Climber’s Death–Self-defense or Murder?  Now the Truth Can be Told

Climbers at Carderock near the spot where Geoff Farrar was killed

Climbers at Carderock near the spot where Geoff Farrar was killed

I never imagined that someone I knew personally would become the victim of a horrible rage murder, but while I was writing my book, Why We Snap, the unthinkable happened.   I tell the tragic story of the savage killing of Geoff Farrar by David DiPaolo at Carderock, a popular rock climbing area near my home, as a vivid example of the type of perplexing rage killing involving two very close friends that fill the daily news.  Knowing the two men personally enabled me to provide their backstories for a perspective that is almost always missing from such shocking news accounts.  But I had to tell the story as a “who done it,” because I did not want to undermine the trial in any way.  I knew exactly what had happened from my interviews with the people involved, but until the frustratingly slow wheels of justice could reach their conclusion, I had to maintain the presumption of innocence and preserve testimony for court.


With the legal proceedings now concluded, I can finally tell this story straight.  The opportunity to do this comes from an outstanding new science magazine Undark, which has a feature section called “What I Left Out.”  This format gives authors of new books the opportunity to present to readers material that had to be edited out of their book for various reasons.  Anyone who is interested in writing and journalism may wish to compare the two treatments of this material in my book chapter and in this magazine article.


But here now is the truth.  From Undark Magazine:


“WHEN I HEARD the facts, I thought, ‘That’s what Dave is capable of,’” climber Matt Kull said about his former rock climbing partner, David DiPaolo, in a magazine interview shortly after DiPaolo had been arrested and accused of killing 69-year-old Geoff Farrar at Carderock Recreation Area in Maryland, a few days after Christmas 2013.

Farrar, grey-haired, lanky, and boisterous, was a mentor to many young climbers, and was well known in the cliff-scaling Carderock community, where steep rocks rise above the Potomac River just outside Washington, D.C. As a climber in this area myself, I was acquainted with both men. Farrar had taken DiPaolo under his wing as a teenager and taught him to climb nearly 20 years earlier. They’d stayed close, maintaining a bond between mentor and protégé, until that shocking day when DiPaolo killed Farrar with a claw hammer at the foot of the cliffs they’d climbed together so many times.

“I’m sorry this happened. I didn’t want it to happen. I didn’t know it was going to happen,” DiPaolo told police in a written statement after he was arrested.

How, then, did it happen?

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