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In the distance, a clear creek cuts through an otherwise silent world of thick ferns and red-capped mushrooms.
It was here on June 1 that park rangers, alerted by a concerned father’s phone call, stumbled across the bodies of Julianne Williams, 24, and Lollie Winans, 26, at a wooded campsite, their wrists bound and their throats slit.
Lost in this news hunt, then, is the real story—not about two deaths but about two lives—a love story involving two strong and spirited women who felt at home in the wilderness.
It’s a story that ends tragically, but not before wending its way through a Greek Macedonian river valley, a poultry-farm-turned-college in Maine, the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, an apartment above a small-town Vermont café, and a two-lane highway across New England.
Community activists quickly suggested the duo might be victims of a bias crime.
Winans’ and Williams’ murders are the eighth and ninth that have occurred along the Appalachian Trail since 1974; one of the previous victims was a lesbian who bled to death after a man shot her for kissing her lover in the woods.
But it was at Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota, that Williams came of age, finding her home in the close-knit geology department.Trapped in the spotlight, some friends struggled to protect the image of two women who were private about their sexual identity.Others felt that revealing their lesbianism was not only relevant to the truth and important in solving a murder case but an important facet of their lives that should not remain hidden.No sooner did she finish this project than it was on to Italy to study the extinction of the dinosaurs. “This evening as we neared the mountains, after crossing the broad plain, the radio rasped with cheesy Italian rap music and inspiring operas at the same time,” she wrote in her journal.“After winding up, we reached the pass and were awed by the face of the Dolomites.