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The Original Suspect

White Blaze Along the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park

At the time of the murders, there was one particular man who was suspected of killing 24 year-old Julianne Williams and 26-year old Laura Winans. This man was Darrell David Rice. Rice was suspected of killing these women because he had been found to have previously committed crimes within Shenandoah National Park. He was also caught on camera entering Shenandoah National Park from the Front Royal, Virginia entrance the evening of May 25th. He was seen exiting the park at Rockfish Gap the next afternoon. Rice later returned to the park on the same day that the bodies of Julianne Williams and Laura Winans were discovered. This, along with his other crimes committed in the park, led investigators to name him as the prime suspect in the murders of Williams and Winans.

The year that he was accused of committing the murders of Winans and Williams, Rice was already in jail for a 1997 case in which he was arrested for attempting to kidnap Yvonne Malbasha, a female cyclist, while on Skyline Drive. Rice had yelled sexual obscenities at the cyclist, grabbed her and tried to force her into his truck. When she managed to get away, Rice proceeded to try and run her over with his truck multiple times. All throughout the encounter, Rice continuously demanded that the woman get in his truck. Unsuccessful in this abduction attempt, Rice eventually drove away. He was later found and detained by Park rangers. In this case, Rice was convicted and given an 135-month sentence. For more information regarding this case, see the document "United States Court of Appeals: Darrel David Rice's 1997 Crime."

The prosecutors described Rice as being anti-gay and sexist towards women. In the document "United States District Court Notice of Intent to Introduce Evidence in United States of America v. Darrell David Rice Case", Rice is quoted to have said that women are "more vulnerable than men" and that he "hates gays". He commented that Julianne Williams and Laura Winans "deserved to die because they were lesbian whores." His views on women's inferiority and his commentary against homosexuals also led Rice to be a prime suspect in the 1996 case.

Though Rice was originally arrested for the murders of Williams and Winans with four counts of Capital Murder, the charges against him were ultimately dropped when new DNA results revealed that it was not his DNA on the crime scene, but that of an unknown male. Investigators still claim that Rice was involved in some way, however no new evidence has come forward to support this claim. Because this DNA evidence proved that Rice was not the perpetrator, the case lost ground and remains unsolved as of November 2016.

Below are the court documents regarding the indictment of Darrell David Rice, as well as a court document regarding  Rice's 1997 crime in Shenandoah National Park. To reiterate, the charges against Darrell David Rice have been dropped due to new DNA evidence. However, while investigators are still pursuing other leads, some still believe that Rice had a hand in the double murder.