UNITED STATES NEWS

FBI identifies serial rapist as person responsible for 1996 Shenandoah National Park killings

Jun 20, 2024, 12:49 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Nearly three decades after two young women were found with their throats slashed in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, federal authorities announced Thursday that they have identified a convicted serial rapist from Ohio as the person they believe was responsible for the killings.

The bodies of Julianne “Julie” Williams, 24, and her partner, Laura “Lollie” Winans, 26, were found bound and gagged at their campsite in the park in 1996. The killings sent a wave of fear through the LGBTQ+ community, but the FBI said during a news conference Thursday that there is no evidence that the women were targeted because of their sexual orientation.

The long-unsolved killings were reviewed by a new investigative team starting in 2021, said Stanley Meador, the Special Agent in Charge of the Richmond FBI office. Recently, a private lab pulled DNA from several pieces of evidence from the crime scene and sent the genetic profile to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, a database used by law enforcement agencies to match DNA to a criminal suspect.

They got a positive match to Walter “Leo” Jackson Sr., a convicted rapist originally from the Cleveland, Ohio, area. Meador said the FBI then got DNA from the original swab taken from Jackson when he was charged in another rape in Ohio, which confirmed the match. He said the recent DNA testing found there is only a one in 2.6 trillion chance that the DNA found at the crime scene came from someone other than Jackson.

This week, FBI officials were able to tell the families of the two women who they believe committed the killings, Meador said.

“They’ve been seeking answers far too long.” Meador said.

Jackson, who worked as a house painter, died in prison in 2018 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, at age 70. He had served at least four separate prison terms after being convicted of kidnapping and multiple rapes and assaults.

The recent retesting of crime scene evidence showed that both Williams and Winans were sexually assaulted, said Christopher Kavanaugh, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. Kavanaugh said authorities investigated whether the rapes and killings could be considered hate crimes. But he said they found no evidence that Jackson knew of their sexual orientation or targeted them for that reason.

“Make no mistake, this crime was brutal, this crime was definitely hateful, nevertheless we do not have any evidence” that the crime was motivated by anti-gay bias, Kavanaugh said.

Authorities were vague when asked whether the same DNA testing could have been done years ago and identified the suspect earlier.

In 2001, authorities arrested another man in the killings. Darrell David Rice, a computer programmer from Maryland, was charged with capital murder, and authorities alleged that he selected Williams and Winans because of his hatred of women and gay people.

Rice had pleaded guilty in 1998 in the attempted abduction of a female bicyclist he tried to force into his truck, also in Shenandoah National Park. He was serving an 11-year prison sentence when he was charged with killing WIlliams and Winans. The charges were eventually dropped after forensic testing showed that hairs found at the crime scene ruled him out as a possible suspect.

Williams, who was from St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Winans, who grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, were both experienced hikers and were passionate about environmental issues, Kavanaugh said. They were hiking with a golden retriever named Taj when they were last seen by park personnel on May 24, 1996. Their bodies were discovered on June 1, 1996, at their campsite near Skyline Resort.

Meador said the FBI is continuing to work with other law enforcement agencies to determine if Jackson is responsible for other unsolved crimes.

“Our investigation will not stop,” he said.

United States News

Associated Press

Plane crash near Ohio airport kills 3; federal authorities investigating

VIENNA, Ohio (AP) — A plane trying to make an emergency landing at an airport in northeastern Ohio crashed, killing all three people aboard, authorities said. The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that the twin-engine Beechcraft 60 went down near the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Ohio at about 6:45 p.m. Friday. The Ohio State Highway […]

18 minutes ago

Firefighters battle a fire at First Baptist Dallas church on Friday, July 19, 2024, in Dallas. (Chi...

Associated Press

A fire severely damages the historic First Baptist Dallas church sanctuary

A fire all but destroyed the historic church sanctuary at First Baptist Dallas, sending smoke billowing over the city but causing no deaths or injuries, Dallas firefighters said. The fire in the Texas Historic Landmark, a Victorian-style red brick church built in 1890, was reported about 6:30 p.m. Friday, and contained about three hours later, […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

New Hampshire Gov. Sununu signs bill banning transgender girls from girls’ sports

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has signed a bill that would ban transgender athletes in grades 5-12 from teams that align with their gender identity, adding the state to nearly half in the nation that adopted similar measures. The bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature would require schools to […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers call for Biden to drop reelection bid

A rapidly growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers called Friday for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the president insisted he’s read y to return to the campaign trail next week to counter what he called a “dark vision” laid out by Republican Donald Trump. As more Democratic members of Congress urged […]

3 hours ago

Jungle Cruise Skipper Gabriel Ramos keeps up the Jungle Cruise-style humor as he joins other Disney...

Associated Press

Disneyland workers authorize potential strike ahead of continued contract negotiations

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of workers at Disney’s theme park and resort properties in California voted late Friday to authorize a potential strike, as contract negotiations drag on. The strike authorization was approved by an overwhelming margin, nearly 99% of the members who cast votes according to a union statement. The election was held […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Se...

Associated Press

This is how Secret Service protection has changed for presidents over the years

WASHINGTON (AP) — During Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, anyone could come to the White House and see him. Come they did: mothers looking to have their sons released from military service, wives urging that their husbands be freed from prison after resisting the draft, others who simply wanted to meet the president. “Some only wanted comfort […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

FBI identifies serial rapist as person responsible for 1996 Shenandoah National Park killings