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Phone call to gay center disallowed in lesbian hiker murder trial

Phone call to gay center disallowed in lesbian hiker murder trial

A federal judge has disallowed from evidence a Columbia, Md., murder suspect's phone call that prosecutors hoped would tie him to the 1996 slayings of two lesbian hikers in Shenandoah National Park. U.S. attorneys argued that Darrell D. Rice, 35, killed the couple and then used a phone number from one of the victims' belongings to call the Spectrum Center for Gay and Lesbian Affairs in San Anselmo, Calif. Authorities contend that Rice killed Julianne Williams, 24, of Burlington, Vt., and Laura Winans, 26, of Unity, Maine, because of their sexual orientation. The two women were found bound and gagged with their throats slit. Rice is to stand trial July 24 in U.S. district court in Charlottesville, Va. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The judge noted that the phone number for the Spectrum Center is a combination of two numbers that Rice dialed regularly and that no evidence pointed to the phone number as having been among the couple's belongings. The number was the unpublished direct line to the Reverend Jane Spahr, the Spectrum founder who has written and preached on Christianity and homosexuality. Investigators found at the murder scene a journal Williams kept that included a reference to one of Spahr's works but not her phone number, the judge wrote.

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