And to have their lives snuffed out at that age—it’s a tragedy beyond words.”. DNA linked him to Molly’s rape. Geoff and Molly at Mount Katahdin in Maine. Still, they beat us out of camp. Rubin interrupted. Were they attacked as they slept? Spirited. They lounged on any rock with a view. Gene “Flat Feet” Butcher decided not to dally and hiked up Cove Mountain shortly after Crews had descended the same path. “To die doing something you love is not the worst thing in this life. The ruling came one day after the same jury deliberated for about 49 minutes before finding Crews guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. “I thought a tornado was on the way,” Greg wrote. Story: The first recorded murder on the Appalachian Trail was Joel Polson. James L. Jordan, 30, of West Yarmouth, Mass., was charged in the fatal stabbing of one person and the wounding of another on the Appalachian Trail. The deaths weighed heavy on the close-knit community of hikers who went by trail names. Then beyond two. Hood, 26, of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, was shot three times in the head, back and abdomen by a .22-caliber pistol fired from about 4 feet away, based on gunpowder residue found at the scene. We sped over the high, wild Presidential Range and down the 2,000-foot Webster Cliffs, setting up camp at the bottom two nights behind Geoff and Molly. Peering down the steep mountainside toward the invisible Thelma Marks shelter, Butcher decided not to stop in and hiked on to Darlington. We lingered, talking and laughing, long after we’d gorged ourselves. But that’s not the way it played out.”. Instead, they reached an agreement with his attorneys that Crews would serve two life sentences without parole in state prison. A few feet away stood the ancient log lean-to it replaced. After that the investigation proceeded rapidly. No chance he was a hiker: he wore a flannel shirt, jeans, and combat boots, had a small rucksack on his back, and carried two bright red gym bags, each emblazoned with the Marlboro logo. Indeed, Crews offered only monosyllabic responses to police, said next to nothing in court, and has described to no one, as far as is known, why things took such a horrible turn at Thelma Marks. “There’s got to be a way you can pray to yourself.”, Rubin brushed me off. Last week, a federal district court judge ruled that James “Sovereign” Jordan, the Massachusetts man charged with the murder of hiker Ronald “Stronghold” Sanchez, isn’t competent to stand trial.The ruling brings to an end—at least temporarily—one of the most disturbing stories to emerge from the Appalachian Trail in the past decade, while leaving questions about the case open. For years she would be haunted by that moment, by “tremendous guilt over the fact that I had seen him, and that I had sensed an evil aura coming off him. “Hey Greenhorn you most certainly are not the last entry of the season,” Geoff wrote. The Sentinel on Oct. 18, 1990 reported how Crews was wanted on a first-degree murder charge in Florida. Yet, while murder along the Appalachian Trail is quite rare, there have been quite a few brutal murders that have made trail-goers just a bit more cautious and aware of their surroundings. Fifteen years have grayed the new shelter’s wood. From there they faced an easy two miles of ridgetop to Thelma Marks—which waited, dark and droopy, its back to the AT, at the bottom of a steep 500-foot side trail. Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device. As Molly predicted in one log entry: “If you’re behind us you will pass us.”. Or the questions that lingered when the man responsible would not say why he shot Geoff three times or why he tied Molly’s hands behind her back and looped the rope around her neck. Hikers were on hand to testify, and others, like me, had simply shown up. And now, late on the afternoon of September 11, 1990, he found his way to the Appalachian Trail. Greg and I pushed on but reunited with the other four southbounders that evening at a Dartmouth Outing Club bunkhouse. Near Manchester Center, Vermont, both Muskratt and Animal pulled ahead of me, and no matter how far or fast I hiked, I couldn’t catch up; they seemed to stay a shelter ahead through the rest of New England, until, after a hell-for-leather sprint, I managed to catch Muskratt just inside New York State. The police recovered the car, along with Crews’s knife and bloody clothes, but found no sign of him. In all honesty, there have been instances of murder and foul play on the trail. Any hopes for respectable mileage already shot, we settled for an easy seven-mile stroll to the Darlington shelter. As the rest of us crawled into our bags, he began to celebrate the Sabbath. We read our trail journals aloud, laughed over our descriptions of Rubin, then turned to the subject of Geoff and Molly. They shared just three baths. Geoff Hood and Molly LaRue were killed near Duncannon in 1990 while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Squish between my toes in my sandal The families arranged for memorial services while police searched for the killer. “Well, we had one of those days.” Geoff’s next entry whimpered: “Our bodies have had almost as much as they can take.”. My pack weighed nearly half as much as I did, and every pound hurt. At 26, Geoff was a friendly, contemplative Tennessean, even tempered and patient. “If someone were murdered in God's cathedral, then murder could be committed anyplace.”. We’d followed his register entries from Maine, and he proved an affable companion, at ease in the woods after working at fish camps close to the Canadian border. The graffiti-carved plank floor slept four or five comfortably, eight in a pinch. Crews was jailed, pending trial. But he took a step toward the righteous path late in his hike, he told me, and he could remember the night it happened: Wednesday, August 28, 1990, at the Thelma Marks shelter. And it reverberates still, all these years later, because what befell Geoff Hood and Molly LaRue at the Thelma Marks shelter is a cautionary tale without lesson. He spent 15 years in prison before his release in 1996. The next morning Fox shot Polson in the back of the head and kidnapped McFaddin. Earl Swift is the author of five books, including Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream. And they were slow. “I love you forever, I like you for always,” he wrote in April, when he was off in the backcountry. In the quarter-century since my first visit there, through-hiking had mushroomed in popularity: in 1990, the ATC recorded more than 230 completed end-to-end treks, just eight of them southbound; last year, the total had grown to 961. A hiker who’d embarked on a freelance search for the killer recognized Geoff’s pack on his back and sounded the alarm. I read this a few days south of Katahdin, which I’d climbed 12 days behind them. Including his own hike. Another southbounder was already there: Marcus Macaluso, a.k.a. “The lack of direction in my life was due to my leaving God,” he wrote, “but He loves me and I feel a new strength. “I was up at the shelter. Unknown. Even so, Lutz, herself a 1978 through-hiker, decided that Darlington was a place she most sincerely did not want to be. “I get choked up thinking about Molly and Geoff. $294.57. Birds trilled. With the sun setting, he yanked six Old Milwaukee tallboys from his pack and chugged them in quick succession. At one point, trail officials had warned hikers to bypass the Pennsylvania section of trail until police had a suspect in custody. “We reached the Allentown shelter for breakfast,” Geoff wrote on September 6. Not long after, the crew removed the old shelter’s corrugated metal roof, dismantled its log walls, and sawed them up. First impressions: Molly—blond and dimpled, quick to smile, solidly built but obviously fit. The 38-year-old suspect went by the alias David “Casey” Horn and told officers he was from Loris, South Carolina. One more thing, Geoff said—we have something to tell you when we all get together. Bob Howell, a Pennsylvania state police investigator at the center of the inquiry, offers a straightforward take. “These people are trying to sleep,” I said, nodding toward the others. Like his parents, he was a southbounder. This is something I just can’t handle. I think that’s how I can best honor her memory,” he says. And so, on June 4, 1990, having climbed the day before to the AT’s northern terminus on the peak of mile-high Mount Katahdin, they set off on their long walk—and found it surprisingly arduous. He burst into tears. They were traveling as a pair, too, which was considered common sense. If he hustled, he might make the Darlington shelter, little more than three miles away. Geoff was laid to rest near his home in Tennessee, in a plot overlooking Signal Mountain. They thanked the volunteers who maintained the trail. The clearing was dead quiet. “I just knew.” He saw Molly’s mother, Connie, pull into the driveway with a load of groceries. I noticed that he carried one of the best packs around at the time, a mammoth green Gregory, and that both of them handled their gear with an expert nonchalance. “It’s beyond eerie,” said Mark Glazerow, known on the trail as “Doc.” “If the (perpetrator) would have been a day earlier, this trail would have been about my death.” A Baltimore area jeweler, Glazerow had slept at the shelter Sept. 12, 1990. They found one such bag at Thelma Marks, the other at Darlington. He put down Casey Horn. Along the way, the hikers ahead of us came into focus, none more so than Nalgene and her partner, who called himself Clevis. The Associated Press reported how relatives of the two victims wept on hearing the sentence and how a courtroom spectator exclaimed “Yes, thank God.” Juror Gaythol Hefner told reporters “The evidence was so overwhelming.”. Those crimes shared traits with what transpired at Thelma Marks. He crunched the empties into makeshift candleholders. 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