top of page

Trailed case solved

After nearly three decades, the mystery surrounding the deaths of two women in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, has been solved. DNA evidence conclusively links Walter “Leo” Jackson Sr., a convicted serial rapist who passed away in prison in 2018, to the brutal murders of Laura “Lollie” Winans (26) and Julianne “Julie” Williams (24). The FBI’s Richmond Field Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia jointly confirmed this breakthrough.

U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh expressed condolences to the victims’ families, emphasizing that this revelation may offer some solace after 28 years of uncertainty. The women’s bodies were discovered on June 1, 1996, near their campsite close to the Skyland Resort.

This long-awaited closure sheds light on a tragic chapter in history, bringing justice to the memory of Laura and Julie.

The case was covered in Kathryn Miles's book "Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders," which was CrimeCon's True Crime Book of the Year in 2023.

In Trailed, Miles’s personal connections lead her to the haunting Shenandoah murders—the brutal 1996 killings of Laura “Lollie” Winans and Julie Williams. As a former teacher at Unity College, where Lollie once studied, and an avid hiker seeking confidence on the Appalachian Trail and in our National Parks, Miles grapples with the weight of this unsolved case in her book. Her quest for answers intertwines with her own journey, as she navigates the shadows cast by tragedy and seeks resolution.

The book is meticulously detailed. Miles constructs a precise timeline that unfolds before and after the murder, leaving no loose ends. Through extensive interviews, she engages with rangers, law enforcement officials, friends, family members, legal experts, and forensic specialists. Her thoroughness knows no bounds—she even sought the insights of twenty geneticists to scrutinize FBI lab reports.

After years of remaining unsolved, a fresh FBI team took up the investigation in 2021. Comprising special agents, intelligence analysts, and other experts, they meticulously re-evaluated hundreds of leads and interviews. Their focus centered on evidence from the crime scene, which they diligently retested at an accredited private lab.

Get Trailed

The FBI's private lab meticulously extracted DNA from “several items of evidence.” With the collaboration of the Virginia State Police, the DNA profile was submitted to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The result? A definitive match to Walter “Leo” Jackson Sr., a convicted serial rapist hailing from Cleveland. Additionally, the FBI cross-referenced evidence from the murders of Winans and Williams with a buccal swab containing Jackson’s DNA.

"Those results confirmed we had the right man and finally could tell the victims' families we know who is responsible for this heinous crime,” said Stanley M. Meador, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Richmond. The FBI says they will continue to work with law enforcement partners to determine if Jackson is responsible for other unsolved crimes.

Jackson, who went by the name “Leo”, had a lengthy criminal history, including kidnapping, rapes, and assaults. Jackson, a residential painter by trade, was also an avid hiker. At the time of Lollie and Julie’s murders, he may have been driving a 1984 Chestnut Brown AMC Eagle 30. Jackson later drove a 1979 Ford Econoline 250 van. Jackson was known to use temporary tags, alter license plates, and frequently change vehicles.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections provided the following timeline of when Jackson was incarcerated. Jackson would be excluded as a possible suspect for any unsolved crimes that occurred during this time period:

January 1984 through February 1989 (Charged in Geauga County, Ohio)

May 1994 through September 1994 (Charged in Cuyahoga County, Ohio)

August 2000 through May 2007 (Charged in Cuyahoga County, Ohio)

May 2012 until his death in March 2018 (Charged in Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Kathryn’s book unfolded with exquisite beauty, from its opening pages to its poignant conclusion. It wove together a tender love story between Julie and Lollie, while simultaneously serving as a raw and introspective memoir—a journey toward acceptance and reconciliation with one’s inner struggles. If you’re seeking an immersive dive into the intricate case details, I wholeheartedly recommend this five-star book. Its pages unravel a captivating narrative, drawing you into the lives of two remarkable women. As their stories unfold, you’ll find yourself enamored not only with Julie and Lollie but also with the gifted writer who skillfully weaves their tale.

Catch my interview with Kathryn on The Sirens Podcast.


bottom of page