Shenandoah Park suspect called gay center

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 12 2003 11:00 PM ET

Prosecutors say a phone call made to a gay community center by the man charged with murdering two lesbian hikers in Shenandoah National Park links him directly to the killings, but defense attorneys say it was a meaningless coincidence. An attorney for Darrell David Rice has asked U.S. district judge Norman K. Moon to exclude evidence about a phone call made May 28, 1996, from Rice's home in Columbia, Md.,
to the Spectrum Center, a gay, lesbian, and bisexual advocacy center in San Anselmo, Calif.

Prosecutors believe that Rice killed Julianne Williams, 24, of Burlington, Vt., and Laura Winans, 26, of Unity, Maine, on May 24 or early on May 25, 1996. They theorize that Rice, who they claim hated "homosexuals," killed the women because they were lesbians. The two women had been camping in the park. Their bodies were found nude, bound, and gagged, and their throats had been cut.

Defense lawyer Fred Heblich told the Richmond [Va.] Times-Dispatch that the evidence about the phone call is irrelevant and baseless speculation. Court documents show that a call was made from Rice's home to an unpublished number at the Spectrum Center. The phone number is that of the center's founder, Jane Spahr. Prosecutors believe Spahr may have spoken with Williams in Vermont and given her the private phone number, which Williams could have had in a journal in her possession at the campsite. They speculate that the killer took the journal as a trophy or souvenir and later called the Spectrum Center number. But Heblich argued that a misdial occurred because of similarities between the Spectrum number, Rice's work number, and a number used to buy tickets for Grateful Dead concerts. Rice apparently was an avid fan of the Grateful Dead.

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