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June 25, 1980: Two Women Murdered Traveling to Rainbow Gathering

Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist and serial killer, confessed to the murders.
E-WV
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WV Humanities Council

On June 25, 1980, Nancy Santomero and Vicki Durian, who were apparently hitchhiking to the Rainbow Family reunion in Webster County, were murdered on Droop Mountain, in southern Pocahontas County.

The Rainbow Family is a loosely organized group, variously characterized as hippies and drifters, or as peaceful nature lovers and ecologists.

The annual gatherings, first held in Aspen, Colorado, grew from popular social, political, and cultural movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. The name “rainbow” signifies the diversity of people involved.

In the weeks before the 1980 gathering and the murders, West Virginia Secretary of State A. James Manchin and a group of Marlinton residents filed suit to bar the Rainbow Family from Monongahela National Forest. Manchin was quoted as saying that West Virginia didn’t need “this bunch of derelict misfits.” The federal court suit was dropped.

Despite the murders, about 6,000 gathered at the Rainbow Gathering in Webster County. In 1993, Pocahontas County native Jacob Beard was convicted of the murders. He was later acquitted and received a $2 million settlement after Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist and serial killer, confessed to the murders.


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