Patrick Wayne Kearney


Patrick Wayne Kearney

A.K.A.: "The Trash-Bag Killer" - The Freeway Killer"

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Mutilation
Number of victims: 21 - 28 +
Date of murders: 1975 - 1977
Date of arrest: July 5, 1977
Date of birth: 1940
Victims profile: Homosexual men
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison December 21, 1977

Homosexual men were being murdered in bunches from 1975 to 1977, dumped unceremoniously along highways between Los Angeles and the Mexican border. The investigation centered on Patrick Wayne Kearney, an electronics engineer from Los Angeles who looked nothing like the stereotypical Serial Killer with his glasses and harmless demeanor.

Wanted by police along with aquaintance David Hill, who was never charged with any crime related to the murders, Kearney's reign of death ended when he simply strolled into the Redondo Beach police station and gave himself up.

Kearney plead guilty to killing three men and was sentenced to life in prison. Authorites knew there were many more and offered Kearney a deal. He would recieve no death sentence in exchange for the complete list of victims.

The slayer eventually confessed and plead guilty to eighteen more killings, directing the law to victims that were previously undiscovered. Kearney also admitted to another eleven murders that he was never prosecuted for, bringing his grand total to 32 killings.

Kearney, Patrick Wayne

On July 5, 1977, authorities in Riverside, California, announced the confessions of two male suspects in a series of grisly "trash bag" murders, thought to include fifteen victims in five different counties since 1973.

The suspects, Patrick Kearney and David Douglas Hill, were charged in only two cases -- both victims slain in March 1977 -- but that day Kearney led detectives to six alleged dumping sites in Imperial County. Evidence recovered from Kearney's home, where Hill resided as a live-in lover, included fibers matched to those on several corpses and a bloody hacksaw, used in the dismemberment of certain victims.

The California "trash bag" case officially began on April 13, 1975, when the mutilated remains of Albert Rivera, age 21, were discovered near San Juan Capistrano. By November, six bodies had been found in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties.

The discovery of two more victims in March 1977 raised the bodycount to eight, and by that time police had their pattern. All the identified victims had homosexual backgrounds; each was found nude, shot in the head with a similar weapon; several were dismembered or otherwise mutilated, their remains tied up in identical plastic garbage bags.

The final victim was 17-year-old John LaMay, last seen by his parents on March 13, when he left home to visit "Dave." Police entered the case five days later, after LaMay's dismembered remains were found beside a highway, south of Corona. Friends of the victim identified "Dave" as David Hill, supplying homicide detectives with an address. Warrants were issued for Hill and his roommate, but the lovers remained at large until July 1, when they entered the Riverside County sheriff's office, pointed to their posters on the wall, and smilingly announced, "That's us."

A high school dropout from Lubbock, Texas, David Hill joined the army in 1960 but was soon discharged on diagnosis of an unspecified personality disorder. Back in Lubbock, he married his high school sweetheart, but the romance was short-lived. In 1962, he met Patrick Kearney, stationed with the air force in Texas, and their attraction was mutual. Hill divorced his wife in 1966 and moved to California with Kearney a year later. They were living together in Culver City, a Los Angeles suburb, when the long string of murders began. (The first victim, known only as "George," was buried behind Kearney's Culver City duplex in September 1968; detectives, following the killer's directions, unearthed his skeleton in July 1977.)

On July 14, 1977, Patrick Kearney was formally indicted on two counts of murder, including that of John LaMay. David Hill was released the same day, his charges dismissed as Kearney shouldered full responsibility in the slayings, telling police that he killed because "it excited him and gave him a feeling of dominance."

By July 15, Kearney had signed confessions to twenty-eight murders, with twelve of the cases confirmed by police. On December 21, he pled guilty on three counts of first-degree murder, receiving a sentence of life imprisonment.

Prosecutors launched the new year by charging Kearney with another eighteen counts of murder in February 1978. Nine of those charges disposed of the first dozen victims in Kearney's confessions; the others included two children, ages five and eight, along with four victims whose bodies were never recovered.

On February 21, Kearney pled guilty on all counts, receiving another life sentence. If his original confessions were truthful, at least seven victims remain unidentified.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans

Patrick Kearney (born 1940) is an American serial killer who preyed on young men in California during the 1970s. He is sometimes referred to as The Freeway Killer, a nickname he shares with two other separate serial killers, William Bonin and Randy Steven Kraft.

Early life

He was the youngest of three sons and was raised in a reasonably stable family, at least in comparison to those of many other serial killers. His early life was not without some trauma, however; a thin and sickly child, he became a target for bullies at school. In his teens, he became withdrawn and fantasized about killing people.

Originally from Texas, Kearney moved to California after a brief marriage ended in divorce, and eventually worked as an engineer for Hughes Aircraft. He claimed to have killed his first victim around 1965, a hitch-hiker he picked up and murdered in Orange, California. He claimed several more victims before moving to Redondo Beach, Los Angeles, in 1967 with a younger man named David Hill, who became his lover.


The pair would frequently argue, and Kearney would go out for long drives on his own. It was then that he would pick up young male hitch-hikers or young men from gay bars and kill them. He was primarily a necrophile, shooting his victims without warning then taking the bodies off to dismember and mutilate. Eventually, Kearney would dump the victim along the freeway or in the desert, usually wrapped in garbage bags.

Kearney's final victim was a young man named John LaMay, whom he killed on March 13, 1977. LaMay came to Kearney's house looking for Hill, who wasn't home, and Kearney invited him to watch television. Without provocation, Kearney then shot LaMay in the back of the head and later dumped the remains in the desert.

Capture and imprisonment

They were found on May 18. Because LaMay had told someone he was going to see Hill, police soon turned up at Kearney and Hill's home and questioned them. Although they co-operated, the two fled as soon as the detectives left. After a few weeks on the run, they gave themselves up on July 1.

Hill, 34 years old at the time, was eventually cleared of any involvement in his partner's crimes and was released.

Kearney, on the other hand, made a full confession to his crimes, admitting to a total of twenty-eight murders. In order to avoid the death penalty, he agreed to plead guilty. Kearney was charged with 21 counts of murder, and as agreed, he pleaded guilty and was given twenty-one life sentences. Police are certain that Kearney was responsible for the other seven murders he had admitted, but they did not have the physical evidence to charge him, and furthermore, they were satisfied that he would be in prison for the rest of his life.


Angel of Darkness (1992) Dennis McDougal, Warner Books ISBN 07088 53420

Behavior: Twenty-Eight, and Counting ...

Monday, Jul. 18, 1977

One after another, the bodies of ten men were found lying near southern California highways. All were males, all were nude, all had been shot in the head —probably with the same gun. Some had been dismembered and stuffed into heavy-duty trash bags. Most of the victims of what police dubbed The Trash Bag Murders also had something else in common: they were known members of the homosexual community in and around Los Angeles.

Police discovered that one victim —John LaMay, 17—had been seen in the company of two homosexuals: Patrick Kearney, 37, an electronics engineer for the Hughes Aircraft Co., and his roommate, David Hill, 34, unemployed. In May, as the investigation went on, Kearney quit his job and took off with Hill for El Paso, Texas, where they went into hiding. But last week the two men were arraigned for murder. They had calmly walked into a sheriffs office in Riverside, Calif., and pointed to their photographs on a nearby wanted poster. Said Hill: "We're them."

Beyond Recovery. Kearney later took police to six sites near the California-Mexico border where, authorities said, "he may have disposed of bodies." At week's end, police had recovered twelve, and said that Kearney and Hill might be responsible in all for 28 or more killings, which would make the case the largest mass murder in American history. Says Lieut. Edward Douglas of the Los Angeles sheriffs department: "I don't know if we'll ever know the total, because some bodies may be beyond recovery."

An affidavit filed in the case states that a bloody hack saw was found at the Kearney-Hill apartment in Redondo Beach. The apartment also yielded hair samples and bloodstains that match those of the victim LaMay, whose body —according to the affidavit—was discovered in a plastic bag taken from the Hughes Aircraft Co.

Police say that the two men preyed on boys and young men, some of them apparently male prostitutes, who frequented homosexual cruising areas like Selma Avenue in Hollywood and MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. Says Lieut. Douglas, "We have no indication of what the motive was." Other than the fact that some of the victims, at least, were homosexuals, they appeared to have little in common.

For the nation's homosexuals, still smarting from the successful anti-gay rights drive of Anita Bryant in Miami, the news of the California murders came at a bad time. The Bryant group had argued that many male homosexuals prey on the young—and indeed some of the California victims were teenagers. What was more, the press began rehashing the sex-thrill murders of 27 youths by three Texas homosexuals in 1973 —still the largest proved mass murder in America.

Robert Gould, professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College, estimates that the number of murders committed by homosexuals is probably no greater, proportionately, than those committed by heterosexuals. But he adds: "When it's a homosexual who kills ten people or twelve, or whatever, the headline is HOMOSEXUAL KILLS. It sticks in your mind. You never get the headline HETEROSEXUAL KILLS".

The questions raised by the case about the problems of homosexual relationships sharply divide psychiatrists, as well as psychologists. Are homosexuals any more given to aggression than the rest of the population? Most analysts think not. Says Judd Marmor, past president of the American Psychiatric Association: "I don't think there is anything inherent in homosexuality that makes them disturbed people."

But some experts think that homosexuals may be more prone to pathology. Says Psychiatrist Gould: "I think you will find more disturbed homosexuals. The extra fillip of pathology in the homosexual is due to cultural opposition and discrimination." Others believe that a male homosexual sex relationship has more potential for aggression, simply because both partners are male; the blend of sex and male-to-male rivalry can be explosive.

On one point most observers are agreed: homosexuals are more vulnerable to physical attack because accepting sexual invitations from total strangers is an established part of the gay scene. Says Berkeley Psychologist Michael Evans: "Homosexuals are an easy population to get access to in some anonymous way." Chicago Police Sgt. Richard Sandberg puts it more tersely: "The gays are easy prey".

Patrick Wayne Kearney