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VERLOT, WASH. - Two female hikers found dead on a trail near Mount Pilchuck were slain, Snohomish County officials confirmed Wednesday.
Women Found In Hiking Area Were Murdered | KOMO News - Seattle, Washington | News Archive

How soon we forget:
2 women hikers found slain on A.T.
Trail murders
Two women hikers were found slain June 1st, just off the Appalachian Trail near Skyland Lodge in Shenandoah National Park. The bodies were found on National Trails Day by park authorities who had been alerted a day or so before that the women were overdue from a backpacking trip.

Killed were Julianne Williams, 24, of St. Cloud, Minn., and Lollie Winans, 26, of Unity, Maine. They were camped about 1.5 miles from Skyland Lodge, in a spot about 25 yards off the trail near a brook. Their dog, a golden retriever/lab mix named Taj, was found nearby, apparently unharmed. A roll of film found among their belongings was developed, and pictures from that roll have been used in posters seeking information from the public.

Investigators said the women's throats had been cut but officials would not say if the women were sexually assaulted. In a story published Saturday, July 20, the Washington Post reported that FBI officials are considering the possibility that the women were killed by two or more assailants, not one.

New details emerged Saturday that revealed the women's wrists were bound. The Post quoted Stanley Klein, special agent in charge of the FBI's Richmond office, who said one body was found inside their tent and the other was found outside. The women were last seen in the park on May 23, but an autopsy report concluded they died on or after May 27. Investigators have ruled out robbery as a motive.

"We've had hundreds and hundreds of leads to follow," Klein told the Post. "This has been one of the most exhaustive investigations I've seen, and I've been with (the FBI) for 28 years." The story was featured in a segment on the "America's Most Wanted" television show, the same day the Post article appeared. (A transcript of that show is now available.)

Both women were trained as guides for wilderness camping and hiking. "They wanted to help other people learn to be in the outdoors. They were both very experienced outdoorswomen," Peggy Willens told the Associated Press. Willens is executive director of Woodswomen, a Minneapolis-based adventure travel vacation organization for women.

On Thursday, June 20, Attorney General Janet Reno spoke to a homosexual rights group in Roanoke, Virginia, and assured them that authorities are considering anti-lesbian prejudice as a possible motive for the brutal attack. "From the outset, investigators have been exhaustively pursuing all motives, including the possibility that the crime was motivated by the sexual orientation of the victims," Reno was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The park service issues frequent updates on the current investigation into the Shenandoah Park tragedy, and have set up a toll-free number for information. A $25,000 reward has also been posted for information that could help federal police.

Park Service press release, 6-17-96
Over 100 National Park employees and Special Agents from the FBI are working jointly on the investigation of the double homicide of Julie Williams and Lollie Winans. The investigation is being conducted jointly by the National Park Service and FBI because the homicides occurred in Shenandoah National Park which is federal property.
The FBI has approximately 20 special agents and 20 NPS criminal investigators assigned to the case full time. Nearly 80 other NPS employees and volunteers from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Appalachian Trail Conference are supporting efforts toward solving the crime.
A toll free number to a phone bank in the national park has resulted in hundreds of possible leads from callers throughout the Eastern United States. Each lead is being investigated.
According to the NPS incident spokesperson, Paul Pfenninger, "The response to the toll free number and the $25,000 reward offer has been very good. All possible leads are being fully investigated and we encourage the public to call the toll free number with information about this case."
The hikers were last seen on May 23. Anyone who may have seen two females hiking in Shenandoah National Park with a golden retriever/lab mix (named Taj) between May 24 and June 1 or have any other information that could assist in this investigation are asked to call, toll free, 1-888-856-2467.

End of press release
They were the eighth and ninth people killed in the past two decades along the Appalachian Trail. "In three of those cases, they were double-murders: six incidents, nine murders," the ATC's Brian King was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

In 1988, a man frightened two women off the trail and shot them, killing one, in south-central Pennsylvania. Stephen Roy Carr was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He acknowledge at the time that he shot the women because they were lesbians. Two years later, a man and his fiancee were shot to death as they slept in the Thelma Marks Shelter on the A.T. south of Duncannon, Pa. Paul David Crews is on death row after being convicted for their murders.

In May 1981, a man and a woman hiking from Maine to Georgia were killed in a remote cabin near Pearisburg, Va. Randall Lee Smith, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges, is again up for parole in September. A Wisconsin woman was hacked to death by a hiker with a hatchet in Tennessee in April 1975; her attacker died in prison. A 26-year-old man was killed at a shelter in Georgia in May 1974.

In 1995, there were 15 homicides in national parks, which cover 83 million acres, the National Park Service said.