Appalachian Trail Histories

The Water Chestnut is an invasive plant that is native to Africa, Asia, and Europe. It arrived in the United States during the 19th Century, originally as a decorative plant. It grows in large "blankets" in freshwater and it can deplete the water's oxygen levels. The blankets also take up the space that other aquatic plants need to grow. Its seeds are sharp, and it is painful to step on them.

Notice that this image shows two dangers that this plant presents: the spines on its fruits can be seen clearly, and it is also evident that this plant has no trouble with growing into thick sheets.

Water Chestnut.jpg

This invasive plant has been introduced to many areas of the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast. It is covered with fine "hairs" that create a fire-like pain on contact. While these hairs may look soft, clear, and harmless, do not be fooled: they are the bane of hikers on the trail. This is evidenced by "AT-AT Walker's" 2016 online journal entry in which he mentioned that they grow in patches so thick, whole stretches can be covered by it. The plant was originally found in the Western United States, but it can now be found in the Appalachian Trail area. This plant is a threat not only because of its stingers, but the thick bunches it grows in can also use up space and sunlight that native, less harmful plants need.


Chinese silvergrass is native to, as its name suggests, Southeast Asia. Like many other invasive plats that plague the Appalachian Trail, it was originally brought over to the United States for ornamental purposes. Even if you are not within reach of the Appalachian Trail, this invader is commonly planted in yards and near roads for decoration.

That does not mean that this plant should be taken lightly, however. It is known to spread quickly. This is because is is perennial (it grows back every warm season) and its seeds are spread by the wind.

This image implies the scope of its harm to the Appalachian Trail's ecosystem: by spreading quickly and growing densely, the plant can take up quite a bit of space that is needed for native plants to thrive.


The Appalachian Trail was vandalized in January 2013 when a man named Tyler Pace destroyed a fenced area of the trail at Max patch, NC and allowed groups of men to illegally drive trucks into an ecologically-protected area. Pace was sentenced to 90 days in jail for causing over $5,000 in damage to the AT's land.

Collection: Crime on the Trail

Photographed at Bake Oven Knob near Germansville, PA, this photograph shows defacement of the Appalachian Trail's natural landscape by graffiti artists. Graffiti has been a growing problem along the trail, and due to the lack of prevalent law enforcement officers along the trail, many crimes such as this go unpunished but not unnoticed.

Collection: Crime on the Trail

James T. Jones was known as "Bismark" along the Appalachian Trail. Once an avid hiker with an amiable personality, he was captured in Damascus, VA in 2015 by the FBI on several counts of corporate embezzlement. He had been on the FBI's wanted list since 2009 and apparently found recluse and a new identity on the AT where he was able to elude authorities for over five years.

Collection: Crime on the Trail

Attorney General Transcript
News Conference with USA John Brownlee
Indictment of Darrell David Rice
April 10, 2001
DOJ Conference Center

ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Good morning.
On June the 1st, 1996, the bodies of Julianne Marie Williams and Laura "Lollie" S. Winans were discovered in the mountains of Virginia in the Shenandoah National Park, bound and gagged, with their throats cut. This morning I'm announcing the indictment returned yesterday in the Western District of Virginia against Darrell David Rice for these brutal killings. Darrell David Rice is charged with four counts of capital murder, two of which allege that he intentionally selected his victims because of his hatred of women and homosexuals.
Today's murder indictment specifically invokes a federal sentencing enhancement enacted to ensure justice for victims of hate crimes. If convicted of any of the charges in the indictment, Darrell David Rice could face the death penalty.
Julianne Marie Williams and Lollie Winans were young women who loved life and cherished every single day. Lollie was completing her studies at Unity College in Maine. She was in the final stages of becoming an accredited guide. She loved the outdoors and she loved to introduce people to the outdoors because she believed that, as she did, others would find themselves particularly happy and fulfilled in the outdoors. Upon her death, Unity College called her mother and father a few months later to receive the degree that she has been working on.
America will be without the contribution that Lollie would otherwise have made, and it would have been substantial.
Similarly, Julie was a student of great achievement, went to school in Carlton, Minnesota, graduated summa cum laude. She was interested in helping migrant workers; spoke Spanish; cared about and worked with families that were abused, had difficulty; was part of a group of individuals whose knowledge of geology and the natural world was valuable in terms of our culture and what we could do to make sure that we respected the world in which we live; was interested in the Lake Champlain Project.
Earlier today I had an opportunity to meet the parents of these young women, who are with us this morning. And now, as then, I struggled to express the deep sadness that we feel for the great loss of these families. We pray for their families.
These families have suffered what Americans now know all too well. That's the pain and destruction wrought by hate. Just as the United States will pursue, prosecute, and punish terrorists who attack America out of hatred for what we believe, we will pursue, prosecute, and punish those who attack law-abiding Americans out of hatred for who they are. Hatred is the enemy of justice, regardless of its source. We will not rest until justice is done for Julianne Marie Williams and for Lollie Winans.
The indictment of David -- Darrell David Rice is the result of an investigation begun late May 1996, when Miss Williams and Miss Winans, who were hiking along a trail in the Shenandoah National Park, were reported missing. Days later, the discovery of their brutally murdered bodies set off a multi-jurisdictional manhunt in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Park Service joined forces to follow up on an estimated 15,000 leads and contacts. As a notice filed this morning with the court explains, in 1998 Darrell David Rice pled guilty and was convicted of attempted abduction of a female bicyclist, also in the Shenandoah National Park. Evidence presented at the guilty plea and sentencing of Rice established that he accosted the woman, angrily screamed sexual references towards her, and attempted to force her into his truck.
When that victim successfully resisted Rice and took cover behind a tree, Rice attempted to run over her with his vehicle. After his arrest, investigators recovered hand and leg restraints in Rice's truck. As a result of his conviction, Rice is currently serving a 135-month federal sentence.
Today's indictment charges that Rice singled out Julianne Marie Williams and Laura Winans for murder because of their gender or sexual orientation. As outlined in the government's pleadings, Rice has stated on several occasions that he enjoys assaulting women because they are, in his words, quote, "more vulnerable," close quote, than men. The government's notice sets forth numerous incidents in which Rice acted in a hostile and violent manner toward women solely because they were women. In addition, the government's notice describes evidence of Rice's hatred for homosexuals, including his statement that Julianne Williams and Laura Winans deserved to die because he believed they were homosexuals.
Several individuals deserve our thanks and our praise for their exemplary work on this case. Special Agent Jane L. Collins (sp) for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Special Agent Timothy W. Alley (sp) of the National Park Service coordinated the investigation of the literally thousands of leads and contacts in this case.
And we have put together a prosecution team that promises to take full advantage of the solid foundation that was laid by the investigation. Prosecuting Darrell David Rice will be Criminal Chief of the Western District of Virginia, Thomas J. Bondrant, Jr. (sp), and Western District of Virginia Assistant United States Attorney Anthony P. Gorno (sp).
I thank as well the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, John Brownlee, for his dedication to seeing that justice is done for these victims. And the special agent in charge of the Western District of Virginia, Don Thompson (sp), and the special agent in charge from the FBI for the National Park Service, Clark Guy (sp). I'm pleased that these individuals here are with me this morning.
Criminal acts of hate run counter to what is best in America -- our belief in equality and freedom. The Department of Justice will aggressively investigate, prosecute and punish criminal acts of violence and vigilantism motivated by hate and intolerance.
Since September the 11th, the Civil Rights Division, in cooperation with the FBI and U.S. attorneys, have investigated approximately 350 incidents of violence or threats against Americans perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin. Working with our partners in law enforcement, approximately 65 state and local criminal prosecutions have been initiated against almost 80 individuals. Federal charges have been brought in 10 cases.
The Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs is currently funding approximately 18 grants, totaling $15.5 million, to address the unique issues involved with hate crimes. In addition, our budget contains a request for $5 million to identify trends in the commission of hate crimes by geographic region and type of crime committed and the number of hate crimes, prosecutions and convictions obtained.
Our message this morning is unambiguous and clear. The volatile, poisonous mixture of hatred and violence will not go unchallenged in the American system of justice. By invoking the hate crimes enhancement parts of sentencing enhancement today, today's murder indictment makes clear our commitment to seek every prosecutorial advantage and to use every available statute to secure justice for victims like Julianne Marie Williams and Lollie Winans.
Thank you all. I'd be pleased to respond to your questions.
Q Do we know how he knew or if he knew they were -- their sexual orientation? In other words, did he see them at the park? Was that --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I'm not prepared to go beyond the terms of the matters submitted in court. No information in that respect is submitted to the court.
Yes, sir.
Q Sir, can you tell us anything about Mr. Rice -- what kind of work he did, where he lived, what he was doing in the park?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: We've alleged, obviously, in the indictment and in the information submitted to the court that in the park he committed these acts. I can't give you further information about it yet.
Q Sir, what was the break in the case? How long has he been a suspect, and how did this all come together? Can you tell us?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I don't know if you'll --
MR. BROWNLEE: Certainly.
Yes, in 19 --
Q Your name, please?
MR. BROWNLEE: My name is John Brownlee. I'm the United States attorney for the Western District. In July of 1997 the defendant was arrested for attempting to abduct a woman in the national park.
That is why he is currently incarcerated. Interviews subsequent to his arrest led us to believe that he may have been involved, which began -- which allowed the investigation to focus on Mr. Rice, which has led to his indictment here today.
Thank you.
Q Mr. Attorney General, back in the '80s there was a belief that the Shenandoah murders may have been linked to what was called the Colonial Parkway murders. Was there ever a link established one way or the other? Perhaps the other --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Is that the Highway 29 murders?
MR. : No, sir.
MR. : (Off mike) -- separate cases.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: They're different cases.
MR. : (Off mike) -- Parkway is down in Tidewater. The Route 29 stalker --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Let me just say this. It would be inappropriate for me to speak outside the indictment about any nexus. I just wondered if that's what you had reference to.
Yes, sir?
Q If I may change subjects, sir, last week a man who's named Mr. Hamdi was flown from Guantanamo to -- I believe, to a military base in Virginia, and I'm wondering if you can say anything about the extent of Justice Department interest in him, if any, and what his status is.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Obviously, the Department of Defense has had custody of this individual, and whether or not he would be the subject of any effort at prosecution would only come as a result of an investigation. The department is not in a position to make an announcement about an investigation at this time.
Q Will you now support the pending hate crime legislation in Congress?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: The pending hate crime legislation in Congress is under review in the Justice Department at this time. And pending the outcome of that review, we would make an announcement if we chose to support the legislation.
Q Are you inclined to support it?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: We're inclined to prosecute hate crimes like this one -- prosecute them to the fullest. The utilization of the sentencing enhancement procedures that relate to both gender and homosexuality in this instance are key to our ability to request the death penalty in cases like this.
Yes, sir?
STAFF: Last question.
Q Where is Darrell David Rice currently being held?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I'll defer as to the institution. Do you know?
MR. BROWNLEE: Yes, sir. He is in Petersburg Federal Penitentiary.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Thank you all very much.

Collection: Legislation

This document is from the United States District Court of Charlottesville, VA regarding the Indictment of Darrell David Rice for the murders of Julianne Williams and Laura Winans in late May/June of 1996. The document shows that the Grand Jury charges Rice with four counts of capital murder, two counts per victim.

Collection: Legislation
Darrell David Rice 1996 Shenandoah National Park Possible Murder Indictment.pdf

This is the United States District Court of Charlottesville, Virginia's Notice of Intent to introduce evidence against Darrell David Rice, the suspected killer of Julianne Williams and Laura Winans. Williams and Winans were murdered in Shenandoah National Park along the Appalachian Trail in late May/June of 1996. The two women were in a homosexual relationship with one another, and Rice was quoted as hating gays and believing that Williams and Winans deserved to die. The document states that Rice, if found guilty, would be charged with capital murder.

Collection: Legislation
Darrell David Rice 1996 Shenandoah National Park in US District Court April 10 2002.pdf

This is an FBI poster regarding the 1996 double murder of Julianne Williams and Laura Winans in Shenandoah National Park. The couple was last seen alive on May 24, 1996, and were found dead on June 1, 1996. Williams was just 24 years old at the time of her death, and Winans was 26 years old. The dog, Taj, was unharmed and found nearby. The crime is still unsolved.

Collection: Hikers
Julianne WIlliams and Laura Winans Murder Victim Poster.pdf

This is an image of Laura Winans, a hiker who visited Shenandoah National Park in May of 1996. Winans visited the park with partner Julianne Williams, and their dog Taj. Their mission while in the park was to hike on the Appalachian Trail. However, between May 24 and June 1, 1996, these two women were murdered along the trail. The crime is still unsolved.

Collection: Hikers
Laura Winans 1996 Shenandoah National Park Murder Victim.jpg

This is a photo of Julianne Williams, a hiker who visited Shenandoah National Park in late May of 1996. Williams, partner Laura Winans, and dog Taj were spending a few days on the Appalachian Trail together. However, Williams and Winans never left the trail; they were murdered sometime between May 24 and June 1, 1996. The crime is still unsolved.

Collection: Hikers
Julianne Williams 1996 Shenandoah National Park Murder Victim.jpg