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Tipping Point

With the media’s help, police have new leads in the 1984 murders of Donna Hall and Mike Margaret.

Tipping Point
By Donna Burch

Whoever killed 21-year-old Mike Margaret and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Donna Hall, in August 1984 should be worried.

Detectives may be closing in on the suspects in one of Henrico’s oldest and most brutal unsolved murders. And they have Henrico Monthly, Facebook and hundreds of Mike and Donna’s friends and acquaintances to thank.

In its June issue, Henrico Monthly featured the unsolved murders of Mike and Donna, a young couple whose bodies were found stabbed and slashed to death on Aug. 21, 1984, in a wooded area near the Kings Crossing apartment complex off Patterson Avenue in Henrico’s West End.

A friend posted the magazine’s story on the Douglas S. Freeman High School alumni group’s Facebook page and, within days, the link received more than 1,000 comments.

“It took off like it was a celebrity,” says Rob Holland, Freeman High School alum (’79) and the Facebook group’s administrator. “Everybody had their suspects; everybody had their concerns.”

There was so much interest in the murders that discussions began taking over the alumni page. Holland made the decision to start a new Facebook group called “Justice for Donna Hall and Mike Margaret” for members to talk about the case. At press time, the group had more than 2,700 members.

As a result of the magazine story, Facebook group and subsequent media attention, detectives have been receiving phone calls from Mike and Donna’s friends and acquaintances who are sharing new information about the case.

“I have received over 120 phone calls since June 1,” says Detective Thomas Holsinger with the cold case section of the Henrico Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit. “The information we received far exceeds all the information we got in the past. We’re ecstatic with it.”

For Holsinger, solving Mike and Donna’s case isn’t just part of his job. It’s personal. Holsinger attended J.R. Tucker High School with Mike and Mike’s brother, Scott Margaret.

Donna had attended rival Douglas S. Freeman High School.

“It was a real big deal,” Holsinger was quoted as saying in June’s story. “Both of these people were known at both high schools. It continues to be a big deal, and a lot of people would like for it to be solved.”

But Holsinger had no idea just how many people felt that way. Since June, he’s compiled five 4-inch binders full of new information related to the case as new witnesses have come forward.

“A lot of these people didn’t talk to the investigators back in the day,” Holsinger says. “Our next step is to go out and start meeting people and working the information that came in from these other people.”

Mike and Donna were last seen alive at a gathering of friends around 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 17, 1984. They were both known among friends as recreational drug users, but near the time of her death, Donna had begun to develop a cocaine addiction.

Following the murders, witnesses reported Donna was seen at the gathering with a large amount of cash. Police believe she may have taken that money from her father. During the murder investigation, it was discovered that thousands of dollars had been stolen from Donna’s family’s safe, and that money has never been found.

“She was looking to buy a large amount of cocaine [at the gathering],” Holsinger says. “She was starting to get kind of out of control. She was using a lot of cocaine, and she was trying to make money.”

Detectives believe she may have been trying to purchase cocaine so that she could resell it for a profit to feed her habit.

Little is known about where Mike and Donna went after they left the gathering that night. They had told their parents that they planned to go camping for the weekend, but that never happened.

Four days later, the owner of a wooded area adjoining Kings Crossing discovered Mike’s blood-splattered Jeep backed up into a ravine. Mike and Donna’s bodies were nearby.

“After they left Mike’s friends at almost midnight, they went somewhere, and that is the $64 million question,” Holsinger says. “I do think I’m closing in on where they were.”

Holsinger speculates that the motive for Mike and Donna’s murders may have been robbery, or it may have been in retaliation for not paying a previous drug debt.

“I think there are people out there that are not getting a full night’s rest with the information that is coming in right now,” Holsinger says. “I think I will be able to answer a lot of Scott’s [Scott Margaret’s] questions, and the ultimate goal will be to put someone in handcuffs. The whole team has been ecstatic on where we are right now.”

Along with several new leads, there may be new blood evidence in the case. In 1984, from Mike’s Jeep, detectives collected a third blood type, which didn’t match either victim. New DNA technology could help police match that blood to the killer.

As the Facebook comments began to pour in, so did offers from people who wanted to help solve the case. Holland learned that a previous reward offered by Mike’s father was no longer active because he had died.

A reward fund has been set up, and more than $6,700 has been donated so far. In August, Holland and others helped to organize a fundraiser at Bar Louie in Henrico, and another event is planned for later this year.

More than 200 people attended the event at Bar Louie, including Mike’s siblings, Scott and Allyson.

“It was overwhelming to walk in and see all these people,” recalls Allyson, who was just 14 years old when the murders occurred. “We’re just thankful for what everyone has been doing and for Rob putting all this together. It’s amazing that it’s still in the back of everyone’s mind. It was 31 years ago, and people are still thinking about it. For us, it’s a big tragedy, and for Donna’s family it was a tragedy, but everyone goes on with their lives, and we didn’t know it affected so many people.”
The momentum in the case has given new hope – cautious but optimistic hope – to the Margaret family.

“We always cling to that hope,” Scott says. “After 31 years, that hope gets smaller and smaller and smaller, but we still cling to that as much as possible. With this renewed interest, [we hope] it’s really just a matter of [a] very short time that something will break … that someone will turn state’s evidence … that something will come in because of advancements in DNA technology.”

Holsinger and others believe the killer or killers – or people associated with them – are likely lurking within the membership of the “Justice for Donna Hall and Mike Margaret” Facebook group.

“I would think somebody within the Facebook group definitely has some information that would break this case wide open,” Holsinger says. “I think, in this crime, there was more than one person there, possibly more than two people there. I think there are people out there who could come forward who have information. We could work with them on the information they’ve kept for this long.”

Detectives are still gathering tips in the case. Anyone with information on these murders should call Holsinger at 501-5276. Anonymous tips can be made through Crime Stoppers of Metro Richmond by calling 780-1000, submitting them online at crimestoppersrichmond

virginia.com or by texting “iTip” plus the tip to 274637 (CRIMES).

Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards of up to $1,000 for tips that lead to an arrest. There is an additional reward offered through the donations of Mike and Donna’s friends and others.

To donate to the reward fund, visit youcaring.com/virginia-crime-stoppers-409854.

© 2017 Chesterfield Observer