Under the Trestle – A Book Review


By: Sarah Steffey | ssteffey3@radford.edu

39 years ago, the town of Radford was turned upside down in an attempt to locate Gina Hall. Hall was a freshman at Radford University who was murdered by Stephen Epperly in 1980. 

This case is such a huge part of Radford’s history, so Ron Peterson, Jr. decided to write a book about it, entitled Under The Trestle, which released in 2018.

The book starts by describing Hall’s life and personality. It then moves on to describing Epperly. 

The night that Hall was murdered is explained in great detail. Others last saw Hall at a night club in Blacksburg, which she went to alone. 

It was documented that she left the night club and rode with Epperly in her car to an empty cabin at Claytor Lake. Hall’s car was found the next day on Hazel Hollow Road near the railroad trestle going over the New River – only four miles from Radford University campus.

Many searches were performed in the New River under the trestle. People assumed that Epperly crossed the trestle and threw the body into the river. 

Searches were also performed on the banks of the river and in the surrounding woods where a lot of Hall’s clothing items and other evidence were found. Everybody in Radford was searching for Hall everywhere they went. Hall’s body was never found.

Epperly was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He remains in prison today and has been turned down for parole nine times, most recently in June 2018.

This case goes down in history as Virginia’s first murder trial that resulted in a convicted without a confession, despite there being nobody to prove a murder happened. 

This helped pave the way for other no-body convictions in the state. This was possible because of the amount of evidence that pointed towards Epperly, even though DNA technology did not exist at that time.

This book could not have come at a better time. 

Since the case occurred in 1980, the new generation currently living in Radford does not know much about the case. It helps bring in a whole new audience to the case. This could help recover Hall’s remains by having more people aware of their surroundings and on the look-out for any leads.

There have been several false alarms in the past, but most of them turned out to be animal bones instead of human bones.

There are several theories as to where Hall’s remains may be. Some of these include Radford University’s Dedmon Center, Saint Albans Mental Hospital, and along the banks of the New River.

Peterson was extremely thorough in his writing. He referenced every single detail there is in a murder case. He interviewed several people who worked on the case and referenced an audio recording of the trial.

With all of the evidence and details gathered in this case, Peterson did a fantastic job of organizing the information to keep it from getting confusing.

This is a very interesting read, especially since it references several places throughout Radford that students are around every single day. If you live in Radford or if you are interested in criminal cases, this is a must-read.

There will be a panel in Bondurant Auditorium Oct. 28 from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. The author will be there as well as the prosecutor, defense attorneys, and lead investigator of the case.

Be sure to read other reviews on The Tartan, including the play Wonder of the World and the movie Good Boys.

Photo Credit: (Sarah Steffey | The Tartan)

The Verdict
  • 10/10
    Score - 10/10

This is a must read!

This is a very interesting read, especially since it references several places throughout Radford that students are around every single day.