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Florida serial killer who targeted gay men in months-long crime spree set to be executed

2019-08-22

Gary Ray Bowles is slated to die by lethal injection at Florida State Prison in Stark for the 1994 slaying of Walter Hinton. (AP)

The so-called “I-95 Killer,” a serial murderer who targeted gay men during an eight-month crime spree in the 90s, is slated to be executed in Florida Thursday evening.

Gary Ray Bowles is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Florida State Prison in Stark for the 1994 slaying of Walter Hinton, who is believed to be the 57-year-old inmate’s sixth victim in a series of killings beginning with the murder of 59-year-old John Hardy Roberts in Daytona Beach.

Authorities were quickly able to name Bowles as a suspect in Roberts’ killing after he was caught on an ATM camera trying to withdraw money from his victim’s account. Police said they also found a probation document with Bowles’ name on it at the scene of the murder.

Officer struggled however, to locate and arrest Bowles, leaving him to continue his reign of terror and violence. Between March and November 1994, Bowles traveled up and down the East Coast on I-95 searching for targets, many of who he encountered in gay bars.

Police said Bowles relied on his good looks to charm his way into the men’s homes, where he killed them – typically by way of strangulation, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

“Each of the murders was brutal. It was not an instant death, like somebody getting shot and dying from that gunshot,” Bernie de la Rionda, the prosecutor who tried Bowles, said. “It was a life-and-death struggle.”

Roberts, Bowles’ first victim, was discovered dead on March 15, 1994 by a friend who grew worried after not seeing him for more than 24 hours. His concerned pal had to force his way inside Roberts’ home off Vermont Ave., where he found his friend face-down on the ground in his living room.

Roberts was bloodied and there was a towel stuffed down his throat.

Weeks later, Bowles turned up in Maryland, where he killed David Jarman. He was found strangled inside his home on April 14, 1994 with a sex toy shoved down his throat.

Witnesses said they spotted the pair leave a popular gay bar in DuPont Circle. It was the last time Jarman was seen alive.

Bowles, a long-time alcoholic drifter, then continued south to Atlanta and killed 72-year-old Milton Bradley. The World War II veteran, who suffered a shrapnel injury and later underwent a lobotomy, was impaired but functioning.

Authorities discovered a palm print on the old toilet used to bludgeon Bradley, whose throat was also stuffed with dirt and dry leaves.

Just more than a week later, Bowles killed 47-year-old Alverson Carter Jr. He was found fatally stabbed just six days before the slaying of 37-year-old Albert Alcie Morris.

Morris invited Bowles to stay with him for a few days after they met at a Jacksonville gay bar, and he was later found dead by his parents. Police said the killer used a marble dish to beat Morris and shot him in the chest while his mouth was stuffed with a towel.

Over the course of his spree, Bowles was jailed on two separate occasions for minor infractions but a fake social security ID and a license he discovered at Morris’ home allowed him to conceal his identity. He was booked under the name of Timothy Whitfield, and at one point served five days behind bars for a crime committed by the man in bid to continue the ruse.

Authorities at the time did not suspected Bowles was not who he said he was despite the fact that he had appeared on a prime time crime show and was profiled by major news outlets.

He was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list a day before he murdered Hinton, a Jacksonville floral designer who offered Bowles a place to stay. His head was bashed in with a 40-pound concrete block.

Police arrested Bowles on suspicion of killing Hinton at a day labor office on Nov. 22. He attempted to hide from authorities in the restroom but was eventually taken into custody. He later broke down and abandoned his alias before confessing to the crimes during an interview with law enforcement officers, The Journal reported.

“Look I’m tired of this,” he told investigators. “Do you really want to know who I am? I’m Gary Ray Bowles.”

After, he confessed to murdering and stealing from six men, telling authorities he hoped the killing could stop.

“I’m either getting six life sentences or the electric chair,” he reportedly said.

In the summer of 1996, Bowles was sentenced to death for Hinton’s murder. The next year, he pleaded guilty to two more slayings and got a pair of additional life sentences.

The Florida Supreme Court in 1998 overturned Bowles’ death sentence after his lawyer argued De la Rionda was wrong to put Bowles’ homophobia forward as evidence. The following year however, another jury unanimously convicted Bowles, again landing him on death row.

He has spent the decades since behind bars in a 6-by-9-foot cell at Florida State Prison.

With News Wire Services