In May 1988, Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight backpacked into Pennsylvania’s Michaux State Forest for a weekend camping trip along the Appalachian Trail. The couple set up camp and then Wight, thinking they were completely alone, walked to an outhouse near the campground wearing nothing but her shoes. There, she encountered a man named Stephen Roy Carr, who asked her for a cigarette.
Wight hurried back to Brenner, told her what happened, and said they had to move camp. “See you later,” Carr said as they were leaving.
The couple encountered Carr again when they stopped to look at their map later that day. They kissed. Carr, behind them, asked if they were lost. His .22 caliber rifle was slung over his shoulder. Wight and Brenner turned to look at him, and said no, they weren’t lost. They eventually found a place in a hollow, and, after looking around to make sure they were alone, the couple set up camp. They had dinner, talked, and around 5:30 p.m. they began to have sex.
Carr was watching from less than 100 feet away. He aimed his .22 and began shooting. Brenner was hit by five bullets, Wight by two.
“When the first bullet hit me, my arm exploded,” Brenner told members and supporters of the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Task Force afterward. “My brain could not make the connection fast enough to realize I had been shot. I saw a lot of blood on the green tarp on which we lay and thought for a split second about earthquakes and volcanoes. But they don’t make you bleed. Rebecca knew. She asked me where I had been shot.”
Wight fell, calling to Brenner to hide behind a nearby tree. Unable to get up, Wight gave Brenner her wallet as Brenner set out to get help, returning three miles to the road, where she was able to get a ride to a local police station.
Wight died that night in the forest. Carr was caught 10 days later after an extensive manhunt. He’d been hiding in a Mennonite community. Since members of the community did not read the news or watch television, they did not know Carr was a suspect in a shooting until one member, who had secretly watched television, recognized Carr from the composite drawing on the news and called police.
At his trail, Carr claimed he’d been enraged by the sight of the two women having sex, that the two women had taunted him by having sex in front of him. The defense eventually cut a deal and accepted a sentence of life without parole.
Brenner devoted herself to fighting anti-gay bias and became an advocate for anti-hate legislation signed by President George Bush.
In this short film, Into the Hollow, director Austin Bunn weaves narrative and documentary to tell the story of Brenner and Wight. In it, for the first time since the murder, Brenner returns to the scene. The story is intense, the footage powerful, the result tragic.