Eds.: LEADS with 8 grafs to UPDATE with outdoor organization providing identities, background on victims. Pickup 5th pvs, ``Fankhauser said ...″ Removes BRF designator.
LURAY, Va. (AP) _ The deaths of two women hikers, whose bodies were found over the weekend at a campsite near the Appalachian Trail, are being investigated as homicides, authorities said Monday.
A search for the women began after the father of one called to say she was late returning from a camping trip, said Shenandoah National Park spokesman Paul Pfenninger.
Two rangers found the bodies Saturday near the park’s Skyland Lodge, about 25 miles from Luray, said Ron Fankhauser of the park service.
Peggy Willens, an administrative assistant with Woodswomen, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based adventure travel vacation organization for women, identified the victims as Julianne Williams, 24, and Lollie Winans, 26.
Ms. Williams was from St. Cloud, Minn., and Ms. Winans was from Unity, Maine, the group said.
Ms. Willens said the two worked as interns last summer for Woodswomen to increase their skills as outdoor guides.
``They were both very experienced outdoorswomen,″ she said.
Authorities speculated that the women might have been killed several days ago, although they didn’t say how. The bodies were taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Fairfax, FBI Agent Stanley Klein said.
Fankhauser said the park was sending extra rangers into the back country to let hikers know what had happened.
Six years ago, two people were killed on the Appalachian Trail near Duncannon, Pa. In 1991, Paul David Crew was convicted in the deaths of Molly LaRue, 25, and Geoffrey Logan Hood, 26.