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  1. #1
    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    Default Crime on the Trail

    Does anyone know the new number of violent crimes that have been committed on the AT? - Number of Murders, Rapes, Assaults, etc. I know in general the AT is a very safe place. During my years thru-hiking the ATC often said that they could count on one hand the number of murders that have happen in the ATC history.

    I raise the question because over the last few years it seems like a few nuts have been getting on the trail and really ruining it for everyone else.

    Wolf

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    The ATC in Harpers Ferry keeps track of reported incidents and will happily provide this information to those who ask for it.

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    Here is a list of homicides that do not include the more recent events. The more recent crimes including the abduction and murder of Meredith Emerson on a Blue Blaze off the Trail, as some would be sure to point out, occurred very near the Appalachian Trail but not on the AT proper.

    That distinction matters little to victims and their families, of course.

    The list was copied from an old post, so some of the details regarding the status of the prosecutions and killers are also way out of date.

    ______________________________________


    November 2001 — [Backpacker 0402] Hiker, Louise Chaput, 52, a psychologist from Sherbrook, Quebec, was found stabbed to death about 200 yards from the Glen Boulder Trailhead at the foot of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. Chaput began a solo hike in the area on November 15, 2001, and when she failed to return, officials launched a 3-day manhunt. Searchers located her body about a mile south of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Lodge, where she’d scheduled a reservation but never showed up. Police continue to seek Chaput’s backpack, a dark blue internal frame containing a green down sleeping bag, and the keys to her Ford Focus station wagon.

    May 1996 — 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 that 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. (SNIP) Six years and 15,000 tips after the murder of two women near the Appalachian Trail sent a chill through hikers everywhere, federal prosecutors say they have the killer and will prosecute the case as a hate crime.
    Darrell David Rice of Columbia, Md., was indicted for the 1996 slayings of Julianne Williams and Laura “Lollie” Winans, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. Already jailed on an unrelated kidnapping charge, Rice told authorities the women “deserved to die because they were lesbian (expletives),” according to prosecution documents filed in court.
    The bodies of Williams, 24, of St. Cloud, Minn., and Winans, 26, of Unity, Maine, were found bound and gagged June 1, 1996, at a creek-side campsite in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, about a half-mile off the Appalachian Trail. Their throats had been cut.

    September 1990 — Thru-hikers Molly LaRue, 25, from Shaker Heights, Ohio, and her boyfriend, Geoffrey Hood, 26, from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, were killed as they woke up at a shelter just off the Trail south of Duncannon, Pa., by fugitive P. David Crews (now under death sentence in Pennsylvania). She was stabbed to death; he was shot. Crews, carrying some of their gear, was arrested eight days later by National Park Service rangers on the A.T. bridge above the Potomac River from Maryland into West Virginia.

    May 1988 —On May 13, 1988, Stephen Roy Carr, a so-called mountain man living in Michaux State Forest in south central Pennsylvania, shot two female hikers while they were making love at a campsite near the Appalachian Trail. He proceeded to stalk them as they moved their campsite to a spot off a side trail and shot at them with a rifle from the woods. Rebecca Wight (of Blacksburg, Virginia), 29, died at the scene. Claudia Brenner, 31, of Ithaca, New York, despite five bullet wounds, survived to testify against her attacker. Carr was arrested about 10 days after the crime and sentenced to life in prison.

    May 1981 — Thru-hikers Susan Ramsey and Robert Mountford, both from Ellsworth, Maine, and 27, were killed near a shelter in southwest Virginia, 20 miles from Pearisburg, during the night, by Randall Lee Smith, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was paroled by Virginia in September 1996. Mr. Mountford was shot at the shelter, and Ms. Ramsey was stabbed to death a short distance away. Although he had made an effort to hide the bodies, Smith was arrested and charged within a matter of weeks.

    April 1975 — Thru-hiker Janice Balza, 22, of Madison, Wisconsin, killed by a hatchet wielded by hiker/tree surgeon Paul Bigley, 51, after breakfast at a shelter in northeast Tennessee. He died in state prison in Nashville. He killed her for her pack, a brand he coveted, testimony revealed.

    May 1974 — Joel Polsom, 26, of Hartsville, South Carolina, was killed at a shelter in Georgia by Michigan fugitive Ralph Fox, who continued to walk south and then caught a bus to Atlanta, where he was arrested.

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    When dwelling on these things, it would do well to remember that merely because something bad occurs close to the A.T., it does not necessarily mean that the Trail itself (or that particular part of it) is an inherently unsafe place.

    For example, there was a particularly horrible double homicide in Etna NH, near Hanover, in 2001. The Appalachian Trail is a short walk away from the murder site, tho the Trail (and the hiking community) of course had no connection to the crime.

    So when we hear about crimes that took place "near" the Trail, they don't necessarily have much to do WITH the Trail, and despite the proximity to the Trail or the Trail corridor, not all of these incidents should be considered A.T. related. In some cases, they have no connection to the Trail whatsoever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin View Post
    When dwelling on these things, it would do well to remember that merely because something bad occurs close to the A.T., it does not necessarily mean that the Trail itself (or that particular part of it) is an inherently unsafe place.

    For example, there was a particularly horrible double homicide in Etna NH, near Hanover, in 2001. The Appalachian Trail is a short walk away from the murder site, tho the Trail (and the hiking community) of course had no connection to the crime.

    So when we hear about crimes that took place "near" the Trail, they don't necessarily have much to do WITH the Trail, and despite the proximity to the Trail or the Trail corridor, not all of these incidents should be considered A.T. related. In some cases, they have no connection to the Trail whatsoever.
    no, resist, no... resist!
    jack's correckt, i agree wif jack.
    example;
    if a drunk driver crashes into a telephone pole two blocks down from the a.t. in hangover, is it a trail related incident??

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    rickb,

    Thank you for posting that. Sadly, I count off 11 just from the people listed. I hadn't heard of the Meredith Emerson murder but your are right. The distinction matters very little to victims and their families.

    I did a google search, and found her murder started the Right to Hike, Inc movement to try to make the trail safer for all. I hope they are able to get some of these knock-heads off the trail without being abused.

    Wolf

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    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    Just hope they get the killer down here in VA that murdered the two Va tech students - unsettling for sure.







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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf - 23000 View Post
    rickb,

    Thank you for posting that. Sadly, I count off 11 just from the people listed. I hadn't heard of the Meredith Emerson murder but your are right. The distinction matters very little to victims and their families.

    Wolf
    Even when we hear of this tragic and horrific crimes, most of us tend to forget them. Who on this list would remember the names of the Bryants?

    I don't think we will ever see their names mentioned in crime statistics for the AT since they were apparently killed off the Trail. But it now seems most likely that their killer had been living at the Rock Gap shelter right on the AT before he was evicted.

    http://www.goupstate.com/article/200...48/1051/NEWS01

    http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=32590

    But who even remembers the names of the 4 or 5 thru hikers who were killed on the AT?

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    As far as "remembering victimes" etc., we've discussed this here before, and sooner or later, every "Crime on the Trail" thread gets political, i.e. it gets shut down.

    Before that happens, one quick comment that will deliberately name no names, candidates, political parties, so hopefully the Moderators will provide some leeway here.

    People frequently bring up crime on the trail, the incidence of violence, and details on specific crimes. Everyone wrings their hands and decries these incidents and we hear people talk about remembering the victims.

    There's not much that can be done about past crimes, but there's cartainly a way we can perhaps prevent future ones.

    If you TRULY care about the victims of violent crime, then perhaps study the track record and voting record of your elected officials, on a local, state, and national level. These are the people who ultimately decide what happens to convicted criminals. Some of them care more about this subject than others, and if you genuinely care about the victims of violent crime, then you should vote accordingly.

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    I remember one incident from many years ago, that the AT killer was actually from the victim's home town and had followed her to the trail. ring any bells?

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    when i went thru MD, I did not stay at designated campsites and shelters. I explained that I was alone, female, and I did not consider it safe practice. It was understood and permission was granted as long as I left no trace.

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    Quote Originally Posted by modiyooch View Post
    when i went thru MD, I did not stay at designated campsites and shelters. I explained that I was alone, female, and I did not consider it safe practice. It was understood and permission was granted as long as I left no trace.
    I understand that.

    One common thread in these incidents is that most (not all) occurred at or near shelters.

    One surprising thing (to me) is that many of the crimes were perpetuated against couples- female/female and male/female. If your were to add in the recent attempted homicides near Perrisburg, VA even towards two males. Though that case was excetional as it was carried out by an individual who had experience in such horrors.

    There are other common characteristics, too. To my way of thinking hikers would do well to think about them. Others may conclude being a victim comes down to random chance only, and it better to focus only on the good out there. YMMV.

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    Another common characteristic of these criminals is that upon arrest and conviction, all too often it is revealed that this was not their first experience with violent, often extraordinarily violent crime or behavior.

    Another common characteristic in regards tothese incidents is that someone decided to let them out.

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    what concerns me are the threads regarding trip plans especially when hiking alone. I don't think that it's safe to assume that only those with AT stickers on our cars read this forum.

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    Which is why I've consistently cautioned folks to NOT reveal the exact whereabouts of individual hikers (especially solo women hikers) here on Whiteblaze or elsewhere, unless they are positive that the hikers in question want this information publicly posted.

    I should also add that this caution/advice is consistently ignored, for reasons that escape me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin View Post
    Which is why I've consistently cautioned folks to NOT reveal the exact whereabouts of individual hikers (especially solo women hikers) here on Whiteblaze or elsewhere, unless they are positive that the hikers in question want this information publicly posted.

    I should also add that this caution/advice is consistently ignored, for reasons that escape me.
    I'm not referring to thru hikers, but section hikers. thru hikers tend not to be alone. they have their family of thru hikers.

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    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin View Post
    If you TRULY care about the victims of violent crime, then perhaps study the track record and voting record of your elected officials, on a local, state, and national level. These are the people who ultimately decide what happens to convicted criminals. Some of them care more about this subject than others, and if you genuinely care about the victims of violent crime, then you should vote accordingly.
    Today's headlines regarding horrors in California attest to the truth to what Jack says on this.

    On the AT, the obvious example is the case of Randall Lee Smith who killed thru hikers Susan Ramsey and Robert Mountford on the AT only to be let out to shoot two more campers (who miraculously survived) not far from the same spot outside Pearisburg, not long ago.

    There was some protest regarding the Commonwealth's decision at the time, but probably not nearly enough. More info on that here: http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=36644

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin View Post
    When dwelling on these things, it would do well to remember that merely because something bad occurs close to the A.T., it does not necessarily mean that the Trail itself (or that particular part of it) is an inherently unsafe place.

    For example, there was a particularly horrible double homicide in Etna NH, near Hanover, in 2001. The Appalachian Trail is a short walk away from the murder site, tho the Trail (and the hiking community) of course had no connection to the crime.

    So when we hear about crimes that took place "near" the Trail, they don't necessarily have much to do WITH the Trail, and despite the proximity to the Trail or the Trail corridor, not all of these incidents should be considered A.T. related. In some cases, they have no connection to the Trail whatsoever.
    I've often been bothered by the fact that crimes committed near the AT are always dismissed in stats and not included in crimes on the AT. When Meridith was abducted it was reported and repeated that she was not on the AT. The fact that the trail she was on would not exist without the AT was ignored. Smith the nut that killed 2 and went back later and shot two more, went in on the AT. The list goes on but you get my point. The AT is safer than most towns but it seems like they would tell the whole truth instead of just the truth.

    Clyde

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    I understand that.

    One surprising thing (to me) is that many of the crimes were perpetuated against couples- female/female and male/female. If your were to add in the recent attempted homicides near Perrisburg, VA even towards two males. Though that case was excetional as it was carried out by an individual who had experience in such horrors.
    As a solo, female hiker, the above facts have always struck me. Many people constantly rag women about the danger they are in if they choose to hike alone. The history of violent crimes on the AT does not seem to support that fear-mongering.

    As a person who lives in an urban area, I also keep in mind that it does not take my city very long at all to rack up the number of violent crimes that have taken the AT many years to experience. So my safety is only improved by heading for the ridgeline.
    If not NOW, then WHEN?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marta View Post
    . . . So my safety is only improved by heading for the ridgeline.
    Yeah, once you park the car and get a mile or so away from the parking lot. I'm almost positive the most hazardous part is the drive to and from.
    Me no care, me here free beer. Tap keg, please?

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