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Backpacker Magazine – April 2007

The Long Trail to Jail

Is he a pilgrim, a victim, or a thief? The Appalachian Trail provides a path and refuge to all sorts of seekers. Few are as baffling as the man they called Saved.

by: Steve Friedman

David Lescoe in VA's Dillwyn Correctional Center  (Michael Darter)
David Lescoe in VA's Dillwyn Correctional Center (Michael Darter)
Photos taken November 15, 2006 (Michael Darter)
Photos taken November 15, 2006 (Michael Darter)
Dan Nicholls with Lescoe - July 29, 2004
Dan Nicholls with Lescoe - July 29, 2004
Lescoe (left) with his mother and brother Andrew in 1975
Lescoe (left) with his mother and brother Andrew in 1975


LOWELL THOMAS AWARD WINNER
This article was the recipient of the Gold Award for Travel News/Investigative reporting at the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation's 2008 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition.

Lescoe didn't mention his time in jail or the molestation investigation. Nicholls offered him dinner, fed him two hamburgers and a cold Snapple. He let Lescoe do a load of laundry. He asked if Lescoe would like to sleep inside, in a spare bed. He showed him a videotape entitled "Hell's Best Kept Secret."

"I shared the Gospel," Nicholls says. "The plan of salvation, that we're all sinners, that we've all broken God's laws, that we all need to come to Christ. I shared the simple plan of salvation. I was tempted to ask if he'd pray together. But I didn't. I said, 'Here's what I'd do: I'd confess my sins before God.'"

That's what Lescoe says he did–he confessed. He says he asked for divine guidance, turned his life over to Jesus. He says he felt an immense peace, a surge of joy he had never imagined. Later, after he was caught, after his numerous offenses against others, many would ask how he had managed to lie so convincingly about that night. But those people don't understand Lescoe–and don't comprehend the disconnect between belief and action that seems to animate his life.

The next morning, Nicholls remembers, Lescoe was smiling so much he said his mouth hurt. He confessed that the night before, before Nicholls had arrived home, he had stolen two tomatoes from a patch in the yard and eaten them "whole, just like apples." The two men laughed at that. Nicholls was so moved by Lescoe's apparent transformation that he invited his neighbors, a couple named Norma and Karl Stehle, over to witness the miracle. As Lescoe talked, all four wept.

Nicholls offered to drive Lescoe back home to reunite with his family. "What an answer he gave," Nicholls wrote in an email that he sent to friends, "Without hesitation, Dave said he appreciated my offer...but right now the most important thing for him to do is to be alone with God, communing with Him and reading the Word as he continued on the trail...It would take about 2-3 weeks to get home, but that could be quality time in which he wanted to grow spiritually."

It would be easy to dismiss Nicholls as a scripture-quoting sucker, so caught up in religious fervor that he couldn't spot a con man scrounging in his tomato patch. But Lescoe possesses a talent for instilling belief. Once, he broke into a rural store in Tennessee and was rummaging around when the owner happened to enter through the front door. Lescoe convinced him that he had accidentally wandered in, and was just waiting for the owner to greet him.



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READERS COMMENTS

Dan
Jul 25, 2010

i pray he has been healed
i miss my cousin
he is an honest to goodness man who made mistakes and payed for them to,let us not judge

Andrew
Apr 02, 2010

Im related to him and miss him and love him from the bottom of my heart,,,,JR!

Trail Angel in Lizella
Nov 25, 2008

I knew him for the brief time he was here before he was arrested. He obviously wrestles with demons, maybe in the form of mental illness. He has a heart of gold and a servant's attitude, but he does need to pay for his crimes. We pray that once he has served his sentence he will indeed walk in the ways of Jesus.

Eric
Oct 25, 2008

It was an interesting article...for another magazine. Just bring us the usual great information about backpacking that you have done so well.

Wiill
Oct 25, 2008

I hike with my kids, so I'm glad the perp is in jail and off the trail. As far as people saying only God can pass judgement, that's a bunch of bull. Imagine a world without any accountability. I hope the guy changes his ways, but let him work on that for 10 or so years away from other people. Bottom line, it's good to be friendly to passing hikers on the trail, but you don't know them.

Teej
Oct 23, 2008

I remember reading this article. It was very interesting and different from what I am used to reading in Backpacker. Good to see it was honored with an award. Keep up the good work.
Now back to the boot reviews!

wes
Oct 23, 2008

And, most who read this mag are worried about bears?
I figured it for crap before reading the article, but with lines like "why is it that the people who offer the most meaningful answers to the most difficult questions are so often men like Lescoe?
REALLY??? Horse shit!

Marsha
Oct 23, 2008

What ever happened to "Don't judge lest you be judged"? No one knows what happened except him and God. Let God be his judge.
It's a great story about how the "trail" can do miraculous things for people searching or running. It doesn't matter. Maybe he really did find his answer. We will never know.

Don Asper
Oct 23, 2008

God does change the heart and lives of individuals if we are truly repentant. I emphasize true repentance. Even with a change of heart we are still responsible for the consequences of our actions. Time will tell if there is a true change.

Luc
Oct 23, 2008

this article goes nowhere. what is the point? is it just about a refugee that traveled the AT and then got caught? hmm.

Becky
Oct 23, 2008

This guy is user and still convincing people that God is in his heart. Rediculas.

Julie
Oct 23, 2008

Just like all crooks he is looking for away to find a communities weakness. He used religion to work his way into a small town so he could hide. I don't think this story has anything to do with the AT other then it was an escape route.

Anonymous
Oct 23, 2008

What a waste of space in such a good magazine. He is still conning and you have fallen for it by providing this space. When he is released from prison he will use and steal from people again and you will be partly responsible.

Ray
Oct 23, 2008

I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I am a fairly cynical person who is not surprised by the actions of a person like Lescoe. One of the few things that keep me from abandoning altruistic behaviour is the realization that only a small subset of the population is capable of such insidious acts. Granted, what the “right” thing to do under strenuous circumstances is sometimes debateable but most people agree on what should be tolerated. This article not only explores a rather interesting personality it also shows me that the problems caused by this individual are not normal within the community that surrounds the AT. The next time someone breaks my trust when extending a helping hand I can remember articles like this one which illustrate that people like these are the exception rather than the rule.

Jeff
Oct 23, 2008

I disagree, this is a powerful story, which does take the time to repeatedly point out the healing power of being alone and hiking in the wilderness. As a mental health professioanl, it is my opinion this man has anti-social personality disorder, and it rarely changes. Given his early life, experiance and choices, what used to be called a psychopath or sociopath. But that's not as important as how there may just be truth that his time on the trail did make enough of an impact to his future after he is released.

John Kozma
Oct 23, 2008

Looks like you were conned by him too.

Scott
Oct 20, 2008

What is it with all the stories of crooks and low character folks on the trail? Award or not I don't enjoy reading stories like this.

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