- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2008

PEARISBURG, Va. (AP) — A man convicted of killing two hikers on the Appalachian Trail in 1981 and being held in connection to the shooting of two people on the trail last week died in jail over the weekend, according to the Giles County Sheriff’s Office.

Randall Lee Smith, 54, who was being held in connection with the shooting of two men Tuesday, was pronounced dead Saturday at about 6 p.m., said Lt. Ron Hamlin.

Lt. Hamlin said officers at the New River Valley Regional Jail found Smith lying on his side and unresponsive. He was taken to the hospital, where he later was pronounced dead. There was no evidence of suicide.

Authorities would not speculate as to whether the death was caused from the head and shoulder injuries that Smith suffered when he crashed a pickup truck belonging to one of the two shooting victims during a police chase Tuesday night.

Smith had been in a medical ward Saturday and was alone in his cell, Lt. Hamlin said.

“He had given up on life. I saw that,” Lt. Hamlin said. “He said he was ready for death.”

Investigators said Smith had spent three hours Tuesday with Sean Farmer, 33, of Tazewell, and Scott Johnston, 37, of Bluefield.

The three talked and ate dinner before the gunman, thought to have been Smith, pulled out a weapon and shot Farmer and Johnston at their camp on Lions Den Road.

Police said Mr. Farmer was shot in the face and chest. He was released Wednesday from Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Johnston was shot in the neck and back. He was listed in good condition Saturday, said hospital spokesman Eric Earnhart.

Smith faced two counts of attempted capital murder, two counts of using a firearm in commission of a felony, possession of a gun by a felon and grand larceny.

The shootings occurred near the same secluded area along the Appalachian Trail where Smith killed Susan Ramsay and Robert Mountford Jr. in 1981.

The bodies of Miss Ramsay and Mr. Mountford, both from Maine, were found in shallow graves near a shelter on the trail. Miss Ramsay had been beaten and stabbed more than a dozen times. Mr. Mountford was shot three times in the head.

Smith pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was given two 15-year sentences. He was released from prison in 1996 after serving 14 years.

His crimes made him the subject of a book, “Murder on the Appalachian Trail.”

After he was released, Smith kept a low profile in the community, but he never lost the reputation he made for murdering the two hikers.


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