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Body of Rainbow visitor too damaged to identify by photos
Woman killed after attending counter-culture gathering in Lumpkin County
Joseph Bryan Capstraw
Joseph Bryan Capstraw

Days after what has been described as an unusually brutal murder, investigators are still struggling to identify a woman allegedly killed by a man she spent time with at a Rainbow Family of Living Light gathering last week, according to Kentucky authorities.

Joseph Bryan Capstraw, 20, was arrested and charged July 7 with the woman's murder by the Elizabethtown Police Department in Kentucky. Capstraw told authorities he met the woman where the off-the-grid, counter-culture group had assembled in the Bull Mountain area of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest just outside of Dahlonega.

According to Elizabethtown Police Officer John Thomas, due in part to an investigation by the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office and posts to social media, they learned a possible name for the victim but have not been able to confirm it.

"The big problem for us at this point is she was so physically damaged from the homicide that we could not make a positive identification based on photographs," Thomas said. "In my 10 years in law enforcement, this is the most brutal homicide that I have ever seen.”

In addition to blunt force trauma, Thomas said there is evidence the victim was strangled. But so far the exact cause of death has not been announced.

“This was a very personal attack. I mean, he used his hands as weapons,” he said. “It is very unusual to see an attack with this level of brutality; there's just no other way of putting it."

With photo identification not an option, Thomas said they have turned to alternative methods of identification. He added that those methods are going to “take some time.”

"The biggest challenge in our investigation right now is simply making identification of our victim,” he said. “Once we do that, we'll certainly answer some of the other unanswered questions: how exactly did they meet and how did they even get here? Hopefully that will help bring some closure to our investigation."

What they do know, he said, is that both Capstraw and his victim were picked up off the side of a highway between Louisville and Elizabethtown by the owner of the home where the victim was found.

“He offered them a ride and they told him they didn't have anywhere to stay the night, and just out of the kindness of his heart he offered to let them stay in his house,” Thomas said. “So this was somebody trying to do an act of kindness and then something horrific happening in his house."

After the murder, authorities say police officers found Capstraw in the front yard of the home. Thomas said first responders to the scene stated Capstraw admitted killing the woman, saying he blacked out during an argument and found her dead when he came to.

“And later on in interviews with detectives, he repeated that he had beaten her to death,” Thomas said. “So he was aware of it, he just claims that he has no memory of the actual attack.”

Previously, Capstraw was arrested in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., on May 6, 2017, and charged with attempted murder, after a disagreement led to a man being stabbed in the neck, according to Florida court records.

Records show that all charges against Capstraw from the May 6 incident were later dropped for unstated reasons.

Capstraw is being held in Hardin County Detention Center under a bond of $500,000, according to jail records.