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Family of Alicia Showalter Reynolds still looking for answers 25 years after her death

Alicia Showalter Reynolds
Alicia Showalter Reynolds(WHSV)
Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 7:14 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - On May 7, 1996, Alicia Showalter Reynolds’ body was found near Madison County, Va., more than two months after she went missing near U.S. Route 29.

Now, 25 years later, nobody knows who was involved in her death.

“Sometimes you just think, it can’t be that. It’s been 25 years, and so you think about what age she would be [today],” Sadie Showalter, Alicia’s mother, said.

Reynolds was a graduate of Harrisonburg High School and studied at Goshen College for her undergraduate degree. At the time of her death, Reynolds was studying at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

Harley Showalter, Reynolds’ father, said his daughter was part of a research project to develop vaccines to fight bacteria in lesser-developed countries.

“She was very good at research, and was very committed and focused. She knew what her challenge was and she wanted to solve the problem,” he said.

After her death, Reynolds did receive a posthumous degree, but her dreams of continuing her research to help others would never come true.

On March 2, 1996, Reynolds’ got into her car and headed down U.S. Route 29 from Baltimore to meet her mom at the Charlottesville mall.

“She was willing to drive down to Charlottesville and I could meet her. So, I was really looking forward to having the day with her,” Sadie Showalter said.

During this time in 1996, few people had their own cell phones. Sadie Showalter said she could remember getting a cell phone earlier that year, but her daughter did not have one.

Sadie Showalter said the night before they were going to meet in Charlottesville, Reynolds asked her mom for her cell phone number to have for the drive. Reynolds wrote that number down on a piece of paper.

The next day, Sadie Showalter said she waited for hours outside the mall, but her daughter never showed up.

“How long I sat there, and just, you know, thinking to myself, ‘Is that her car? Is that her car?’” Sadie said. “Finally, I just said, I think at about 2 p.m., we were going to meet at 10:30 a.m., I said, ‘Okay, she’s not coming.’”

Sadie Showalter says she called Reynolds’ husband in Baltimore, who then reached out to local police.

Police later found Reynolds’ Mercury Tracer about three miles outside the town of Culpeper with a white napkin underneath the windshield wiper blade. Reynolds’ body was found fifteen miles from her car.

“That would have been Alicia trying to show, you know, that there’s trouble with her car. She put a napkin out,” Sadie Showalter said.

Reynolds’ mother said police also found her cell phone number written down on a piece of paper inside the car.

At the time of the incident, police received several reports from witnesses who allegedly saw Reynolds’ car parked on Route 29, and her appearing to receive assistance from a white man in his late 30s or early 40s. Reports say the man looked to be between 5′10″ and 6′ tall.

Several other women reported to police a similar-looking man on the same stretch of road, who also tried pulling them over to let them know something was wrong with their vehicles.

“It almost feels like when you look at that whole Route 29 story and the stalker idea, that he was sort of honing his skills on how to stop women and get them. And Alicia happened to be the one that he took,” Sadie Showalter said.

After investigating more than 10,000 leads, Virginia State Police are still investigating who killed Reynolds.

Flowers and a cross sit at the spot where her car was found. Reynolds’ parents say they will visit the spot from time to time. While they no longer dwell on the years that have passed, they hope someone out there still knows something.

“You don’t want her to be forgotten, you don’t want her story to die. Because you just hope that somehow, somewhere, they can find who did it,” Sadie Showalter said.

Police ask anyone with any information related to the abduction and murder to call the Virginia State Police Culpeper Division at 1-800-572-2260, or the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 1-888-300-0156. You can also e-mail bci-culpeper@vsp.virginia.gov.

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