[at-l] AT Beating,3rd suspect arrested

RockDancer rockdancer97 at comcast.net
Mon Nov 29 09:31:09 CST 2010

See the Tri-Cities website for the article. There are some interesting details of how the community help to find the victims! --RD


Third suspect arrested in random beating of two Appalachian Trail hikers
By Debra Mccown
November 24, 2010

The final suspect in the random beating of two Appalachian Trail hikers was arrested late Tuesday.

Randy Ray Blevins, 20, of Damascus, Va., was taken into custody at a friend’s house at about 10:30 p.m., Damascus Police Chief Bill Nunley said. He’d been on the run for about two months, but Tuesday he returned to Damascus, the chief said.

Blevins is the last of the three men accused in the beating of two brothers from Iowa who were in Damascus while through-hiking the trail in May. Brothers Jamie and Zachary Gumm were beaten on the Virginia Creeper Trail a few days before the Trail Days festival that brings thousands of hikers into the tourism-driven town.

Caleb Dean, a friend of Blevins, has already been arrested. So has Thomas Reedy, who is accused of videotaping the incident with a cell phone.

All in their early 20s and all from Damascus, the three men are charged with felonies that could result in lengthy stays behind bars.

“It was very important to our department to see this case all the way to a close,” said Nunley, whose town of fewer than 1,000 residents has seen its economy transformed over the past decade by the advent of trail-based tourism. “Our town depends very strongly on the tourists.”

He said the case is the only crime of this type that’s ever been reported on the trail in the area.

The investigation began with a rumor about a beating, though no report had been made. Then, an unrelated drug investigation resulted in a search of Reedy’s cell phone, which revealed a video entitled, “hiker bashing.”

Investigators posted to online message boards used by hikers and got calls from across the East Coast; eventually they found the victims in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Blevins, who, according to court records has a lengthy and assorted criminal history, was on probation for assault and battery in an unrelated case, Nunley said. Both Reedy and Dean have unrelated drug charges pending.

In the hiker-bashing case, each of the men is charged with two counts of assault by a mob, a Class 3 felony, and two counts of felonious assault, a Class 5 felony. Blevins also is charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.

Combined, the charges each man faces carry a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and more than $200,000 in fines.

Blevins and Reedy are being held at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon; Dean is out on bond.

Even with the worry caused by this case, Nunley said, Damascus has the lowest crime rate it’s experienced in the past decade.

As for the trail, he said, “Right now, I believe it’s the safest it’s ever been.”

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