B O O K R E V I E W : Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles

Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders
Kathryn Miles
Algonquin Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Women have not always been welcomed into the outdoors community, but Lollie Winans and Julie Williams both loved nature and had extensive backcountry leadership experience. The two met in 1995 through Woodswomen, an adventure and travel organization run for and by women. In May 1996, the women, still dating and now based in Maine where Lollie was completing her college degree, visited Shenandoah National Park for a week-long backcountry camping with Lollie’s dog, Taj.

When the women didn’t return home as planned, park rangers initiated a search. Their first attempts to locate Lollie and Julie were unsuccessful but then they found their campsite in an isolated clearing not too far from the Appalachian Trail. The scene was a nightmare: their tent had been slashed open, and the women were both found dead, bound by duct tape, and wrapped in their sleeping bags. (Taj, missing, was later found and returned to Lollie’s ex-fiancé.)

Acclimated journalist Kathryn Miles started researching the case for a planned article which became her book, Trailed. As an experienced backpacker herself, Miles told many people she was writing the book so she’d no longer be scared—scared out in nature, doing what she loved. Her experience and comfort with the culture also gave her added insight into both the Lollie and Julie and the people who may have crossed path.

One aspect of the book I appreciated was it’s celebration of the lives of Lollie and Julie and how their loss reverberated through their families, friends, communities, and the author herself.

As she tried to understand what happened to the women, Miles had access to the primary investigators, legal documents, and members of the defense team representing Darrel David Rice. Over her four years of research, she interviewed countless individuals connected to the case, including family members, friends, and people who were in the park in late May 1996. I was very impressed with the depth of her research, the variety of her sources, her determination to complete the story despite the personal costs, and her writing skills.

Miles’s research shows how lack of resources plus human error—-deliberate and unintentional—focused blame on Rice even though no evidence could connect him to the scene. Though a more likely suspect arose, the investigators refused to authorize the forensic tests that might implicate him and finally provide resolution.

If you liked The Third Rainbow Girl or The Facts of a Body, you will love this. I highly recommend to those who enjoy reading true crime.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for including me on the book tour and for an advanced reading copy of the book.