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Foul play not suspected in death of hiker in Maine

Dottie Rust

The last known photograph of Gerry Largay, taken shortly before she vanished on July 22, 2013.

By Kathryn Miles Globe Correspondent 

AUGUSTA, Maine — Bringing a somber close to a baffling case, Maine authorities said Friday that the remains had been found of Geraldine Largay, the hiker who vanished from the Appalachian Trail in western Maine in July 2013.

Largay was found in Redington Township, approximately 3,000 feet off the trail in an area within the boundaries of a US Navy survival school.

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Maine Warden Service Lieutenant Kevin Adam said at a news conference that he did not suspect foul play. However, he said, he could not say for certain until the medical examiner’s office released its report.

“We felt all along that she somewhere got off the trail and was in a remote wooded area. We just needed to get the right resource in there,” he said.

Largay’s disappearance from the trail in a wilderness so harsh it is used to train the military had baffled authorities and generated a massive public response. The warden service launched one of the most extensive searches in its history, but was unable to find her.

Largay, 66, of Brentwood, Tenn., was an experienced hiker whose trail moniker was “Inchworm.” She had completed nearly 1,000 miles of the 2,100-mile trail and planned to finish it that year.

Largay and her long-time friend and hiking partner, Jane Lee, began hiking the trail in Harper’s Ferry, W. Va., in April 2013. A family emergency forced Lee to abandon her hike in New Hampshire. Largay determined to continue alone.

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An old back injury prevented Largay from carrying a heavy backpack so her husband, George, usually met her each night at trailheads, either to replenish her supplies or to take her to a motel.

Because the section of the trail where Largay went missing is so isolated, she and her husband decided it would be best for her to hike it unassisted, with Largay spending nights in trail shelters.

She was last seen at the Poplar Ridge lean-to by fellow hikers on Monday, July, 22, 2013.

She was supposed to stay out another night and meet her husband the next day.

It appears that she wandered off the trail approximately 2½ miles north of the shelter in an area used by the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School.

Adam said the area was clearly marked as Navy property. Public access is prohibited.

Her body was found Wednesday, along with a number of Largay’s belongings, by an independent contractor conducting an environmental survey on the Navy property.

Because of the location of her remains, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent is working in conjunction with the warden service on the investigation.

Authorities said the family did not want to comment about the case.

“You never want a search to end this way,” Adam said. “Everybody wanted to find Gerry. It was a great effort and we’ll learn a lot from this search.”

Graphic: James Abundis/Globe Staff

Source: Maine Warden Service.