Suspect in Smoky Mountains park assault was in Alabama prison

Mar. 02, 2014 @ 03:20 PM

For most of the time since a 2012 assault in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the man charged this week with the crime had been held in an Alabama prison on unrelated charges.

Forty-eight-year-old William Seevers was convicted in Alabama for receiving stolen property, and had been held at the Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala., since July 12, 2012, according to information from the Alabama Department of Corrections. He was sentenced to serve five years, but was due for release on good behavior on April 2, according to ADOC records.

The records indicate Seevers started serving his sentence in Alabama just a few weeks after the assault he’s accused of committing in the park. Law enforcement officers now believe he is the man who attacked a 44-year-old woman who was hiking near the entrance to the national park on June 8, 2012.

The woman told investigators she was hiking a trail that runs from Gatlinburg near the edge of the park to the Sugarlands Visitors Center when a strange man approached her with a knife and forced her off the trail. She said he forced her to have sex with him and stabbed her several times. After he left, she was able to reach the Gatlinburg Bypass and flag down a motorist.

She was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment of her injuries.

In the days after the assault, rangers kept the trail closed, and local law enforcement authorities joined them in a manhunt for the attacker. The park offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the perpetrator. A press release from the Department of Justice Thursday said the National Park Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the crime.

A federal grand jury returned a sealed indictment against Seevers in December, charging him with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of attempted first-degree murder. It was unsealed after he made his first court appearance Thursday, pleading not guilty to all charges.

Neither the release nor the indictment indicate how investigators centered in on Seevers as a suspect. A DOJ spokesperson said the department wouldn’t issue additional information because the investigation hasn’t concluded, but the National Park Service issued a brief statement on the arrest.

“The National Park Service has put a great deal of effort into the investigation of this case and so we are very pleased to see it advance to prosecution,” said Chief Ranger Clayton Jordan.

The trial is set for April 29.