Amherst, VA - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed Scott A. Lilly, 30, of South Bend, Ind., last summer near the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia.
FBI Special Agent Steve Duenas, the lead investigator, also disclosed at a news conference April 23 that 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.
Duenas said 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 ruled the death a homicide and said the cause was “asphyxia by suffocation,” noted Mike Morehart, special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Richmond office, who announced the reward.
Most of Lilly’s gear has not been recovered, he said, including new trail shoes (Walmart’s Ozark Trail brand), blue or purple backpack, a Nintendo game, and “an A.T. handbook.”
Lilly used the Trail name “Stonewall.” He had begun hiking south from Maryland in late June, intending to go all the way to Springer Mountain, resupplying periodically through Walmart gift cards sent by his mother, according to his family.
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, telling reporters later that she thought he planned to find a new place to live in the South after his hike.
Ayers said, “Any information, even if it seems trivial, may be the piece that solves the puzzle.”
Morehart said 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, noting ATC’s involvement as well, said that “the level of cooperation on this case…is remarkable.” He stressed that his office is placing a high priority on this open 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, but right now he has seen no connection among them.
Duenas, declining to provide more specifics about the coroner’s report or the “many possibilities” being investigated, 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."