Randall Lee Smith

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Randall Lee Smith (1954 – 10 May 2008)[1] was a convicted murderer from Pearisburg, Virginia.[2][3][4] He pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Robert Mountford Jr. and Laura Susan Ramsay, who were killed while hiking the Appalachian Trail, in May 1981.[5][6] He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but was released in 1996 on mandatory parole after serving only 15 years.[7] Both Smith's sentence and his early release were met with anger by the victims' families as well as the hiking community. Hikers protested outside the courtroom the day after his sentencing, and a spokesman for the Appalachian Trail Conference said Smith is the "first person convicted of murdering a hiker who has had the opportunity to leave prison".[8] His probation ended in 2006.[9]

On May 6, 2008, Smith attempted to kill two fishermen less than two miles from the site of the 1981 murders.[10] He befriended the two fishermen, who shared their dinner with Smith, before opening fire on them without warning. Both men were shot twice, but survived.[11] Smith was arrested that day after attempting to escape in one of the victim's trucks and subsequently crashing.[12] He died in jail four days later as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.[1][13]

The novel Murder on the Appalachian Trail, published by Jess Carr in 1985, is a fictionalized account of the 1981 murders.[14]


  1. ^ a b "OBIT - SMITH, RANDALL LEE". Roanoke Times & World News. 20 May 2008. 
  2. ^ "Appalachian Trail Murders". Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Morrison, Shawna (8 August 2008). "Suspect's death ruled accidental". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved 30 October 2008. 
  4. ^ Stutzman, Paul (2010). Hiking through. Tempe: Synergy Books. ISBN 0-9840760-5-0. 
  5. ^ Bill Archer (May 11, 2008). "Double-shooting suspect dies in custody". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Mike Gangloff (May 11, 2008). "Randall Lee Smith remains a mystery". Roanoke Times. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Duncan Adams (May 12, 2008). "Community reacts to Randall Lee Smith's death". Roanoke Times. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  8. ^ Lisa K. Garcia (Sep 26, 1996). "Hikers' killer going home". Roanoke Times. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Laurence Hammack (May 8, 2008). "Pearisburg man never shook reputation as AT killer". Roanoke Times. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Wil Haygood (July 9, 2008). "Lonely, Dark and Deep". Washington Post. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  11. ^ Chris Hansen (Feb 15, 2009). "Escape from Brushy Mountain". Dateline NBC. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Shawna Morrison and Mike Gangloff (May 8, 2008). "1981 AT killer linked to new shootings". Roanoke Times. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  13. ^ Shawna Morrison (Aug 7, 2008). "Randall Lee Smith's death ruled accidental". Roanoke Times. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  14. ^ Carr, Jess (1984). Murder on the Appalachian Trail. Boston: Commonwealth Press. ISBN 0-89227-106-X.