On June 25, 1980, two young women were killed in an isolated clearing in rural Pocahontas County West Virginia. They were hitchhiking to an outdoor peace festival known as the Rainbow Gathering, but never arrived. Their killings have been called “The Rainbow Murders.”
For thirteen years, no one was prosecuted, though suspicion was cast on a succession of local men. In 1993, the state of West Virginia convicted a local farmer and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Later, it emerged that a convicted serial killer had also confessed. With the passage of time, its toll on this Appalachian community became more concrete -- the unsolved murders were a trauma, experienced on a community scale.
I spent five years re-investigating these brutal acts, which once captured the national media’s imagination, only to fall into obscurity. Part “Serial”-like investigation, part Joan Didion-like meditation, the book follows the threads of this crime through the history of West Virginia, the Back-to-the-Land movement, and the complex reality of contemporary Appalachia, forming a portrait of America and its divisions of gender and class, and its violence.
The Third Rainbow Girl will be published by Hachette Books in January 2020. Sign up for updates here.