Gary Ray Bowles, the Interstate 95 Killer

Gary Ray Bowles was born on January 25, 1962, in Clifton Forge, Virginia, and grew up in Rupert, West Virginia. He never knew his biological father, a coal miner who died of pneumoconiosis six months before his birth. His mother, Frances, remarried several times before settling with an alcoholic and violent man, sometimes sending Bowles to the hospital due to his aggression. Alongside his older brother, young Gary couldn’t escape these fits of anger, both being beaten daily.

Dropping out of school at the age of eight, Gary started inhaling glue and using drugs recreationally to escape his sordid daily life. The violence with his stepfather continued until, at the age of 13, Gary fought back, striking him with several stones on the head. He left the family home shortly thereafter, upset by his mother’s decision to stay in the marriage.

Completely on his own and homeless, Gary lived on the streets for several years, frequently resorting to prostitution to earn money. He learned violence and became a confirmed delinquent. In 1982, at the age of twenty, Gary was arrested for beating and sexually assaulting his girlfriend, receiving a six-year prison sentence. In 1991, three years after his release, he was convicted of armed robbery for stealing an elderly woman’s handbag. Again sentenced, this time to four years in prison, he was released after two years.

On March 15, 1994, in Daytona Beach, Florida, Gary killed his first known victim at the age of thirty-two. John Hardy Roberts, a fifty-nine-year-old homosexual who had offered him temporary residence in an effort to help him get off the streets, became the first victim in a long series. Over the next six months, he murdered five other men. His modus operandi involved prostituting himself to his victims, beating and strangling them to death, and then robbing them of their credit cards and all the cash they had. On the run, Gary Ray Bowles was on the FBI’s list of the 10 most wanted fugitives in the country for his four known victims. He was nicknamed by the media the “Interstate-95 killer,” referring to the major East Coast highway where he left the corpses of some of his victims.

On November 22, 1994, Gary was finally arrested for the murder of Walter Jamelle “Jay” Hinton, another homosexual aged forty-seven, whom he had agreed to help move from Georgia to his new home in Jacksonville, Florida. In gratitude, Hinton had invited him to spend the evening smoking joints and drinking alcohol. Gary, claiming to be too intoxicated to leave, was invited by Hinton to stay overnight. In the middle of the night, while his host was deeply asleep, Gary ventured outside to pick up a 20-kilogram concrete block he had spotted earlier. He violently struck Hinton on the head, causing a fracture of the right cheek and jaw. Awakened in panic by the searing pain, Hinton attempted to resist, but Gary finished him off by strangulation. Using a ligature and to ensure he had no chance, he stuffed his throat with rags and toilet paper. The corpse was found two days later by his sister who had come to visit.

Before investigators, Gary also confessed to the murders of John Hardy Roberts in Daytona Beach, Florida; David Jarman, thirty-eight years old, and the theft of his car in Wheaton, Maryland; Milton Bradley, aged seventy-two, found lying on a golf course near his home in Savannah, Georgia; Alverson Carter Jr., forty-seven years old, in Atlanta, Georgia; and Albert Morris, thirty-eight years old, in Hillard, Florida. It was demonstrated that Gary Ray Bowles’ crimes had a sexual motivation, and their justification was rooted in his hatred of homosexuals. Gary Ray Bowles’ homosexuality was never proven, and it is highly likely that the sexual encounters he had with men were merely a necessity to meet his needs. Women always held a genuine interest for him, but all his stories with them were short-lived and ended in violence.

Gary pleaded guilty. In 1996, he was found responsible for three out of the six murders and sentenced by the Florida Supreme Court to the electric chair, still in use at the time. It has since been replaced by lethal injection. In 1999, he attempted to appeal, but his death sentence was upheld. He spent a total of twenty-three years on death row, exhausting all his appeals for clemency before being executed on August 22, 2019, after a five-hour delay from his originally scheduled execution at 6:10 pm local time (midnight in France).

The execution was indeed delayed while his lawyers’ final appeal was examined. They tried to argue mental disability, an argument that was not accepted. Gary Ray Bowles, 57 years old, was declared dead at 10:58 pm local time (6:00 am in France). On the day of his execution, he woke up at 4:00 am, calm and in good spirits, according to witnesses. His last meal consisted of three cheeseburgers, fries, and bacon.

Victims of Gary Ray Bowles: John Hardy Roberts, 59; David Jarman, 38; Milton Bradley, 72; Alverson Carter Jr., 47; Albert Morris, 38; Walter Hinton, 47.

In a final written statement, Gary Ray Bowles apologized, “I am sorry for all the pain and suffering I have caused. I hope my death will ease your pain. I also want to say to my mother that I am sorry for my actions. Having a son called a ‘monster’ is terrible.” He added, “I never wanted my life to turn out like this. One doesn’t wake up one morning deciding to become a serial killer.”

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