There are many perils on the Appalachian Trail, including exposure, dehydration and wild animals. And then there’s Randall Lee Smith. In 1981 Smith befriended two hikers on the trail. But in the middle of the night, while the three slept at the Appalachian Trail’s Wapiti Shelter in southwestern Virginia, Smith shot one of his new companions in the head with a .22 bullet and, after a struggle, killed the other one in a gruesome stabbing. In a plea deal, he was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder for his crimes.
After 15 years behind bars, Smith was paroled in 1996. But whatever lessons he had learned in prison didn’t stick. In 2008, just miles from the site of the original attack, Smith attempted to kill two fishermen he met under similar circumstances. This time, however, the pair survived the attack, despite numerous gunshot wounds to the head, neck, and chest. Smith, however, did not. As he attempted to escape, he crashed his getaway truck. He survived long enough to be taken to prison before dying from the injuries he sustained.