Home Huge break in 1996 Shenandoah National Park murders: Authorities ID suspect

Huge break in 1996 Shenandoah National Park murders: Authorities ID suspect

SNP murder victims
Julie Williams and Lollie Winans, submitted

Two women were murdered at their campsite near the Skyland Resort in the Shenandoah National Park on March 24, 1996, and until now, the crime remained unsolved.

Through DNA, a suspect in their murders has now been identified. The positive match was to Walter Leo Jackson, Sr., a convicted serial rapist originally from the Cleveland, Ohio, area, according to police.

The bodies of Laura “Lollie” Winans, 26, and Julianne “Julie” Williams, 24, were found on June 1, 1996, after an extensive search by rangers with the National Park Service. The women had been hiking with a golden retriever named “Taj” who was later found near Whiteoak Canyon Trail.

Jackson, who went by the name “Leo,” died in prison in March 2018 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

Jackson had a lengthy criminal history, including kidnapping, rapes and assaults. Jackson was a residential painter by trade and was an avid hiker who was known to visit Shenandoah National Park.

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

The case was solved after a new FBI Richmond investigative team was assigned to do a review of the case in 2021. The team submitted items to retest to an accredited private lab.

Recently, the lab 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, or CODIS, which had the positive match.

“Even though we had this DNA match, we took additional steps and compared evidence from Lollie and Julie’s murders directly to a buccal swab containing Jackson’s DNA. Those results confirmed we had the right man and finally could tell the victim’s families we know who is responsible for this heinous crime,” said Stanley M. Meador, the FBI Richmond special agent in charge.

jackson SNP murder

At the time of the murders, Jackson was likely driving a 1984 Chestnut Brown AMC Eagle 30. He 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)

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.

Related story

FBI seeking information in 1996 murders in Shenandoah National Park
Published date: June 4, 2021 | 12:00 pm

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.

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