One thing is self evident from the above photo essay: it would not be easy to approach the clearing and tent therein except on the trodden area from Bridle Trail. No stranger could tippy-toe it through the woods and come upon a person in a sleeping bag quietly. There is too much wooded debris. There was also a large dog, perhaps even wandering freely from the tent to the outside when it desired.
Coupled with the clues that tell us it was nighttime, we can safely venture that the killer came along the trail from its entrance at Skyline Drive and entered the camp quietly. He first came to the tent. Inside he took Lollie Winans by surprise, waking her perhaps in a startle by putting his hand over her mouth. He gagged her with cloth and then wrapped her wrists together with the duct tape. Then he tied her ankles. The reason for tying the ankles perhaps was because he knew another person was down by the creek. He either saw Williams or demanded that Lollie tell him if she was alone. He intends to leave Lollie alone now so that he can go bind Williams. This required he bind her ankles so she couldn’t walk away.
The killer crept out of the tent and quietly down the embankment. There must have been a fairly well used path since this was a camping location. The reason why he gagged Julie Williams mouth with tape could be that this is how he woke her. Basically, he had a piece ready and then he plastered it over her mouth as she slept, waking her with a jolt. The usual hissing and growling threats no doubt followed. He bound her wrists. The killer had no intention of leaving her nor leaving her alive. Binding her ankles was therefore not necessary.
I do not know what all the preliminaries were, but he eventually cut Julie Williams’ throat. He went back up and, again, whatever the prelims were we do not know, he then cut Lollie Winans’ throat.
What does not fit? The dog. The dog was apparently uninjured. I cannot figure how the dog did not signal some kind of alert. Even if the killer had ingratiated himself in some charming way with the girls earlier on the fatal day or day before, and Taj got used to him, a dog hearing sounds will start and bark until he recognizes the maker of the sounds is not a stranger. Only someone staying with them in the camp would not be of great interest to the dog if he moved about.
Now as to the “lesbian” theory: The position of the bodies does not reveal any personal persuasion on the part of the victims. For the killer to have been motivated by the “lurid lesbian love angle” he would have to have visited the camp earlier in the day or the day before and in doing so came across the couple. He chatted them up or saw them in some such environment that might indicate they were homosexual. Or he came upon them on the trails, and as hikers do they broke trial together for a while and chatted. He knew they were going to be around for a couple of days. He therefore returned, fully prepared to do his sinister and Simon Pure thing.
I don’t think there should be any doubt that the killer knew they were there. I can’t imagine someone walking a dark wilderness trail at night with duct tape and strips of cloth on the odd chance he is going to come across a lesbian couple so he can be prepared to bind and kill them.
Frankly, this applies whether the killer was motivated by his belief they were lesbians or not. Clearly, the killer was prepared to come across somebody on this area of Bridle Trail. He wasn’t just strolling around Bob’s Your Uncle. He knew where he was going and that two women and a dog awaited him. In this circumstance he might have known they were gay, having reconnoitered the area before and come across them.
Remember, they were dropped off by a ranger on May 24. Their car was possibly not in Stony Man Parking lot, though it could have been by now. There was nothing to alert any stranger that potential victims were within reach 400 yards down the trail.
Darrell Rice was heavily suspected and even put on trial years later for these murders, but the case was dropped. He went into rages about women and even tried to run a brace of them off the road. He was a woman hater. He was also seen entering the park on two separate occasions, May 25 and 26, which rather fits someone having made contact first and then returning to do the crime. But DNA was obtained from hairs stuck onto the duct tape and then touch DNA on the cloth bindings. He was ruled out. Also, his check-in times at the park were in the evening, the first on the 25th at 8:05 p.m., which really didn’t give him time to make contact with anybody along the trails. The next day, May 26, it was at 4:57 p.m.
A man did it. That’s about it for the DNA so far.
Taj, the dog remains a very curious part of the case. He was found in Whiteoak Canyon. This means he cut across the thickest part of the woods (see Shenandoah map above) and didn’t stay with his master. Was he leashed during the crime and did he get loose and trail the killer? This would mean that the killer may have camped at Whiteoak and headed back through the woods rather than along quiet Bridle Trail.
The case of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams is often linked with the Colonial Parkway Murders. The girls were bound, gagged and their throats cut. They had not been sexually molested. The same can be said of the first two victims on colonial Parkway— Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Dowski. They had not been gagged because they had been strangled to insensibility. Other than that, their wrists had rope burns indicating they had been bound, and their throats were cut. They had not been molested and they were fully clothed. Winans and Williams were found in their nightwear, which is expected given the circumstances.
The other connecting strand— other than no motive— is that both locations were National Park property— the historic Colonial Parkway and the Shenandoah.
There is another— all locations are connected by I-64.
Things were such, that as I understand it, the Feds checked to see if a ranger had been transferred from the Yorktown area to Shenandoah. There had always been the worry that a cop or ranger had gone bad and was the culprit in the Colonial Parkway murders.
Was the Phantom of Colonial Parkway responsible? Some think so; principally because there are other elements in common here, though not necessarily unique to the CPM. This double murder seemed to be a drawn-out affair, just like all of those attributed to the Colonial Parkway Killer. He struck far afield along the I-64, 22 miles south of the parkway at Ragged Island and about 30 miles north along I-64 in New Kent County. The Shenandoah is 180 miles from the parkway and a 150 from the New Kent rest stop.
It is possible it was him, of course, and some have strongly asserted the connection.
There is another double murder we must look at in hopes of finding connecting clues. It occurred much closer to the Shenandoah than the parkway. It also happened before the parkway murders by 2 years. A young man, Mike Margaret, and his girlfriend, Donna Hall, were brutally murdered in a wooded area and their throats slit. Locals suspected it was some kind of pay back because the youths trafficked to some extent in drugs. The brutality was condemned as overkill. Perhaps the case is not related, but it was a drawn-out affair, a double murder just west of Richmond.