Into the Wild: Discovering Unexplained Phenomena in US National Parks

By Jack Ripley | April 21, 2024

The Unsolved Murders O Julianne Marie Williams and Laura Winans

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The murders of Julianne Marie Williams and Laura “Lollie” Winans, which happened two decades ago in Shenandoah National Park, are still unresolved today. At one point, authorities believed they had identified the perpetrator. The two women, both in their twenties from New England, arrived at the park on May 19, planning to stay for the Memorial Day weekend. When they didn't show up for work on May 28, it was discovered they were missing. On June 1, their bodies were found at their secluded campsite, facing Stony Man Mountain. They were bound with duct tape and had their mouths covered, both unclothed with their throats slashed. Despite generating considerable attention and tips, the case remained unsolved.

A year later, Darrell David Rice was arrested and convicted of stalking and assaulting a woman biking on Skyline Drive, near Shenandoah National Park. Surveillance cameras placed him entering and leaving the park around the time of the murders. He was indicted in 2002 based on information from an inmate who claimed Rice spoke of killing a woman in the park.

However, charges against Rice were dropped two years later due to a lack of evidence. One potential witness identified Rice from a lineup photo, but with only around 65 to 70 percent certainty. Another witness reported seeing a strange man while camping in the park but provided uncertain details. DNA testing of a male hair found on the duct tape did not match Rice's DNA. Despite this, U.S. Attorney Thomas Bondurant still considered Rice a suspect.

Scott Lilly's Mysterious Demise

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Scott Lilly embarked on a hike along the Appalachian Trail, intending to journey from Maryland to Georgia for personal reflection. Unfortunately, his trek came to an end in northwest Amherst County, Virginia.

Lilly's last communication with the outside world was in July 2011, when he was climbing the Priest, a well-known mountain in Nelson County. In August of the same year, hikers found Lilly's body in a shallow grave near Cow Camp Gap, which is close to the trail in the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area of George Washington National Forest. Oddly, his belongings, including his shoes and backpack, were missing.

A medical examiner determined that Lilly, who was known as "Stonewall" on the trail due to his interest in the Civil War and Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, died from "asphyxia by suffocation," and ruled it a murder. Friends and family explained that Lilly, aged 30 and from South Bend, Indiana, was on the trail seeking self-discovery.

Following the discovery of his body, the FBI, responsible for investigating incidents on public lands, attempted to contact other hikers who had interacted with Lilly. These hikers were known by trail names such as "Mr. Coffee," "White Wolf," "Papa Smurf," "Combat Gizmo," and "Space Cadet."

Online discussions and forums related to true crime and the Appalachian Trail were abuzz with discussions about Lilly and the hikers mentioned by the FBI. However, even after five years, no arrests have been made in connection with the case.