Newly engaged couple, Molly LaRue and Geoffrey Logan Hood, wanted to see the world before settling down. They were very active hikers and were commonly known around the hiking community as Nalgene and Cleavis. Molly and Geoffrey decided that before they married they wanted to cross off one last adventure on their bucket list- hiking the Appalachian Trail. This was going to be an adventure of a lifetime.
Halfway through the trail, they decided to camp at a wooden shelter known as the Thelma Marks shelter several miles from Duncannon. It was located in the middle of a densely wooded area on the south side of Cove Mountain, some 30 feet below the trail between Maine and Georgia. Before they retired into the night, they reflected on the day, shared a meal, and wrote a couple of entries in their respective diaries.
But what happened to Geoff and Molly that night would change how hikers would tread the trail forever…
Molly and Geoff loved the outdoors and it had been their dream to share an adventure before their wedding. Molly was sociable, athletic, and even a little artistic. In 1984, she participated in a nationwide contest to help design a new US postage stamp and won as a high schooler. Geoffery was somewhat opposite of Molly. He was calm and mostly kept to himself. Molly graduated magna cum laude in art in 1987 from Ohio Wesleyan, while Geoff graduated with a degree in teaching in 1989 from the University of Tennessee.
It was when they became counselors for a therapeutic wilderness program called Passport for Adventure in Salina, Kansas, that both of them met. The program aimed to help troubled teenagers by taking them to camping trips. When Geoff and Molly decided to go on a hiking adventure through the Appalachian Trail between Main and Georgia, both of their parents thought it was a great idea. Geoff’s mother, Glenda, who was working as a nurse at that time, said she had no regrets. After all, according to her, it was the couple’s mutual dream to fulfill, which is what life is all about.
Their trip started in Mount Katahdin in Maine on June 3, 1990. They were not looking to break any records so they took their time enjoying the scenery. They slept late and sometimes skipped days. They dealt with insects, rains, rivers, sore muscles, and rashes. Before the week ended, they already felt discouraged. But they knew they would encounter many challenges. In an entry on her diary, Molly wrote, “We reminded one another before we started this ordeal that there would be tough days, days we would ask ourselves, ‘Why are we doing this?’ Well, we had one of those days.” But as time went on, they became more positive. In another entry, Molly wrote, “We both felt good as we went to bed. Maybe we’ll get this trail done after all!”
Then on September 12, 1990, an unfortunate turn of events took place. The soon-to-be married couple were found gruesomely murdered. Investigations revealed that Molly had been tied, raped, and brutally stabbed in the back, neck, and throat. Geoffery was shot three times in the back, abdomen, and head by a .22-caliber gun.
The couple’s bodies were found by Biff Bowen and his wife, Cindi, who were on a 2,144-mile hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail. They stopped along the Susquehanna River near Hairrisburg in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, to replenish their supplies. Then they went up to a lean-to shelter in Cove Mountain to spend the night. But Biff became uneasy and sensed that something wasn’t right. He held up his walking stick to use as a weapon as he moved towards the lean-to shelter. As he got closer he noticed food and equipment were scattered all over the place. Then that is when he saw the bodies of Geoff and Molly.
It was a gruesome sight. Molly was bound and stabbed. Geoffery was shot several times. “I saw blood on the face, the hands were tied and I just turned around and … stopped my wife from coming any further,” said Biff Bowen. “I said someone has been murdered.”
Biff and Cindi hurried toward Duncannon to report the crime. When police arrived, they found exactly what the couple had described: camping equipment and food strewn violently around the shelter. They found Molly facedown with her hands tied behind her back. Geoffery was partially naked, clutching a white shirt with a gunshot wound right in the middle of his back.
When the couple’s bodies were found by Biff and Cindi, they had already been dead for 12 to 16 hours, which meant the murderer, or murderers were long gone. But investigators wasted no time questioning residents living along or near the trail. They gathered enough information to roughly sketch the man who may have been the perpetrator of the gruesome double murders He was described as a scruffy-looking white male carrying two red gym bags.
The double murders of Geoff and Molly shocked the entire Appalachian Trail community of hikers. The trail, which is more commonly referred to as the AT among hikers, is considered a sacred place. It is home to nearly four million people a year who seek peaceful refuge away from the hustle and bustle of city life. According to Robin, Geoff’s father, “Molly and Geoff were prepared for bears and snakes and other wildlife. They didn’t know their worst enemy would be a man.”
Mark Glazerow, who went by the trail name “Doc,” said what happened to the couple was “beyond eerie.” Doc had spent the night at the same shelter where the murderers took place just the night before. “If the (perpetrator) would have been a day earlier, this trail would have been about my death,” He added. He also recalled how he shared the pizza with the couple the day before. They even traveled together for several hours before they separated.
This was not the first time that the Appalachian Trail has been the scene of criminal activities. Since opening in the 1920s, car looting, theft, injuries, and traps set up by kids have continued to take place every year. After the bodies of Molly and Jeoffrey were discovered, the total death count rose to 7 deaths on this hiking trail. When choosing to hike the Appalachian Trail, hikers understand the risks.
A breakthrough occurred eight days after the discovery of the couple’s bodies. Two hikers spotted a man matching the description of a bearded person near the crime scene. They alerted the National Park Services right away. Park rangers immediately arrested the man as he was crossing a bridge on Harper’s Ferry on September 21.
The man had Geoff’s green backpack and was even wearing his hiking boots. These were the only two items missing from the crime scene. Geoff’s belongings were still inside the backpack: a book, a watch, and a sleeping pad.
Also found inside the bag was a knife and a .22 caliber revolver. Later, the gun matched the one used to kill Geoff in a test by Pennsylvania State Police. The traces of blood on the knife also matched Molly’s AB type.
The arrested man first identified himself as David Casey Horn, a 38-year-old tobacco farm worker from Loris, South Carolina. But his name and age sent a red flag to Brad Brekke, a Florida FBI agent, who stumbled across the case in the local newspaper. He had been looking for Paul David Crews, a 38-year-old fugitive who had become a drifter after being indicted for the murder of Clemmie Jewel Arnold in Bartow, Florida in July 1986.
It was reported by the Sentinel in October 1990 that Crews was wanted in Florida on a first-degree murder charge. Since disappearing from Florida in 1986 for the brutal murder of Arnold, Crews had been on the most-wanted list in that state. He had been indicted by a Polk County, Florida, grand jury for the murder.
Paul David Crews had a troubled life prior to his arrest for the deaths of Geoff and Molly. He was born Paul David Horne, the sixth of nine siblings from South Carolina. He rarely saw his father as he grew up. His mother left their family by the time he was five. For three years he lived in numerous foster homes. Later, he was adopted and given a new family name by a couple in Burlington, North Carolina.
Crews graduated from high school in 1972, after which he joined the Marines and married Theresa Dunman, his high school sweetheart. Not long after their marriage, he tried to commit suicide. “He came in for lunch one day, ” according to Theresa, “and slit his wrists.” Their marriage ended abruptly. His military career also didn’t do well. He was discharged in under a year. Soon, he became a drifter. According to his brother, Donald Ray Horne, Crews has been “pretty much a mystery all his life.”
From that point on, Crews’ life began to go downhill. By 1986, he was in Bartow where he worked as a fruit picker. One night, Clemmie Arnold gave him a ride from a bar. A few hours later, Clemmie’s body was found naked near railroad tracks some 1,000 yards from where Crews was living. Her throat had been slit, but authorities couldn’t determine whether she had been raped.
The change in his identity
The next day, the police were on a high-speed car chase with Crews after spotting him in Clemmie’s car in Polkville, North Carolina. But Crews managed to escape into the woods. By 1987, he was in Loris, South Carolina, where he managed to get employment at a tobacco farm for three years. Later, he married Karen. But in 1989, for unexplained reasons, he boarded a bus headed north and never returned. Karen was called in to testify on Crews’ prosecution.
Pennsylvania authorities were the first to capture Crews. He was tried for the murders of Geoff and Molly. Perry County prosecutor, R. Scott Cramer, sought the death penalty, but it didn’t provide any comfort to the victims’ family. Jim LaRue, Molly’s father, who was a former Baptist minister, said that the death penalty wouldn’t bring his daughter back. “We have a lot of anger about our loss. But putting someone else to death doesn’t even come close to dealing with that pain,” he said.
A sigh of relief
The news of Crews’ capture provided relief to more than 200 hikers who were in attendance at a ceremony celebrating the opening of a new trail near Boiling Springs. For a while, trail officials put up a warning for hikers to avoid the Pennsylvania section of the trail until authorities had a suspect in their custody.
The prosecution at Crews’ trial called witnesses who saw him on the trail during the days before and after the couple’s bodies were discovered. The witnesses were able to identify Crews from a photograph presented by investigators which included trail staff, a cable television contractor, and hikers. Later, tests showed that blood samples from Crews had the similar genetic makeup to the semen recovered from Molly’s body and the bullets taken from Geoff matched the .22-caliber pistol in Crews’ possession the day he was taken into custody.
Then on May 25, 1991, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived. Relatives, friends, and acquaintances of the couple waited with for the sentence to be read. Finally, a Perry County juror ruled that Crews should be put to death for the double murders of Geoff Hood and Molly LaRue. The decision came a day after the jury convened for nearly an hour before finding him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.
Upon hearing the sentence, relatives of the victims wept. The courtroom was filled with “Yes! Thank God.” exclamations from spectators. One of the jurors told reporters that the evidence was “so overwhelming.” Prior to killing the couple, Crews was under the influence of alcohol and consumed a “heavy amount” of cocaine. Dr. Gene Cary, the psychiatrist who examined Crews, said that he was clearly upset about what he had done. “He is not a man of many words, but he did break down and cry,” Dr. Cary added.
An ex-wife’s testimony
When the prosecution called Karen, Crews’ ex-wife, to testify, she said she didn’t believe that the alcohol and drugs affected him. She said, “He could drink two quarts of Georgia moonshine and still shoot pool straight.” Jurors decided on the death penalty because the aggravating circumstances of the murder outweighed the mitigating circumstances. It was clear that Molly was tortured before being killed by Crews, although he was never charged with rape.
Between May 1991 and December 2006, Crews made several appeals to the state Supreme Court, the U.S. Third Circuit Court, and U.S. District Court. The Perry County prosecutors decided that they would stop fighting appeals related to Crews’ case. Then on December 26, 2006, Crews’ sentence was reduced to two life sentences without parole in state prison, an agreement reached between Perry County prosecutors and Crews’ attorneys.
A risk not worth taking
The agreement was reached because the prosecution believed that fighting Crews’ appeals would cost Perry County- a very small county – a substantial amount of money. They also believed that fighting the appeals was risky because then the case could be taken to an entirely new trial. It was a risk they were not willing to take.
“Don’t give them the trail too”
Although the arrest of Crews gave hikers a sigh of relief, the families of the victims are still grieving their loss. As for hikers Biff and Cindi, who discovered the bodies of Geoff and Molly, they continued their hike through Georgia. According to them, they were glad to be back on the trail. “It’s a shame that this happened, but it’s a freak thing…” Cindi said. Molly’s father, Jim, added, “The ultimate insanity would be to let fear destroy the trail. They’ve got my daughter’s life, for Chrissake. Don’t give them the trail too.”
Newly engaged couple, Molly LaRue and Geoffrey Logan Hood, wanted to see the world before settling down. They were very active hikers and were commonly known around the hiking community as Nalgene and Cleavis. Molly and Geoffrey decided that before they married they wanted to cross off one last...