If Meredith was, indeed, murdered, I think this would be murder number ten on the AT since 1974 (three double slayings and four individuals). To my knowledge, no AT murders from 1923 through 1973.
I think the AT is particularly vulnerable because of how often it passes through or comes close to civilization. Access to the trail is relatively easy for those who intend to do wrong. The shelters are known places to find hikers. Also, so many through-hikers have a few places where they hike or hitchhike into town for a shower, mail, fresh food, and other luxuries. A hiker seen in town may be followed back to the trail.
As to your thoughts about Hilton, I understand them completely. My thoughts about what should be done to him aren't healthy either.
Most thru-hikers will tell you to don’t camp close to roads...may sound strange to some but i agree with it.
“...I think this would be murder number ten on the AT since 1974...”
Ten known murders, but how many people just disappeared and never turned up again?