Attorney General Transcript
News Conference with USA John Brownlee
Indictment of Darrell David Rice
April 10, 2001
DOJ Conference Center
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Good morning.
On June the 1st, 1996, the bodies of Julianne Marie Williams and Laura "Lollie" S. Winans were discovered in the mountains of Virginia in the Shenandoah National Park, bound and gagged, with their throats cut. This morning I'm announcing the indictment returned yesterday in the Western District of Virginia against Darrell David Rice for these brutal killings. Darrell David Rice is charged with four counts of capital murder, two of which allege that he intentionally selected his victims because of his hatred of women and homosexuals.
Today's murder indictment specifically invokes a federal sentencing enhancement enacted to ensure justice for victims of hate crimes. If convicted of any of the charges in the indictment, Darrell David Rice could face the death penalty.
Julianne Marie Williams and Lollie Winans were young women who loved life and cherished every single day. Lollie was completing her studies at Unity College in Maine. She was in the final stages of becoming an accredited guide. She loved the outdoors and she loved to introduce people to the outdoors because she believed that, as she did, others would find themselves particularly happy and fulfilled in the outdoors. Upon her death, Unity College called her mother and father a few months later to receive the degree that she has been working on.
America will be without the contribution that Lollie would otherwise have made, and it would have been substantial.
Similarly, Julie was a student of great achievement, went to school in Carlton, Minnesota, graduated summa cum laude. She was interested in helping migrant workers; spoke Spanish; cared about and worked with families that were abused, had difficulty; was part of a group of individuals whose knowledge of geology and the natural world was valuable in terms of our culture and what we could do to make sure that we respected the world in which we live; was interested in the Lake Champlain Project.
Earlier today I had an opportunity to meet the parents of these young women, who are with us this morning. And now, as then, I struggled to express the deep sadness that we feel for the great loss of these families. We pray for their families.
These families have suffered what Americans now know all too well. That's the pain and destruction wrought by hate. Just as the United States will pursue, prosecute, and punish terrorists who attack America out of hatred for what we believe, we will pursue, prosecute, and punish those who attack law-abiding Americans out of hatred for who they are. Hatred is the enemy of justice, regardless of its source. We will not rest until justice is done for Julianne Marie Williams and for Lollie Winans.
The indictment of David -- Darrell David Rice is the result of an investigation begun late May 1996, when Miss Williams and Miss Winans, who were hiking along a trail in the Shenandoah National Park, were reported missing. Days later, the discovery of their brutally murdered bodies set off a multi-jurisdictional manhunt in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Park Service joined forces to follow up on an estimated 15,000 leads and contacts. As a notice filed this morning with the court explains, in 1998 Darrell David Rice pled guilty and was convicted of attempted abduction of a female bicyclist, also in the Shenandoah National Park. Evidence presented at the guilty plea and sentencing of Rice established that he accosted the woman, angrily screamed sexual references towards her, and attempted to force her into his truck.
When that victim successfully resisted Rice and took cover behind a tree, Rice attempted to run over her with his vehicle. After his arrest, investigators recovered hand and leg restraints in Rice's truck. As a result of his conviction, Rice is currently serving a 135-month federal sentence.
Today's indictment charges that Rice singled out Julianne Marie Williams and Laura Winans for murder because of their gender or sexual orientation. As outlined in the government's pleadings, Rice has stated on several occasions that he enjoys assaulting women because they are, in his words, quote, "more vulnerable," close quote, than men. The government's notice sets forth numerous incidents in which Rice acted in a hostile and violent manner toward women solely because they were women. In addition, the government's notice describes evidence of Rice's hatred for homosexuals, including his statement that Julianne Williams and Laura Winans deserved to die because he believed they were homosexuals.
Several individuals deserve our thanks and our praise for their exemplary work on this case. Special Agent Jane L. Collins (sp) for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Special Agent Timothy W. Alley (sp) of the National Park Service coordinated the investigation of the literally thousands of leads and contacts in this case.
And we have put together a prosecution team that promises to take full advantage of the solid foundation that was laid by the investigation. Prosecuting Darrell David Rice will be Criminal Chief of the Western District of Virginia, Thomas J. Bondrant, Jr. (sp), and Western District of Virginia Assistant United States Attorney Anthony P. Gorno (sp).
I thank as well the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, John Brownlee, for his dedication to seeing that justice is done for these victims. And the special agent in charge of the Western District of Virginia, Don Thompson (sp), and the special agent in charge from the FBI for the National Park Service, Clark Guy (sp). I'm pleased that these individuals here are with me this morning.
Criminal acts of hate run counter to what is best in America -- our belief in equality and freedom. The Department of Justice will aggressively investigate, prosecute and punish criminal acts of violence and vigilantism motivated by hate and intolerance.
Since September the 11th, the Civil Rights Division, in cooperation with the FBI and U.S. attorneys, have investigated approximately 350 incidents of violence or threats against Americans perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin. Working with our partners in law enforcement, approximately 65 state and local criminal prosecutions have been initiated against almost 80 individuals. Federal charges have been brought in 10 cases.
The Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs is currently funding approximately 18 grants, totaling $15.5 million, to address the unique issues involved with hate crimes. In addition, our budget contains a request for $5 million to identify trends in the commission of hate crimes by geographic region and type of crime committed and the number of hate crimes, prosecutions and convictions obtained.
Our message this morning is unambiguous and clear. The volatile, poisonous mixture of hatred and violence will not go unchallenged in the American system of justice. By invoking the hate crimes enhancement parts of sentencing enhancement today, today's murder indictment makes clear our commitment to seek every prosecutorial advantage and to use every available statute to secure justice for victims like Julianne Marie Williams and Lollie Winans.
Thank you all. I'd be pleased to respond to your questions.
Q Do we know how he knew or if he knew they were -- their sexual orientation? In other words, did he see them at the park? Was that --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I'm not prepared to go beyond the terms of the matters submitted in court. No information in that respect is submitted to the court.
Q Sir, can you tell us anything about Mr. Rice -- what kind of work he did, where he lived, what he was doing in the park?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: We've alleged, obviously, in the indictment and in the information submitted to the court that in the park he committed these acts. I can't give you further information about it yet.
Q Sir, what was the break in the case? How long has he been a suspect, and how did this all come together? Can you tell us?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I don't know if you'll --
MR. BROWNLEE: Certainly.
Yes, in 19 --
Q Your name, please?
MR. BROWNLEE: My name is John Brownlee. I'm the United States attorney for the Western District. In July of 1997 the defendant was arrested for attempting to abduct a woman in the national park.
That is why he is currently incarcerated. Interviews subsequent to his arrest led us to believe that he may have been involved, which began -- which allowed the investigation to focus on Mr. Rice, which has led to his indictment here today.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Mm-hmm.
Q Mr. Attorney General, back in the '80s there was a belief that the Shenandoah murders may have been linked to what was called the Colonial Parkway murders. Was there ever a link established one way or the other? Perhaps the other --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Is that the Highway 29 murders?
MR. : No, sir.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: No --
MR. : (Off mike) -- separate cases.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: They're different cases.
MR. : (Off mike) -- Parkway is down in Tidewater. The Route 29 stalker --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Let me just say this. It would be inappropriate for me to speak outside the indictment about any nexus. I just wondered if that's what you had reference to.
Q If I may change subjects, sir, last week a man who's named Mr. Hamdi was flown from Guantanamo to -- I believe, to a military base in Virginia, and I'm wondering if you can say anything about the extent of Justice Department interest in him, if any, and what his status is.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Obviously, the Department of Defense has had custody of this individual, and whether or not he would be the subject of any effort at prosecution would only come as a result of an investigation. The department is not in a position to make an announcement about an investigation at this time.
Q Will you now support the pending hate crime legislation in Congress?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: The pending hate crime legislation in Congress is under review in the Justice Department at this time. And pending the outcome of that review, we would make an announcement if we chose to support the legislation.
Q Are you inclined to support it?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: We're inclined to prosecute hate crimes like this one -- prosecute them to the fullest. The utilization of the sentencing enhancement procedures that relate to both gender and homosexuality in this instance are key to our ability to request the death penalty in cases like this.
STAFF: Last question.
Q Where is Darrell David Rice currently being held?
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I'll defer as to the institution. Do you know?
MR. BROWNLEE: Yes, sir. He is in Petersburg Federal Penitentiary.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Thank you all very much.