On Saturday night, December 3, 1988, 22-year-old Warren Fulton took his girlfriend Rachel Raver to Mister Days, a bar located at 19th and M Streets that recently closed but was once a favorite spot for GW athletes. Fulton, captain of the GW baseball team, lived in nearby Vienna, Va., with his parents, but he often spent nights in friends’ apartments around Foggy Bottom.
Raver graduated from GW the previous spring with a degree in education, but after a stint as student-teacher opted to look for a different career and was working as a secretary. She had played soccer for GW until injuring her knee.
That night, shortly before midnight, Fulton and Raver disappeared. Their friends saw the couple leave the bar. Raver had a couple of beers, but Fulton was sober. Family and friends said the couple was headed home. Fulton was going to pick Raver up the next morning for church. No one knew where the couple was until the next Tuesday morning when their bodies were discovered in the woods of a Reston farm.
Raver was found nearly naked wearing knee socks. Her top was pulled up exposing her breasts. Fulton was found close by. Forced to kneel, the GW student was executed with a shot from behind.
Police still have not solved the crime, despite running through several theories. At one point, police believed the motive to be carjacking, but that hardly seemed likely as Fulton and Raver were driving a nine-year-old Toyota Corolla.
The motive for the murder investigators soon settled on was disposal of witnesses to rape. Killing Raver – the victim – and her boyfriend was the most efficient means of getting away with the crime. But the killer left behind a telling clue. Police recovered DNA evidence as a result of the rape, and that evidence has been stored by the Fairfax County police ever since.
Last year, the DNA evidence recovered from the scene of the killing was submitted to the Virginia State crime lab in an attempt to match it to samples taken from convicted felons and other evidence in presumably unrelated crimes. The evidence indeed matched that from another case in Arlington County in which a young black woman was raped and murdered seven months before the GW couple died. Rather than a carjacker, police were looking for a serial killer.
As the case grew more difficult to solve, experts believed Raver had been stalked. A pattern of menacing phone calls prior to her death and peculiar objects left at her grave offer a disturbing clue that she was hunted and may not have been the victim of random chance.
This 12-year-old case, reported in the June 17 issue of The Washington Post Magazine, is a stark warning to the GW community that tragedy could be only steps away. Safety on campus and off is not a subject to be taken lightly. Fulton and Raver were last seen at a bar that closed only a year ago and was frequented by many current GW students. If someone was following them, he was very close by.
Often when police or administrators discuss issues of safety, their arguments are framed as “what-ifs” – hypothetical situations in which students could find themselves. This case happened. These students died.
Earlier this month, two students were confronted by an armed robber, and instead of doing the safest thing and complying by handing over their purses, they negotiated. Luckily neither was hurt, but when someone is aiming a gun, a student’s first instinct should be to get out of the situation as fast a possible. Cell phones, wallets, keys, credit cards – these are all replaceable. Lives are not.
No one knows exactly why Fulton and Raver died on that cold Reston farm 12 years ago. Police have yet to find the killer, and the events leading from Mister Days to the Virginia woods are still unclear. But in hindsight, maybe those threatening phone calls were more than just pranks. Maybe someone was lurking just a little too long, just a little too often. Neither victim could have known.
Still, students should be vigilant and do everything they can to stay safe. Walk in groups through lighted areas. Lock residence hall room doors. Insist that visitors sign in to buildings. Report suspicious behavior. Remember the case of Warren Fulton and Rachel Raver, and use it as a reminder that anything can happen to anyone.
-The writer is Hatchet opinions editor.