19 May 2016

Blue Ridge Parkway officials confirm 64-year-old hiker found tied to tree was assaulted

Park officials with the Blue Ridge Parkway have confirmed that the 64-year-old female hiker found tied to a tree last week near the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center off the Blue Ridge Parkway was assaulted. Neil Labrie, chief ranger for the Blue Ridge Parkway, reported in an email to the Asheville Citizen-Times that an assault did indeed occur. He said all information that was going to be released has been released, according to the Citizen-Times report.
US National Park Service officials at the scene of Craggy Gardens assault. (Photo: News7 WSPA)
 The hiker, whose service dog was nearby, was taken to an area hospital and released later the same day, according to reports. Much of the information about the assault was released as a result of communication between first responders, such as the detail of her being found tied to a tree.

Leesa Brandon, spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said officials have not released further information “in an effort to balance the integrity of this ongoing investigation and the privacy of the people involved,” according to the Citizen-Times.

“While there is an ongoing investigation and a suspect description was released, investigators involved also believed there was no additional threat to public safety and opened the area and all nearby visitor facilities,” she wrote in an email to the Citizen-Times on Monday.

A person of interest in the case is a white male, about 50 years old, with salt-and-pepper hair and partially grown facial hair. He may have been wearing a light-colored or faded gray short-sleeve T-shirt, baggy blue pants that appeared old and faded, and dark tennis shoes. He was said to be unkempt and smelly, possible from going unbathed.

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