Real Names: Julianne Marie Williams and Laura S. Winans
Nicknames: Julie (Julianne); Lollie (Laura)
Location: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Date: May 24, 1996
Details: In May 1996, twenty-four-year-old Julianne Williams and her twenty-six-year-old girlfriend, Laura Winans, went on a camping trip along the Appalachian Trail at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. They took their golden retriever, Taj, with them. The trip was for Julianne to 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 the trail on May 24. A few days later on June 1, their bodies were found in the park about a quarter-mile from Skyline Drive off the Appalachian Trail. Their hands were bound, their mouths were gagged, and their throats were slit. Taj was later found near Whiteoak Canyon Trail. Although there are suspects, the murders remain unsolved.
Suspects: Maryland resident Darrell David Rice was a prime suspect in the murders. In July 1997, he was arrested for the attempted abduction of a female bicyclist in Shenandoah National Park. He pleaded guilty to the crime and received an eleven-year sentence. In April 2002, he was charged with Julianne and Laura's murders.
Investigators claimed that Rice killed Julianne and Laura 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 (expletives)". He reportedly had poor relationships with female coworkers, often verbally harassing them. He was also seen on videotape entering the park on May 25 and 26, 1996. 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. In 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 known as 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 considered a suspect in the murders, but 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 the case in connection with the 1986 murder of a lesbian couple that took place in eastern Virginia, in which the victims were similarly bound and slashed, a double murder that the FBI considers to be the first of a possible series of murders in that state, the others involving heterosexual couples.
Extra Notes: 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 remains 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
- Man indicted in '96 killing of two hikers
- Man is Charged in 2 Killings That U.S. Calls Hate Crime
- Hate charges filed in slaying of 2 lesbians
- Prosecutors ignored 1996 DNA evidence, defense argues
- After Rice: New questions in park murders
- Man once charged in lesbian hiker killings faces new indictment
- After 20 years, Shenandoah National Park double-murder still unsolved, but the FBI says the case remains active
- A Murder in the Woods: The Mystery Behind Shenandoah National Park's Last Homicide
- Laura Winans and Julianne Marie Williams on Find a Grave