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Suspect in 1996 murder of lesbian couple in Shenandoah National Park identified

Convicted serial rapist died in prison in 2018

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Laura 'Lollie' Winans and Julianne 'Julie' Williams (Photo courtesy of the FBI)

The FBI has identified a then-48-year-old man from Ohio who it describes as a convicted serial rapist as the person it believes committed the May 1996 murder of a lesbian couple at their campsite in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

In a statement released on June 20, the FBI says newly analyzed DNA evidence and an extensive review of other evidence surrounding the 28-year-old murder case has enabled it to identify Walter Leo Jackson, Sr., as the prime suspect in the murders of Laura “Lollie” Winans, 26, and Julianne “Julie” Williams, 24. 

The FBI statement says the two women’s bodies were found on June 1, 1996, after an extensive search by rangers with the National Park Service after family members reported them missing. 

“In 2021, a new FBI Richmond investigative team was assigned to conduct a methodic review of the case,” the statement says. “FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, and other FBI Richmond employees reassessed hundreds of leads and interviews,” according to the statement. “They spent countless hours to identify and prioritize evidence from the crime scene to retest and submit the items to an accredited private lab.”

It says the lab successfully extracted DNA from several items of evidence and, with help from Virginia State Police, and through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System a positive DNA match to Jackson was obtained. 

“Those results confirmed we had the right man and finally could tell the victim’s families we know who is responsible for this heinous crime,” Stanley M. Meador, the FBI Richmond special agent in charge, said in the statement. 

“After 28 years, we are now able to say who committed the brutal murders of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams in Shenandoah National Park,” U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said in the statement. “I want to again extend my condolences to the Winans and Williams families and hope today’s announcement provides some small measure of solace,” he said. 

The FBI statement says Jackson, who died in prison in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in March 2018, had a lengthy criminal record that included kidnapping, rapes, and assaults. It says Jackson worked as a residential painter and “was an avid hiker and was known to visit Shenandoah National Park.”

Walter Leo Jackson, Sr. (Photo courtesy of the FBI)

The FBI has stated in past statements regarding the two women’s murders that it did not have evidence to classify the murders as a hate crime in which Jackson targeted the women because of their sexual orientation. 

Media reports at the time of the murders identified Williams as a native of Minnesota who moved to Vermont, where she helped form a group supportive of LGBTQ people with a Presbyterian church ministry. Winans was a wilderness guide in Michigan and met Williams through an outdoor program in Minnesota called “Woodswomen,” media reports said. 

A report in the Advocate published before the FBI’s identification of Jackson as the man responsible for the women’s murders, said the two women had been dating for about two years before their murders. It reported they had planned to move in together that summer to a home in Huntington, Vt., and that Williams had recently accepted a new job as a geologist at a location near Lake Champlain in Vermont. 

“The FBI will continue to work with law enforcement partners to determine if Jackson is responsible for other unsolved crimes,” the FBI’s June 20 statement says. “Anyone with information on Jackson should call 1-800-CALL FBI or submit it online at tips.fbi.gov,” the statement concludes.

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Virginia

Historic marker to honor Lilli Vincenz in Arlington

Pioneering activist co-founded Blade in 1969

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Lilli Vincenz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Board of Historic Resources has approved a historic marker that will honor Washington Blade co-founder Lilli Vincenz.

The Arlington County Historic Preservation Program sponsored the marker that will be located at 817-829 S. Carlin Springs Road.

Vincenz, along with Frank Kameny and others, in the 1960s participated in gay rights protests that took place in front of the White House and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Vincenz in 1969 co-founded the Blade.

A Virginia Department of Historic Resources press release says Vincenz hosted the Gay Women’s Open House in her home in Arlington’s Columbia Heights West neighborhood from 1971-1979. It also notes Vincenz’s “documentaries recording significant gay rights marches brought visibility to the movement.”

Vincenz died on June 27, 2023, at the age of 85.

“Dr. Lilli Vincenz was a pioneering leader whose work as a journalist, filmmaker, and psychotherapist empowered the national gay civil rights movement,” reads the Virginia Department of Historic Resources press release.

The marker will be the first one in the state that specifically highlights LGBTQ history. The Virginia Board of Historic Resources approved it and four other markers during their June 20 meeting.

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Virginia

Federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Va. student blocked from girls sports team

Hanover County School Board approved refusal in 2023

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(Bigstock photo)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on July 3 filed a federal lawsuit against the Hanover County School Board on behalf of a transgender student who was prevented from playing on a sports team consistent with their gender identity.

A press release refers to the student as “Janie Doe,” and the lawsuit notes she is 11 and is in middle school.

The lawsuit notes the school board in 2023 voted not to allow her to “participate in” the girls’ tennis team, even though the ACLU of Virginia noted “she successfully qualified during tryouts, and her parents provided documentation requested by the school board to establish her eligibility.”

The ACLU of Virginia and WilmerHale, a Washington-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond.

“School boards have a duty to protect every child’s right to a public education, but by bullying a transgender young person in its district, Hanover County Public Schools are depriving our client of opportunities every public school student should have — and running afoul of federal discrimination protections that Virginia schools are legally required to uphold,” said ACLU of Virginia Senior Transgender Attorney Wyatt Rolla.

The Biden-Harris administration earlier this year released its final Title IX rules that specifically protect discrimination against LGBTQ students based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. The new regulations are slated to take effect on Aug. 1.

Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is among the state attorneys general who have pledged to block the new Title IX rules from taking effect.

The Virginia Department of Education in July 2023 announced the new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. 

Advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

The ACLU of Virginia earlier this year filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Hanover County middle school student who is not allowed to participate in a girls sports team. The group filed a second lawsuit on behalf of a York County high school student who alleges her teacher refused to call her by her “correct first name.” 

“Banning trans students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity violates discrimination protections that are there to make sure public schools include all students,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Eden Heilman on July 3. 

“It’s a fallacy to think we have to choose between protecting girls’ sports and transgender youth, and it’s patently unlawful to prohibit trans students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity — no matter how much adults with an ideological axe to grind may wish to do so,” added Heilman.

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Man went on ‘homophobic rant’ inside Va. pub that displayed Pride flags

Suspect arrested on charges of public intoxication, assaulting police officer

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Justin Wayne Hendricks was arrested in the case. (Photo courtesy of the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center)

The Hawk & Griffin British Pub located in Vienna, Va.,  posted a message on Facebook last week saying a man was arrested after going on a “homophobic rant” inside the pub on June 28 when he saw that LGBTQ Pride flags were displayed at the pub for Pride month.

“Last night we had an incident here at the pub when a man came off the street to accost patrons in our beer garden because of our flags displayed for pride month,” the Hawk & Griffin Facebook posting says. “He then spit on our windows and came inside to confront our staff and patrons with homophobic rants,” the posting continues.

“Our manager and staff handled the situation very professionally and police were called to investigate and later arrested a man a couple of blocks away,” the message says. “We want to thank the Vienna Police Department for their quick response. We are and will continue to be community focused and we will never stop working to create and maintain a place of inclusion and tolerance,” the statement concludes.

Vienna police charged Justin Wayne Hendricks, of no known address, with misdemeanor counts of being “drunk in public” and  providing false identification to a police officer and with a felony count of assault on a police officer. A police spokesperson said Hendricks was also found to be in violation of an outstanding arrest warrant from Alexandria, Va., related to a prior charge of failing to register as a sex offender.

The spokesperson, Juan Vazquez, said Hendricks is currently being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. Online records for the Fairfax County General District Court show that Hendricks is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing on Oct. 9.

“On Friday, June 28, around 9:28 p.m. the Vienna Police Department responded to reports of an intoxicated individual threatening customers of the Hawk & Griffin,” a Vienna police statement says. “Upon the arrival of the officers the individual had already left the premises but was promptly located at an address nearby,” according to the statement.

The statement adds that Hendricks was subsequently charged with being drunk in public, providing false information about his identity to police, and assault on a police officer along with being served with the outstanding warrant related to the prior charge in Alexandria of failing to register as a sex offender.

Details of the prior sex offender charge couldn’t immediately be obtained from online court records. However, the online records show that Hendricks has at least a dozen or more prior arrests between 2014 and 2023 on charges including public intoxication, trespassing, and failing to register as a sex offender.

Police spokesperson Vazquez said it would be up to prosecutors with the office of the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney to determine if a subsequent hate crime related charge would be filed in the case.

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