Geoff was laid to rest near his home in Tennessee, in a plot overlooking Signal Mountain. Funny. 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. The Sentinel on Oct. 18, 1990 reported how Crews was wanted on a first-degree murder charge in Florida. This is something I just can’t handle. All were ghastly. Geoff had rock-climbed in Colorado and taught climbing at New Mexico’s Philmont Scout Ranch. “There we met Paul, whom we talked with quite a while. In 1990 as now, its bar served wonderful burgers and cheap draft beer, but even at $11 a night, the 23 peeling, spider-infested rooms upstairs were only so much of a bargain. She awoke from a dream near the end to report that she’d seen Molly waiting for her. He burst into tears. Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device. The next day, I sweated four steep and rocky miles up Cove Mountain to the Thelma Marks shelter. While Perry County prosecutors maintained that Crews is guilty of the murders, they said continuing to fight the appeals would cost the small, largely rural county significant money. "Murder on the Appalachian Trail" This is a book purportedly about the double murder of two hikers on the AT in the mid 80's @ Wapiti Shelter in SW VA. then {{format_dollars}}{{start_price}}{{format_cents}} per month. Do you want to know something about the friend?’, “I said, ‘Are you announcing a relationship?’. We watched as they hitched a ride from a pickup and, waving from its bed, motored off for the trail crossing. But that’s not the way it played out.”. Lutz was already there, watching a crew from the Mountain Club of Maryland finish the new shelter, which was built of beams from a century-old barn. I left hellos to them in logbook entries, and sometimes, I learned much later, they replied. Hikers, trail staff workers, a college president, two outdoor educators and a cable television contractor all identified Crews from a photograph, saying he was oddly out of place among those who normally use the footpath. The Thelma Marks shelter, the day after the killings. “Some of Geoff and Molly’s register entries impressed me so much, I wrote them down,” George told us. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google, Thanks for signing up! Paul David Crews was responsible for the double murder of Connie LaRue, also a nurse, volunteered at a hospice on the shore of Lake Erie. Morning came. “He could drink two quarts of Georgia moonshine and still shoot pool straight,” Brock said. A day later he stepped off a bus in Winchester, Virginia, and embarked on a zigzag course of hitched rides—west to Romney, West Virginia, north into Maryland, northeast to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—until, six days after leaving the farm, he walked into a library in East Berlin, Pennsylvania, halfway between Gettysburg and York, looking for hiking maps. Unclear. “There’s got to be a way you can pray to yourself.”, Rubin brushed me off. Three came at trailside shelters. At the New Hampshire line I’d picked up a week. They lounged on any rock with a view. Appalachian Trail Murders: The Appalachian Trail, like most parks and hiking areas in America is relatively safe. But they slowed as they approached the lean-to’s rear. Rubin needed no coffee to get up to speed. “I was really scared, but you have to keep the faith.”. 1990: Geoffrey Hood and Molly LaRue were killed by Paul David Crews near Duncannon, PA. 1996: Julianne Williams and Lollie Winans were killed in Shenandoah National Park near the Skyland Resort, but not on the Appalachian Trail. Until then I’d been a typical suburban American who figured that violence usually came by invitation. The following account is based on stories published in The Sentinel and on Associated Press coverage of the investigation, the manhunt for Crews and the capital murder trial leading up to his conviction in May 1991. Bob Howell, a Pennsylvania state police investigator at the center of the inquiry, offers a straightforward take. In Waynesboro, Virginia, we ran into an older southbounder, George Phipps, whom we’d camped with in Maryland. Glenda Hood held her hand shortly before she died in July 2006. Attempted suicide, went AWOL, and got discharged from the corps. Biff and Cindi Bowen have divorced, but their son, Mason, took on the trail in 2010. Well, if you think it’s fine, why have I heard it’s a bad pack? He wandered back to Florida, where he picked oranges each spring until the homicide in Bartow—a crime he was formally charged with on July 7, 1986. A phone call home gave me their names. This was the last photo taken of the couple before they were murdered on Cove Mountain by a wanted drifter named Paul David Crews. 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. They were self-deprecating, funny, kind. On Saturday, May 25, 1991, a Perry County jury decided that Crews, a former Marine and South Carolina farmhand, should be put to death for murdering LaRue and Hood. Through the roof of our tent I see their familiar sludge Geoff and Molly at Mount Katahdin in Maine. Twenty-five summers ago, I pulled into what was called the Thelma Marks shelter, near the halfway point of a southbound through-hike. They were traveling as a pair, too, which was considered common sense. She was a stone’s throw from the Pennsylvania Turnpike and figured him for a hitcher between rides, a drifter. In 1977, he turned up in southern Indiana, where he worked a string of dead-end jobs and met his second wife. Cindi, an elementary school teacher, and Biff, a jeweler, knew they were close on Geoff and Molly’s heels. They even paused to do some counseling. They found one such bag at Thelma Marks, the other at Darlington. There are also many other hazards and dangers of thru-hiking: rattlesnakes, dehydration, hypothermia, fractures, strains, to name a few. Molly had tackled two Outward Bound courses and spent a year providing wilderness therapy to kids in the Arizona desert. Joel Polson was hiking with Margaret McFaddin on the Appalachian Trail. They left upbeat log entries at every shelter. Why he raped her. It had been 21 years since I’d last seen him, when I’d attended his wedding. Beyond the murder mystery is the tragic story of two women in love. As I exchanged handshakes with Clevis and Nalgene, I told them that I felt like we’d already met. Subscribe to our What You Missed newsletter for the top headlines from the outdoor world, in your inbox six days a week. 2001: Louise Chaput from Quebec was killed by an unknown assailant with unknown motives. Then beyond two. You are a gold mine of critical information that needs to be unearthed.”, “Peace be with you, brother,” he said in conclusion. We hear from our audience every day about how much they love our long-form journalism. Another southbounder was already there: Marcus Macaluso, a.k.a. Crews had been on that state’s most-wanted list since disappearing from that state in 1986 after being indicted by a Polk County, Florida, grand jury in the death of a 56-year-old Bartow, Florida woman. History and education reporter for The Sentinel. The proceedings offered only roundabout, unsatisfying clues as to why the killings had happened. So the police thought Crews might have killed before. They shared just three baths. “And I didn’t do anything.”, Earlier that day, Geoff and Molly had broken camp at the tiny, squalid Peters Mountain shelter north of the Susquehanna River. A 38-year-old man has been charged in the slayings of two young hikers on the Appalachian Trial. Reading those entries made it obvious to all in their wake that they were enjoying themselves immensely. The Thelma Marks shelter, the day after the killings. 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. But he later found Barbara, who’d lost her husband. The graffiti-carved plank floor slept four or five comfortably, eight in a pinch. She ventured into the clearing. Oh, you think it’s fine? Geoff—bearded, beetle browed, and thin, with a smoky, high-pitched Tennessee drawl. We’d followed his register entries from Maine, and he proved an affable companion, at ease in the woods after working at fish camps close to the Canadian border. If chaos could find them, I realized, it could find anyone. “I saw blood around the face, the hands were tied and I just turned around and ... stopped my wife from coming any further,” said Brian Bowen, the hiker who found LaRue’s body around 6 p.m. on Sept. 13, 1990. He joined the Marines in 1972 and married in January 1973. Throughout his babble, Geoff and Molly—who wrote in their journal that they’d “had a very poor night’s sleep due to the noise pollution”—treated him with quiet tolerance, never rising to his bait, just letting him be. 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. Bullets recovered from Hood’s body matched a .22-caliber Winchester pistol found on Crews when he was arrested. They were known to hikers as Nalgene and Cleavis. They were almost halfway through their hike now, and ambitious days came comfortably, though they didn’t make them a habit. Their deaths seemed a terrible accident of time and geography. When I visited this past spring, saplings and tangled brier so colonized the old shelter’s footprint that I might have missed it, had I not slept there myself. I pray that I can retain this and use it in my life.”, A few minutes later, the weather hit. Indeed, Crews offered only monosyllabic responses to police, said next to nothing in court, and has described to no one, as far as is known, why things took such a horrible turn at Thelma Marks. HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A suspect in the double murder on the Appalachian Trail has been arrested in West Virginia, officials said Saturday. The police recovered the car, along with Crews’s knife and bloody clothes, but found no sign of him. It blends comfortably, unobtrusively, into its setting, has become one with the surrounding timber. They became close. When they finished, nothing remained of the old hut but a bald patch in the forest floor, not even its name. Then it fell quiet. There he found the shelter littered with trash—including an empty red gym bag, a discarded bus ticket, and a library note written to someone named Casey Horn. Two hikers found the bodies in a three-sided log shelter. Even so, Lutz, herself a 1978 through-hiker, decided that Darlington was a place she most sincerely did not want to be. He reached the hut two weeks before Geoff and Molly. And they were slow. During the trial’s penalty phase, a psychiatrist appearing for the defense testified that Crews had a personality disorder and that his consumption of whiskey and cocaine had triggered “organic aggressive syndrome.” The doctor described the condition as “a short period of time after taking cocaine, maybe an hour or two, when a person can become violent.” That was as much explanation as we got. Sometime that night a 38-year-old drifter on the run from law enforcement killed both of … We didn’t see them again. Four years earlier, on July 3, 1986, a woman had offered him a ride home from a bar in Bartow, Florida. He wasn’t far from the spot where the AT veered from the road and into the trees. “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.”. Please subscribe to keep reading. 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. There was other incriminating evidence presented at trial. Smith murdered two hikers on the Appalachian Trail in May 1981. The killings dominated our conversation. Back outside we split up: Greg and I decided to hike an old section of the AT, while the others backtracked to the rerouted trail. “I just knew.” He saw Molly’s mother, Connie, pull into the driveway with a load of groceries. The deaths weighed heavy on the close-knit community of hikers who went by trail names. The case against Paul David Crews drew national attention and was featured on the CBS television show “Top Cops.”, Email Joseph Cress at It’s worked just fine, I told him. He shot and killed Geoffrey Hood and raped, tortured and stabbed to death Hood's girlfriend Molly LaRue at Cove Mountain near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My pack weighed nearly half as much as I did, and every pound hurt. Find more newsletters on our. “We were in dress shoes. Why he stabbed her eight times in the neck, throat, and back. Since then he’d laid low, avoiding attention and revealing little of his past, which had been troubled from the start. Those travelers have rested here for more than half a century. Investigators questioned people who lived along or near the trail and used the information to develop a composite drawing of a man wanted for questioning in the slayings. All the indicators suggested that. That’s it, as far as I’m concerned.”. Earlier in the year, the organization had even published a 176-page handbook called Trail Safe: Averting Threatening Human Behavior in the Outdoors. 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. The three-sided structure was nestled among birch, poplar and oak trees on the south side of Cove Mountain about 30 feet below the trail that runs from Maine to Georgia. Which is how I first made their acquaintance, in a poem Molly left in a Maine lean-to and signed with her trail name, Nalgene. We started south from Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, our pace modest in the Geoff and Molly tradition, reaching Pine Grove Furnace State Park, near the trail’s midpoint, on our second day out. He came upon the scene, and something happened. Divorced in 1974. And in June 1992, when Geoff’s sister, Marla, set out to finish the couple’s hike, I went along for her first week. Like his parents, he was a southbounder. The killer was never found. Glenda continues to grieve not only Geoff, but also the future he might have had with Molly. They divorced, too. “These were good kids. In the past, when they had discussed someone meeting a bad end in the outdoors, he’d told her, “He either didn’t know what he was doing, or he wasn’t doing what he knew he should be.”, Just the same, she phoned Jim LaRue, up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and told him what she’d heard. And now, late on the afternoon of September 11, 1990, he found his way to the Appalachian Trail. He crunched the empties into makeshift candleholders. Hood, 26, of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, was shot three times in the head, back and abdomen by a .22-caliber pistol fired from about 4 feet away, based on gunpowder residue found at the scene. “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. Rebecca Wight was a student, of Iranian-Puerto Rican heritage, who was working on her Master's Degree in business administration and Claudia Brenner was a Jewish, Manhattan-born architecture student; they had been partners for two years after having met over breakfast while both were students at Virginia Tech.. A librarian suggested he try the York branch, wrote directions, and asked that he sign the guest book. The trail is about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long, though the exact length changes over time as parts are rerouted or modified. His name was really Paul David Crews, and he was a suspect in a murder. One morning he crawled into bed behind her and held a bayonet to her throat. “I love you forever, I like you for always,” he wrote in April, when he was off in the backcountry. His statement to Crews at that 2006 hearing reflected, he thinks, what Molly would have wanted. 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. Yuck! He had heard it was bad. He has a pair of teenage sons now. Including his own hike. One of the most gruesome recorded murders on the trail occurred in 1990, when drifter Paul David Crews murdered two hikers. Check out our entire suite of free newsletters here. The prosecution called Crews’ former wife, Karen Brock, who doubted the drinking and drugs would have affected her ex-husband. Trail Safe: Averting Threatening Human Behavior in the Outdoors, Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream, our entire suite of free newsletters here. From the darkness of the shelter’s west wall, Molly yelled, “I’m not sleeping through it!” A chorus backed her up. This morning, BRING ON THE SLUGS. Originally published in Out. 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. The funeral director told them, “I thought you might like to hold her.”, Jim, Connie, and their son, Mark, three years older than Molly, dropped to the floor and wrapped their arms around her. I have missed seeing them share their lives together. The hikers unpacked their gear and called their parents, discussing their planned reunion in Harpers Ferry to celebrate making it halfway. He spent 15 years in prison before his release in 1996. 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. Paperback. In the quarter-century since my first visit there, through-hiking had mushroomed in popularity: in 1990, the ATC recorded more than 230 completed end-to-end treks, just eight of them southbound; last year, the total had grown to 961. Sunset came at 7:22 p.m., but the shelter was hunched against the mountain’s eastern flank, in the shade of the ridgetop. At 9:30, Greg stopped him: “Are you almost through?” Rubin nodded, then went right back to it. Granola, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, a long-haired, deep-thinking Grateful Dead fan, 18 years old, who carried bongos in his pack and left clever register entries that I’d enjoyed for weeks. After that the investigation proceeded rapidly. It’s tall and airy and skylit, with a deep porch, two tiers of wooden bunks, and a picnic table. “It was one of the most wonderful gifts,” Jim says. The author (left) with Greg "Animal" Hammer. Officials investigate the scene of a double murder on the Appalachian Trail near Duncannon in September 1990. “Bingo. “We reminded one another before we started this ordeal that there would be tough days: Days we would ask ourselves, ‘Why are we doing this?’ ” Molly admitted early on, in a journal they shared. The author (left) with Greg "Animal" Hammer. She didn’t know that the stranger carried a long-barreled .22-caliber revolver, a box of 50 bullets, and a double-edged knife nearly nine inches long. Black flies kamikazed into my eyes and mouth. There are no guarantees.”. Glenda Hood climbed Cove Mountain on the first Mother’s Day after the murders. This time the math didn’t work. 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. “We kept getting comments like, ‘Well, do you feel the trail is too dangerous to use?’ and ‘Should it be shut down?’ ” Jim says. As […] We lingered, talking and laughing, long after we’d gorged ourselves. Double murder of hikers shocked Appalachian Trail community 25 years ago this month. A gunshot wound was clearly visible in the center of his back. 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. He is a 15-year-old who was kicked out of his house. 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. 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. As Molly predicted in one log entry: “If you’re behind us you will pass us.”. 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. Ferns and wildflowers carpet its floor. He walked south from there, assuming the guise of a through-hiker. We read our trail journals aloud, laughed over our descriptions of Rubin, then turned to the subject of Geoff and Molly. At 26, Geoff was a friendly, contemplative Tennessean, even tempered and patient. If he hustled, he might make the Darlington shelter, little more than three miles away. “The sun was coming down through the trees, and it was a peaceful place, despite what had happened there. By Steve Marroni | For news … 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. Those crimes shared traits with what transpired at Thelma Marks. I couldn’t claim to know Geoff and Molly well, but they seemed far savvier in the woods than I was. Randall Lee Smith (June 29, 1953 – May 10, 2008) was a convicted murderer from Pearisburg, Virginia. She knew her son was careful. He was a short, stocky man, considered smart and hardworking by his bosses. When we had that conversation, Crews was in the custody of federal park rangers in Harpers Ferry, having been captured a few hours before as he walked a bridge across the Potomac. 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. She was later found naked and nearly decapitated on an abandoned railroad bed. Molly, a year younger, was a sunny, energetic artist who in high school had won a national contest to design a 1984 U.S. postage stamp. “I want to spend my time caring about things my daughter cared about. His companions were still eating when Glazerow announced that he had more hiking to do, wished them luck, and groaned his way up to Thelma Marks. Granola and I reunited a couple of days later. I have read that it is a true crime book & alternately that it is a work of fiction, based on actual events. With the law closing in, his brother gave him a lift into the country, and he took off running. $294.57. “I know that sounds wacko, but that’s exactly what I felt,” she says. The ruling came one day after the same jury deliberated for about 49 minutes before finding Crews guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Robert Mountford Jr. and Laura Susan Ramsay, who were killed while hiking the Appalachian Trail, in May 1981. That night, while feasting on shrimp and mushrooms, the couple signed the Doyle’s register, countering a previous hiker’s claim that he was the last of 1990’s southbounders. Subscribe to our newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest outdoor news. “I expected it to be a dark, sinister place, and it wasn’t,” she says. We talked about some different ideas for him to try.”. Cary, who had spent four hours with Crews since February 1991, said the defendant was upset about the crimes. They met a stranger there, too. Spirited. We expected to reunite with them that night. The next morning, he stepped out of the shelter and into the clearing. 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