LIGNUM, Va. -- A dozen state troopers with police dogs returned to Alicia Showalter Reynolds' muddy gravesite yesterday, hoping to find clues her elusive killer may have left behind in a stark and forlorn landscape of logging trails and toppled pine trees near here.
Investigators said the identity of the killer -- believed to have abducted the Baltimore graduate student March 2 by posing as a motorist coming to her aid -- is still unknown.
They would not say whether the discovery of Reynolds' body Tuesday has brought them closer to an arrest.
"All I can say is that we've gotten 2,500 leads on this case, from all over the mid-Atlantic region," said Lucy Caldwell, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman.
Police and prosecutors continued to be tight-lipped with details and wouldn't say how Reynolds died or how long she had been dead. Her decomposed body was found 30 feet off a remote gravel road, about 15 miles southeast of where she last was seen.
Speculation among many in Lignum, a remote town of about 300 people with a rundown trailer for a post office, is that the killer is a local man familiar with the roads.
Route 681, the rural dirt road the killer would have traveled to dump Reynolds' body, is lined with houses for the first mile or so. Then it turns into timber territory, with the logging road appearing as a fork at a small clearing.
"He knew that there were deep woods down that road if you went far enough," said Lucy Howard, who accompanied a female friend to the post office yesterday. "It's giving everybody the creeps that he may be lurking around here somewhere, maybe looking for somebody else to get in that truck of his."
Police said they still do not know where the man lives. If he did live in Lignum or any of the surrounding rural communities, they said, then how could he keep from drawing attention to himself?
"If somebody in town saw his truck, which is plastered all over billboards in town, then they would have called it in," Caldwell said. "And if he stopped driving the truck and put it in his garage, somebody would have noticed that, too."
Reynolds, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Johns Hopkins University's pharmacology program, last was seen at the right ,, shoulder of southbound U.S. 29 near Culpeper, Va. She was getting into a dark-colored pickup truck with a man who apparently fooled her into thinking something was wrong with her car. Between January and March, the man is believed to have pulled over about 20 other women on U.S. 29, posing as a Good Samaritan, police said.
In all of the other cases, the man did not make any advances or harm the women, some of whom he even drove to nearby garages.
Investigators have theorized that the man seemed to be practicing or building up nerve for an attack on a woman. Forensic experts have told police that they believe the man is predatory, psychopathic and likely to try similar attacks.
The discovery of Reynolds' body was fortuitous for police, because the killer had partially covered the body in an area that loggers later cleared of trees. A worker found the body after spotting buzzards circling above. Police said that had the area not been cleared, it may have been years before anyone found the body.
Reynolds' husband and parents said they needed time alone together yesterday in Harrisonburg, Va. Yesterday, Gary Close, the commonwealth's attorney for Culpeper County, said he walked along the logging road and looked at the spot where Reynolds' body laid for nine weeks.
Close would be the prosecuting attorney if a suspect is found.
Pub Date: 5/10/96