Julianne Williams, also known by many as "Julie", was a 24 year-old from St. Cloud, Minnesota. She was very much interested in nature; she studied Geology in college and hoped to impress her love of the outdoors on others.
Laura Winans, also known by close friends as "Lollie", was a 26 year-old from Unity, Maine, who also had a strong connection to nature and the outdoors. She was studying to become a certified guide, and she wished to share her love of the outdoors with others. As the Attorney General's 2002 transcript of Darrell David Rice's Indictment states, "she [Winans] believed that, as she did, others would find themselves particularly happy and fulfilled in the outdoors".
Both women had such a strong connection to nature, and were experienced hikers. This connection led them to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Winans and Williams were brutally murdered doing what they loved; they were surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the wilderness they both enjoyed so much.
Williams and her partner Winans had gone to Shenandoah National Park on May 19th in order to hike along the Appalachian Trail. They were due back by the 28th of that month. However, Williams was reported missing on May 31st after her roommate phoned William's father to inform him that she hadn't yet returned from her trip.
After a day of searching, the bodies of the two women were found at a creekside campsite, just off of the Appalchain Trail. The scene was near milepost 42 along Skyline Drive, less than 1/2 of a mile from Skyland Resort, a popular tourist locale. The women were found bound and gagged, with their throats slit. Some reports indicated that the women were found undressed, although there were no signs of sexual assualt on either victim.
Because of their gender and sexual orienation, this particular case generated fear amongst hikers, and enlightened them to the reality that the wilderness was not necessarily safer than civilization. Not only women became more cautious on the trail, but the gay community as well. Investigators had to determine whether this case was the product of a random, unplanned event, or whether these women were specifically targeted due to their gender or sexual preferences. This murder sparked an increase in safety awareness on the trail, and also initiated the demand for legislation to protect those who are targeted for their gender and sexual orientation.
Below are a few other items worth exploring that relate to this case. The FBI's Seeking Information poster relays information regarding Julianne Williams' physical description and details of the case. The map of Skyline Drive will show where in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park the murders took place and where the Appalachian Trail can be found while within the park. The map of Skyland Resort will show where the Appalachian Trail is in relation to the resort, and will stand to show just how close these murders were to such a populated, public area.