PEARISBURG, Va. – A convicted murderer is suspected of shooting and wounding two men on the Appalachian Trail a few miles from the spot where he killed two hikers in 1981, authorities said.
Randall Lee Smith, 54, will be charged with two counts of attempted capital murder, grand larceny and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Lt. Ron Hamlin of the Giles County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.
Smith was taken to a Roanoke hospital after police said he crashed a pickup truck belonging to one of Tuesday's shooting victims while being followed by a state trooper. Investigators said Smith was in stable condition Thursday and being guarded by deputies.
Smith was released from prison in 1996 after serving 14 years for the deaths of two social workers from Maine who were hiking the Appalachian Trail. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Police have not released the names of Tuesday's shooting victims, but friends and family identified them as Sean Farmer, 33, of Tazewell, and Scott Johnston, 37, of Bluefield. A hospital spokesman said Johnston was in serious condition. Friends said Farmer has been released.
State police said a 2000 Ford Ranger driven by Smith ran off the road and overturned after a trooper pulled up behind it Tuesday night. They had been asked to be on the lookout for the truck, which belongs to Johnston, after the shooting.
On Thursday, authorities removed the crime scene tape that had cordoned off a 28-mile stretch of the trail during their investigation, and hikers began trekking through.
"Man, I'm out here having the time of my life," said Nathan Adcock, 31, of Asheville, N.C. "And then somebody's out there shooting."
Although the trail was reopened, investigators were still trying to find clues in the case, including a campsite where Smith may have stayed in the two months since he went missing from his home near Pearisburg, about 50 miles west of Roanoke.