RICHMOND | Authorities stepped up patrols Friday near an area of Jefferson National Forest where a Virginia Tech couple described by their minister as “godly young people” were found slain.
A man walking his dog early Thursday found the bodies of David Lee Metzler, 19, of Lynchburg, and Heidi Lynn Childs, 18, of Forest, in the parking lot of a day-use area and campground that is a popular hangout for Virginia Tech students.
Autopsies were being performed, but Montgomery County Sheriff Lt. Brian Wright said both students appear to have been shot sometime late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
Mr. Metzler’s body was found in his 1992 dark blue Toyota Camry, and Miss Childs was found outside the car. Authorities are searching for anyone who may have seen the car or anyone else in the area at the time or heard the shots.
The campground is about 15 miles from Virginia Tech’s campus in Blacksburg. Teddy Mullins, a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said there likely would have been no one else around at the time. The nearest home is a few miles from the site.
Mr. Mullins was expecting traffic at the spot to pick up this weekend because Virginia Tech students returned to classes on Monday.
“The weekends get quite busy once the students return,” he said.
Permits are required to use the group campground at Caldwell Fields, and Mr. Mullins said there were no permits issued Wednesday night to camp there.
The area where Mr. Metzler and Miss Childs were found is a wildlife viewing area overlooking a field full of wildflowers, birds and often deer, Mr. Mullins said.
Mr. Mullins said the Forest Service cracked down on illegal activity in the area years ago because so many people, mostly students, were using the fields to party.
“Students, some like to drink,” he said. “But I come across quite a few who are out there to enjoy the night, the friendship. I think they were just out there.”
The parking lot and campground reopened on Friday.
Mr. Metzler and Miss Childs had known each other for years and were active in their church and campus ministries, said F. Gerald Kroll, their pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Lynchburg.
Mr. Metzler, a sophomore industrial and systems engineering major, and Miss Childs, a sophomore biochemistry major, belonged to Virginia Tech’s chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ.
“They were both godly young people, the cream of the crop,” Mr. Kroll said.
Mr. Kroll said he had not spoken to either about what their plans after college, but “they had a desire to be godly and to serve their Lord.”
Anne Reynolds is the manager at Mountain Frost Creamery in Lynchburg, where both victims worked. She described them as “terrific, very active, very involved in their church, very energetic and outgoing.”
Miss Childs’ father, Sgt. Donald Childs, has been with the Virginia State Police for 20 years, and state police were assisting with the investigation, spokeswoman Deborah Cox said.
Ms. Cox said state police weren’t planning any memorial service because that is a private family matter. “However, Sgt. Childs’ State Police family will be there to support, help and assist him in any way possible.”
A man who answered the phone at Sgt. Childs’ home said the family did not wish to comment.
A family friend who answered at the Metzlers’ residence said they were not home.
Sue Jones, who coached Miss Childs on a home-school cross-country team said Miss Childs was one of the team’s top runners and “just a real nice girl.”
“We’re just all praying for the family,” she said.
Mr. Metzler played soccer and golf at Brookville High School and was a good student, said principal Bruce Abbott, who has lived next-door to the Metzlers for years.
“He was a super individual, terrific person and a role model for other kids, even my own two children,” Mr. Abbott said. “This is a senseless tragedy.”
The school made counselors available for students who were having a difficult time with Mr. Metzler’s death, Mr. Abbott said. Two years ago, Virginia Tech was the site of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, when a student gunman killed 32 people in a dorm and classroom building.