14 May 2016

Park Officials investigating assault of 64-year-old woman found tied to tree while hiking in North Carolina on Mountains to Sea Trail

Buncombe County, NC - Special Agents with the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) of the National Park Service and US Park Rangers of the Blue Ridge Parkway are actively investigating a possible assault that occurred in the area of Craggy Gardens, part of the Mountains to Sea Trail, on Thursday afternoon, May 12.

Rescuers found a 64-year-old female hiker tied to a tree along the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Photo WLOS)
Rangers and other emergency responders conducted a brief search for a hiker that was reportedly missing, and found the 64-year-old woman tied to a tree. She was taken to Mission Hospital for care and her current condition is unknown. Investigators do not have reason to believe this incident was anything other than an isolated event. All visitor facilities in the area remain open.

ABC News 13 WLOS reported that the woman was found near Potato Field Gap, which is less than four miles from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center in Reems Creek, NC.

The incident began early Thursday afternoon, when the Reems Creek Fire Department responded to a call for a lost person who was possibly having a medical issue, according to a captain with that Weaverville-based agency.

A woman called dispatchers at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, saying she was getting texts from her friend, who was hiking in the area of Snowball Trail at Craggy Gardens.

The 911 caller identified herself as a caregiver for the 64-year-old woman. The caller said she had gotten texts from her friend about changing hiking plans, but then she received messages that the woman was having an emergency. The caller was unsure of the nature of the emergency, but did say the woman has a medical condition.

“She has something that looks like seizures, and when she does, she is conscious long enough sometimes to send a text but generally it renders her somewhat mute,” the caller said in a 911 recording. When crews arrived, they discovered the woman tied to tree. Officials have declined to discuss details of those circumstances.

A rescue worker on the scene told a dispatcher in an emergency radio call, "She's not deceased at this time. She is tied to a tree. This is the one they were looking for."

A person of interest in this case is a white male about 50 years old with salt-and-pepper hair, and he may have partially-grown facial hair. The man was possibly wearing a light-colored or faded gray short-sleeve T-shirt, baggy blue pants that appear old and faded, and dark tennis shoes. He may appear generally unkempt and smell of a musty odor of going unwashed.

If you have any information about the incident, or if you may have noticed someone behaving suspiciously around Craggy Gardens or along the Mountains to Sea Trail between noon and 4:00 p.m. yesterday, please contact the Park Service.

You don't have to tell them who you are, but please tell them what you know:
Call their Tip Line at 888-653-0009
Submit at online Tip
Send a Facebook Message
Email us

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