Appalachian Trail Histories



This is a newspaper article discusses the gay community's concerns with the 1996 double murders of Julianne Williams and Laura Winans while hiking the Appalachian Trail. This article, published just 16 days after the women's bodies were discovered, deals with concerns as to whether or not this case should be tried as a hate crime, as Williams and Winans were in a relationship with one another at the time of their deaths.




Harrisonburg Daily News-Record.


1996 Shenandoah National Park Murder Victims Julianne Williams and Laura Winans on the Appalachian Trail


Rachel Stierle


None recorded.


Prior, Richard. "Gay Group Wants Bias Angle Known." Harrisonburg Daily News-Record. June 17, 1996. Accessed November 8, 2016.


Harrisonburg Daily News-Record


Harrisonburg Daily News-Record. , “"Gay Group Wants Bias Angle Known",” Appalachian Trail Histories, accessed May 29, 2024,

"Gay Group Wants Bias Angle Known"
Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) - June 17, 1996
By RICHARD PRIOR News-Record Staff Writer

A homosexual advocacy group is not looking for "special treatment" in the investigation of two slain women hikers, but wants to make sure the public is aware that anti-lesbian bias may have motivated the killer, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C., has gotten no response to a letter sent Friday to Attorney General Janet Reno, asking her to consider that the deaths of Lollie Winans and Julianne Williams may have been hate crimes, task force spokesman Tracey Conaty said Wednesday.

Searchers found the bodies of Winans and Williams, who were hiking together, June 1 near the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. Both women's throats had been cut.

"We're not asking for any special treatment, but if the motivation is bias, we do want that revealed; we don't want that aspect ignored," Conaty said.

The organization was spurred to send the letter after reading statements in the media that anti-lesbian bias might have initially been ruled out.

"If that's the case, we want to know why," Conaty said. "We're not saying it was (a hate crime). We just have the responsibility to make sure that possibility's not ignored."

An FBI agent said Wednesday that investigators have "ruled out no motive" in the case.

According to The Associated Press, a Presbyterian minister in Burlington, Vt., identified Winans and Williams as lesbians. The Rev. Rebecca Strader, whose congregation reportedly welcomes homosexuals, was quoted in The Washington Blade, a newspaper that serves the gay and lesbian community.

Strader has an unlisted telephone number and has been unavailable for comment.

The women met through an outdoors organization and arranged their hiking trip several weeks ago.

"One of the important reasons for getting these crimes designated accurately is that we need to know the extent that they're happening," Conaty said. "People need to know the risk is out there.

"When they don't get talked about honestly, people are misled into believing they're not a problem."

At least one of the mothers of the latest victims learned of her daughter's lesbian lifestyle only after her death, news reports indicated.

Anti-lesbian bias has been blamed for at least one other killing along the Appalachian Trail, the AP has reported. Claudia Brenner reportedly survived five shots, but her companion, Rebecca Wight, died in a hail of gunfire in 1988 near Gettysburg, Pa. They were shot after reportedly performing a lesbian sex act alongside a stream.

They were shot several times by a man who observed the act. He is is now serving a life sentence for the attack. He reportedly lived in a cave near the scene of the shooting.