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By Shannon Aud
I don’t know who murdered Heidi Childs and David Metzler. The details of that night are obscure. She was outside the car, dead. He was sitting in the passenger seat dead from gun wound.
This haunts me. Did she run? Did he watch whatever happened to her, paralyzed and wounded? Or did the evil that lurked in the woods that night shoot him first? Did she watch the young man she had loved for years die and then jump out of the car, her blood coursing with adrenaline? Or was she forced out?
The police only described her murder as “brutal” and “violent.” My imagination can make a lot of that. I think about her fear and I can’t stop thinking about their bodies, found by a hiker and his dog enjoying the lovely dawn of an Appalachian morning.
I lived briefly with Heidi Childs as a student at Virginia Tech. We moved in together with four other girls when I began my sophomore year in August, 2009. I hardly knew any of them. I had just recovered from a rare illness that kept me out of school for the previous semester. It was a pretty dramatic year.
My freshman year roommate and then-best friend was living with them and invited me too. Though I had my trepidations -– every one of these girls was a devout, born again type Christian -– I was excited to be back at school and was looking forward to getting to know my new roommates.
After we moved in, we spent evenings watching "Gilmore Girls" and making “family” dinners. The bible verses on the wall didn’t bother me too much. We spent our time before classes started together, enjoying summer evenings with brownies, dance parties, and games of “Would You Rather?” to entertain us.
We had lived in the apartment for two weeks when that nightmare of a morning dawned on us. My best friend, Anne* (name changed), was curled up on the couch when I woke up at 7 am. As soon as I walked into the living room, she mentioned that Heidi hadn’t returned home the night before.
Heidi had been on a “surprise” date with her boyfriend, David, the evening before. Perhaps she’d had an early appointment and left before we were up. Maybe she had stayed with David? It didn’t seem likely.
Soon we were desperately phoning Heidi’s cell over and over. Her bubbly voice answered, asking us to leave a message. The phone had died. David’s had, too.
His roommates called Anne, wondering if we knew anything about David’s whereabouts. Car crash loomed in our minds. David’s roommate explained that he had taken Heidi up to the Caldwell Fields Park in the Jefferson Forest. He planned on building a bonfire and playing guitar.
David’s housemates promised they would go up to the park and look for them. Three of my roommates and me left for campus, not sure what else to do, while the other waited at home. A couple of hours later, when we still hadn’t heard back, we were ready to call the police. But they showed up first.
My roommate Liz* (name changed) called, breathy but determined not to cry, explaining that two officers were at our apartment. Each roommate was called and rushed home. Anne and I ran to her car, holding hands and praying, tears brimming over in our eyes.
When we got home, three of Heidi’s best friends were already there. Liz sat on the couch, stunned. No one had gotten any information yet, but the air was tight and panic gripped the room. The officers sternly sat us down on the plush couches we had gathered from our parents’ basements. I sat on a leather chair Heidi’s mom had lent us.
Unflinchingly, the officers announced they had found both Heidi’s and David’s bodies early that morning. Nothing else was said before the room erupted into a sound that I remember through a haze. But it was mostly screams and Heidi’s very best friend in the world yelling out, “Noooooooo,” just like they do in the movies.
Seven young women sat in the heat of tragedy and the officers walked outside. We believed they’d left us.
Somehow people came to us. Finally an adult collected us. My mother found out –- I think I texted her two words -– Heidi’s dead. She got in her car and drove without question. Friends were outside our apartment when I stumbled out into the bright, sunny August afternoon, my eyes pinched close and swollen with tears. The officers were still there. When the screaming stopped, they’d demanded an interview with each of us.
I sat on the curb while a boy from Heidi’s Christian organization kept his arm tight around me. When my turn came to be interviewed, the worst reality became clear. Their questions confused me. Did Heidi have any enemies? Do you know of anyone who might have wanted to hurt her?
No. No. No. She was perfect. Sweet and kind and innocent. And beautiful. The kind of girl no one could dislike. The kind of girl no one would hurt. It would be like stomping on a little bird that sang for you. What does this have to do with a car crash??
I slid down the concrete wall of my apartment complex as the stony officers explained that Heidi and David had been murdered. Neighbors passed by, their North Face backpacks slung over their shoulders, frowning at the scene as I held my head in my hands. The police gave more details. There are things I probably shouldn’t write about.
There is no way to explain the aftermath of their death. I spent afternoons on the floor with a speaker to my head, blasting Radiohead’s saddest songs until my eardrum hurt. Kirsten* (name changed) would run through the apartment screaming in the middle of the night, lost in a nightmare. I slept with a knife under my pillow. I still hate the woods.
Heidi and David had a joint funeral. Her coffin was pink and his was dark wood.
For a while, I was in constant contact with the police. They would call me and my roommates in for more interviews. They said they’d watch our apartment. Within a year though, the correspondence with the police department had died off.
Sometimes I look for new articles or new developments in the case. I scroll through the comments to where people speculate that they were out in the woods, “doing what teenagers do.” As if they got what they deserved. My blood boils.
Most of my old roommates and Heidi’s close friends are married or engaged now to nice Christian boys. They are running bible studies and taking missions to Africa. They post bible quotes on Facebook. I joined a sorority and an a cappella choir and moved out of the apartment as soon as I could muster the strength.
I moved away from the college Christians that, after Heidi’s death, I felt only saw me as someone who needed saving. It’s possible that I do.
I spent a wild semester in the South of France. I’m dating a punk and living in a city. But wherever our lives take us, we are still bound together by that moment in the living room of my little collegiate apartment and by the double murder that erupted into our lives and scarred us.
Now, almost four years later, I feel like I’ve moved on. I feel normal again. Is that OK?
Heidi and David seem to be forgotten by the media and maybe even forgotten by me at times. Something, someone, some evil still roams free. It chills and saddens me.