The most recent information about the case is near the top of the page. If you are unfamiliar with the case you may want to jump down to stories from the early days of the case. You can also read the comments and thoughts about the case made by visitors to the page.
Note: The murders took place in a backcountry campsite, not too far from Skyland Lodge, in the general vicinity of White Oak Canyon Trail. While the events did not take place along the Appalachian Trail, the Trail is not very far away. The events transpired during the height of the thru-hiking season in Shenandoah Park. I was first alerted to what had happened by an email from Richard Kushman, who had been sending me reports of his and his wife's thru-hike. He asked whether I had heard anything about deaths in the Park. They were just entering the park from the south and were very uneasy about these as yet unconfirmed reports.
Note also that many links are no longer available. Lots of sites unfortunately remove info after a certain period of time. Part of the reason is that some sites wish to be able to sell copies of older articles. I suppose other sites just don't see the need for keeping older news.
Note: 888-856-2467 is a toll-free number to report any information you might have regarding the case. (i.e. If you think you may have spotted or had contact with the two young women and their Golden Retriever/Lab dog around May 24, or slightly before or after.)
A $25,000 reward is now being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murders.
If you wish to share your thoughts with others about this case, write to firstname.lastname@example.org either from here or via regular email and I will post them on the page.
Sandy Marra of PATC was interviewed and pointed out that the greatest dangers in hiking were from such things as lack of preparation, falling on slippery rocks, and wandering off a trail and getting lost.
Kennedy, the head of the NPS, said that crime had actually been falling in recent years in parks relative to the number of users. It was also pointed out that the most dangerous part of a hike was the drive to get to the starting point.
A scout group from Florida expressed much nervousness about their long-planned camping trip to the park. The leaders were trying to make sure that all the members of the group were in sight at all times. Some of the leaders also contemplated bringing guns along on the trip, but decided not to. [Note: It would have been nice if the story had pointed out that bringing a gun into the park would have been illegal.]
As of Evening of June 3:
On Saturday evening, the bodies of two women were found in Shenandoah Park in Virginia. It is believed that they were affiliated with an organization called Woodswomen, based in Minnesota. Though as of 11:00 P.M. June 3, the Park Service had not released any names, Channel 4 reported that the victims were Julianne Williams from Minnesota and Lollie Winans from Maine.
There were reports that investigators descended down from the Crescent Rock Overlook to detain and question a man who had been reported as suspicious by other hikers. The report said that after questioning, he was not considered a strong suspect in the case.
One report included a segment from the P.A.T.C. headquarters in Vienna, Virginia. Members of the club will be volunteering to help authorities in the investigation.
The Park Service has an incident report hotline for anyone who may have any information that they think might be of help in this case: 888-856-2467.
The reports indicate that investigators seem to think this was an isolated incident, and don't seem to think that others in the vicinity are in particular danger. Visitors to the park were not being informed about what had happened. When they found out about what had happened, some were understandably upset to find out that this information had been withheld from them.
Note: As of at least the 4th, the Park is now making efforts to inform hikers in the Park about what happened.
As of June 4:
Reports are saying that the last time the two hikers were reported as having been seen was on May 24. They had planned about a 5 day hike in the park.
40 Ridge runners from PATC are scheduled to begin helping authorities by interviewing hikers and reading logbooks in various shelters to try to glean some info about the case.
Camera crews were at the ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry. Several hikers were interviewed both in HF and at other spots along the trail.
The two women had a dog with them. Some have reported that it is a Golden Retriever. Some hikers reported that it was the dog that may have been helpful in leading searchers to the two hikers, who had been reported as missing on Friday, May 31.
The man who was detained, but who police do not appear to consider to be a suspect, was wanted in New York on unrelated charges.
As of June 5:
No news other than the Park is making a stepped up effort to at least alert visitors to the park about the incident. The Park is also actively contacting other National Parks, especially those along the A.T., to see if they have had any crimes with any similarities to this one.
As of June 6:
Head of the Park Service appeared before a Senate committee and was questioned about why it had taken the Park 2 days before notifying the public about what had happened. If they cannot provide a satisfactory explanation, a further hearing may be held.
News media were allowed to visit the crime scene for the first time. It's marked by big orange markings on the trees surrounding the area.
Gay rights groups are asking the Justice Department to investigate this as a possible hate crime.
Color posters are being distributed up and down the trail with pictures of the victims and of their dog, asking for anyone who may have seen them to call the 888 (toll-free) number, and offering the $25,000 reward.
As of June 7: Washington Post article reports that 5 employees of Skyland Lodge have told FBI that they saw one or both of the women and their dog eating at the lodge restaurant and congregating with backpackers as recently as May 30 or 31. Chief Park spokesman Terry Lewis said he could not confirm the statements, and said that at this point the last confirmed sighting of the women was on May 23. An FBI agent said reports were being taken seriously, but declined to say whether their recollections fit in with the time of death as estimated by the medical examiner.
******************************************************** NPS Appalachian Trail Project Office, Harpers Ferry, WV 6/9/96 A second request for information concerning the double homocide of Julie Williams and Lollie Winans in Shenandoah National Park is being issued by the R.W. Gray, Chief Ranger of the Appalachian Trail Project Office. Investigators are interested in locating any individuals who saw or conversed with these two individuals. Specifically, investigators are requesting that the following information be provided: 1. When the two girls were spotted. 2. How long they were in the area. A description of the two girls follows: Julie Williams White Female Age 24 5'9" 125 lbs Slim Build Long light brown hair Lollie Winans White Female Age 26 5'8" 145 lbs Stocky Build Medium length brown hair The bodies of these two hikers were found in Shenandoah National Park at their backcountry campsite near Skyland on Saturday, June 1. They were last seen on Friday, May 24. They had been hiking with a golden retriever mix named, "Taj" $ 25,000 reward offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for their deaths. If you have any information to share regarding this case, please call: 1-888-856-2467
Newsgroups: rec.backcountry Subject: Re: Girls killed on AT in SNP [Richmond Times-Dispatch] News Index Feedback Gateway Virginia Tuesday, June 4, 1996 Two hikers found dead off trail Women were killed at Shenandoah Park BY WES ALLISON Times-Dispatch Staff Writer Map ----------------------------------------------------------- BIG MEADOWS -- Two young, female hikers were found slain at a primitive campsite in the Shenandoah National Park over the weekend. Rangers discovered their bodies Saturday evening off the Appalachian Trail, near Skyland Lodge. Police said the deaths were ''apparent homicides'' and that evidence found at the scene led them to believe the killings were ''isolated.'' They did not elaborate. Police also would not release the names, ages or addresses of the women, or say how they died. FBI Special Agent Stanley Klein said the bodies have been taken to the state medical examiner's office in Fairfax to be identified. Both women apparently were in their early 20s. The two may have been dead several days before two rangers found them about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Acting Park Superintendent Greg Stiles said a search had begun Friday morning after a Minnesota man reported that his daughter and a friend were late returning from a hiking trip. The man's name is not being released. Neither Stiles nor Klein would confirm that these were the same two women, but they did say the search has virtually ended. Asked why the park waited two days before mentioning the murders, Stiles said, ''It took us a while to figure out exactly what we had. It is not all that uncommon, unfortunately, to find deceased people in the park.'' Most are suicides or accidents, he said, and this double slaying ''looks like it's isolated.'' The killings come at the beginning of the warm-weather tourist season -- more than 300,000 people visit each summer -- and the park was busy this weekend, visitors said. Yesterday, many hadn't heard about the deaths and said they were surprised park officials had not told them. ''They haven't said anything. I'd rather know,'' said a shocked Carole Kelley, 23, of Newport News, who was camping with a friend, Lorraine Lynch, 27. ''So would I,'' Lynch said. The FBI and the National Park Service are heading the investigation. Authorities met with reporters at the popular Big Meadows campground and wayside on Skyline Drive, about nine miles south of Skyland Lodge. Park spokesman Paul Pfinninger said the park's three districts each have seven to 10 rangers who regularly patrol the remote back country. The park is preparing some general safety information for hikers, but Stiles insisted that, statistically, hiking, camping and visiting are safe. ''As in any place, people need to be concerned of any crimes and take appropriate action.'' Seven other people have been killed on the Appalachian Trail in the past 20 years. Park police could not recall any murders since 1990, when a young couple were shot and stabbed as they slept at a shelter northwest of Harrisburg, Pa. A man was arrested and convicted for that double slaying. Carol and Tom Hughes, who live near Pittsburgh, visit Shenandoah National Park twice a year and had never feared for their safety. ''When something like this happens, it's a major concern,'' Mr. Hughes said. ''You should be able to come here with a knapsack, put a bedroll down and not worry about it.'' Metro and Virginia Stories Index Richmond Times-Dispatch Feedback News Index Gateway Virginia © 1996, Richmond Newspapers Inc.
Press Release from SNP
Official News Release from the National Park Service - INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK On May 31st, Shenandoah National Park received notice that two female hikers were overdue from a several day long circuit backpacking trip through the Central District. A search was begun in the areas of Skyland and Whiteoak Canyon. On Saturday, June 1 at approximately 8:30pm, park rangers discovered the bodies of two women in their twenties at a backcountry campsite east of Skyline Drive in the Skyland area. The bodies have been identified by the medical examiners office as Julie Williams, age 24, and Lollie Winans, age 26. Both women were living and working in Vermont. According to the medical examiner, death of both victims was caused by an incised wound to the neck. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Virginia State Police and National Park Service Criminal Investigators are working jointly on the investigation; many local law enforcement officials have provided support. Backcountry users are being advised of the situation and are being reminded of safe practices in the backcountry. Every lead is being investigated. As a result of the increased awareness for the safety in the park, and individual, reported as acting strange, was taken into custody near mile 44 on the Skyline Drive in the afternoon of June 3rd. The individual is being held in connection with a warrant from the state of New York. This arrest was not related to the investigation into the death of the women discovered on June 1. The hikers were last seen on May 24th. Anyone who may have seen two female hikers/backpackers in Shenandoah National Park with a golded retriever/lab mix (named Taj) between MAY 24th and JUNE 1 or have any other information that could assist in this investigation are asked to call toll free 1-888-856-2467. Patrols are being increased in the Park. Hikers should remember: 1. It is always advisable to hike in groups of two or more. 2. Be sure family or friends are aware of your backcountry itinerary and timetable. 3. Be cautious of strangers, especially inquisitive ones. Do not share details of your route or planned camping location. 4. Do not set up backcountry campsites near roads or developed areas. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ If you were hiking in the vicinity of Skyland/Whiteoak Canyon during the periods MAY 24th to JUNE 1st, and you have information you think may be of interest to this investigation, please contact the Park at the number above. If you have friends that were hiking in this region, please pass this notice on to them and ask them to respond if appropriate. Andy PATC Webmaster http://io.datasys.swri.edu/PATC/patc.html