The Shelter

When two young lovers are found brutally murdered in a designated park shelter on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, authorities work quickly to capture their killer. The man they come face-to-face though with has a dark past and list of even more victims across two U.S. states.

The Episode

Hi park enthusiasts…

I’m your host Delia D’Ambra. And the story I have for you today is one that involves two young people in the prime of their life who were set on making a difference in the world. They found a way to combine their love of the outdoors with their passion for helping others…which I feel is a running theme for so many of the cases and victims I talk about on Park Predators.

This story stood out to me for a lot of reasons and will probably be one this season that you also won’t forget either…mostly because of how violent the crime was and how brazen the suspect was to commit such a heinous act on one of the most popular hiking trails in North America.

This story takes place along the Appalachian Trail, specifically on a stretch of it that goes through Cove Mountain, which is about a half hour Northwest of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s website, the A-T, as most people know it, spans roughly 2,200 miles and crosses over 14 states along the East coast of the United States.

For a typical backpacker, the trek takes on average about 5-7 months to complete from beginning to end. Thousands of hikers traverse it each year, but only about 1 in 4 succeed in completing the entire journey. The victims in this story were two of those determined hikers.

They thoughtfully planned out their rest stops, lodging accommodations and, of course, sightseeing adventures…but what was waiting for them at a trail shelter in Cove Mountain in the fall of 1990 remains one of the most horrific crimes to mar the Appalachian Trail and forever shatter the lives of two families.

This is Park Predators.

On the afternoon of Thursday, September 13th, 1990, Brian Bowen, who everyone knew by his nickname “Biff” and his wife Cindi, took a break after hiking hours on the Appalachian Trail.

They pit-stopped for some much-needed food and rest in the town of Duncannon, Pennsylvania. The Bowens had been hiking the A-T from Maine and were headed southbound and like so many of their fellow hikers, they needed to stop in a town here and there on occasion to refresh their supplies.

Duncannon was small but definitely a sight for sore eyes for anyone needing a break from the brutal toil of a long stretch on the A-T. Back in 1990, there were three bars, a grocery store, and two video stores and a row of one-story buildings on main street but other than that, that was pretty much it.

Duncannon is nestled at the bottom of Cove Mountain and is considered by some to be the halfway point on the AT. It was a welcome oasis to hikers who were looking for a place to rest, wash clothes, make phone calls, pick up mail or just have a few beers.

The place most strangers passing through town seemed to wind up at was the Doyle Hotel – a rundown historic hotel that charged roughly $11 a night for a room and had cheap draft beer and hot food.

While the couple drank beers and ate pizza for lunch, they read through the Doyle Register log from the hotel. As they scanned several handwritten entries from other hikers who’d been by the hotel, they spotted one entry that caught their eye. It was from September 12th…the day before Biff and Cindi had arrived in town.

It read, quote– “As we hear it we’re about mid-slip of the southbounders moving down—oops getting food on the book. Good food too; time to go—Clevis & Nalgene.” — end quote

Biff and Cindi immediately recognized the names— “Clevis and Nalgene”. They’d been trailing the couple who called themselves by those names for weeks, and really felt like they knew them, though they hadn’t actually met them in person.

Biff and Cindi assumed the names were pseudonyms, or trail names that the folks up ahead of them were using while on the A-T. I’ve talked about trail names before in previous seasons, but trail names are super common and really popular for people who spend months on end hiking major trail systems or parks. It’s a way of adopting a sort of pseudo-identity while on the rugged journey through terrain that feels like another world compared to where most hikers’ normal lives are.

The Bowens used a trail name too, they called themselves ‘The Lone Moccasins.’

Based on their own progress, Cindy and Biff did the math and figured Clevis and Nalgene weren’t too far ahead of them and more than likely would have been staying on Cove Mountain at the Thelma Marks Shelter – a 3-sided lean-to that provided coverage for through-hikers. That was going to be Biff and Cindi’s next stop, so it was only a matter of time before they would eventually meet their trail name friends.

After wrapping up in Duncannon, Biff and Cindi began their roughly 2-hour hike from town to the Thelma Marks trail shelter.

Around 6:00 pm that evening, they arrived and right away sensed that something was wrong…

The spot was completely silent. That had never been the case before with ANY trail shelter they’d walked up to on the A-T.

Usually there were people walking around, talking, or setting out their hiking gear for the next day. As the couple got closer and closer to the actual shelter structure Biff noticed random hiking supplies and pieces of trash were scattered all over the ground. Literally, the stuff was like littered across the ground…which he knew was super unusual because most hikers were conscious enough to tidy up and keep outdoor areas free of debris and refuse that would damage the environment.

With each step they took, Biff and Cindi knew that something was very, very off about the scene they’d just walked into. So, in an act of caution, Biff stuck out one of his hiking poles in front of him using it as a makeshift weapon and carefully approached the entrance to the shelter.

When he peered inside, he immediately noticed bloodstains…everywhere.

He told Cindi to stay behind him and went further in to investigate. Once he was all the way inside, he found the bloodied bodies of a man and a woman laying on the floor.

The guy was laying in a back corner of the structure, on his back with his head sitting on some blankets and fabric that appeared to be a makeshift pillow. In his hand was a white shirt.

The woman’s body was sprawled out in the middle of the shelter, lying face down in a pool of her own blood. Her hands were tied tightly behind her back with some rope.

Biff and Cindi were horrified by the scene…and even though they had no way of knowing for sure who the dead couple was, in their gut they had a strong suspicion that it was Clevis and Nalgene, the couple who’d been only miles ahead of them their entire time on the A-T.

Alarm bells were screaming in Biff and Cindi’s minds, but they were somewhat helpless. One, they had no idea if whoever had done this was still in the area…and two, this is 1990 in the wilderness…there were no cell phones to just dial up the cops and report two dead bodies.

So, the only option the couple had was to hike 2 hours back to Duncannon and call the police to report what they’d found. According to news reports, Biff and Cindy high-tailed it back to town in record time, shaving the 2-hour hike in half to roughly 1 hour, then used a public phone to alert authorities.

Within a matter of minutes of the report coming in, Pennsylvania State Police troopers raced to the Thelma Marks shelter. Based on what they’d been told Biff and Cindi had reported, troopers knew they were more than likely dealing with a double homicide scene.

The first challenge first responders faced was that by the time Biff and Cindi were able to report the bodies, night had fallen in the wood, and the scene was pretty much pitch black. To make matters worse, the section of the A-T that the shelter was off of was NOT a place police could just drive up to, park their cruisers and hop out. Far from it. Investigators had to climb Cove Mountain to even get near the shelter and walk about 100 yards down the same rocky slopes Biff and Cindi had traversed before detectives could physically get to the scene.

After about an hour or two of hiking, Pennsylvania State Police along with National Park Service Officials finally arrived …and it took only a few minutes for their worst fears to be confirmed.

There inside the shelter, were two bodies. The male victim appeared to have suffered several gunshot wounds. Authorities surmised that because he was laying on his back, face up, he’d likely been attacked while sleeping. He was lanky, had fair skin, had a head of light brown fluffy hair, a scraggly beard, and distinctively thick eyebrows.

Detectives found the female victim face down in the middle of the shelter with several deep stab wounds all over her body and she was lying in a pool of what appeared to be her own blood. She had a solid, athletic frame, short blonde hair, tanned skin, and wasn’t very tall. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

As more investigators arrived and crime scene techs began processing the shelter, detectives noticed that the couple’s hiking and camping gear appeared to have been ransacked. Camping supplies, clothing, and trash was thrown all around the inside and outside of the shelter site. Because of all that chaos, at first it was difficult for investigators to tell what, if anything, was missing or had been taken.

But after spending more time at the scene, two things became pretty obvious to police… There was only one backpack with the victims and the male victim’s shoes were missing.

Those to things felt kind of strange, because authorities felt like whoever the couple was, they seemed like they were experienced hikers and more than likely would have both had their own packs and the man would not have been hiking without boots. Investigators theorized the killer might have taken both items after committing the murders… The only other things missing from the scene were the murder weapons. A knife and a gun.

During a grid search of the immediate area, police officers inspected nearby shelters and caves looking for anything that might be a clue, but they didn’t find a knife or a gun. There was no blood trail to follow…bullets…NOTHING.

Just a few beer cans. But those cans weren’t even that suspicious because authorities knew that shelters off the A-T were popular hangouts for local teenagers…so finding remnants of a party, like beer cans, wasn’t THAT out of the ordinary. I don’t know if authorities took these cans into evidence or not. The source material for this case isn’t clear on that.

According to Michael Argento’s reporting for the York Daily Record, a few hours after the victims were discovered and transported to the Perry County coroner’s office authorities were able to identify the victims as 26-year-old Geoffrey Hood and 25-year-old Molly LaRue.

It’s unclear from my research material how the coroner identified the victims, but since they were found with most of their belongings, I have to assume there driver’s licenses or ID’s were found with them, since they were identified within just a few short hours and at that point there weren’t any family members or next of kin who could have been notified.

According to several news reports, the autopsy results revealed Geoff had been shot three times…once in his head, once in his chest, and once in his back with a .22 caliber firearm. The shots themselves unfortunately did not kill him right away…his pathology showed that he’d slowly bled to death over the span of several minutes.

Molly’s autopsy results were equally horrific. Bruising and other signs of trauma on her body and throat indicated that she had been bound with some type of rope around her neck and wrists, sexually assaulted, and then eventually stabbed at least eight times in her back and throat.

According to an article by Strange Outdoors, the wounds on Molly’s body had been inflicted by an 8 and three quarters inch double-edged blade. Which, just to give you some context is pretty long. In the ballpark of like an average hunting knife…not like a small switch blade Swiss army knife type of weapon.

The coroner also retrieved a semen sample during his examination. At the time, labs that processed that kind of evidence took months to turn results around, so for the time being investigators had to wait and see if it came back as a match for Geoff…which would make sense… OR if it was related to some other unknown male…likely the killer.

The coroner estimated that Molly and Geoff had both died between 3am and 6 am on September 13th—roughly twelve hours before Biff and Cindi discovered them.

On Friday September 14th—the day after the bodies were found— news reports about the double homicide hit headlines and became the top story in local publications.

Sometime before those articles identifying the victims hit headlines, Glenda Hood, Geoff’s mother, heard a quick radio report about two hikers being murdered on the Appalachian Trail near Duncannon… The reports didn’t mention the hiker’s names, but all the same, her stomach sank.

She’d last hear from her son a few days earlier when he’d called from Duncannon. Their conversation had been especially memorable because Geoff had told his mom that he and his girlfriend Molly had some big and exciting news to share with their families. Geoff wouldn’t tell Glenda over the phone what the news was because he said they wanted to share it in person.

Glenda strongly suspected the couple was going to announce they’d gotten engaged, but she didn’t push the subject. She told Geoff everyone in he family would breathlessly wait to hear what the excitement was about when the families got together for a planned reunion the following week in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

After that, Glenda hung up with her son and that was that.

But after hearing the radio announcement on September 14th about two hikers being murdered on the A-T near where she knew Geoff had been, Glenda couldn’t just dwell on her nagging thoughts about her previous conversation with her son…or that he could be a potential victim. She knew she had to call Molly’s parents too.

Had they heard from Molly?

According to several news reports on this case, Molly’s father Jim picked up the phone when Glenda called and as soon as she told him that two hikers had been slain on the A-T… he felt in his gut that Geoff and Molly were the victims.

He later told news outlets that he couldn’t explain why he felt so sure of that feeling in that moment…but he just had a sense that they were gone.

Within a matter of hours on September 14th, police detectives working the murder investigation got in touch with Glenda and Jim and the family’s received the devastating news about what had happened.

It’s kind of odd and honestly heartbreaking to me that Molly and Geoff’s parents and family had to find out about their murders from the news…but I guess because everything in the investigation was happening so fast between late at night on September 13th and into the early morning on September 14th…that there was just overlap between when authorities knew who the victims were and when they were able to officially notify Molly and Geoff’s loved ones.

By the end of the week though, police had a pretty good idea of how Molly and Geoff were killed, and when they were killed. According to Earl Swift’s reporting for The Greensboro, Molly and Geoff had a shared trail journal that they took turns writing in every step of their journey. The journal was found at the crime scene.

The couple had also made a point to sign logbooks along the way using their trail names Clevis and Nalgene, so police had detailed knowledge of their movements in the days leading up to their deaths.

The main thing police needed to know was where they’d been, what they’d doing and who they’d come across in the days leading up to their murders. Authorities also wanted to learn what had brought Molly and Geoff to hike the A-T in the first place.

For that information, they turned to family, friends and witnesses along the A-T to help fill in the details of the couple’s lives and timeline.

According to Paul Nussbaum’s reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, 26-year-old Geoff had graduated from University of Tennessee with a degree in secondary education but working day in and day out in a classroom just didn’t suit him.

He liked to teach kids about nature and science in the outdoors and share his love of the world in that way. Molly was an artist and social worker from Shaker Heights, Ohio who loved the outdoors as well. She’d graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with an art-teaching degree.

According to The Inquirer, in 1989 the couple met in Kansas while working as counselors for a program called Passport for Adventure, which helps troubled kids and teens with social and developmental issues by taking them out of their triggering environments and introducing them to nature for extended hiking and camping trips in the western U.S.

Both Molly and Geoff were accomplished campers and had a passion for helping under-privileged kids

In early 1990, they learned they were going to be laid off from their jobs though, which wasn’t awesome…but Molly and Geoff made the best of it. The used the opportunity to make plans to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, starting in Maine and aiming to end in Georgia.

Paul Nussbaum reported that Molly drained her savings account and over a matter of a few weeks the couple meticulously planned out their hike – mapping out which shelters they would stay in ad how many miles per day they wanted to average. Every last detail was carefully charted, down to the specific towns they’d need to stop in to replenish their supplies.

According to Earl Swift’s article for Outside Online, titled “Murder on the Appalachian Trail” authorities were able to backtrack Molly and Geoff’s movements.

Molly and Geoff set out on their journey on June 4th, 1990, from Maine. They planned to complete the A-T in six months.

Their trail log entries indicated that at no point had they reported being followed, harassed or in any distress.

In fact, according to Swift’s piece, the couple’s log entries were always upbeat and respectfully admired other hikers on the A-T and even gave friendly shout outs to park workers who helped them navigate their trek.

Police determined from Molly and Geoff’s writings that they were extremely slow hikers, intentionally.

For example, Geoff once acknowledged in one of his entries quote— “If you are behind us, you will pass us” –end quote. This was because he and Molly liked to stop and take photos or study plants and animals they saw along the way.

Based on the locations and time logs of their previous entries, authorities also learned that on a regular basis, Molly and Geoff would start hiking much later in the mornings than most backpackers and would usually wrap up their days sooner than most other people traversing the A-T.

Some of Geoff’s entries talked about how they truly were just there to enjoy the sights of the trail as much as possible and if they got behind, that was okay with them. Whether it was their own fault or a result of them stopping to help a fellow hikers, the couple was okay with taking it slow and steady.

Even though they lacked a sense of urgency, Molly and Geoff weren’t amateurs by any means. Several people law enforcement interviewed who’d come forward to say they’d interacted with the couple along the trail had reported that both of them seemed to be very experienced with survival skills and hiking.

One of the last trail log entries for the couple that caught investigators attention was an entry they’d made while camping at a shelter just North of the Susquehanna River the week they were killed.

Geoff wrote quote—“We reached the Allentown shelter for breakfast. There we met Paul, whom we talked with quite a while. He is a 15-year-old who was kicked out of his house. We talked about some different ideas for him to try.” –end quote.

To me, that really shows how passionate this couple was about helping others—especially young people. They weren’t getting paid to counsel this young boy… they simply just wanted to help. Their kindness was evident in everything they did.

According to Early Swift’s reporting, Geoff was laid to rest on Monday, September 17th—four days after the murders— near his hometown in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Two days later, Molly’s family buried her in a family plot.

As authorities chipped away at establishing the couple’s timeline leading up to their deaths—they checked with the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon and discovered that Molly and Geoff had stayed the night there on September 11th. Detectives then spoke with Molly’s great aunt who proved to be a valuable witness.

She said she’d last seen the couple in Duncannon on the afternoon of Wednesday September 12th. She told police that she’d met Molly and Geoff in town that morning and they’d spent a few hours hanging out together in the town square and ate lunch at a nearby truck stop. The couple had also picked up some mail at the local post office and done some shopping at a grocery store before saying goodbye and leaving on foot for the Thelma Marks shelter near Cove Mountain around 3:45pm.

Based on everyone they’d talked to up until that point, investigators realized that Molly’s aunt was the last person to see the couple alive.

The challenge for investigators at that point was to figure out who had come across Molly and Geoff’s path on the A-T between 3:45pm on September 12th and 6am on September 13th.

A week after the world learned about Molly and Geoff’s murders, the news sent the outdoors community and everyone who was hiking the A-T into a frenzy.

Authorities asked campers and hikers all along the trail to be cautious and call-in tips or information if they saw anyone who looked suspicious or out of place. Investigators’ hope was that someone would come forward with a piece of information that would help them identify who had killed Molly and Geoff.

By that point, law enforcement’s prevailing theory was that whoever had committed the crime was NOT someone who knew Molly and Geoff.

Detectives strongly suspected, just based on the crime scene itself and other factors they didn’t make public, that whoever the killer was, was someone who’d purposefully gone into the woods with bad intentions on their mind and had seen Molly and Geoff as victims of opportunity.

No one, including police and their families, felt Molly and Geoff had been personally targeted in any way. They had no history of fights or disputes with people on the A-T and neither of them had a criminal record.

According to The York Daily Record, in the days following the murders investigators got flooded with calls about out-of-place people spotted on the trail. Investigators followed up on each lead, but they came up empty-handed.

On September 22nd—ten days after the crime—a composite sketch of a man authorities indicated was a person they wanted to speak with appeared on the front page of The Sentinel newspaper.  It’s unclear from my research what specific tip led to this composite sketch being drawn up, but the day after it came out, two hikers came forward and told National Park Service rangers that they’d seen a man matching that description hiking near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

For reference, Harper’s Ferry is about 100 miles south of Duncannon and was another popular pit-stop for through hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

These witnesses said the guy they’d seen was carrying an overstuffed backpack and the way he was holding it indicated to them that he didn’t seem to be an experienced hiker. Now—I don’t know if this guy was just glaringly out of place or what exactly is the proper etiquette for carrying and oversized backpack, but I guess these hikers just felt like their interaction with the man was suspicious enough that they’d decided to call it in.

And thank God that they did, because when authorities tracked the suspicious guy down…they discovered something ALARMING about his attire…

Most importantly, what he was wearing on his feet.

While investigating the tip from the hikers in Harper’s Ferry…detectives located and interviewed a 38-year-old man named David Casey Horn. David closely matched the tipsters’ description and very much resembled the man in the composite sketch that authorities had issued to the media days earlier.

When detectives stopped David, he was carrying an overstuffed backpack that was the same color and brand as the backpack that police had learned Geoff Hood owned… but probably even more suspicious than that was the fact that officers also found a .22 caliber pistol…AND a knife on David.

While questioning him about where he’d gotten those items and where he’d been on September 12th and 13th, detectives looked down at his feet and were shocked to see that he was wearing boots that seemed to match the same description as the ones missing from Geoff’s body.

Very much convinced they had a prime suspect; authorities took David into custody. When they booked him, they ran his fingerprints… and wouldn’t you know it…he had an outstanding warrant from the FBI…for murder.

What was strange though was that David’s fingerprints and federal warrant didn’t come back to a David Casey Horn…they matched the identity of a man named Paul David Crews.

Police quickly realized that David Horn was just an alias and that the man they had in custody was actually Paul Crews, a wanted fugitive who was suspected of committing a violent murder in 1986 in Bartow, Florida.

According to the New York Times Paul was originally from Florida and one of seven siblings who’d been adopted at the age of nine by Susan Crews and her husband.

From a young age Paul had shown signs that he was deeply troubled and depressed. Throughout grade school he was a poor student and by the time he graduated and became an adult he’d joined the U.S. Marine Corps. That career didn’t last long though because after multiple attempts to take his own life, he was dishonorably discharged.

Throughout his 20’s and 30’s he never held a steady job and struggled with drug and alcohol use. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Paul lived with his biological brother, Donald Horn and Donald’s girlfriend, Vanessa Simmons, in North Carolina during the early 1980’s.

A quick sidenote, the article also mentions that Vanessa was quote–“partially paralyzed because Donald shot her in the head with a sawed-off shotgun during an argument” –end quote. So, just based off that, I think it’s safe to say that a violent streak definitely ran in Paul’s biological family.

Anyway, by the mid 80’s, Paul stopped living with Donald and by 1986 had returned to the Bartow, Florida area. According to the FBI, that same year in July, a 56-year-old Bartow resident named Clemmie Jewel Arnold was found nude and nearly decapitated on an abandoned railroad bed. Her throat had been slashed six times.

When investigators working that case searched Clemmie’s car for clues they found a bundle of bloody clothes and a knife that they believed to be the murder weapon. When they ran forensic testing on those items the results had come back as a match for Paul Crews.

After just days of investigating, the FBI determined that the location where Clemmie’s body had been dumped was just steps away from a makeshift home Paul had built for himself…AND… on top of that, witnesses had come forward stating they’d seen Clemmie alive with Paul shortly before she was killed.

Needless to say, the evidence the FBI had against Paul in the Clemmie Arnold case was overwhelming.

According to Earl Swift’s reporting, when Paul learned that the feds were closing in on him, he fled Florida and went back to his older brother Donald’s house in North Carolina. From there he avoided apprehension for FOUR YEARS and bounced around working odd jobs, never staying in one place for too long.

By the time authorities in Pennsylvania arrested Paul for Molly and Geoff’s murders in 1990 they’d established a loose timeline of his movements leading up to the slaying. They’d learned from speaking some of his former employers that shortly before the murders, Paul had taken a job as a farmhand on a South Carolina tobacco farm. Those that knew him described him as quiet and very secretive.

On September 5th, 1990, he’d abruptly left that job and bought a one-way ticket headed North on a Greyhound bus. He got off the bus in Winchester, Virginia then started hitching rides.  A few days after that, he’d walked into a library in East Berlin, Pennsylvania looking for hiking maps of the Appalachian Trail.

On Tuesday September 11th, 1990—the day before Molly and Geoff’s murders—Paul had been spotted near the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

According to news reports, a woman named Karen Lutz was surveying a piece of property designated to be a new portion of a footpath along the turnpike, when she noticed a disheveled man lingering near the roadway.

Karen figured the guy was just a drifter because he wasn’t wearing backpacking or hiking gear. He was sporting a flannel shirt, jeans and combat boots. Slung across his shoulder was a red gym bag with a Marlboro logo on it. Two hours later after first spotting the man, Karen saw him again. This time he was walking on what Karen knew to be a section of the A-T.

She figured she was wrong about the man after all and he was a hiker, just a not very well-equipped one. At the time, Karen didn’t report the man as suspicious, because there was no reason for her to think that he was. Sure, she later told newspapers that the man unnerved her, but she didn’t think much about him after seeing him.

It wasn’t until after Paul’s arrest was announced and his picture was blasted all over the news that Karen came forward with her information.

According to reporting by The Charlotte Observer, after his arrest, Paul was held in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and waived extradition to Pennsylvania.

Two months later, on November 17th, 1990, he was brought back to Pennsylvania to face charges for the first-degree murders of Molly and Geoff. He was held in the Perry County Prison without bail and remained there while prosecutors built their case.

According to several news reports, at his arraignment on December 14th, Paul entered a plea of not guilty for the charges against him and his defense attorney told reporters quote – “There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence. There is no eyewitness testimony” end quote. The attorney went on to say that Paul had no motive for the crime.

Perry County District Attorney, Scott Cramer, announced shortly after that that the state would be seeking the death penalty in this case. Cramer felt confident he could secure a verdict because the evidence he planned to present in court pointed strongly at Paul.

For one, prosecutors had multiple eyewitnesses who could place Paul on the Appalachian Trail in the same vicinity as Molly and Geoff around the time they were killed. To add to that, police had found the same caliber firearm and right size knife on Paul when he was arrested. And lastly, Paul was carrying Geoff’s backpack and wearing his hiking boots when he was stopped by police. All of those incriminating factors made the state feel certain they had the right man.

Seven months after the crime, in May of 1991, Paul’s trial got underway. According to several news outlets who reported at the trial, the prosecution outlined for the jury specific details of how they’d learned Geoff and Molly were killed.

They walked the panel through how Geoff was mercilessly shot in the head, back, and chest while sleeping and then slowly bled out. They went into painstaking details of how Molly’s arms were bound so tightly her bindings had left marks that cut into her wrists. They also detailed how she had been brutally sexually assaulted and then viciously stabbed over and over again.

The state then listed off all of the overwhelming evidence investigators had found against Paul… The stolen clothing…the backpack…Geoff’s boots…and the gun and knife that matched perfectly to the wounds the coroner had found on the victims.

According to The Sentinel, Paul’s former boss at the tobacco farm in South Carolina also testified that Paul had purchased the 8-inch three quarter long knife while working for him, because he said he liked it and used to have one similar to it.

And it wasn’t just a circumstantial case by the time it went to trial. Prosecutors had the FBI lab do DNA testing on the sample of semen found at the crime scene and those results showed that the sample was a very close genetic match to Paul. It wasn’t a dead ringer though…but I have to assume that was probably because DNA testing in the early 90’s was in its infancy and the labs back then just didn’t have the ability to make a 100 percent positive match.

The research material that’s out there on this case doesn’t specifically say how close of a match the semen from the scene was to Paul’s DNA, but according to The Sentinel, an FBI agent testified at trial that the samples were a quote— “strong association.”

To make matters worse for Paul, ballistics tests on the .22 pistol police seized from him showed that bullets fired from that handgun matched the slugs that had been removed from Geoff’s body. In his closing argument, DA Cramer stated quote–“Nothing will bring Geoff and Molly back. They’re dead and death is forever. But justice demands a conviction for both counts of first-degree murder, and I so ask you to find” end quote.

According to The Morning Call, after only 49 minutes of deliberation the jury found Paul David Crews guilty of killing Molly Larue and Geoff Hood.

A judge sentenced him to death by lethal injection on May 25th, 1991.

According to Pennsylvania state law, death penalty convictions are automatically appealed to the Supreme Court. So, Paul and his attorneys filed an appeal and continued to fight his execution incessantly for years.

A lot about the night Molly and Geoff died remained a mystery…and to this day, still does. For example, authorities were never able to pinpoint when exactly Paul showed up to the shelter or if Geoff and Molly ever had a chance.

Investigators felt in their gut that more than likely Paul had ambushed the couple the night of September 12th or in the early morning hours of the 13th and killed Geoff first. Then, Paul kept Molly alive for a while longer before ultimately killing her too. They theorized that based on the evidence, Paul likely attacked the couple because they had supplies that he wanted and he’d already committed a murder in Florida, so taking another person’s life in order to get what he wanted, didn’t faze him all that much.

Just shy of a year after his trial for Molly and Geoff’s murders, Paul was tried and convicted in Florida for Clemmie Arnold’s murder and a judge sentenced him to life in prison.

In the aftermath of Molly and Geoff’s deaths, their friends and family were determined NOT to let their deaths be in vain and not to let what had happened deter other people from traversing the Appalachian Trail or any other beautiful landscape.

Jim LaRue told reporter Earl Swift quote—“We kept getting comments like, ‘well, do you feel the trail is too dangerous to use?’ and ‘should it be shut down?’. That’s when Molly’s voice would come up and tell me, ‘if you ever let my death be an excuse for anything happening to the trail, I’ll never forgive you”. –end quote.

Molly’s dad wasn’t alone in that thought. The families knew what hiking and the outdoors meant to Molly and Geoff and they took on a sort of role in defending the legacy of the A-T.

Geoff’s sister hiked the trail in 1991, completing what her brother started in his honor. Geoff’s mom, Glenda, also revisited the site several times. Glenda climbed Cove Mountain on the first Mother’s Day after the murders – just days before Paul Crews’ trial began. She said she made the journey because she wanted to feel Geoff’s presence and find a way to feel connected to her son again. She said that she wanted that place to be something more than just the place where Geoff and Molly died.

According to The Baltimore Sun, in the fall of 2000—a decade after the killings—, Molly’s parents and Glenda hiked to the summit of Cove Mountain to dedicate a new shelter just yards from where their children had been murdered. They were joined by 40 other hikers while they unveiled the Cove Mountain Shelter in honor of Greg and Molly. That shelter replaced the Thelma Marks Shelter, which was eventually torn down.

In 2006, Perry County prosecutors in Pennsylvania agreed to let the court change Paul’s sentence from death…to instead serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors did this so that Paul and his legal team would stop filing constant appeals. Now normally, a move like this would ruffle some feathers with victims’ families, but not in this case.

According to Earl Swift’s reporting, Jim LaRue, Molly’s dad, spoke at Paul’s 2006 re-sentencing and gave a powerful statement he hoped would resonate with his daughter’s murderer.

He said quote–“Paul, I am here today to offer forgiveness for what you have done. I wish that you can now find peace. Molly had decided to devote her life to working with troubled children, like you certainly were. Paul, I think it would be great if you could pick up where Molly left off, starting with yourself. Help the Molly’s of this world learn who you are and try to enlist the help of other inmates to help with this effort. You are a gold mine of critical information that needs to be unearthed. Peace be with you, brother, peace be with you.” –end quote.

I don’t know that I would have the strength to forgive the person who stole my child from me. Especially because throughout Paul’s trial and everything that came afterward, he never once provided a statement or reason as to why he killed Molly and Geoff. He never showed any signs of remorse and remained stoically silent about the entire incident.

Even though their killer has never provided more information or taken responsibility publicly for his crimes…the impact of Geoff and Molly’s lives, and tragic story had on people all over the world reached far beyond the sadness of what happened to them.

Their influence in other people’s lives reaches far beyond what could possibly be covered in this episode. These were two people who were doing good in the world and wanted to see society become better.

According to an article on Ohio Wesleyan University’s website, Jim LaRue said the couple wanted to back to school and start programs related to social work, camping and hiking.

Sadly, they never got that chance…and they never got to see how their dreams might have brought about change in the world.

It would be impossible to include all the kind anecdotes I came across about Molly and Geoff, but the consensus from every article I’ve read on their case was that they were exceptional people who deserved better and I think everyone that hears their story should remember that.

Despite the dark shadow Molly and Geoff’s murders cast over the Appalachian Trail during the 1990’s, the trail continues to attract millions of people to this day. Hikers from all over the world, from all different backgrounds still form deep bonds with one another as they share their trail names and stories of their struggles along the journey…and I think that’s exactly what Molly LaRue and Geoff Hood would have wanted.

Park Predators is an audiochuck original show.

So, what do you think chuck, do you approve? *howl*