Taking a Wrong Turn Too Many Times-The Tragic Death of an Appalachian Hiker Gone Missing

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The story of 66-year-old Geraldine Largay’s adventures on the Appalachian Trail and what led up to her tragic death is unusual. There were many accounts giving information which would seem to contradict her behavior…and so many missed opportunities. It didn’t have to end in death …and it was never meant to end in death! A lover of the outdoors and seeking adventures past a dedicated career should reflect new chapters of enlightenment and excitement…not disaster.

Geraldine began her training to navigate the wilds of the Appalachian Trail with a trainer who had the reputation to be unorthodox in his methods, according to an article by the Portland (Maine) Press Herald. Her mission was to cover 14 states, encompassing roughly 2,175 miles.   She nicknamed herself “inchworm” as her trail name. She and friend Jane Lee began on April 23, 2013, trekking ~1,000 miles from Harper’s Ferry Virginia. As of June 30th the women were in New Hampshire whereupon, Jane left to lend to a family emergency.  This was the beginning of flirting with a disaster which would create a domino effect of trouble ahead. Geraldine was insistent that she continue on alone. Actually, the system in place was to have her husband of 42 years act as a kind of “wagon train” meeting her at pre-determined spots, bringing her supplies and driving her to motels for showers etc.

Geraldine’s body was found less than two miles from the trail 26 months later by surveyors on October 14, 2015, in Maine.

I really tried to find an equal balance of positive and negative factors to relate, thinking that this was just a fluke that this woman went missing, seemingly forever and then died. But, no, the negative far outweighed the positive in this tale.

Gerry was a retired nurse whose medical skills would supposedly serve her well for such an ambitious trip. She was a friendly person on the trail, not “keeping to herself.” She had the physical stamina to carry a full pack, hiking 16 miles a day.  She also kept a journal after she got lost that provided insight into her journey (as well as over 1,500 pages from the Maine Warden Service and the Medical Examiner.)

WHY?

unknownHuman error, poor judgement, the harshness of the terrain,  over-reliance of certain equipment and not using other techniques, lack of survival skills taught by her instructor, (no curriculum to speak of) and  a medical condition and her family’s lack of knowledge of just how unprepared Gerry was, all contributed to this “perfect storm.”

In summary some of the factors that worked to create this tragedy were:

  • She was afraid of being alone, but yet she insisted on “going it alone “when her friend had to leave;
  • She suffered from anxiety and may not have been taking a prescribed medication for her condition making her vulnerable to panic attacks;
  • Her hiker friend told investigators Gerry had a poor sense of direction and became flustered and combative when she made mistakes such as making a wrong turn;
  • She had a SPOT beacon, (a GPS device that sends emergency messages to a satellite when it is activated.) BUT, she left it in the lean-to before she left for her final hike;
  • She over-relied on a cell phone to communicate….

Gerry left the marked trail to go to the bathroom and lost her way. According to experienced hiker David Miller quoted in the National Post, he stated that as part of the maintenance of trails, the Conservancy re-routes paths yearly after floods or restoration projects. New paths are cut and they attempt to block the old paths, but the “blazing” – looking like paint on trees, is not adequately removed and mistake the old route for the new routes,

Largay did not follow her instructor’s informal advice to go “Downhill and downstream.” This instructor also recommended that if lost, you should stay put and do nothing.  Maine investigators have disagreed.  Instead, Gerry tried to go to higher ground hoping for a signal for her cell phone.

Gerry died in the summer within a sleeping bag in a closed tent, which ultimately made it difficult for search dogs to detect a scent through the air.

The Warden Service was able to conduct three dog searches only due to the lack of volunteers able to navigate the harsh terrain that had been used by the military in the past.

The medical examiner’s report stated that her last campsite was a mixture of hardwood and evergreen with a tree canopy covering  75% of the campsite from above (with a black tent) which made visibility from the air and the immediate surroundings very challenging. She waved her shirt to a passing plane and helicopter, but she could not be seen.

Her path to the end – Several accounts report that she was last seen on alive on July 22, 2013, on Polar Ridge lean-to. As there have been torrential rains afterward, speculation was that she had trouble crossing the Carrabassett River or “got turned around on the trail.” Evidence from the Computer Crime Lab indicated she had gotten to an abandoned railroad bed crossing and the Orbeton Stream.   She missed her scheduled stop to meeting her husband for supplies in Wyman Township. She continued north but reported left the trail to go to the bathroom and got lost.  This area was very dense with fir trees, rugged with thick underbrush.

unknown-1

In fact, Gerry was found less than two miles off the trail and waited a full month for rescue before dying officially from Inanition (exhaustion and lack of food and water).Some of her remains were intact within the sleeping bag, while animals scavenged and dragged her a few feet away.

Before the month passed, Gerry appeared resigned to death, with her journal messages, following her failed text messages to her husband. The cover of the Journal said, “George, Please Read X0X0”

At 11 a.m. on her final day of hiking, her unanswered text said, “In some trouble. Got off the trail to go to br. Now lost. Call the Appalachian Mountain Club to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of the wood road. X0X.” She prayed the Rosary too!

On August 6th she wrote, “When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you find me.  No matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them.”  She also wrote a long letter to each of her family members, apologizing, saying that, “No hike was more important than them.”

Parting thoughts:

I have many questions about why  Gerry was so ill prepared and why her family agreed to this vagabond system of travel agreed to, for a woman with an anxiety disorder without medication, without sufficient survival training and someone who did not like to be alone.   We’ll never know why so many common sense factors went by the wayside for Gerry! It is sad and senseless. Perhaps she was a loveable but “stubborn ol’ broad” who didn’t like to listen to others.

P.S. Gerry was less than 200 miles from completing her goal of 900+ miles –half of the trail that she began in West Virginia months before.

References: 

http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/29/maine-hiker-missing-2-years-died-in-sleeping-bag-inside-tent/

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/27/us/missing-hiker-geraldine-largay-appalachian-trail-maine.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2016/08/24/when-you-find-body-the-last-days-hiker-gerry-largay/DcaZf6RcojOTN2LNsOXm0K/story.html

http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/17/at-instructor-ill-fated-hiker-disregarded-common-sense/

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/former-instructor-says-trip-was-perfect-storm-for-missing-hiker-found-dead-in-appalachian-wilderness

 

Close Encounters on the Highway with a Pipeline to God

Donna's car

As one of the 3.5 million or so commuters headed to work in the State of Connecticut, we know the risks as drivers, the inherent “bad spots,” the bottlenecks in traffic, the “It’s a parking lot and I have no choice” areas…and the potentially deadly zones when the “unexpected but perfect storm” is created.

As a driver with an unblemished record in my home state for many years never did I think that I would have the close encounter that I experienced last week! Sometimes, when you have as much perceived tragedy racked up as I over the years – 59 surgeries, a paternal homicide, etc.; you think that your “dance card” was filled long ago. Surely, God would not re-visit this person with more tragedy. You may get a false sense of security along with your vulnerabilities.  Despite super resiliency, it’s just not fair to fill my card anymore!  And then it happens out of the blue, without warning or responsibility on your part – BAM!

One of the most dangerous and potentially deadly traffic spots on our highway is the area prior to the Samuel Colt Historic Building (With the blue and gold-starred dome) on the left driving on Interstate 91 North with the Connecticut River on your right. Read this lengthy, but informative 2015 Connecticut Crash Reportblue dome

In this area, if memory serves me correctly,  5 plus lanes converge with drivers madly trying to go over a bridge in an easterly direction from Route 15, one lane to go West as you proceed north on Interstate 84, and two lanes to continue north on 1-91. Typically, in this area is an underpass with the bright sun to the east to contend with as well.   I have traveled this route for many years, gingerly expecting the routinely rude drivers, (Speeders, lack of signals, passing on the right etc.).

But, while I am carefully merging one lane over at a very low rate of speed and a car comes out of nowhere on your right at about 80 mph- wildly cutting across 5 lanes of traffic (to gain maybe 2 seconds) to ultimately continue north and hitting my right front fender – heading north without slowing or stopping, it was a freaking miracle that I maintained control of my car, did not hit anyone else, nor sustained any bodily injury.

The perp’s car was a later model red sporty, perhaps a Ford with a spoiler on the back with a green license plate (denoting the State of Vermont). He whizzed by me like Mario Andretti, went under the highway in the 84 West lane and then back up onto 91 North in the same direction I was headed to work, just a mile or so away.  I could not stop at the point of impact (even though the first Trooper on the phone yelled at me for not doing so) near the Colt’s Building, as I would have been struck with no breakdown lane to call the police. So, I tried to engage in a little careful pursuit to get more info on the car. However, three of four cars separated us in heavy traffic and I neither could get closer nor obtain his number! The second best option was to proceed to work, as it was still drivable and call the State Police. How very arrogant, irresponsible, and utterly prosecutable the perp was if I was able to get closer!  I was informed that if a license plate number was obtained then they could go after the person, but without it, forget about it! GRRRR!

I examined about 20 CCTV cameras on the DOT’s website and was horrified to learn that there is no camera directly located in this very perilous area. The closest cameras to the point of impact may be CCTV #84 at this link http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=2354&Q=411702 “….Be advised that the Department’s traffic cameras are used for live monitoring of traffic. No traffic camera recordings are available for disclosure because no  recordings exist.” 

What? A lot of Government gobbledygook!  Do you mean to tell me that if by chance, there was a camera there and someone happened to be monitoring at the moment, maybe I would have stood a chance in hell to identify the perp?  A colleague who worked previously for the DOT told me that it would be very unusual for the agency to pursue unless there was a fatality! (So they can’t use this technology because they can’t record?  So what good is it??)  Adding insult to injury, I learned  from my insurance company that I  may have to be my own car adjuster with a third-party tech company in order to download an app and take several photos (with incomplete directions, not accounting for different types of phones, despite some phone support!) What a mess! Although my “car wound” is not terrible for its age, in this instance, it is the principle of trying to get a modicum of justice!

If I am going to die, or nearly so, I will not go quietly, as this person has damaged my psyche and increased my vulnerabilities! That is also unforgivable for a crime victim!  As our Governor has proudly touted his efforts to improve our overall transportation system in many ways, this “highway purgatory location” apparently has been virtually ignored for years!

I placed a called to the DOT’s Commissioner’s Office who referred me on to the Bureau Chief of Highway Operations & Maintenance in order to tell my story and to advocate for this to be one of the future transportation projects to be addressed. Return call pending…

Thank you, God, for not taking me yet. I have about 30 good years left, hopefully!

Addendum:  About a week after the incident, I contacted an Administrator in the Department of Highway Operations & Maintenance following an initial call to the Commissioner’s office.   My call was referred to a Traffic Engineer 3. We discussed the fact that the data showed there were 104 crashes beginning in 2015 through September 2016; 79- fender benders, 17 minor injuries, 8 with fractures, thankfully no fatalities (perhaps because of the relatively slow speed most people use while changes lanes.)   However, the driver who hit me, I am guessing was travelling about 80 mph and gave my car a glancing blow in an attempt to overcorrect as he wildly cut across all lanes without ever slowing down! Reportedly,  this entire “spaghetti system of merging routes” is on the “slow track for change” to begin in five years! This does me and others no good as daily commuters in the meantime.

I brought up the he possibility of placing another monitoring camera just beyond the underpass in which all of the various routes merge in crossing traffic in an effort to provide some monitoring.  This request is supposed to be sent up the chain of command. Due to the engineer’s other responsibilities and project deadlines, it has not been addressed to date and remains very hazardous for all travelers, particularly those  who are unfamiliar with the area.   I thank the DOT for appearing to take somewhat of an  interest and trying to do a temporary fix in the future.   I hope they are not just “giving lip service.”

It would have been far more satisfying for me if this perpetrator could have been caught and prosecuted.    BOTTOM LINE, THE REAL SOLUTION IS DRIVER RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY!  As members of the public we must all take an active role to hold people accountable as the police can’t be everywhere, nor can a state agency solve all  the ills of society.

I am confident that “the squeaky wheel will get the grease” in some way, because that’s just how Ladyjustice rolls….  I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

No Time for the Pain, Drama, or False Hopes Inflicted on Families of Homicide and the Missing

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We all go about our daily business doing what we need to do – including firing up our passions and inspiring our collective villages. However, within that scenario, there are a number of pitfalls on social media about which we need to be wary.

Case in point – I received a Facebook message from a mysterious woman in a faraway land near Russia. This woman commented on my blog written about a high profile missing person who established a legacy for the CUE Center for Missing Persons.

Mystery woman made a comment stating that she had seen the missing person last year in Russia.  The missing person in question disappeared 16  1/2 years ago.

It is not out of the realm of possibility, for evidence, altered identity, remains and the like have been discovered. But, what transpired next seemed suspicious to me.  How do you sort out the crazies from the scammers from the truly informed who want to help?  You approach with caution, sending a private message. Your message should clearly state that if the “informant” has verifiable proof of the person’s whereabouts, contact X resource – whether it is the non-profit tip line or the police with contact info provided. If they do not follow up…that’s a giveaway!

In this instance, such a directive was given. The person replied that she “did not have international calling capability.” Well…. Anyone worth their salt knows that if they contacted me via the internet, there are options such as Skype or other software providing telephone calls via the internet.  The final comment to me was, “Do you have any idea what happened to her?” That’s when I knew she was a fake, fake, fake looking to perpetrate her drama on me or use me for her own mischievous purpose. She obviously never bothered to read the contents of my well researched detailed blog as to what may have happened!

Why make such claims in the first place? I am not inclined to friend a total stranger in a foreign land. I have no reason to do so. I do not want to be part of her “agenda.”

Creating drama and false hope for the families of homicide and missing persons does a terrible disservice to people who are already overburdened with grief, worry and the vacuousness in their hearts. It is unconscionable!

A few words to the less than wise – NEVER make claims about others that are untruthful, that you cannot back up. Doing so inflicts more pain, false hope and makes you part of the problem rather than the solution.

Foreign lady – You are BLOCKED!

Stay vigilant! If it doesn’t make sense, abandon all contact. Refer to your most trusted social media references and keep up on the latest scams and tools to monitor.

For many useful Social Media related blogs, visit https://imaginepublicity.com/

 

Why Was  Convicted Murderer Adam Zachs Eligible for Bond?

Adam Zachs

Adam Zachs stands in court to face a 60 year sentence for the murder of Peter Carone, Thursday, June 30, 2011 in Hartford, Conn. Zachs was found in Mexico after spending 22 years on the run. (AP Photo/Michael McAndrews, pool)

 

Appeal Bonds  Definition- An Appeal Bond –  (Also called a Supersedeas Bond) is a surety bond required by one who wishes to have a judgment or execution of judgment stopped pending reconsideration of the case by the Court. The bond guarantees that the opposing party will be made whole should the appeal action be unsuccessful.
Appeal bonds in most cases require collateral security in the form of cash or an irrevocable letter of credit. 

Adam Mark Zachs is a convicted murderer from Connecticut sentenced to 60 years for the murder of Peter Carone.  He had been on the lam from authorities since June 1989 for 22 years after fleeing the State of Connecticut while his first-degree murder conviction was on appeal. His Aunt posted a $250,000 bond after sentencing

On August 23, 1988, after less than two hours of deliberation and with overwhelming evidence presented against him, Zachs’ attorney immediately appealed the verdict and was next scheduled to appear in court in June 1989.  Zachs was set free on a $250,000.00 bond, posted by his aunt, Sybil Deitch.

I was in the Courtroom with the Carone family when Judge Thomas J. Corrigan (The same judge presiding over my Dad’s murderer) ruled  to release this killer to his parents.

On October 13, 1988, Judge Thomas H. Corrigan set four conditions on Zachs’ Appeal Bond:

  1. He “must live with his family;” 
  2. He was “not to  possess a gun, rifle, etc.” 
  3. His parents were told they must take on the and responsibility of searching [his] belongings and automobile;” and 
  4. “Any violation of these conditions would constitute a violation of the conditions of the Appeal Board.”

I though it incredulous when I heard the judge say, “Now will you promise to search his room and car for any weapons?  Yeah, … Right!  “Oh, Yes Judge, of course, we promise”

As far as we knew, his father and his father’s employees (who were complicit in hiding him out in “who knows where” and a family of wealth did everything to disrespect the system and justice for the Carone family after the murder of Peter Carone!

Fugitive Adam Zachs

It was rumored that perhaps Adam was sent to Israel. However, it was Mexico as we were to learn.  Zachs created an entirely new identity,  computer business, taking a wife and having children. This man was said to have a Little Napoleon Complex” hot headed and hot-tempered. Why else would you shoot someone after they made a remark and “spit shined a spot at the bar”…. causing rage after discussing a basketball championship!

Zachs was arrested in February 2011 and extradited back to Connecticut from Leon Guanajuato, Mexico.

As of October 11, 2011, The State of Connecticut  Attempted to “clean up the underhanded nature of doing business as a bail bonds agent with oversight  by the Insurance Commissioner  as it pertains to the professions excluded,  licensing, accounting practices,  ethics, referrals, facilities allowed to do business etc.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/ACT/PA/2011PA-00045-R00SB-00028-PA.htm;

But the REAL question is, why did Adam Zachs become eligible at all?

There are certain considerations if a case is heard in Federal Court, if a perpetrator is seeking release before sentencing (Zachs was already sentenced to 60 years) or whether there is an issue of appeal to consider to reversal, reduction or a new trial.  As noted in Criminal lawyers.com-

“If a convicted defendant is sentenced to prison and seeks bail pending an appeal, the judge must also consider the merits of the appeal as well as the defendant’s risk of flight and dangerousness. Essentially, the judge must find by clear and convincing evidence that:

  • The defendant isn’t likely to flee
  • The defendant isn’t a danger to the community
  • The appeal isn’t a delay tactic
  • The appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, a reduced sentence or a sentence that doesn’t include a prison term”

Conclusion

I would say that Judge Corrigan made one of the most significant errors of his career while on  the bench!  He saw a family of means who he thought would watch over their felon son and believed their lies.

How could he know this case would be one of the most high-profile international cases of its time and that the perp’s family and employees would commit criminal acts as well?

How could he know that this case would be featured on “America’s Most Wanted “several times?

How could he know that the Carone family would suffer so many losses over years and this case contribute to the death of other family members?

Since then, in a previous podcast with Shattered Lives Radio,  Addie Carone alluded to the fact that this case set precedence – as well it should have!

Suffice it to say that the Carone family is to be admired for their character, resiliency, and perseverance against what seemed like impossible odds to “catch a killer.”

References: http://articles.courant.com/2011-02-02/news/hc-adam-zachs-captured-0203-20110202_1_adam-m-zachs-michael-carone-appeal-bond

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/adam-zachs-arrested-conn-man-who-vanished-after-89-murder-conviction-captured-in-mexico/

http://www.courtbondsurety.com/appeal-bond

http://www.adamzachs.com/

http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/obtaining-bail-after-a-conviction.html

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/ACT/PA/2011PA-00045-R00SB-00028-PA.htm;


Further information about grief as a victim of crime is available in my book, Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide, which includes the stories of others who are traveling this long journey.

Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide

Donna R. Gore

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com