County police news release said.

Spencer lived on the 2500 block of Belleview Avenue and attended Hayfield Secondary School. She would often play or hang out with many of the neighborhood children, including Edwards, police said.

Spencer and other neighborhood children often spent time in Fifer’s Field and at the nearby Fairhaven 7-Eleven.

“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 Maj. Ed O’Carroll, bureau commander for major crimes, said in a statement.

Carroll said detectives’ steadfast work and the community’s willingness to come forward with information were “critical in solving this case.”

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up