‘Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders’ by Kathryn Miles

In an interview in “National Parks Magazine” (Summer 2022) Miles was asked what drew her to research and write about the 1996 unsolved murder case of Julie Williams, 24, and Lollie Winans, 26, near the Shenandoah National Park’s Bridle Trail.

Miles said that she was a contemporary of the victims and a sexual assault survivor who relied upon and felt safe in the backcountry. That two experienced outdoor guides were attacked in an environment that was supposedly safe, “shattered my sense of wilderness and who I was there.”

Jurisdictional and experience issues between the Park Police and the FBI bogged down the investigation, Miles thought. “There was a cultural divide, and there was a procedural divide, between how those rangers did their work, how the FBI did their work, and who was in charge. The FBI didn’t have experience investigating backcountry and wilderness crimes.” You can find the interview and an excerpt here.

From the Publisher

“They must have been followed. That’s the thought I return to after all these years . . .

“In May 1996, two skilled backcountry leaders, Lollie Winans and Julie Williams, entered Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park for a week-long backcountry camping trip. The free-spirited and remarkable young couple had met and fallen in love the previous summer while working at a world-renowned outdoor program for women. During their final days in the park, they descended the narrow remnants of a trail and pitched their tent in a hidden spot. After the pair didn’t return home as planned, park rangers found a scene of horror at their campsite, their tent slashed open, their beloved dog missing, and both women dead in their sleeping bags. The unsolved murders of Winans and Williams continue to haunt all who had encountered them or knew their story.

“When award-winning journalist and outdoors expert Kathryn Miles begins looking into the case, she discovers conflicting evidence, mismatched timelines, and details that just don’t add up. With unprecedented access to crucial crime-scene forensics and key witnesses—and with a growing sense of both mission and obsession—she begins to uncover the truth. An innocent man, Miles is convinced, has been under suspicion for decades, while the true culprit is a known serial killer, if only authorities would take a closer look.

“Intimate, page-turning, and brilliantly reported, Trailed is a love story and a call to justice—and a searching and urgent plea to make wilderness a safe space for women—destined to become a true crime classic.”

From Kirkus Reviews

What makes this story so chilling is not just that the author had to “police law enforcement” in order to determine their investigative errors. She also shows how “every year there is demonstrable evidence that women, African Americans, and nonbinary and LGBT people have good reason to wonder if they are safe in the wilderness, which in many ways is still considered a white male domain.” Gripping and thoughtful, this book will appeal to those with an interest in true-crime stories and unsettling truths about places deemed safe for all.

Disturbing and provocative.