Like many young people, Molly LaRue and Geoffrey Logan Hood wanted to travel and go on a real adventure together before settling down. The newly-engaged couple loved the great outdoors as much as each other, and decided to go on a hiking trip before their upcoming wedding.
However, this would be no ordinary hike in the woods. They decided to take on the great Appalachian Trail, a treacherous, months-long journey both Molly and Geoff had on their bucket lists. And even though they were well-prepared for the adventure of a lifetime, they had no idea of the danger they’d soon be getting into….
Passport for Adventure
Molly LaRue and Geoff Hood met in Salina, Kansas, where they worked for the same church project, Passport for Adventure, which took at-risk teens into the backcountry and away from their troubles. Geoff was a 26-year-old from Tennessee who was an avid rock climber who previously lived in New Mexico and Colorado.
Molly was a year younger and hailed from Ohio. She was an artist who had also spent a lot of time outdoors, previously working for Outward Bound in Arizona. The two instantly bonded over their love of nature and it wasn’t long before Molly and Geoff became a couple…
As the relationship progressed, Molly came to realize it was one of her greatest life aspirations to hike the Appalachian Trail and Geoff was completely on board. In early 1990, the couple learned they would both be let go from their jobs in a few months and saw it as the perfect invitation to start their next adventure.
Nalgene + Cleavis
Molly and Geoff were already well known in the hiking community by their nicknames, Nalgene and Cleavis, and believed they were both up for the treacherous six-month journey. Molly’s father, Jim LaRue, later recalled getting the phone call where she told him about her new boyfriend and their plan for the trail. Luckily, both of their families were supportive and confident they were prepared…
The Long Journey
The Appalachian Trail is perhaps the most well-known trail in the world and a dream for many hiking enthusiasts like Molly and Geoff. At about 2,200 miles, it passes through 14 different states on the East Coast from Mount Katahdin, Maine in the north, down to Springer Mountain, Georgia in the south.
Only about one in every 10 hikers starts the trail in Maine, but since Molly and Geoff would start in the early summer, they decided to take their chances. In 2016, an estimated 3,377 people attempted the AT, with less than 30% actually completing it. Yet in 1990, there were far less people interested in the difficult hike…
Far from Home
Although they would be far from civilization on the trail, there weren’t many risks associated with it for experienced hikers like themselves. Over the years, there had only been one known murder and a handful of accidental deaths for AT hikers, but the duo didn’t let this bother them and set out on June 3, 1990 at Mount Katahdin.
Geoff and Molly’s families were aware they wouldn’t hear from them much while on their journey and were excited to hear they had a surprise to share when they returned home. Everyone close to them believed an engagement announcement was imminent and wished them the best on their journey…
A Good Start
The first few months on the hike went wonderfully according to the journals both Molly and Geoff kept. They met many friends that summer and took their time on the trail, as there was no need to rush. Even if they experienced some setbacks like sore feet, rashes, insect bites and sleepless nights, it was all worth it to fulfill their dream.
Then on September 12, 1990, everything changed. They had traveled 700 miles since Maine and treated themselves to a stay at an inn the night before in Duncannon, Pennsylvania. After venturing back on the trail, they took shelter at Thelma Marks, a lean-to that sheltered weary hikers on Cove Mountain. The happy couple had no idea they were about to encounter a monster while they held each other close that night…
Fellow hikers Biff Bowen and his wife, Cindi, weren’t far behind Geoff and Molly on the trail. After replenishing their supplies in Duncannon, they made their way to Thelma Marks a day after the young couple. However, Biff became extremely uneasy and sensed something was very wrong as they got closer to the shed.
Molly and Geoff’s belongings, all of their coveted food and equipment, were carelessly scattered all over the area surrounding the lean-to. Biff used his walking stick as a weapon as he approached the lean-to and was devastated when he saw Geoff and Molly on the floor inside…
Dead on Arrival
The couple instantly notified police of the grisly scene. “I saw blood on the face, the hands were tied and I just turned around and … stopped my wife from coming any further,” Biff Bowen later said. “I said someone has been murdered.” Something had gone terribly wrong the night before and the happy couple was dead.
In Cold Blood
Police found Geoffrey’s lifeless body had been shot three times, in the back, stomach and head, by a .22-caliber gun and his bride-to-be’s last moments were even more brutal. Molly had been stabbed in the back, neck, and throat, and she was raped by their senseless attacker…
Rattled and Shaken
The Appalachian Trail community was shaken by the appalling murders and they were determined to help catch the monster who did this to two of their own. It only took nine days before police apprehended a mysterious man in nearby Harpers Ferry, the same town where Molly and Geoff planned on celebrating their half-way mark.
That Fateful Night
Although much of what happened the night of the horrific double murder remains a mystery, police believe sometime after midnight on September 13th, 1990, Molly and Geoff encountered a man named Paul David Crews. The stranger posed as a fellow hiker but was actually the suspect in a 1986 murder and had been on the run ever since…
On the Run
Crews had hitchhiked his way up from Florida and had been hiding out on the trail, causing some suspicion with trail surveyors along his way, as his frail frame and unprepared manner showed he was probably not a seasoned hiker. When police found Crews, he had Geoff’s distinctive backpack and was wearing his hiking boots.
Investigators failed to find a motive behind the murders and Crews’ lawyer could only give the explanation that he was a troubled man in an altered state of mind. “He would take a quart of Jim Beam and a cigarette pack full of powder cocaine, and that’s how he would hike,” Jerry Philpott said to Outside Online. The next year, Geoff and Molly’s families, as well as many hikers they met on the trail, sat in a courtroom as Crews was sentenced to death for the senseless crimes.
A Father’s Forgiveness
Fifteen long years later, in 2006, Crews was back on the stand and re-sentenced to life without parole. Jim LaRue surprised everyone by offering forgiveness to his daughter’s killer, saying he was the type of troubled soul his loving Molly would have wanted to help. “Paul, I think it would be great if you could pick up where Molly left off, starting with yourself,” he pleaded to Crews. “Help the Mollys of this world learn who you are, and try to enlist the help of other inmates to help in this effort. You are a gold mine of critical information that needs to be unearthed.”
Meanwhile, Geoff’s mother Glenda Hood has since gone to her son’s final resting place to celebrate his life and his sister attempted to finish his hike, before having to stop due to an injury. Glenda and Connie LaRue, both nurses, bonded over losing their children and the thought of their wedding day and long lives together. Thelma Marks has since been torn down and there are no longer signs of the tragedy that happened there nearly 30 years ago. However, the Appalachian Trail community knows well that it lost its innocence that night and that can never be replaced.