Hikers Slain

Prosecutors say a phone call made by the man charged with murdering two hikers in Shenandoah National Park links him directly to the 1996 killings.

But defense attorneys say it was a meaningless coincidence, and say Darrell Rice misdialed another number.

Prosecutors say that comments Rice made to a jailhouse informant help tie Rice to the crimes and also appear to connect him to an unsolved slaying in Virginia.

An attorney for Rice has asked federal judge Norman Moon to exclude evidence about a phone call from Rice's home in Maryland to a gay advocacy center in California.

The call was made several days after the murders of 24-year-old
Julianne Williams, of Vermont, and 26-year-old Laura Winans of
Maine. Prosecutors claim that Rice hates homosexuals and killed the women because they were lesbians.

Defense lawyer Fred Heblich (HEBB'-lick) told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the evidence about the phone call is irrelevant and baseless speculation.

Prosecutors also say a jailhouse informer says Rice mentioned the case of Alicia Showalter Reynolds, a Harrisonburg native and medical student from Baltimore whose body was found in Culpeper County in March 1996.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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