West Virginia cases inspire popular books and TV series

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – Ron Peterson Jr. was a student at Radford University in the mid-1980s.

“I had heard about the Gina Hall case at the time,” Peterson recently told WDBJ7. “It was just one of those things that had always stuck in my mind.”

Years later, when he decided to write a book, he looked back on the Radford student’s disappearance and Stephen Epperly’s investigation. The former Virginia Tech football player was the first person in Virginia convicted of murder without the victim’s body ever being found.

“Under the Trestle” would lead to Hall’s second book, when senior investigator on the Gina Hall case suggested another.

“He said if this book is going to be successful you have to write about Wally Thrasher,” Peterson said. “And my first comment was who is Wally Thrasher?” And it took about ten minutes to educate me, and I was hooked.

“Chasing the Squirrel: the Pursuit of the Notorious Drug Smuggler Wally Thrasher” was released in 2020.

“The more I dug into the story, the more I was amazed at the twists and turns,” said Peterson, “and you know it’s something if you write a novel or make a fictional movie about it, a lot of people would think this is too far-fetched.

The story of the drug trafficking between South America and Southwest Virginia, and the exploits and disappearance of Thrasher, is now being adapted by Urban Legends Film Company for a television documentary series that will likely air on a streaming service.

But Peterson said one of the biggest gains for him was getting to know the investigators involved in the cases he described.

“Getting to know some of them as well as I do, and learning a little bit more about what they do, hearing them tell stories about it, just makes me realize how interesting it was and how point they were dedicated to, for example, keeping drugs out of Southwest Virginia, ”Peterson said.

The working title of the documentary series is “Where’s Wally?”

Peterson said he should hit our TV screens in a year or two.

Copyright 2021 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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