Ill-fitting shoes, pack tipped off hikers Trail-slaying suspect looked out of place

September 24, 1990|By Paul Nussbaum | Paul Nussbaum,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Boots and a backpack that didn't seem to fit aroused the suspicions of seasoned hikers on the Appalachian Trail and led to the capture of the South Carolina man accused in the slayings of two hikers near Duncannon, Pa., a trail official said yesterday.

National Park Service rangers trapped David Horn, 38, of Loris, S.C., Friday afternoon as he was crossing a bridge over the Potomac River from Maryland into West Virginia, near the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conference in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Hikers trekking the 2,140-mile trail had been warned to be on the lookout for suspicious people since the killings of Geoffrey Hood, 26, of Signal Mountain, Tenn., and Molly LaRue, 25, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a trail shelter Sept. 13.

Mr. Hood had been shot repeatedly, and Ms. LaRue was stabbed to death.

When Mr. Horn was arrested Friday afternoon, he reportedly was carrying Mr. Hood's green backpack and wearing his boots.

But neither fit him well, and hikers reported that the man was having trouble walking in the too-small boots and seemed unaccustomed to wearing the pack.

"He was walking very hunched over, he acted like his feet hurt and he was wearing a lot more clothes than a hiker normally does at this time of the year," said Brian King, a spokesman for the Appalachian Trail Conference, the 24,000-member organization that tends the trail.

"Hikers can just tell if someone is one of them, and this guy apparently wasn't," he said.

"Other hikers coming down the trail had met Molly and Jeff and had a real personal interest in finding him," Mr. King said.

Alerted by a hiker who had seen Mr. Horn approaching the bridge, rangers waited until the man was on the bridge and then moved in from both ends to arrest him.

He was taken into custody and turned over to police without resistance, police said.

Mr. Horn was arraigned Friday night and is being held without bail on a Pennsylvania fugitive-from-justice warrant in the Martinsburg, W.Va., Regional Jail, about 20 miles from Harpers Ferry.

Pennsylvania State Police said Mr. Horn had no criminal record, although they cautioned that he might have given them a false name.

A preliminary hearing for Mr. Horn is expected to be held in Charles Town, W.Va., today. Pennsylvania officials said they would seek to have him extradited quickly to face murder charges.

"It is a tremendous relief to have a suspect," Mr. King said. "This removes the fear from the trail and gets the healing process started within the trail community."

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