After a meal of three cheeseburgers, french fries and bacon, Gary Ray Bowles was put to death for a rampage that lasted eight months and earned him the moniker of the “I-95 killer.”
Bowles’ execution Thursday was punishment for the November 1994 murder of Walter Hinton in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, the last of six known victims targeted and slain because they were gay.
Life had not been easy for Bowles, who said he turned to sex work at 14 after being abused by a series of stepfathers. He’d go on to spend six years in prison for the beating and sexual assault of a girlfriend and two more for robbing an elderly woman.
After being released from prison for the robbery, Bowles moved into a Florida apartment with an older woman. They began dating and she was pregnant with his baby when she learned that he slept with men for money, a secret he had long kept from his girlfriends.
She terminated the pregnancy and left town. He blamed gay men.
John Hardy Roberts was 59 when he encountered Bowles at a popular gay bar in Daytona Beach in March 1994. He would become Bowles’ first known victim.
A single insurance salesman originally from Tennessee who was looking for a meaningful relationship, Roberts offered Bowles stay in his beachfront home. Bowles accepted his offer, but spoke of his ex-girlfriend often, leaving Roberts frustrated, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
On March 14, Roberts gave Bowles an ultimatum.
“Make up your mind,” Bowles later told police Roberts said. “It’s me or her.”
Bowles, then 32, responded by bashing Roberts over the head with a lamp before beating and strangling him.
Roberts’ body was discovered amidst the aftermath of a severe struggle by a friend who broke into his home after being unable to reach him for more than 24 hours.
Police quickly narrowed in on Bowles as a suspect, but they lost track of him as he used Roberts’ car and credit cards to make his way north to Washington, D.C.
There, Bowles targeted David Jarman, a 39-year-old loan officer who was out at a gay bar in Dupont Circle. Witnesses said they saw Jarman leave the bar with a man who closely resembled Bowles.
The next day on April 14, Jarman’s body would be found in his Maryland home in a pool of his own blood.
A sex toy had been shoved down his throat, according to the News-Journal.
Bowles moved on to Georgia, where he killed 72-year-old Milton Bradley.
Bradley was a World War II veteran who was a fixture in Savannah. He had suffered a shrapnel wound while serving his country and later underwent a lobotomy. He was disabled and known as a “kind, gentle old man” who liked to feed the pigeons in the park and help around his family’s locksmith shop, a local police officer who considered Bradley a friend told The Washington Post at the time.
Bradley was at the gay bar Faces when he met Bowles.
After spending the night shooting pool, Bowles offered to give Bradley a ride home. They were seen leaving together by several other men, who noted Bowles had come on to them in a way that left them “creeped out,” retired detective John Best told the News-Journal.
Bowles didn’t drive Bradley home, instead heading to a golf course where he beat the elderly man to death with an old toilet and suffocated him by cramming leaves down his throat.
“It was a violent crime scene,” Best said. “It was overkill.”
Eight days and several hundred miles later, Bowles targeted Alverson Carter Jr., 47, who was found stabbed to death in Atlanta. He moved on to the Florida town of Hilliard, where he killed 37-year-old Albert Alcie Morris, whom he viciously beat with a marble dish, shot in the chest and stuffed a towel in his mouth.
Morris’ parents found his body.
Bowles would go on to assume the identity of another man, Timothy Whitfield, for four months to evade authorities, even going so far as serving time in jail for minor infractions for which Whitfield was wanted.
Then, on Nov. 20, 1994, one day after he was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, Bowles killed Walter Hinton.
Hinton, 42, was a Jacksonville floral designer who offered Bowles — still living under the Whitfield name — a place to stay. At 42 years old, Hinton would become Bowles’ last known victim. After day laborers who knew Hinton was living with “Whitfield” found Hinton stabbed and strangled, they told police and he was arrested and brought in for questioning.
“Look, I’m tired of this,” Bowles told police, according to reports at the time. “Do you really want to know who I am?”
He confessed to everything, beginning with the killing of Roberts and ending with his most recent victim’s death. When asked why he killed Hinton, Bowles reportedly said: “It was time to move on.”
At 57, Bowles became the 99th person executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
No family came to visit him before he was put to death and, per his request, no priest prayed for him.
“I’m sorry for all of the pain and suffering I have caused,” Bowles wrote in a statement offered to the press. “I never wanted this to be my life. You don’t wake up one day and decide to become a serial killer.”
But only several years earlier, Bowles spoke differently of the killings for which he was responsible, saying in 2014 in the A&E series “The Killer Speaks,” he believed the men he killed deserved to die.
“I just wanted to kill as many people as I could before they caught me,” he said.