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The Third Rainbow Girl
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The Third Rainbow Girl

The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia

By Emma Copley Eisenberg
Narrated by Emma Copley Eisenberg / 10 hours 32 minutes
Bookseller Recommendation

The Third Rainbow Girl

“The facts are that in the summer of 1980, two young women were hitchhiking in Pocahontas County, West Virginia en route to the annual Rainbow Festival. Their murdered bodies were found in a remote clearing on a remote road. Over the years, multiple people confessed to the murders. Was it a local as many thought? Or an itinerant mass murderer traveling the country, raging against blacks and others? Eisenberg dives deeply into the case after spending time there years later as a Vista volunteer. This engaging book tells the story of the people of this rural county, the history of the area, and the officials who would not let the case die. It is also Emma's story: her time with these people, her loves, and her discontent. It is a stirring addition to the Appalachian story.”

Blue Willow Bookshop image Valerie, Blue Willow Bookshop

A stunningly written investigation of the murder of two young women--showing how a violent crime casts a shadow over an entire community.

In the early evening of June 25, 1980 in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, two middle-class outsiders named Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19, were murdered in an isolated clearing. They were hitchhiking to a festival known as the Rainbow Gathering but never arrived. For thirteen years, no one was prosecuted for the "Rainbow Murders," though deep suspicion was cast on a succession of local residents in the community, depicted as poor, dangerous, and backward. In 1993, a local farmer was convicted, only to be released when a known serial killer and diagnosed schizophrenic named Joseph Paul Franklin claimed responsibility. With the passage of time, as the truth seemed to slip away, the investigation itself caused its own traumas-turning neighbor against neighbor and confirming a fear of the violence outsiders have done to this region for centuries.

Emma Copley Eisenberg spent years living in Pocahontas and re-investigating these brutal acts. Using the past and the present, she shows how this mysterious act of violence has loomed over all those affected for generations, shaping their fears, fates, and the stories they tell about themselves. In The Third Rainbow Girl, Eisenberg follows the threads of this crime through the complex history of Appalachia, forming a searing and wide-ranging portrait of America-its divisions of gender and class, and of its violence.

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