A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for murdering an Indiana man on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in central Virginia.
Scott A. Lilly, 30, of South Bend, intended to hike from central Maryland south to Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the famed trail when he was killed last summer.
In announcing the reward earlier this week, FBI Special Agent Steve Duenas disclosed that Mr. Lilly “was buried.” Hikers found his “partially buried” body August 12, another agent said, along a side trail to Cow Camp Gap Shelter in George Washington–Jefferson National Forest in Amherst County, almost five miles north of the U.S. 60 Trailhead.
Agent Duenas said Mr. Lilly’s last known contact was from the shelter July 31. He was not identified until August 16. That shelter is about 0.6 mile east of the A.T. along the Old Hotel Trail, which loops around and rejoins the A.T. again about two miles north.
A state medical examiner in January determined Mr. Lilly, who used the trail name "Stonewall," was suffocated.
Most of Mr. Lilly’s gear remains missing, including new trail shoes (Walmart’s Ozark Trail brand), blue or purple backpack, a Nintendo game, and “an A.T. handbook," according to the FBI.
Mr. Lilly’s younger sister, Alysen, joined Sheriff L.J. “Jimmy” Ayers III in urging anyone with information to call the FBI tip line at (800) 261-1044.
“He was a 30-year-old man living out a dream by hiking the A.T. and visiting Civil War battlefields…. Our family will never be the same. We need closure,” she said.
Authorites say the combined investigative team—including National Park Service A.T. rangers, U.S. Forest Service law-enforcement officers, and Virginia State Police—has conducted 83 interviews of hikers, maintainers, and others, “in multiple states and two other countries,” including all long-distance hikers known to have been in the area in that time period.
Timothy J. Heaphy, U.S. attorney for the western district of Virginia, stressed that his office was placing a high priority on the case, as well as “unsolved murders” along the Blue Ridge Parkway and a 1996 killing of two women hikers away from the trail in Shenandoah National Park. He said he didn't see any connection among the murders.
Agent Duenas said the reward announcement and news conference “are part of the investigative strategy—to generate more leads,” particularly from 2011 hikers who might not have seen last August’s news reports and from 2012 hikers noticing something unusual. “I have no reason to believe the trail is any more dangerous. Hikers just have to be aware and take all the normal precautions."