2 Young Women Camping in Shenandoah National Park Were Murdered in 1996. Now, the FBI Knows Who Killed Them

Nearly 30 years after the bodies of “Julie” Williams, 24, and Laura “Lollie” Winans, 24, were found bound and gagged at their campsite with their throats slit, the FBI has tracked their killer

<p>Federal Bureau of Investigation</p> Walter Jackson; Laura Winans and Julianne Williams

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Walter Jackson; Laura Winans and Julianne Williams

What started out as a long-awaited camping trip in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park turned to horror when two women were brutally murdered on May 24, 1996.

A week later, on June 1, 1996, after an extensive search, the bodies of “Julie” Williams, 24, and Laura “Lollie” Winans, 24, were found bound and gagged with their throats slit at their campsite near the Skyland Resort just off the Appalachian Trail.

Now, after nearly 30 years, the FBI announced that it had found the man responsible for killing the young women – Walter “Leo” Jackson, a convicted serial rapist, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Richmond Field Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia announced in a release.

“After 28 years, we are now able to say who committed the brutal murders of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams in Shenandoah National Park,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said in the release. “I want to again extend my condolences to the Winans and Williams families and hope today’s announcement provides some small measure of solace.”

Winans and Williams loved spending time outdoors and were excited about their trip, according to Appalachian Trail Histories.

The two left for their camping trip to Shenandoah National Park on May 19, 1996, and were planning on returning by May 28, 1996. When they failed to return home as planned, their family members called the National Park Service, which sent rangers to scour the park for the women, locating their brutalized bodies at their campsite.

For years, the case went cold. But in 2021, a new FBI Richmond investigative team was assigned to review the case.

Related: Ariz. Couple Was Killed on Camping Trip in 2003, as Cops Announce Reward for Info Leading to Arrest

They retested evidence from the crime scene and submitted those items to an accredited private lab, according to the release.

“Recently, the private lab successfully pulled DNA from several items of evidence and, with assistance from the Virginia State Police, the profile was submitted to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). There was a positive match to Walter Leo Jackson Senior (born November 2, 1947). Jackson was a convicted serial rapist, originally from the Cleveland, Ohio area.”

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Jackson died in prison in March 2018 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

He had a lengthy criminal history, including kidnapping, rapes and assaults, according to the release.

A residential painter by trade, Jackson was known to visit Shenandoah National Park.

The FBI will continue to work with law enforcement partners to determine if Jackson is responsible for other unsolved crimes. Anyone with information on Jackson should call 1-800-CALL FBI or submit online at tips.fbi.gov.

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