Heidi Childs and David Metzler met at a church youth group in Lynchburg, Virginia, and fell in love.
“Everyone considered them to be inseparable,” Heidi’s father, Don Childs, told Dateline.
The couple started dating after high school. Heidi and David also worked together at a local ice cream shop and, according to Don Childs, “They made a great team.”
Heidi, 18, and David, 19, enjoyed singing and playing guitar together, as well as playing sports and going on hikes. Heidi was a star runner for her town’s cross-country team and David was a talented golfer.
The teens were also devout Christians and very active in their church.
After graduating from high school in Lynchburg, Virginia, they both went on to study at Virginia Tech. The school is a two-hour drive away in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Heidi, who was passionate about medicine and chemistry, majored in Biochemistry. David studied Industrial Engineering. The young couple was gearing up for a bright future.
Heidi had just started her sophomore year when she called her parents on August 26, 2009, with exciting news. “Heidi called that day and was talking very quickly, as she often did, when she was excited,” Don Childs told Dateline.
Heidi told her parents that she was going to change her major to Pre-Med and wanted her parents’ blessing.
“We were very happy for her,” Don said. He said he never imagined that would be the last time he would ever talk to his daughter.
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The Childs would later learn from Heidi’s roommates that Heidi’s boyfriend had wanted to take her on a special date that night. He told her to wear comfortable clothes and bring her guitar. He was going to take her to Caldwell Fields in the nearby Jefferson National Forest to talk and play music.
The next morning, August 27, Don Childs received a phone call. It was from the Montgomery County Police Department.
According to Don, the police told him that a man walking his dog that morning had found Heidi and David’s bodies near the entrance of Caldwell Fields in Jefferson National Forest. They had been shot to death.
Dateline spoke with a former Blacksburg Police Officer Lisa Lucas Gardner, who was not a part of the investigation at the time, but has been following the case with interest. Gardner told Dateline that the police believe David and Heidi pulled into the gravel lot at the entrance to Caldwell Fields after 8:00 p.m. on August 26, 2009. Before the teens could get out of David’s 1992 Toyota Camry, a car approached them and the driver shot them both.
Gardner told Dateline authorities said David was found slumped at the driver-side window of the car.
It appears that Heidi may have opened the passenger-side door and tried to escape the shooter. She didn’t get far. Heidi’s body was found feet from the car. The couple had been shot with a high-power rifle.
At press conference on August 23, 2019, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the murders, Lt. Colonel Tim Lyon, the Director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation mentioned that some of Heidi’s belongings – her purse, Virginia Tech student ID and lanyard, as well as her cell phone, credit card and camera – were missing. David’s guitar, however, was still in the car.
“Hearing about this tragedy has been a nightmare,” Don Childs told Dateline.
Even though a decade has now passed since the murders, the Virginia State Police are still actively searching for the killer or killers. “[We] are just as dedicated to bringing to justice the individual, or individuals, responsible for Heidi and David's deaths,” Lt. Colonel Lyon told Dateline in an email earlier this week.
According to Lt. Lyon, the police have an extensive inventory of evidence that has been collected from the crime scene. Police also obtained DNA from the scene, and say they are working toward utilizing 10 years’ worth of technological advancements in DNA testing to finally bring the families justice.
Even with all the leads and resources, police say they still need one key ingredient to crack the case.
“We still need the public’s help to fit these pieces together,” Lt. Lyon told Dateline. “We know there are people in Montgomery County and across the New River Valley who know exactly what happened that evening of August 26, 2009 in that parking lot at Caldwell Fields at the edge of the Jefferson National Forest.”
At this week’s press conference, authorities announced that a $100,000 reward is being offered for tips that lead to an arrest.
Still, Heidi and David’s families worry that they will never have closure.
“After 10 years, it truly is hard to imagine what closure would feel like. We suspect that a trial would be extremely difficult -- reopening wounds of trauma and grief,” David’s parents, Keith and Susan Metzler, told Dateline in an email exchange. “The pain is never gone. You just learn how to live with it.” What that means, of course is, “Every happy family event is bittersweet, clouded with the loss of David,” his parents said. “We will never be whole.”
Although Heidi has been gone for a decade now, she lives on in the memories of her loved ones. “Heidi had such a unique way of caring for others and would stop and help someone in need, even if it was just to sit and talk for a bit,” Don Childs, Heidi’s father, remembers.
And although the sadness and pain will never subside, both families are lifted up by their faith.
“We have the assurance that David and Heidi are with Jesus for eternity, and that is a tremendous comfort to our hearts, and gives us peace,” the Metzlers told Dateline.
If you have any information regarding the deaths of Heidi Childs and David Metzler the evening of August 26, 2009, please contact the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office at (540) 382-6915.