The Williamsburg man who befriended families of Colonial Parkway victims and helped them organize fundraisers to solve the old crimes has been charged with fraud for faking one of the fundraisers.
Fred Atwell, who two years ago forced the FBI to reopen the 1980s murder cases, was charged today with grand larceny by false pretenses. York County authorities say he orchestrated a car raffle but never provided the cars. Just moments before he turned himself in, Atwell admitted to NewsChannel 3 that he'd gotten carried away with the fundraiser and faked the outcome.
"I should've stopped it, but I didn't," he said. "So that's my fault."
Atwell says he thought he could convince dealerships to donate a pair of cars. That news was exciting to family members who've been working to get new attention on the old cases. The families have started a fund to raise money for rewards and investigative costs. The raffle was to benefit that account, 'The Colonial Parkway Victims' Fund. Atwell admitted that when it was clear the cars weren't available, he did not stop the ticket sales. And when the drawing happened, the winner was faked.
"We drew a name, a phony name," Atwell admitted.
Family members said they did not know the fundraiser was faked until they started pressing Atwell for specifics a month ago. They then went to police. York County Sheriff's investigators say they don't know how much money, if any, Atwell pocketed from the raffle. Atwell insists he took none. But investigators are asking anyone who bought a car-raffle ticket from Atwell in York County to call (757) 890-3630. Atwell has been charged with a single felony for cashing a check meant for DMV fees for the car that didn't exist. Investigators said he could face more charges.