Two campers killed in 1996 were victims of a serial rapist

Two campers killed in 1996 were victims of a serial rapist
Two campers killed in 1996 were victims of a serial rapist

Laura “Lollie” Winans, 26, and Julianne “Julie” Williams, 24, went camping in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, in late May 1996. The families of the two women, who were a couple, raised the alarm when they did not return on the scheduled date. Their bodies were found on June 1 where they were camping. The two women were bound and gagged, then raped before having their throats slit.

For years, the police could not discover a single suspect. Darrell David Rice, a man who was serving a prison sentence for kidnapping after forcing a cyclist into his truck in 1998 in the same region, was accused of the double murder in 2001, in particular because of his hatred of homosexuals . But hair found at the crime scene did not match his and he was exonerated in the case.

It is the DNA which has just made it possible to unmask the real culprit. A new investigative team has been working on the case starting in 2021, Stanley Meador, the special agent in charge of the Richmond FBI office, said on June 20, cited by CBS. A private laboratory extracted DNA from several clues taken from the crime scene and sent the genetic profile to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System.

A positive match was found with Walter “Leo” Jackson Sr., a serial rapist. It was successfully compared with a sample of his DNA taken during a rape case in Ohio. But the man died in prison in 2018, at age 70, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The former house painter had served at least four separate prison sentences after being convicted of kidnapping and multiple rapes and assaults. He was known to enjoy hiking in the park where the two young women were murdered.

According to the available information, the assassin would not have attacked the two women because of their homosexuality, even though the crime had sparked a movement of fear in the homosexual community at the time. There is no indication that Walter Jackson knew the two women were lesbians. “Make no mistake, this crime was brutal, this crime was definitely hateful, nevertheless we have no evidence that the crime was motivated by anti-gay bias,” said prosecutor Christopher Kavanaugh.

The FBI will now investigate whether Walter Jackson may have committed other crimes.

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