Real Names: Julianne Marie Williams and Laura Salisbury Winans
Nicknames: Julie (Julianne); Lollie (Laura)
Location: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Date: May 24, 1996
Details: On May 19, 1996, twenty-four-year-old Julianne Williams of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and her twenty-six-year-old girlfriend, Laura Winans, of Unity, Maine, went on a camping trip in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. They took their golden retriever, Taj, with them. They went on the trip so that Julianne could enjoy some free time before she began a new job in Lake Champlain, Vermont. Sadly, she never had the chance to start it.
Julianne and Laura were last seen alive on May 24 in the park. On May 31, their families reported them missing. On June 1, their bodies were found at a remote campsite in the park about a quarter-mile from Skyline Drive off the Appalachian Trail. Laura was found inside the tent. Julianne was found in her sleeping bag about forty feet away, down an embankment. Their hands were bound, their mouths were gagged, and their throats were slit. Both were partially undressed, but neither was sexually assaulted. Taj was later found alive near Whiteoak Canyon Trail. Although there are suspects, the murders remain unsolved.
Suspects: Maryland resident Darrell David Rice was the prime suspect in the murders. In July 1997, he was arrested for the attempted abduction of a female bicyclist in Shenandoah National Park. In that case, he ran her off the road while she was on her bike and then tried to drag her into his truck. When he was unsuccessful, he tried to run her over. Fortunately, she was able to escape. He pleaded guilty to the crime and received an eleven-year sentence.
In April 2002, Rice was charged with Julianne and Laura's murders. Investigators claimed that he killed them because he hated women and homosexuals. He made statements to investigators that he "hated gays" and preyed on women "because they are more vulnerable than men." He also stated that Julianne and Laura "deserved to die because they were lesbian whores". He reportedly had poor relationships with female coworkers, often verbally harassing them. He also had allegedly committed numerous physical and verbal assaults against randomly selected women. He was also seen on videotape entering the park on May 25 and 26, 1996; he denied being in the park at those times. Furthermore, a witness saw him there around the time of the murders.
However, investigators failed to connect forensic evidence from the crime scene to Rice. DNA from a hair attached to Laura's bindings did not match him. Other DNA found at the scene also did not match him. In February 2004, the charges against him were dropped due to lack of evidence. He was later connected to the murder of Alicia Showalter Reynolds and the attempted abductions attributed to the Route 29 Stalker. In 2005, he pleaded no contest to the attempted abduction of one of the "stalker" victims. However, he was never charged in Alicia's case.
Richard Evonitz is also considered a suspect in the murders. He committed suicide in 2002 as police were about to arrest him in three other murders. It is not known if any evidence connects him to this case.
The FBI is also investigating whether Julianne and Laura's murders are related to the 1986 murder of another lesbian couple, Cathleen Thomas and Rebecca Ann Dowski, that took place in eastern Virginia. In that case, the victims were similarly bound and slashed. That case is also considered by the FBI to be the first of a possible series of murders in that state, the others involving heterosexual couples. It is known as the Colonial Parkway murders.
- This case was not featured on Unsolved Mysteries, however, it has appeared on Haunting Evidence.
- It is believed that their murders are connected to the death of Alicia Showalter Reynolds, who was featured on the show.
Results: Unsolved. The FBI continues to investigate this case; Rice has not been ruled out as a suspect. He was released from prison in 2011.
- Laura Winans and Julianne Williams on the FBI Website
- Man indicted in '96 slayings of hikers in Virginia - April 10, 2002
- Man indicted in '96 killing of two hikers - April 11, 2002
- Man is Charged in 2 Killings That U.S. Calls Hate Crime - April 11, 2002
- Hate charges filed in slaying of 2 lesbians - April 11, 2002
- Prosecutors ignored 1996 DNA evidence, defense argues - February 25, 2004
- Charges Dismissed in Shenandoah Park Slayings - February 26, 2004
- After Rice: New questions in park murders - March 18, 2004
- Man once charged in lesbian hiker killings faces new indictment - June 9, 2004
- After 20 years, Shenandoah National Park double-murder still unsolved, but the FBI says the case remains active - June 2, 2016
- A Murder in the Woods: The Mystery Behind Shenandoah National Park's Last Homicide - March 1, 2018
- 25 years later, FBI still seeks clues in hiker murders at Shenandoah National Park - June 2, 2021
- Innocence Project says answers to cold case Shenandoah murders may sit buried in FBI evidence locker - September 20, 2021
- Laura Winans and Julianne Marie Williams on Find a Grave