Geoff Hood from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, and Molly LaRue from Shaker Heights, Ohio, were thru-hikers in 1990. Geoff was twenty-six years old and Molly was twenty-five. On June 3, 1990 the couple climbed to the top of Mt. Katahdin and then on June 4th they began their SOBO hike through Maine with the goal of Georgia on their minds. A little over three months later (Sept. 11), they spent the night at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, Pennsylvania. They unpacked, called and talked to their parents about a reunion in Harpers Ferry, and then grabbed at meal at the Doyle.
The next morning Geoff (trail name, Clevis) and Molly (Nalgene) met Molly’s elderly great aunt and two other relatives in Duncannon and accompanied them to lunch at a nearby truck stop. After the luncheon, the couple picked up their mail at the post office, stopped at a small grocery for a resupply, and then, around 3:45 p.m., hit the trailhead and disappeared into the woods toward Cove Mountain.
The 550-foot climb out of Duncannon levels outs at Hawk Rock providing a beautiful view of the rivers and farmland below. From Hawk Rock they hiked an easy two miles of trail to the Thelma Marks Shelter. Thelma Marks Shelter no longer exists but was torn down in 2000 and replaced with the Cove Mountain Shelter.
Clevis and Nalgene most likely arrived there sometime after 5 p.m. They spent the night at the Thelma Marks Shelter on top of Cove Mountain. But it is then that this story of their thru-hike turns tragic. Sometime in the early morning hours on September 13, 1990, a 38-year-old drifter on the run from law enforcement killed both of them at the shelter. Geoff was shot to death and Molly was raped and then fatally stabbed by Paul David Crews.
Crews returned to the trail and hiked north into Duncannon without his red gym bags. Now he wore Geoff’s big green Gregory backpack. He hitched a ride east to Interstate 81 and got at least one ride south before rejoining the trail in the next county, far from Thelma Marks Shelter. He walked south from there, assuming the guise of a thru-hiker. Crews was taken into custody by federal park rangers in Harpers Ferry (about 120 miles south of the murder scene), having been captured as he walked a footbridge across the Potomac from Maryland into West Virginia.
Testimony in the trial started on May 15, 1991. The state brought in sixty witnesses and over one hundred and fifty pieces of evidence that presented a powerful case against Crews: he had been arrested wearing Geoff’s pack, boots, and wristwatch, and he was carrying both murder weapons. Crews left some of his own gear at the scene and DNA evidence linked him to Molly’s rape. He was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection. However, in December 2006, the courts resentenced Crews to two life terms without the possibility of parole.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the gruesome murders. I include this post on the blog not to highlight the murderer nor to call into question the safety of the Appalachian Trail thru-hike, but rather to honor the memory of Clevis and Nalgene, to applaud their spirit of adventure and enjoyment of the outdoors and to send words of comfort to friends and family of Geoff and Molly.
For an insightful account of the incident see Earl Swift’s online detail. http://www.outsideonline.com/2011326/murder-appalachian-trail
Photos found at http://www.outsideonline.com/2011326/murder-appalachian-trail