Judge approves delay in lesbian hiker murder trial
A federal judge on Wednesday postponed the capital murder trial of Darrell David Rice for nine months at the request of prosecutors who want to examine hairs discovered on crime scene evidence and previously tested DNA that suggests another man could have been involved. Rice, 36, is accused of torturing and slashing to death Julianne Williams and Laura "Lollie" Winans at a Shenandoah National Park campsite in Virginia during Memorial Day weekend in 1996. His trial was to begin November 3, but prosecutors asked for a delay this week after a flurry of tests by government experts revealed that three additional hairs discovered on evidence show that another man may have been present during the murders. "We really need to clear this up," prosecutor Tom Bondurant told reporters after Wednesday's hearing.
Williams, 24, of St. Cloud, Minn., and Winans, 26, of Unity, Maine, were found dead June 1, 1996, at a creek-side camp in a remote part of the park. Both were bound and gagged, and their throats were cut. The two women had been living together in Burlington, Vt. Investigators have focused on Rice for six years, building a case that relies on circumstantial evidence and testimony from jailhouse informants. Prosecutors contend that Rice, who is serving time for trying to kidnap a woman six years ago in the Shenandoah National Park, is a violent misogynist and homophobe who targeted Winans and Williams because they were lesbians.