FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Virginia police officials announced Friday that they have positively identified all four known victims of the D.C.-area “Shopping Cart Killer,” even as they link a potential fifth victim to the case.
Two women found Dec. 15 stuffed inside a container in a wooded area of Alexandria have been identified through DNA as Cheyenne Brown, 29, of Washington, and Stephanie Harrison, 48, of Redding, California, according to Fairfax County police officials. The women officially join Allene Elizabeth “Beth” Redmon, 54, of Harrisonburg, and Tonita Lorice “Nita” Smith, 39, of Charlottesville, on the growing list of women police say were slain by a serial killer.
Anthony Eugene Robinson, 35, of Washington, is accused of targeting the women through dating sites and luring them to area motels, where he beat them to death. His moniker stems from allegations that he used a shopping cart to transport at least three of the four known victims’ bodies after killing them.
Robinson is jailed in the Rockingham County Adult Detention Center awaiting trial in the Redmon and Smith homicides. Charges are pending in the killings of Brown and Harrison.
“Thankfully he’s incarcerated, and it gives us the ability to work backwards while he’s still not out there killing,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said Friday night. “The fact that he is awaiting trial in Harrisonburg, Virginia, allows us to continue to build our probable cause to charge him eventually here in Fairfax County.”
The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit is aiding detectives in piecing together Robinson’s background, Davis said. Fairfax County officials are also coordinating with authorities in Robinson’s native New York.
“Additionally, we are working on a victimology profile and hoping to get in contact with other women who may have interacted with Robinson,” Davis said. “Just this week, our detectives met with 35 other police departments in the DMV to comb over existing missing persons cases to determine if any commonalities exist.”
Authorities first announced their suspicions of a serial murderer days before Christmas. Over the past several weeks, investigators have been scouring Robinson’s background in an effort to identify any additional victims.
At a news conference Friday night, Davis and Fairfax County police Maj. Ed O’Carroll updated the public on the status of the ongoing probe. In that update, O’Carroll said investigators received a “critical tip” last week that helped them possibly link a fifth killing to Robinson.
The body of Sonya Champ, 40, of Washington, was found Sept. 7 in a shopping cart near Union Station. A passerby found Champ, covered only by a blanket, and called police.
O’Carroll said his detectives immediately contacted the D.C. Metropolitan Police upon receiving the tip.
“We believe this may be Anthony Eugene Robinson’s fifth victim,” O’Carroll said. “This is based on digital evidence that puts him in the same vicinity around the time of the victim’s disappearance.”
Champ’s mother, Norma Hairston, told WUSA in Washington over the weekend that it was a relief to know the man suspected of killing her daughter may be behind bars, despite the painful emotions the news dredges up.
“I heard about it early today and I’m still comprehending everything,” Hairston said. “I didn’t know what she died from. None of that. I have closure now.
“I’m at peace with it because now I really know what happened to my daughter.”
‘He does unspeakable things’
Four days later, both women’s bodies were found in an open field behind a motel in Harrisonburg. Though they were found a short distance from one another, they died at different times, authorities said.
Surveillance footage and cellphone records reportedly linked Robinson to both victims, with whom he had connected through dating sites. Each woman met with him separately at hotels before vanishing.
Robinson has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in Redmon and Smith’s deaths, as well as two felony counts of concealing, transporting or altering a dead body.
Brown, who was about four months pregnant when she disappeared, vanished Sept. 30 and was reported missing nearly two weeks later, authorities said. Like the other victims, she had interacted with Robinson on a dating app.
“Cheyenne interacted with Robinson on the Plenty of Fish dating app,” Davis said Friday. “It is believed that Robinson used the Plenty of Fish dating app to lure his victims. We believe Robinson has also used the Tagged dating app.”
Watch Friday night’s news conference below.
Cellphone data showed that Brown and Robinson were together the night she disappeared. According to the police chief, a receipt showed that Robinson stayed at the Moon Inn in Alexandria that night.
Robinson had also stayed at the hotel on at least five other occasions, Davis said.
“And we need to know more,” the chief said.
Fairfax County investigators, who were assisting D.C. missing persons detectives in the search for Brown, had initially looked for her at the Moon Inn with no luck. After receiving additional information, however, they returned to the hotel and expanded their search.
Officers spotted a shopping cart in a nearby wood line and began searching the woods. Near the cart was the container holding the bodies of Brown and Harrison.
Harrison, who was in Washington on a sightseeing trip in August, also stayed at the Moon Inn, authorities said. She last spoke to her family Aug. 19 from the U.S. Capitol.
It was while searching for Brown that Fairfax County authorities spotted flyers with Harrison’s photo and learned of her disappearance. According to the flyers, Harrison had schizophrenia and was off her medication before she vanished.
“She is very vulnerable and gullible in her mental state,” the flyers stated.
Davis last month described Robinson as a predator.
“He preys on the weak. He preys on the vulnerable. And he does unspeakable things with his victims,” the chief said.
O’Carroll described Brown and Harrison as amazing women.
“They did nothing wrong,” the major said. “Both (were) loved by families and our community.”
Authorities continue to search for additional victims, or for anyone with information about Robinson either on or off the dating sites.
“We believe there are survivors out there,” Davis said Friday. “We remain very determined to continue to dig deep and get to the bottom of this.”
Anyone with information about Robinson should call the Fairfax County Police Department’s Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 2. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone at 866-411-TIPS (8477), by text by typing “FCCS” plus the tip to 847411, and on the web by clicking here.
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