On May 19, 1996, Julianne Williams, 24, and Lollie Winans, 26, set out with their golden retriever, Taj, to backpack through Shenandoah National Park. Less than two weeks later, they were reported missing.
The Rich Lives of Lollie and Julianne
Lollie was from a wealthier family, but friends described her personality as down to earth. After she graduated from high school, Lollie dropped out of college. In 1994, she moved to Maine and attended Unity College. She also worked as a wilderness guide, where she centered herself in the outdoors.
Julianne, who often went by Julie, loved sports and geology. She was passionate about helping her community, as seen in her efforts to work with disenfranchised individuals, including those who had been abused or who were migrants. She also worked at a Burlington, Vermont, bookstore. She was set to begin a new job in June of 1996.
Julie and Lollie met at a non-profit organization in Minnesota designed to promote adventure and travel for women. They clicked instantly and developed a relationship. They loved spending time outside, and backpacking didn’t scare them.
The Last Camping Trip
On May 31st, park rangers set out to look for Lollie and Julie. They found their vehicle near Skyland Lodge and began a search of nearby trails. Along the way, park rangers also found Taj walking around without a leash.
The next day, park rangers came across the camp Julie and Lollie had set up, about half a mile from their vehicle. Both had been killed and left at camp. In spite of the fact that it had been a busy weekend in the park, nobody had found the women’s bodies, perhaps because they’d been required to build a camp off the normal trail and near a stream that may have drowned out noise.
The Complications of Solving the Crime
One of the difficulties investigators face in finding the Lollie and Julie’s murderer is the fact that they were killed in Shenandoah National Park, which is a federal jurisdiction. The allocation of resources may not meet the demands of this case.
Another difficulty investigators face involves the fact that so many people visit the park. In fact, more than 1.57 million people were in the park the year Lollie and Julie were killed. Somebody could have easily entered the park, committed the crime, and left without attracting any attention.
In 1997, a Maryland man with initials DDR was arrested for attempting to abduct a bicyclist in Shenandoah National Park. After he pleaded guilty, DDR received a sentence of 11 years. In 2002, he was also charged with Julie and Lollie’s murders after it became clear to authorities he was homophobic and misogynistic. Video showed him entering the park on both May 25 and May 26, 1996.
Still, forensic evidence didn’t connect DDR to the crime scene. Two years after he was charged, prosecutors dropped the case against him. He also faced suspicion in the death of Alicia Showalter Reynolds, but he has not been charged in that case either. DDR has since been released from prison and has been monitored closely while on parole.
Another man, Richard Evonitz, has been considered a suspect as well. He died by suicide in 2002 after police connected him to three other murders. Forensic evidence has not confirmed Evonitz’s role in this case.
The FBI is still investigating the murders of Julie and Lollie, and they are not releasing information about any potential suspects at this time. As of today, nobody has been convicted in this case.