Nic Pizzolatto isn’t letting us into his warped, deviant mind when it comes to salient plot points surrounding the second season of the highly-acclaimed HBO anthology series, True Detective, but he has dropped a few hints. We know that it will take place in the more rural and unoccupied areas of California, and we know that it will have something to do with a conspiracy circling the transportation industry. I’m sure we can agree that it will also have lots and lots to do with murder, because credit card theft just isn’t as sexy.
While we know who the cast is now, we certainly don’t know the case/cases Mr. Pizzolatto will base the season on. As a man that does much research before his work, it’s safe to say that he’s been studying several cases of solved and unsolved murders along the highways of California. We’re going to do the same in hopes of touching upon some material that may prove prominent in season two. But before we embark on a mission of murder-sleuthing, let these facts sink in:
During the past four decades, at least 459 people may have died at the hands of highway serial killers, FBI statistics show. Investigators do not know how many people may be responsible for the killings but at least one such case — of murder, attempted murder or unidentified human remains — has been reported in 48 states, along roads as far north as Alaska and as far south as Key West. They believe the killers find their victims and dispose of the bodies along highways, sometimes near quiet roadside rest areas or at bustling truck stops.
Currently, Texas has the most unsolved serial murders with a total of 38. Second to them? California, with 37. Follow me as we venture down the highways of west coast death…
The Barstow Head
On Feb. 10, 2010, a man walking around Barstow, California, picking up trash found a schoolbag with something wrapped in trash bags inside. The contents: the head of a white or Hispanic girl. To this day, police have no leads on the identity of the girl (see police rendering above) or the killer who tossed the decapitated head. From USA Today:
The teenage girl likely had been killed days earlier, Barstow police say. Her head lay a few hundred yards from a truck stop just off Interstate 15, not far from I-40. To authorities, the proximity to the truck stop and the interstates suggests that the slaying might have been the work of a distinctive type of criminal: a serial killer operating along the nation’s highways.
William George Bonin
Number of victims: 21-36 young males
Accomplices: Vernon Butts, Gregory Matthews Miley, William Pugh, James Munro
Status: Bonin — Executed, Butts — Death by suicide, Miley — 25 to life, eligible for parole in 2014, Munro — 15 to life with parole denied.
Bonin’s modus operandi was to pick up young boys, anywhere from the ages of 12-19, and drive them to secluded areas along the California Interstates. All of his victims were murdered between 1979-1980. His favorite method was bludgeoning followed by strangulation, usually with the victims own shirt, although — in several instances — he didn’t mind using ice picks or other sharp instruments. Before his execution, he was able to make a statement to a local radio station, “They feel that my death will bring closure. But that’s not the case. They’re going to find out.”
Patrick Wayne Kearney
Number of victims: 40+
Status: Incarcerated — 21 life sentences
PWK first started killing in 1968, but it would take some time before he truly refined his skills as a murderer. In 1974, Kearney began killing on a regular basis, sweeping young men from gay bars and killing them while still driving, usually with a gunshot to the temple. After finding a place to lay their corpses, Kearny would sexually assault the victims before dismembering and scattering the remains in the canyons. His necrophiliac killing spree lasted until 1979, when he turned himself in and confessed to the murders at the urging of family members. He is still in prison.
Randy Steven Kraft
Number of Victims: 16-67
Status: On death row at San Quentin State Prison
Randy Steven Kraft liked to dose his victims with pills and booze, rendering them unable to defend themselves. He would then torture, bind, and rape most of them, usually young males ranging from 13- to 35-years-old. While most of his victims were found burned, beaten, and choked to death, some victims were found stabbed with objects lodged in their anal cavities. Kraft liked to dump the bodies beside interstate highways in Southern California.
In 1975, Kraft committed one of his most heinous acts: emasculating, torturing, and raping 22-year-old Mark Hall. Police found Hall with severe laceration on his legs and torso, his eyes burned out with a car lighter, and his own genitals stuffed inside his anus.
The end came for this prolific killer in May 1983, when he was stopped by police cruisers that noticed Kraft was driving erratically. He would have gotten away with just a warning but the police noticed that his passenger was dead and bound in the passenger seat with his genitals exposed. In 1989, he was sentenced to death. He remains on death row.
Number of Victims: 1
Fans of True Detective know that the murder conspiracy involving the Ledoux family stretched up the political ladder, but who knows how far? It also stretched laterally, with police involvement certainly a factor
Which brings us to Craig Peyer, a California Highway Patrolman. On December 17th, 1986, Peyer ordered 20-year old Cara Knott to pull off Interstate 15 onto an unfinished ramp. Apparently, Peyer — who had a history of committing unwanted sexual advances on female drivers — was rejected by Knott, which enraged Peyer, causing him to bludgeon the woman with his flashlight before strangling her with a rope. He tossed her body over a bridge.
Two days after the murder, Peyer — who obviously had narcissistic and sociopathic personality traits — granted an interview to a reporter, conducted in a ride-along of his cruiser; the reporter noticed scratches on his face. DNA, microfibers, and other physical evidence tied Peyer to the crime, and he was convicted with 25 to life.
He’ll be eligible for parole in 2027.
Randall Brent Woodfield and Roger Reece Kibbe — The I-5 Killers
Number of Victims: Combined 70+
Status: Woodfield — sentenced to life plus 90-years, Kibbe — 25 years to life
Randall Brent Woodfield and Roger Reece Kibbe were known as the I-5 Killer and the I-5 Strangler, respectively.
Woodfield was a handsome star athlete, and even made the cut for The Green Bay Packers. But he had a penchant for exposing his genitals in public, and was booted from the team. After spending almost ten years in prison for sexual assault, he began to get his “rocks off” a different way: murder. Throughout 1981, Woodfield painted a red streak of murder along Interstate 5, which cut through California. In 1981, after raping, robbing, and shooting dozens of victims, police apprehended him, and he was given a life sentence plus 90 years.
Kibbe had a decade-long killing spree. Though not as prolific as Woodfield, he still amassed a body count of seven known victims. Kibbe was peculiar, as he liked to tie and bind his victims so he could cut their clothes in shapes that reminded him of his mother. He would then sexually assault and strangle the women (I can see Pizzolatto fleshing out this character right now). He was eventually caught, and is still serving his 25-life sentence.