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Flashback from the I Heart Radio Podcast Network and OSI, the creators of the two time Webby nominated. The Thread is a new chart topping history podcast that reveals the surprising stories that the history books never told you about. Ozzies Sean Braswell takes you on a journey through history that will change how you look at the world today. Learn how the invention of air conditioning changed the landscape of American politics. How Hitler's doctor changed the course of World War Two. And much more.
Listen to flashback on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. High park enthusiasts. I'm your host, Delia Giambra. And today, our story takes place in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This park is a huge landmark on the map between West Virginia and Virginia. And a lot of it is designated as official wilderness. Several trails systems cut through this wilderness, though, one of them being one hundred and five miles of the Appalachian Trail.
As you walk through the park, you'll see natural rock walls, scenic valleys, beautiful mountains and rushing rivers. You can see a lot of those same sights from the overlooks along Skyline Drive. You can drive skyline for more than 100 miles through Shenandoah. And eventually that road hooks up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which links up to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And just like Skyline Drive connects so many different places and people to one another. The 1996 murders of Julie Williams and Laura Wynans did the exact same thing.
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On May 30th, 1996, Tom and Patsy Williams were enjoying a beautiful summer day at their home in St. Cloud, Minnesota. When their phone rang. On the other end of the line, hundreds of miles away in Vermont, was their daughter, Julie's roommate. Now, Tom and Patsy weren't expecting this call because they knew their 24 year old daughter wasn't in Vermont. She left for a backpacking trip with a friend and her friend's dog in Virginia. Almost two weeks earlier on May 19th.
And this unexpected call was about to turn their world upside down. Because Julie's roommate tells Tom that Julie hasn't returned from a trip. Now, at first, Tom doesn't necessarily think this is the worst thing. Maybe Julie and her friend just decided to stay an extra day in the park. Or maybe they had car trouble on their drive back. Surely there is some explanation.
But as they stay on the phone, Tom and Patsy grow more worried. When Julie's roommate tells them she has a lot of unanswered messages on her answering machine, most of them from people asking where she is and why she's missed appointments. That is not normal for Julie. Her parents knew that the last time they'd spoken with their daughter was on May 17th, and she had told them she was supposed to start a new job on June 1st in the Lake Champlain region of Vermont.
She'd made plans to return to her apartment on May 28 to clean out her stuff and be gone by the end of the month. Tom and Patsy are starting to feel something just isn't right. So they make a call to the Burlington, Vermont Police Department. But for some reason, they can never get through to an officer, staff member and can't report their daughter missing. So their next move was to call the National Park Service in Shenandoah to see if they could help.
Rangers in Virginia agreed to open a missing persons report on Julie Williams and her friend, 26 year old Laura Winans. Rangers take down the description of Julie's car that her parents gave to them and put out a be on the lookout to all park staff to see if it was still in the park. That same day, Park Rangers quickly located Julie's car, and it was just north of a place called the Skyland Lodge near Stony Man Overlook. That Ranger radios in and reports the car's location and he sees that no one's inside of it.
He leaves a note on the windshield just in case the women are overdue for a hike and they'll eventually return. But even this information doesn't quell Tom and Patsy's fears while they're just sitting and waiting in Minnesota. So to ease their minds, the Rangers at the National Park allocate teams to go out that evening and search the trail systems. They really were honing in on the general area around where Julie's car was parked. These rangers spend the entire next day doing this.
They're covering rugged trails, picnic areas and campsites all around the Skyland Lodge. But that's a lot of ground to cover. They aren't even sure if these women were camping nearby. They could have parked their car at the Skyland Lodge at the beginning of their trek on May 19th, but could be hiking and camping miles away somewhere else in the park. It's important to point out here that if you don't know what or where the Skyline Lodge is in Shenandoah, it's a restaurant and hangout spot where tons of people get together in the summer.
There's a ranger station there and you can check in and renew camping permits or just relax. If you've been on a hike for a couple of hours and need to rest at the time of this search for Laura and Julie, it's the weekend after Memorial Day. So the volume of people in this park and in this particular area is huge. Trying to find these two women amongst so many people was a huge task for Rangers. It was possible that the larger crowds meant that there were more people who may have seen the women.
But finding those witnesses among all of the foot traffic in the park proved to be a monumental undertaking. By June 1st, searchers had fanned out about 10 or 15 minutes hike in all different directions from the Skyland Lodge. And it's here that they come across Tage Laura's golden retriever and this dog was just wandering alone in a wooded area by a trail. And he wasn't on a leash. Rangers felt this was both a good and a bad sign. Tage, being so close to the lodge meant that maybe the women couldn't be that far behind him.
But the fact that he wasn't on a leash made them think he wasn't being supervised. And neither of the women would be chasing behind them because they hadn't taken him out for a walk and he'd just gotten away. The other scenario is that maybe they needed help or were in some sort of trouble and only Tage was able to get out of the situation. Shortly after finding Tage, a group of people in a park ranger began meticulously searching the trail in the wooded area where he'd shown up and tucked away near a mountain stream off of the path, which is called Bridle Trail.
They found the women's campsite. Now, this area was a horse trail that was commonly used by horseback riders visiting in the park. Not a lot of hikers on foot would travel it. So it wasn't somewhere that the searchers had concentrated on the day before. But here in this area is where they found the worst possible scene spread out in front of them as they took. Step by step closer to the camp site and peered into the area. They saw that both Julie and Laura's bodies were laying on the ground, partially undressed.
Their wrists were bound with duct tape and their mouths had been gagged with a type of cloth fabric. Also, their throats had been slit. Searchers found Laura inside of the women's tent. But Julie was outside of it and she was actually laying with her sleeping bag and sleeping pad about 30 to 40 feet away from the tent. She was down an embankment near the street. According to an investigator with the National Park Service. Laurice, feet and hands were bound with duct tape.
But Julie's ankles were not bound, just her hands, which might explain why her body was so much further away. Had she run to try and get away from someone, but as she had ran. Why were her sleeping bag and sleeping pad with her? Investigators said that there was evidence that some of the duct tape that had been found on Laura had first been used on Julie to tape her mouth shut. All of this was looking very strange and very bizarre.
When the corner arrived on scene and looked at these women's bodies, they determined that they'd been dead for a few days. But not long enough for severe decomposition to set in or scavenging wildlife to impact the bodies. Police never released if either woman had been sexually assaulted. The environment around the crime scene was in a very remote location. So it became problematic right away for evidence collection. It was hard to truly know the size of the crime scene at all.
It appeared to investigators that all of the women's personal belongings were there at the campsite, including a camera with film in it. Crime scene techs were able to collect the pictures from that film, and those images showed that Julie and Laura had been in the park for several days and they'd hike several trail systems together. The techs were also able to retrieve DNA on the duct tape and cloth used to bind and gag them on those items. They found several hair that they determined didn't come from the women and they didn't come from the dog tage at this point.
The investigators with the National Park Service obviously realize these victims had been murdered and they had likely been taken completely by surprise. Right away, they thought that the rustling stream next to the campsite could have provided the killer the perfect noise to drown out any approaching footsteps or like the sounds that someone was coming towards the area as soon as they discovered the bodies. The Park Service notified Julian Lauras families, both of them are completely devastated. As you can imagine, and they could not believe what had happened.
They were each determined to find answers and make sure they struck up a good line of communication with law enforcement. They wanted to stay updated on the case as they each made their way to Virginia. Investigators believed one of the main reasons the women weren't found sooner after all of those days of searching had to do with the location of the campsite. You see at the time, the park's regulations said if you were a backpacker or a hiker setting up a place to stay, you had to do so.
Nowhere near trails, fire roads or developed areas. So even though the women's campsite was just a 10 minute hike from the Skyway and Lodge where tons of people are, they wouldn't have been easily seen by someone on a trailer service road because that was the rule. So it's not surprising that they went undetected for a few days now after the discovery of the bodies. The investigative service branch of the National Park Service became the lead on the case. And those detectives are a special unit of park rangers who are responsible for investigating crimes within the federal jurisdiction of national parks.
Crimes like this, especially a brutal double murder, were not something that this detective squad for the Park Service saw a whole lot. They called in the Virginia State Police to help with the crime scene and process the area around the bodies. They also brought in the FBI to assist. Now, like we've said, there were a lot of people inside of this park this year. In fact, the National Park Service reports that in 1996, one point five million people visited the park.
So crowd control and securing the crime scene became a huge task. And they were also up against weather elements because just a few days prior, there was a major rainstorm that had come through the area and they were possibly expecting even more rain. Now, here's a detail that's really strange for me. And I came across it while investigating this case. Even though Laura and Julie's families were notified that they were dead. For some reason, the National Park Service waited 36 hours after discovering their bodies to announce anything to the public or the media about the murders.
By June 1st, investigators had no clue who had committed this heinous crime. So you would think that authorities would want to let people know what was going on? I mean, either if just to see anyone came forward with information, like maybe someone saw something, then they could help. Or if nothing else, you think they'd be worried the killer could strike again with so many people being in the park as possible targets. But for some reason, this double murder didn't seem to be that big of a worry for other people.
The FBI and the National Park Service labeled it as an isolated incident likely to downplay public fear. Both agencies said that they believed it was a random attack, which I guess some helmet other people couldn't be at risk. Doesn't seem legit. But that's what they stuck to when the National Park Service did finally make an announcement to the public and the media. News of the horrific murders made headlines across Virginia and the entire country a week after that big announcement.
America's Most Wanted aired a segment about the women and that generated 50 tips for investigators to follow up on. But very quickly, those leads went nowhere. And Laura and Julie's killer remained at large with the press wanting to get more and more about this story. They just started to have a feeding frenzy. The headline of two women slain in cold blood while enjoying a camping trip in the beautiful mountains of Virginia. They really played up the fact that there could be a serial killer stalking hikers.
But another sensational piece of their reporting was the fact that Julie and Laura weren't just friends on a backpacking trip. They were also a couple. Now, at that time, even in 1996, being a lesbian was not as widely accepted as it is today. And the TV stations and newspapers jumped on this detail and they never let go. The headlines for this case really played up the fact that the two women were lovers and felt, at least to their families, that that detail overshadowed the gruesome nature of their murders.
It was almost like everyone cared about who they loved and not the fact that they both had died. Horrible deaths in their killer was still on the loose. All of this made the situation even more difficult for both of the victims families because neither of them were aware that the two were lesbians until after the crime. The first person to confirm for the press that the women were gay was Julie's minister in Vermont, a woman Julie had gone to repeatedly to try and reconcile her mixed emotions about being a lesbian and her Christian beliefs.
Laura's family found the minister's comments outing the pair as lesbians to be super distasteful, and Julie's family felt the same way for a long time after the murders. Both families avoided interviews because of this. And I can imagine they were really frustrated by this and how everything was being handled and the fact that this one detail was overshadowing everything anyone knew about their daughters because they were so much more than just their sexual orientation.
In addition to the details about their sexual orientation coming out, more details about the women's backgrounds and upbringings were reviewed by investigators. A lot of this information is helpful in understanding how the two women ended up together hiking in Shenandoah that year. Julie's background was that she'd grown up in Minnesota and she loved the outdoors. Her family described her as the type of girl who climbed every tree she saw, and she enjoyed playing sports. She was a high school tennis star, but sort of had a nerdy side to her, too.
And she loved to write journaling and writing poetry was something she spent a lot of time doing. Her parents had raised her in a Christian household and they held strong beliefs in their fates about helping others. When Julie graduated high school and went to college, she got really passionate about geology and social justice causes. She spent a lot of time studying Spanish and eventually became fluent in the language. And she used those language skills to become an interpreter for a local police department.
In that work, she was able to help communicate between domestic violence victims and law enforcement. She had a big interest in caring for and helping families where abuse was present. And she also had a passion for the migrant worker community. Now, completely opposite Julie's upbringing was Laura, and she went by the nickname Laali. Laura was from the wealthy and upper class community of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and her family was a fluent, to say the least.
A report from journalist Barry Yeomen in Out magazine said that despite all of the opportunities and influence around her and her family, Laura had been a victim of sexual abuse during her childhood, and she spent most of her young adult years struggling to overcome this. Despite this scar in her past and many people who knew, Laura said as she entered into adulthood, they described her as having a good energy about her and that she had a crazy, witty sense of humor that won people over.
Even if she was sad because Laura felt like an outsider her entire life, growing up in the upper class families she was born into. As soon as she graduated. School, she moved pretty far away. She eventually settled in Vermont and started going to a small college. She also spent a lot of time outdoors and friends who knew her said she was incredibly kind. She'd spent years of soul searching and eventually found her purpose in calling as a wilderness guide.
And that's how Laura and Julie met. They both attended an outdoor educational program for women in 1994. They started a relationship. And by May of 1996, they made their plans to go backpacking in Shenandoah. The trip was celebratory in a way, because Julie had just landed her new job as a geologist in Lake Champlain. But there was no way that you could have known that that celebration trip would end in their deaths. As investigators looked into their past and backtracked their movements before their murder, they were able to establish based on talking to eyewitnesses that really looking close at those pictures from their camera.
The vacation had begun on May 19th. And all of their photos showed what you'd expect. Laura and Julie seemed to be happy. No one else was with them that looked suspicious or like they were following them. The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains were in the backdrop behind most of their pictures. Where they were sitting on rocks are standing at overlooks and. Their dog was just sometimes creeping in the corner at their feet like dogs do. The images prove that by all accounts, the two were having a great time.
At this point, Rangers start speaking to other staff in the park who had been working or maybe patrolling the trails where the women had been. Investigators learned that Laura and Julie had spent their first few days hiking, but then they ran into some rain. At one point, the weather got so bad it forced Laura and Julie to hitch a ride off of the trail system. They got that ride from a park ranger and they renewed their camping permit. On May 24th, after the weather cleared up, eyewitnesses told investigators that they'd seen the women hiking on White Oak Canyon Trail with Tage, and they were headed to Hawksbill mountain.
Photos from the camera showed that they had made it to Hawksbill mountain, but that's where the sightseeing photos stopped. Detectives believed that they likely returned from their hike on May 26 or May 25th and that they'd made their campsite along that stream near the Skyland Lodge. Despite all of this information and their best efforts, investigators from the National Park Service couldn't narrow in on any suspects. It was like Julian Laura's killer, had just come into the park to kill them and then vanished.
The volume of people in and out of the park, combined with the fact the women could have been dead for a few days before being discovered, set investigators back and eventually the case got colder and colder. So much so that after one year and 15000 tips, even the FBI was at a loss for leads. But just around the one year mark, Lori and Julie's case got a resurgence of interest because it was then that a violent predator would strike again inside of Shenandoah.
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Dasch read dot com park predators. Listeners get 10 percent off plus free shipping on their first color kit with Code Park Predators. That's promo code park predators for 10 percent off, plus free shipping on your first color kit. In July 1997, one year after Julian Laws Martyrs', a female cyclist visiting Shenandoah from Canada named Yvonne, Mel Basha was riding her bike with a friend. The two of them were on Skyline Drive, but they got separated and Yvonne wanted to keep her pace pedal up ahead.
She was by herself as she passed milepost 57 and she was approached by an enraged man driving a pickup truck. He threw a soda can at her and began screaming for her to show him her breasts. At one point, he even attempted to run her off the road and then grabbed her by trying to shove her into his truck.
She was able to fight him off using her bike as a barrier between them, and she threw a water bottle at him and ran away and hid behind a tree. This guy tried multiple times to ram his truck at her, attempting to run her over. But when it didn't work, he gave up and sped away. Because Skyline Drive is so long and winding and people pull off at different points, it overlooks. There can be stretches of time where no cars come by.
So you've on didn't have anyone come to her aid during the attack because likely the dude who attacked her waited until he could get her alone and isolated. After a few minutes of hiding in terror behind that tree, not knowing if this crazy guy was going to come back and get her. Yvonne sees a park ranger and she runs to him to tell him what happened. She described what the guy looked like and what kind of truck he was driving. This is all information we should be paying attention to.
If something like this happens to us, this ranger immediately gets on his cell phone to call in the suspect's vehicle and get out a description of the attacker. By the time the driver of the truck tried to exit the park, rangers were waiting for him and stopped him inside of his car. They found hand in leg restraints hidden underneath of his seats. Authorities at the park identified this truck driver as Darrell David Rice. He was in his late 20s single and from Columbia, Maryland.
Rangers brought Yvonne down to the park's exit to positively identify him, which she did. And that's when he's arrested for assault and attempted abduction. Now, to give you some background on this guy and just how awful he is. Here's what former newspaper The Hook dug up on it. Reporters at that publication uncovered that right before his attack on Yvonne, Darrell had been fired from his job in Maryland for being extremely hostile at work. After his arrest, some of his former co-workers told police that he had often screamed sexual profanities at them.
He punched a hole in the wall inside the men's restroom at work and would steal their lunches and bumped into them so that they'd spill their hot coffee. On one occasion, he'd taken a female colleagues picture and thrown it in the trash. In addition to all of this bizarre information, Darryl also had an arrest history in Maryland for drugs. He'd been arrested several times in the 1980s and 90s, dating all the way back to high school. It was mostly for using marijuana, cocaine and LSD.
Most of his life, he'd been a man who was very into music and the music scene around Baltimore, which his family said led him to drug use. By the time he was 28, he had been diagnosed with bouts of severe depression and he had a hard time keeping jobs due to his criminal convictions. His family told The Washington Post that in 1997, at the time he was arrested for attacking Yvonne. He was seriously dating a woman he'd known for years back in Maryland.
His family said that the biggest turnaround point had come for him in 1996 when he landed a computer programming job at MCI System House in Columbia. He'd been out of a steady job for a while, but this was gonna be a new start for him. His female boss at that company said that at first Darryl was a good co-worker who did great work writing training programs and software. But then she began to notice two sides to his personality. She told The Post that just a few months into 1996, Darryl began missing work and told her that that was because he was seeing a psychiatrist and taking new medications.
His boss didn't love that he was missing work a lot, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. But then in late June 1997, she had to fire him because he blew up at work and punched that hole in the men's bathroom. Now, a week after his arrest for attacking Yvonne, Darryl told investigators that he'd become unhinged at work because he recently started dealing marijuana and he thought his co-workers were watching him. After hours and monitoring what he watched on TV at home, Darryl said he thought he might be a schizophrenic, but then later denied that, simply stating that people were against him and manipulating him.
His family told reporters they believed Darryl lashed out at the bicyclist on Skyline Drive because he was upset about losing his job, not because he was abusive towards women or hated them. Not long after his arrest for attacking Yvonne, Darryl went to trial. And that jury convicted him of attempted abduction and sentenced him to 10 years in federal prison. But here's where things get really interesting. Darryl being in Shenandoah and attacking Yvonne just one year after Julie and Laura's murders sent alarm bells off in the minds of the detectives working their case.
They wondered if just maybe he could somehow be involved in Julian Lauras murders. It just seemed like too much of a coincidence that Darryl had shown clear signs of violence against women. And the severity of his attack on Yvonne led investigators to think it wasn't just his first time doing something like that. They figured he was at least worth looking into as a suspect for Laura and Julie's case. So with that in mind, detectives started checking into his whereabouts in May of 1996.
And wouldn't you know it, they found he'd been in the same geographic location as both Julie and Laura during the days that they were missing. The Hook reported that Darryl was seen on surveillance video entering Shenandoah National Park at Aido five p.m. on May 25th. And again at 450 seven p.m. on May 26, he returned again with two male friends. On June 1st, when authorities confronted Darryl with this information, he denied that he was in the park on May 25th and 26, but did admit that he was there on June 1st.
Darrell's responses only fueled detective suspicions that he was involved in Laura and Julie's murders, according to an affidavit from the U.S. attorney's office. While police were questioning Darryl in prison about the case, he said at one point, quote, The women deserved to die because they were gay. But he said that he didn't kill them. Authorities were now sure that Darryl had killed Laura and Julie in a homophobic rampage because he'd made statements that he felt gay people should die.
He had admitted to having irrational urges to hurt people he didn't like, particularly women. Law enforcement thought that Darryl's own statement saying that he could fly off the handle because of his inner rage would explain the brutal nature of Laura and Julie's deaths and the fact that their crime scene indicated they'd been taken by surprise in a vicious attack. Plus, like we just said, investigators could place Daryl in the park at the same time as the victims in an attempt to get more damning statements from Darryl.
The FBI sent an agent undercover into his prison cell where he was serving time for attacking Yvonne. The audio recordings between Darryl and this undercover agent were mostly just Darryl talking about how he had been enraged with his sexual relationships with women and how he felt inadequate because he couldn't find a girlfriend. He told the agent that he'd become addicted to pornography and not just regular pornography. He was into really violent pornography. At one point, one of Darryl's fellow inmates actually told police that the porn Darrell was into was violent and included sadistic material of women being abused or injured.
Now, despite this informant and the undercover operation going on with Darryl in prison, investigators didn't end up with much information that proved he was involved in Julian Laurice deaths. They only had circumstantial evidence against him for the case. But despite that, a grand jury in Virginia indicted Darryl for the murders. When Virginia's attorney general, John Ashcroft, announced the indictment in 2002, he said their argument was going to be that Darryl had murdered the couple because of his hate towards homosexuals and women.
But, of course, the biggest weakness to this case was there was little to no forensic evidence linking him to the actual crime scene. In a news conference, prosecutors sort of quickly wash that over and said that Darryl had made several statements several times to several investigators saying that he, quote, hated gays and he enjoyed assaulting women because they were, in his words, quote, more vulnerable than men. Darryl was formally charged with four counts of capital murder in April 2002.
Two of those counts qualified as hate crimes because prosecutors alleged he specifically targeted the victims because of their sexual orientation. According to the St. Cloud Times, this was the first time in a federal murder indictment that prosecutors were using an enhanced provision. This provision allowed a defendant to face the death penalty for crimes that were motivated because of a victim's gender or sexual orientation. The hate crime aspect of this case meant that if convicted, Darryl was going to sit on Virginia's death row.
This indictment about Darryl gave renewed hope to Laura and Julie's families. They actually knew the government was pursuing these charges against them before prosecutors took their case to the grand jury. But they kept silent so they wouldn't jeopardize anything. Tom, Julie's dad, told reporters. After the announcement that they were aware of Darrel's potential connection to the murders and they were prepared to see it go to trial, they did say finding justice for Julian Laura was one of their top priorities, but felt it was going to take a long time to see it through and ever get a conviction just based on the circumstantial evidence against Dero.
Really, for them keeping Julie's memory alive and doing things to honor her and Laura was their highest priority. They knew prosecutors had a long fight ahead of them and they didn't want to get their hopes up too much. And that doubt would soon be realized in the worst way. When a major twist in this case against Darrow blew up the government's entire plan. Months after indicting Derrell on federal murder charges and capital hate crimes against Julian Laura. Prosecutors in Virginia hit a major snag as they were preparing for trial.
They had the state crime lab test those hairs that had been found at the women's campsite that here that were on the duct tape used to bind them after using a few different DNA testing methods. The results came back and they didn't match Darryl. This meant the case against him was not rock solid. And a defense attorney could jump on that at trial and use the forensic evidence as reasonable doubt that there was another suspect out there. After this bombshell, the case quickly fell apart.
And in 2004, the state of Virginia announced it was going to drop all charges against Darryl. But he didn't go free. He was still serving time in federal prison for attacking Yvonne. But he was off the hook for capital murder. It's at this time Darrell's defense attorneys bring up an alternate suspect. They felt the government should be pursuing. By 2004, a man named Ricchiuti Bonnet's DNA had been submitted into a nationwide bank after his arrest for crimes against children.
When techs at the state lab compared the hairs from Laura and Julie seen to Richards, it was a close match, but not exact. The results showed that this guy wasn't a perfect match. But for some reason, his genetic code was not too far off, meaning that he should be looked at further. In court documents, it was revealed that the DNA results had come back for the hairs and they showed they could have belonged to eight percent of the population.
And Richard was included in that eight percent. The sample they tested had been degraded, though. But Darrell's defense attorneys said it was too close of a match to ignore. So now I want to talk about Richard Bonnet's for a bit and how he even popped up on investigators radar to begin with. Richard was a 38 year old man from Fredericksburg, Virginia, who traveled frequently for his job and had been in the Navy. He spent time living a transient life in Florida, Virginia, Texas and California.
And at the time of Julian Lauras murders, investigators found out that he was in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Now, that county is not far from Shenandoah National Park. But the problem was, is that by 2004, when his name was thrown into the ring as possibly being linked to Laura and Juli's murders, Richard was dead. He died in 2002 after killing himself while running from the police. In June of that year, Richard had abducted and raped a teenage girl in South Carolina and taken her back to his apartment after days bound up.
The teen was able to get out of her restraints and slip out while Richard was sleeping. He woke up and found the girl was gone and tried to run. By that point, though, his hostage had found police and she told them that Richard had posed as a magazine salesman and forced her into his trunk at gunpoint. Officers rushed over to Richard's apartment and got into a high speed pursuit that led from South Carolina to Georgia and eventually ended in Sarasota, Florida.
It was at that point that Richard put a gun in his mouth and took his own life. But right before doing that, he had gotten on the phone with his sister and he told her that he had committed more crimes that he could remember after his death. The FBI connected him to the unsolved abductions and murders of three teenage girls in Spotsylvania County. Those murders occurred in 1996 and 1997.
After his suicide, Richard was officially classified as a serial killer. But for some reason, the FBI didn't request any additional forensic exams be done to determine whether or not he could have killed Laura and Julie. Now, this inaction came as a complete shock to the victims families because the FBI, the Virginia State Police, the National Park Service, all of the authorities had vowed to check his DNA against other unsolved slayings nationwide. The only thing authorities would say on record about this is that they didn't compare Richard's DNA to Julian Laura's case because it, quote, might not be necessary, but a bit of circumstantial evidence that could have put him in the same area of Virginia at the same time as Julian.
Laura is that detectives uncovered he'd taken off work for what he claimed to be a family emergency. And that was on May 30th and May thirty first of 1996. Even with Richard looking pretty good as a suspect in the Shenandoah slayings and likely many more murders of women, Darryl Rice was never off of the police's radar completely. They felt sure that based on everything they learned about him, he was possibly responsible for more abductions of women and murders in the region around Shannah DOA, even if they couldn't link him to Laura and Julie's case.
Authorities thought that Darryl fit the profile of a serial predator who'd been stalking and abducting women on state. Row 29 in Virginia in the late 1990s, in early 1996, the newspapers eventually dubbed this predator the Route 29 stalker. Investigators believe the stalker would trick women into pulling over on the highway and then try and abduct them. Now, Route 29 is a road. I actually used to live on when I lived in central Virginia. My first job out of college put me there and I took that road every day to get to and from work or to see friends.
It's a super busy state road that cuts through the heart of Virginia and Route 29 connects North Carolina to Virginia all the way up to Washington, D.C.. One victim of the Route 29 stalker was a woman named Alisha Show, Walter Reynolds. She disappeared in March 1996 while traveling Route 29. A few months later, her remains were found in a field not far from where her car had been abandoned. According to arrest affidavits, after Alicia's disappearance and murder.
Fifteen women came forward and they lived on Route 29. They said they'd been stopped by a man in a pickup truck. The man told each of them that he believed something was wrong with their car and then he offered them a ride. Of the 15 women who gave statements to police, only one said that she actually got into the guy's truck. But after feeling uncomfortable, she managed to escape.
According to reporting from the hook during his interviews with FBI agents back in July 1997, Darrell admitted that he enjoyed aggravating women and violating their privacy due to their vulnerability. Darrell said that his rage carried over when he would go out driving on the highway and that he tried to run women off of the road and he enjoyed doing that. Darrell said that after he'd forced them out of their lane and onto the shoulder, he would just keep going. When agents asked him where he did this kind of activity, Darrell said Route 29.
By the beginning of 2005, authorities were looking hard at Darrell, thinking he was the Route 29 stalker. But they could never definitively link him to any of the cases. None of the women who'd come forward saying they'd been run off the road or duped by this stalker identified Darrell. Darrell was released from federal prison in 2007 and given a G.P.S. monitoring bracelet, which he was required to wear for several years. After that, he moved in with his mother for a period of time and then in 2011, popped up in Durango, Colorado.
According to police reports from there, residents started calling police because they were fearful of Darryl. Detectives were never able to determine if Darryl had committed any more crimes out there. But I guess it was just his reputation that gave people bad vibes. The last known sighting of him was in 2014, and he has never been formally charged in any of the Route 29 abductions or sought after again for Julian Lauras murders after 2007. The FBI and National Park Service knew they had burned their bridges with Darryl and there was no way prosecutors were ever going to attempt to try him again.
For Laura and Julie's murders. So detectives started looking at the murders to see if they were potentially tied to other crimes in Virginia. They began investigating if the case could be connected to the murders of another lesbian couple from 1986 that occurred in eastern Virginia on the Colonial Parkway. Now, the Colonial Parkway murders is a case that Ashley Flowers actually covered on an episode of Crime Junkie a while back. The victims in that case, Kathleen Thomas and Rebecca Dalkey, were lesbians and they'd been bound in a similar way and a knife was used to slash their throats.
They were placed in their car and pushed off an embankment. That murder is one of several that happened on Colonial Parkway. But the other victims in the parkway cases were heterosexual couples. Now, with all of this information in mind, the FBI said they took a hard look to see if Laura and Jolie's murders were connected to the parkway murders. But despite the similarities, they still didn't have enough to link them definitively. And as we all know, the Colonial Parkway murders are all also unsolved to this day.
But here's the thing. I'm not sure why they haven't been definitively connected, because the possibility is there. In a 2010 report by the freelance star Families of the Colonial Parkway, victims and Julian Laure's families were upset that evidence in the cases had not been compared. Earlier that year, the FBI announced it was sending 130 pieces of evidence from the Colonial Parkway killings to Quantico for retesting and that the Shenandoah murders would be reviewed as well for possible links. The problem was that never happened.
Family members of the victims from the Colonial Parkway killings also wanted Richard Bonnet's DNA compared to evidence because the FBI had determined that he was in the Navy at the time of those slayings and trained in nearby Norfolk, Virginia. But that didn't happen either. A big theory that emerged in those cases was that an authority figure could have been. The predator behind the killings. News reports from over the years said that suspects in the Colonial Parkway killings had included current and former law enforcement officers from many agencies, including sheriff's deputies.
Former state troopers and National Park Service rangers. Reporters from the freelance star wrote that after Julian Lauras case went cold and National Park Service ranger from Shenandoah suggested he and other park personnel be given polygraphs. It's this ranger that says some of his colleagues in Shenandoah had worked at Colonial National Historical Park in the 1980s, right around the time the Parkway killings occurred, and they were currently working in Shenandoah National Park. The Rangers information wasn't ignored, but it wasn't also fully investigated.
Federal agents interviewed approximately 120 Shenandoah National Park employees, and their report stated they made at least three employees take polygraphs. And agents also gathered physical evidence from at least two park employees, including their fingerprints, hair samples and vacuuming out their trucks. Now, after coming up to dead end after dead end investigators and Laura and Julie's case began to think that maybe their killer was just someone they knew, someone who had followed them to the park and knew that they'd be there.
Both Laura and Julie had a few points in their lives, had dated men before coming out as lesbians. Laura had even been engaged to a man in Vermont. But police asked that ex fiancee to take a polygraph and he passed. His DNA wasn't at the crime scene either. And even as they went further and further back and Julian Laws passed, those leads just never went anywhere. Just like everything else in the case, investigators had no concrete proof of who had been with the women at their campsite.
And since 2004, no one has been named as a person of interest in the case. Julie's dad, Tom, did an interview with the freelance star in 2016 on the 20th anniversary of the murders. And in that interview, he said that the family has moved on with every year that's passed. He said that he thinks of Julie every day and still appreciates all that law enforcement has tried to do to solve his daughter's murder. In another interview with NBC four in Washington, D.C., Tom said that he still believes Daryl Rice is the one responsible for Julie's death, but understands building a solid case against him was never an easy task for prosecutors.
In 2016, a special agent in charge of the FBI is Richmond Division told reporters that even 20 years after the murders, he did not consider it a cold case. He said, quote, This is a pending case and I bristle at the term cold case. We will stop at nothing to find justice in this case. And until we have exhausted every means, we continue to this day to exploit the existing evidence and try to obtain new evidence. Julie and Laura are not forgotten in the Richmond division of the FBI, and we are going to aggressively pursue every lead in this case.
If you listening have any information about the murders of Julie Williams or Laura Wyman's submitted tip to the FBI field office in Richmond, Virginia, or any local FBI office near you, links to those locations can be found by going to w w w dot. FBI dot gov. Park Predators is an audio chuck original podcast.
This series was executive produced by Ashley Flowers, research and writing by Delia Ambre with writing assistance by Ashley Flowers Sound designed by David Flowers with production assistance from Melissa Guest Dola.
You can find all of our source material for this episode on our Web site, Paak Predators dot com. So what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve?