Our conversation was halted by the approach of a short, bearded man in a baggy black suit and large-brimmed hat, staggering under a pack that towered high over his head. At the same time, the trio of southbounders chasing Geoff and Molly walked into Duncannon. Help the Mollys of this world learn who you are, and try to enlist the help of other inmates to help in this effort. The graffiti-carved plank floor slept four or five comfortably, eight in a pinch. Sunset came at 7:22 p.m., but the shelter was hunched against the mountain’s eastern flank, in the shade of the ridgetop. An hour later they were back in Duncannon, phoning the state police. September 1990, Molly LaRue and Geoff Hood were hiking the Appalachian Trail when they stopped to have their photo taken. But they also wrote in the logbooks left in shelters, which, in the days before cell phones, were the most reliable means for through-hikers to connect. Why he stabbed her eight times in the neck, throat, and back. Appalachian Trail Murders: The Appalachian Trail, like most parks and hiking areas in America is relatively safe. We sped over the high, wild Presidential Range and down the 2,000-foot Webster Cliffs, setting up camp at the bottom two nights behind Geoff and Molly. Since then he’d laid low, avoiding attention and revealing little of his past, which had been troubled from the start. “Molly was a strong girl,” he says. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Karen Lutz has achieved an uneasy peace. First impressions: Molly—blond and dimpled, quick to smile, solidly built but obviously fit. If chaos could find them, I realized, it could find anyone. Or maybe what set this sad affair apart were the victims, who combined competence, wholesomeness, and smarts. He flipped through his trail journal, started reading. When they finished, nothing remained of the old hut but a bald patch in the forest floor, not even its name. All the indicators suggested that. The Thelma Marks shelter, the day after the killings. LaRue, 25, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, had been tied up and raped before she was stabbed eight times in the neck, throat and back by an 8 3/4-inch doubled-edged blade. His name was really Paul David Crews, and he was a suspect in a murder. A 38-year-old man has been charged in the slayings of two young hikers on the Appalachian Trial. Murder on the Appalachian Trail. By Steve Marroni | smarroni@pennlive.com For news … He’s also a Southern Baptist minister. Molly’s body was transported to a funeral home outside Cleveland, where the LaRues found her on a mat, covered with a sheet. And so, on June 4, 1990, having climbed the day before to the AT’s northern terminus on the peak of mile-high Mount Katahdin, they set off on their long walk—and found it surprisingly arduous. (Photo: Earl Swift). “They were settling down for the night,” he says. When he left Katahdin, he said, he had not been a good Baptist—which would explain all that beer he drank with me. He spent 15 years in prison before his release in 1996. I was in the courtroom. Earl Swift is the author of five books, including Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream. The hikers unpacked their gear and called their parents, discussing their planned reunion in Harpers Ferry to celebrate making it halfway. Originally ordered to die by lethal injection, Crews is serving two life sentences in state prison without parole for murdering the couple. This much is known: later in the day on September 13, Crews returned to the trail and hiked north into Duncannon without his red gym bags. But he later found Barbara, who’d lost her husband. THE FOREST TRAIL THAT BEGINS at the highest point on Virginia’s Skyline Drive and drops quickly away from civilization seems an unlikely site for a double murder. They would have had plenty of room to unroll their sleeping gear and spread out a bit. In all honesty, there have been instances of murder and foul play on the trail. Eight Bullets: One Woman's Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence by Claudia Brenner (1995-04-04) 4.4 out of 5 stars 23. He came upon the scene, and something happened. Without a hello, he demanded that he be given the shelter’s east wall, where Greg had already set up. Glenda Hood held her hand shortly before she died in July 2006. In the morning—Wednesday, September 12, 1990—they met Molly’s elderly great aunt and two other relatives on the town square, then accompanied them to lunch at a nearby truck stop. Cloistered from civilization by a steep 900-foot climb over loose and jutting rock, the glade goes unseen by most everyone but a straggle of hikers on the Appalachian Trail, the 2,180-mile footpath carved into the roofs of 14 eastern states. “The sun was coming down through the trees, and it was a peaceful place, despite what had happened there. And it reverberates still, all these years later, because what befell Geoff Hood and Molly LaRue at the Thelma Marks shelter is a cautionary tale without lesson. In his opening statement, Perry County District Attorney R. Scott Cramer said it was important for jurors to understand the subculture spawned by the Appalachian Trail and how Crews was an outsider who didn’t fit in. It is a quiet, restorative place, this clearing high on a Pennsylvania ridge. Geoff had called from there three days before. “I was sure it was them,” he says. Geoff had hitched to a store for beer, and we all sat around the house’s kitchen table, drinking and talking, late into the evening—about their layoffs, their plans for grad school after reaching Georgia, and, not least, Rubin. He burst into tears. Jerry Philpott, the Duncannon lawyer who represented Crews at his 1991 trial, says he believes the couple reached the shelter first. Three park rangers stopped Crews as he was coming across a bridge into Harpers Ferry around 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21 – eight days after the murders. But the trial was not without its rewards. And they were so damn nice, even to Rubin. “She said, ‘You know I’ve always wanted to do the Appalachian Trail, and I have a friend here who wants to do it, too. Eleven days into my hike, I stumbled out of the woods and into Monson, Maine, where I met Greg Hammer, an Army vet in his late twenties whose Virginia home was just a short distance from mine. The next day, I sweated four steep and rocky miles up Cove Mountain to the Thelma Marks shelter. “Peace be with you.”. They called the new place the Cove Mountain shelter. Some of us formed lasting bonds with Geoff’s and Molly’s families. “At first glance,” Link wrote in his report, “one would be led to believe that the subject was asleep.”, “At the other side of the lean-to,” he wrote, “the body of the female was observed laying face down in a pool of blood.”. They were two young lovers engaged to be married who were sharing an adventure down the Appalachian Trail until they crossed paths with Paul David Crews. A storm rumbled in the distance as he pulled a Bible from his pack, along with his journal. And so on, whenever he opened his mouth, which he did a lot: to my everlasting regret, I devoted far more space in my journal to Rubin than to Geoff and Molly. Hood was partially naked and clutching a white shirt. She was later found naked and nearly decapitated on an abandoned railroad bed. I was still on the trail, hiking in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, when a pair of day-hikers told me a couple had been killed on the trail up in Pennsylvania five days before. Yet, while murder along the Appalachian Trail is quite rare, there have been quite a few brutal murders that have made trail-goers just a bit more cautious and aware of their surroundings. The police recovered the car, along with Crews’s knife and bloody clothes, but found no sign of him. During the sentencing hearing, Dr. Gene L. Cary, a psychiatrist from the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, testified that Crews had consumed nearly a quart of whiskey and a “heavy amount” of cocaine just prior to committing the murders. He unpacked, muttering, as our conversation resumed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court automatically reviews death penalty cases. Story: The first recorded murder on the Appalachian Trail was Joel Polson. James Jordan, 30, was arrested on … He wasn’t far from the spot where the AT veered from the road and into the trees. Subscribe to our newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest outdoor news. Did they have a conversation with him? The families arranged for memorial services while police searched for the killer. I was stinking, blistered, and covered in mosquito bites. The climb over lichen-flaked stone and loose scree ended at Hawk Rock, a promontory offering a sweeping vista of the town, rivers, and rolling farmland below. Sometime that night a 38-year-old drifter on the run from law enforcement killed both of … She ventured into the clearing. With the law closing in, his brother gave him a lift into the country, and he took off running. He reached the hut two weeks before Geoff and Molly. Morning came. We eyed the near miss by flashlight, awed by the almost surgical precision with which fate had spared us—and unnerved that life or death could turn on such blind, stupid luck. To sentence anyone to death, jurors need to decide if the aggravating circumstances of the crime outweigh any mitigating circumstances. Double murder of hikers shocked Appalachian Trail community 25 years ago this month. “There we met Paul, whom we talked with quite a while. It had been 21 years since I’d last seen him, when I’d attended his wedding. I couldn’t claim to know Geoff and Molly well, but they seemed far savvier in the woods than I was. Or the questions that lingered when the man responsible would not say why he shot Geoff three times or why he tied Molly’s hands behind her back and looped the rope around her neck. Connie LaRue, also a nurse, volunteered at a hospice on the shore of Lake Erie. She would say, ‘If you love me, get over it. Both of us slept late and lounged at Thelma Marks, drinking coffee, until close to noon. The prosecution at trial called witnesses who placed Crews on the trail in the days before and after the two young social workers were found dead. Cindi, an elementary school teacher, and Biff, a jeweler, knew they were close on Geoff and Molly’s heels. The next morning Fox shot Polson in the back of the head and kidnapped McFaddin. Others joined Marla after me—Kansas friends, a couple of hikers the ATC had lined up, and the ATC’s chief spokesman, Brian King—before an infected blister forced Marla off the trail in Virginia. Bob Howell, a Pennsylvania state police investigator at the center of the inquiry, offers a straightforward take. Last evening I whispered “I think there’re less bugs.” A few days later, we caught up with Muskratt at Vermont’s Happy Hill shelter. Irritated, Greg told the newcomer, whose name was Rubin, that he’d have to make do with the shelter’s middle. They’d also remember him as rootless, quiet to the point of secrecy, and prone to lengthy, unexplained absences. The trail was abloom in wildflowers—Jack-in-the-pulpits, native columbine—which almost seemed a message, a gift, from Geoff and Molly. He was arrested wearing the boots and backpack of one victim. Their deaths seemed a terrible accident of time and geography. Biff and Cindi Bowen have divorced, but their son, Mason, took on the trail in 2010. Now he wore a big green Gregory. “If someone were murdered in God’s cathedral, then murder could be committed anyplace.”. This past spring, I climbed again to the clearing. Ten years later, in September 2000, I learned from Karen Lutz that the Thelma Marks shelter was to be replaced. I hiked with him for several days, lost him near the New Jersey border, caught him again near Palmerton, Pennsylvania, lost him again. At this point a chase was under way. Two hikers walking the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia saw a man who matched the description. It was an exorcism as much as a demolition. LaRue was facedown with her hands tied behind her back with rope. A Case of Murder on the Appalachian Trail H. Pohlman. Gene “Flat Feet” Butcher decided not to dally and hiked up Cove Mountain shortly after Crews had descended the same path. She knew her son was careful. Although the Appalachian Trail opened in 1937 to hikers, the first recorded murder wasn’t until 1974, when Joel Polson was killed by Ralph Fox at the Low Gap Trail Shelter in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Glazerow was one of about a dozen hikers called to testify in the prosecution case against Crews. From the darkness of the shelter’s west wall, Molly yelled, “I’m not sleeping through it!” A chorus backed her up. There was other incriminating evidence presented at trial. She was a stone’s throw from the Pennsylvania Turnpike and figured him for a hitcher between rides, a drifter. Four years earlier, on July 3, 1986, a woman had offered him a ride home from a bar in Bartow, Florida. Still, those rooms had mattresses. The double slaying of lesbian hikers along the Appalachian Trail remains unsolved. I left hellos to them in logbook entries, and sometimes, I learned much later, they replied. The police thought Paul David Crews might have killed before. My first reaction was: How can this Nalgene person be so obnoxiously happy? Though a few well-publicized homicides have occurred on trails or parklands near the AT since Geoff’s and Molly’s deaths, just one—the unsolved 2011 killing of an Indiana hiker, Scott “Stonewall” Lilly, near a shelter in Amherst County, Virginia—has claimed someone actually walking the path. Randall Lee Smith (June 29, 1953 – May 10, 2008) was a convicted murderer from Pearisburg, Virginia. “The lack of direction in my life was due to my leaving God,” he wrote, “but He loves me and I feel a new strength. Two of the four attacks were aimed at couples. The trail’s caretakers had worked for years to reroute the footpath into forest they had acquired piecemeal. The library note Flat Feet had discovered gave them a name. Then beyond two. Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items. “It was summer—it would have been pretty light. Animal and I resolved to catch them. (Photo: Courtesy of Greg Hammer). “He went on the trail looking for an opportunity,” he says. Testimony in the trial started three days after Glenda’s hike, on May 15, 1991. Little else about the event is certain. I’d hear of a crime and do a little calculus to separate myself from the victim: I wouldn’t hang around a crack house. Why he raped her. No chance he was a hiker: he wore a flannel shirt, jeans, and combat boots, had a small rucksack on his back, and carried two bright red gym bags, each emblazoned with the Marlboro logo. The Associated Press reported how relatives of the two victims wept on hearing the sentence and how a courtroom spectator exclaimed “Yes, thank God.” Juror Gaythol Hefner told reporters “The evidence was so overwhelming.”. Officials investigate the scene of a double murder on the Appalachian Trail near Duncannon in September 1990. One of the most gruesome recorded murders on the trail occurred in 1990, when drifter Paul David Crews murdered two hikers. They were almost halfway through their hike now, and ambitious days came comfortably, though they didn’t make them a habit. By then she and Geoff were close to inseparable. “I was up at the shelter. They were certainly more patient than me, and far better equipped to defuse trouble. They are shown here at Mount Katahdin in Maine. All were ghastly. As Molly predicted in one log entry: “If you’re behind us you will pass us.”. Then as now, this clearing was a lovely place. Shortly after midnight, as I snored in my tent and Greg slept in his bivy sack, we were startled awake by a concussive thud: a rotted tree had toppled into the four-foot space between us, coming within inches of my head. They shared just three baths. The clearing was dead quiet. The news came as a relief to many of the estimated 200 enthusiasts who attended a ceremony to celebrate the opening of a new route near Boiling Springs. I have missed seeing them share their lives together. It was very fresh. Tired they stopped for the night at the Low Gap Shelter where they met Ralph Howard Fox. At the time, the AT followed 16 miles of paved road through Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley—a shadeless hike, hard on the feet. Earlier in the year, the organization had even published a 176-page handbook called Trail Safe: Averting Threatening Human Behavior in the Outdoors. Glenda Hood, at home in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, switched on the radio the morning of September 14, just in time to hear a news report that two hikers had been murdered near Duncannon. I was still trying to catch up with Greg, who had left word in Darlington’s register that he planned to end his hike in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a few days to the south. You can cancel at any time. Two hikers found the bodies in a three-sided log shelter. The suspect in the May 2019 Appalachian Trail murder case has been considered "not competent" to stand trial, according to a report from CBS affiliate WJHL. Why had I chosen my model of backpack, he wanted to know. This time the math didn’t work. “I wish she had had the strength to overcome him, and even if she had had to kill him, that would have been all right with me—just to protect herself and maybe save Geoff. Back in town, Biff and Cindi Bowen retrieved a mail drop and stuffed themselves on pizza, ice cream, and beer. Bullets recovered from Hood’s body matched a .22-caliber Winchester pistol found on Crews when he was arrested. I have read that it is a true crime book & alternately that it is a work of fiction, based on actual events. “Paul, I think it would be great if you could pick up where Molly left off, starting with yourself. A librarian suggested he try the York branch, wrote directions, and asked that he sign the guest book. It reminded me of when she was little and scared and couldn’t sleep, and going into her room to give her a hug.”. 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