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Thriller Thursday: The Deepest Circle of Hell

Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!

In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow tells Barbosa the “deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers.”

I’d like to think the very deepest and hottest pit is set aside for the most horrendous criminals of all: child molesters/killers.

Unlike Mary Bell, Arthur Gary Bishop had a normal childhood. Born in Hinkley, UT in 1951, Bishop grew up in a devout Mormon family and was an Eagle Scout and an honor student. When he turned eighteen, he served as a missionary in the Phillippenes.

He would go on to molest and kill five young boys.

Years later, a student who knew Bishop in high school would say he was a “geek, rarely if ever finding someone who would accept the rare offer of a date.”

After his arrest in 1983, Bishop would admit to being addicted to porn—specifically, kiddie porn. He cultivated sick fantasies for years until he finally had to act them out.

Bishop didn’t start out hunting kids. His first scrape with the law came in 1978 when he was convicted of embezzling $8,714 from a used-car dealership where he worked as a bookkeeper. Those who knew him couldn’t believe it, but Bishop pled guilty and promised full restitution. The courts believed him. Then he jumped bail and took off.

Bishop at trial.

Once the news had broke about Bishop’s horrifying crimes, several Utah parents complained about him molesting their kids, but none had come forward prior to the murders. Had they approached police, they might have save the lives of Bishop’s victims.

Bishop made his way to Salt Lake City, changing his name to “Roger Downs.” That’s the name he wrote down when he joined the Big Brothers program, giving himself access to boys desperately in need of a father figure. The organization would later admit to getting tips about Downs’s molesting at least two kids—neither of which were assigned as his little brother. Big Brothers/Big Sisters said the accusations were reported but the police did nothing.

In 1979, molesting the boys was no longer enough.

On October 14, 1979, little Alonzo Daniels vanished from the courtyard of his apartment complex in Salt Lake City. Police combed the area, encountering “Roger Downs” in his apartment just across the hall from Alonzo’s. Of course, he denied knowing anything about the boy’s disappearance.

Bishop (a.k.a Downs) had lured the little boy away with candy, then (according to his confession), tried to undress and touch Alonzo once he had him in the solitude of his apartment. When Alonzo cried and threatened to tell his mother, Bishop lost control. He clubbed the four-year-old with a hammer and then drowned him in the bathtub.

Even worse, Bishop marched past Alonzo’s mother as she searched the courtyard for her child, never knowing his body was in the cardboard box her neighbor had just carried out to his car.

If that’s not the act of a savage animal, I don’t know what is.

The search for Alonzo included the city’s search and rescue team as well as hundreds of citizens, but it was too late. Bishop buried the Alonzo 20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City in the desert near the town of Cedar Fort.

Bishop would later say he felt disgust as his crime but also a sick excitement. And he knew he’d kill again.

There was no doubt Bishop knew right from wrong. Whether out of guilt or fear of arrest, he spent the next year trying to find other ways to soothe his urges. He adopted about fifteen puppies from shelters and used them as substitutes for the kids.

“It was so stimulating,” Bishop told Detective Don Bell. “A puppy whines just like Alonzo did. I would get frustrated at the whining. I would hit them with hammers or strangle them.”

The puppies weren’t enough. Bishop kept molesting kids, threatening them from telling. As long as the child was docile, Bishop didn’t feel the need to kill them. But fighting back or threatening to tell made him lash out.

Eleven-year-old Kim Peterson would become Bishop’s next casualty. He met the boy at a skating rink on November 8, 1980. When Kim said he’d like to sell his skates so he could buy a new pair, Peterson offered the boy $35.

The next day, Peterson left his house with his rollar skates. He’d told parents he was going to sell them, but that he’d come straight home.

Soon, another search party was formed. Witnesses from the skating rink remembered seeing Kim talking to a man around 25-35. They said he had a full face and wore glasses as well as an Army jacket or some kind of parka. Other leads turned up, but they were no good.

“Roger Downs” lived a few blocks away from the Peterson’s home. He was again questioned and no connection was made. Bishop had bludgeoned Peterson to death and buried him near Alonzo’s body.

Like most serial killers, the violence was easier the second time around, the fear waned, and the rush of murder grew.

Eleven months later, four-year-old Danny Davis became Bishop’s next victim.

“I saw the most beautiful little boy kneeling in the aisle.”
–Bishop to the Deseret News

After trying to get candy from the gumball machine, Danny refused Bishop’s offer. Bishop moved to leave, but in a terrible twist, Danny had decided to follow the man and get some candy. Bishop led him to the parking lot.

Danny’s grandmother couldn’t find him and summoned the manager. Shoppers remembered seeing a little boy at the candy machine with a nice young man, but no one could I.D. photos of Danny.

The search for Danny Davis became among the biggest in Salt Lake City history. A $20,000 reward was offered, and the FBI, Child Find and the National Crime Information Center became involved, but no answers were found.

Bishop molested the boy, quieting his crying by pinching his nose and covering his mouth. He dumped his body with the other two like trash and went on with his life.

“Roger Downs” lived less than a block from the grocery. Again, police knocked on his door and again, no one realized “Roger Downs” lived close to all three victims. Years later, neighbors would remember Downs had a special affection for kids.

I don’t know how this wasn’t put together soon. Perhaps it was indicative of the age, when horrific child molesters were still relatively unknown. Maybe Bishop was just that good of a con man. Whatever the reason, he wasn’t finished killing.

In the police’s defense, other than being in proximity to “Downs,” there were no similarities in the cases. The boys were taken on different days of the week, at different times. Bishop broke the rule of serial killers and preyed on a victim outside his race with Alonzo Daniels. Kim Peterson was much older than Daniels and Davis.

Two years passed without a disappearance. Then on June 23rd, 1983, Troy Ward vanished. Allowed to play by himself at a park near his house, Troy was supposed to meet a family friend at four o’clock so he could be driven home for his sixth birthday party. Troy didn’t show.

A witness reported seeing a little boy matching Troy’s description leaving the scene with a man just before four. They seemed happy and the witness thought they were father and son.

Can you imagine the torment that witness later went through?

Like the others, Bishop molested Troy. He would tell Detective Bell that he thought about letting Troy go, but the boy’s threat to tell changed his mind. Troy was killed in the same manner as the others, but for whatever reason, Bishop buried him near Big Cottonwood Creek.

Like most serials, Bishop finally escalated. He could no longer satiate himself for long periods between kills. A month later, he killed thirteen-year-old Graeme Cunningham.

On July 14, 1983, Graeme was ready to go on a long-planned weekend camping trip. His companions? A classmate and an adult, Roger Downs.

Graeme disappeared before the trip. Snakeline, Roger Downs visited the Cunningham’s home to offer help.

“I wanted to help her,” Bishop later told Detectives. “I just didn’t know how to tell her I killed her son.”

Bishop’s reign of killing was about to come to an end. A detective finally recognized “Roger Downs” had been interrogated after each disappearance and that he lived close to the first four victims and was familiar with the parents of the fifth.

They couldn’t believe it—the killer may have been under their noses the entire time. Could he have made such a mistake as to take a boy he was known to? Yes, in fact. Killers often let down their guard and are caught by dumb decisions.

“Downs” was brought in for questioning, and by morning Detective Bell had the whole story, including his real name, from Arthur Gary Bishop.

The next morning, Bishop led police to the boys remains.

“I’m glad they caught me. Because I’d do it again.”

Bishop’s trial began on February 27, 1984. Bishop said his addiction to child pornography caused his fantasies and drove him to act out. Six weeks later, he was found guilty of five counts of aggravated murder, five counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of sexually abusing a minor. He was sentenced to death. Bishop apologized to the victims families and requested to be executed by lethal injection.

Before his execution, Bishop wrote the following letter:

“I am a homosexual pedophile convicted of murder, and pornography was a determining factor in my downfall. Somehow I became sexually attracted to young boys, and I would fantasize about them naked. Certain bookstores offered sex education, photographic, or art books which occasionally contained pictures of nude boy. I purchased such books and used them to enhance my fantasies … All boys became sexual objects. My conscience was desensitized and my sexual appetite entirely controlled my actions.”

Arthur Gary Bishop was executed by lethal injection at Utah State Prison on June 10, 1988. He did express remorse for his crimes, but I find no compassion for him. I’m against the death penalty in many cases, but this is one where I feel justice was served.

What do you think? Should Bishop have been sentenced to death? Should there be a mandatory death sentence for child killers?

38 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: The Deepest Circle of Hell”

  1. Congrats on the 100th post!
    You know, I am not one for the death penalty either. In terrible cases I can see it but my concern is always with the chance, however slight, of a wrongful conviction. But in cases like this, where the criminal has confessed (and was able to provide other evidence to confirm his guilt), I agree. He had no right to live after what he did. Just sayin’!

    • Thanks, Natalie. The 100th post snuck up on me. I have the same issue with the death penalty, and there have been a lot of cases over the years that didn’t receive fair trials, etc. However, in this case, he confessed, and as you said, there was evidence. He got what he deserved, IMO.


      • Personally, I think the punishment was far to kind for what he did to those little boys, the first one being one of my best friends as a child. We had faith that Alonzo would someday return for nearly 5 years of my early life. Nothing can explain the fear we had after finding out what happened to Alonzo.

  2. I can’t even get started on people who hurt children. I’m not a violent person, but hearing things like this makes me really wish ill on these people.

  3. Oh Stacy! My gut hurts. I love your Thursday posts and this one had me going “please tell me he got the death penalty” all the way to the end. The death penalty gives me pause because mistakes have been made. For all the cases where we hear of someone saved via the Innocence Project I think of the ones missed. That said, this guy should have been taken out back, tortured then met the firing squad. Getting to choose his method was too kind.

    • Thanks, Barbara. I wasn’t sure how this post would go over but I wanted to tell the story. I feel the same way about the DP, but in this case, he deserved it. Although the vindictive part of me says he should have gotten life and let the other prisoners take care of him. Child molesters and killers are pariahs in prison.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • beverlydiehl

        That thought always crosses my mind, too, but really, no. The fact is, these people are sick – sick as a dog with rabies. What does a dog with rabies “learn” if you beat the crap out of it before you kill it? Does it really make other dogs scared, “Oh, okay, I won’t go get rabies now?”

        I think when we focus on revenge/getting even, it harms us more than the person experiencing the revenge.

  4. I’m on the fence about the death penalty, it would be awful if you were innocent but this guy definitely deserved it. Shame he got to choose how though. No remorse in a caseclike this is sickening.

    • I agree, Catherine. There have been innocent people executed, and that’s not right. But this guy was clearly guilty and someone like him cannot be helped. That’s a good point, I don’t think he should have been allowed to choose.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. beverlydiehl

    As we are starting to discover more about mental illnesses, we are finding out that some people really do have no conscience. That is, they *know* they are doing wrong, but the part of the brain that restrains a normal person from committing these horrible acts is truly missing and/or broken, in brain scans.

    Sad and unfortunate as that is, right now, since we have no clue how to fix/help them, I am all for the death penalty. I don’t want there to be a shadow of a chance that in some horrific situation – fire, flood, nuclear accident, whatever – these monsters could ever again be loosed upon society.

    What I think we can do is to better educate ourselves about mental illness and try to erase the stigma and barriers that prevent people from getting help earlier. So if parents, teachers, and neighbors recognize “that boy ain’t right” they can get treatment, BEFORE these kinds of tragedies occur. Imagine if Bishop and Jared Loughner had been more closely observed and tracked. (Note: the vast majority of people with mental illnesses harm no one, besides themselves, but a handful truly are dangerous to their families, and to others.)

    • Very interesting response, Beverly. I’ve read the same, and as sad and sickening as it is, the subject is also a fascinating study. It’s amazing how many different areas of the brain can cause people to do horrible thinsg.

      I agree-we don’t know how to fix the problem and does an individual like Bishop deserve any compassion because his brain doesn’t work right? In my mind, no.

      Absolutely. If people like Bishop had been treated and recognized early on, their victims might have had a chance.

      Thanks for commenting.

  6. I read this and must admit, I was nearly sick to my stomach. To see photos of those beautiful little boys…so young and innocent, who didn’t have a chance against that sick man. Porn has become the fastest growing websites on the internet. From what you have said, he was addicted early on, which lead him on his next search to kiddie porn. I have also heard that if someone has a tendency to brutally kill animals that it is a good indication they have a violent dangerous tendency toward humans. Once again, as I take a deep breath, a very sad, but excellent read.

    • I know, Annie. I really debated about this topic. From what I understood, he was addicted early on. I cannot imagine searching for kiddie porn or being attracted to it in the slightest way. Yes, that’s very true about the indication to kill animals – it’s one of the big things profilers look for in a background.

      Thanks for posting.

  7. Stacy, I read this with the sickest feeling in my stomach as this is the worst crime. Lethal injection is just too soft, in my opinion – now that I’m a parent. The case of Adam Walsh haunts me, all they found was his head? These kinds of people are true monsters. This is the true evil on the world. on the other hand, I would become a monster if this happened to my child and do anything in my power to make that criminal suffer.

    You put together such a fascinating read that evokes such deep emotion – love your Thriller Thursdays!

    • I agree, Donna. As a parent, I feel as though he deserved to die but yet, he should have suffered. Perhaps solitary confinement would have been worse.

      I remember Adam’s case, that happened when I was little and my mother just freaked out. I cannot imagine going through this as a parent.

      Thank you so much for the compliment!

  8. You know, as I sit here, I don’t think he deserved the death penalty. I think he deserved the to be treated in the same way he treated his victims. Whoever could hurt a little boy or a puppy deserves no less. Sorry if that’s mean.

    Also, I’ve read that people who have no conscience have what is called a mental disorder. The reason it is called a mental disorder is that there is no cure. Medication won’t help. Therapy won’t help. Anyway, just some thoughts.

    Great post. Lots of research and time went into it, didn’t it?

    • Catie
      There’s a part of me that thinks the same thing. Pedophiles get the worst of things in prison, and he deserved it. And no doubt he would have been killed in prison.

      I’ve read that as well. It’s baffling to think people have no conscience but true. I fully believe therapy won’t help, and I don’t think any kind of pedophile can be reformed.

      Yes, lots of research. Thanks so much!

    • Thank you, Kathy. He certainly deserved to suffer, and I’m amazed he was given the choice of how he wanted to die. That should have been left up to the victims families. Sometimes it’s seems criminals have more rights than anyone.

    • Angela
      Thank you so much. And I know. All I could think of as I wrote this was my daughter and what I would do if something like this happened to her.

      Thanks for stopping by:)

  9. Jessica R. Patch

    Wow. Congrats on the big 100!!!!!

    I think when guilt is definite, death penalty should be enforced…and I’d prefer in a gruesome slow way, but… This sickens me. And who lets their kid play at a park alone at 6? Even in the 80’s? My mom would have never. So sad. 🙁

    • Thanks, Jess! I should have done something more special, but I didn’t realize it until right before. That was my thought, too. Things were different back then but at 6 is ridiculous. My mom never would have allowed me too, either.

  10. Congrats on your 100th post! What a terrible, terrible man. I can’t even think about it too much because it makes me so sick. So very well researched and written though. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  11. My heart hurts terribly after reading this post. My town has a foundation named for a young girl, The Laura Recovery Center, who was kidnapped, molested, and murdered. It was horrific.

    I have heard that child molesters are brutalized in prison by other criminals who may deal drugs, steal things, or shoot people, but who do not tolerate that kind of abuse to kids. I wish we could prosecute as accomplices those who produce the kiddie porn that fuels people like this; they are part of this terrible loop as well. You did a beautiful job of covering the information and honoring the victims’ families here, Stacy.

    • Mine hurt as I was writing it, Julie. Sad about Laura as well. I can’t imagine being a parent and losing my child that way. Yes, I’ve always heard that too. Even the cruelest murderers consider molesters scum, as they should. Absolutely on prosecuting the kiddie porn. Regardless of its effect, it should not be out there, period.

      Thank you much for saying that. I always worry when I do a post like this.

  12. You stated; “Unlike Mary Bell, Arthur Gary Bishop had a normal childhood”; as soon as i read “eagle scout” loud sirens went off. yup bet it wasn’t so normal.

    Was a protective investigator for 8 mos. …enough skimming the peaks of “Sodom and Gomorrah” i care to experience in a life time. I would think “just cut their penis off, leave them a hole to squat” and response would be; “the sickness is in their head and they would use another instrument”. This was hard for me to believe. And then truly heard of cases that went further down the tip of S+G. So then you cut off their hands. RIGHT???????????

    Love how you write……you truly have a gift ((hugs)) and congrats on your 100th

    • Thanks so much for the compliment. I can’t imagine being in your kind of job. I don’t know how cops, social workers, etc do it. Stronger people than I am, that’s for sure. Thanks again!

  13. Nice job researching and reporting, Stacy. This guy was horrible! Glad he is gone, though it doesn’t bring back or undo what he did. At least he was stopped.

  14. Emily

    I don’t think he deserved the death penalty. Not because it could’ve been a mistaken conviction or because I think it’s too harsh. I don’t think he deserved it because he should’ve had to live with what he did. Death is the easy way out. This man should’ve lived in misery behind bars with no chance of parole.

    • THat’s a very good point. The death penalty is an easy way out for some, and there is no worse crime than child abuse. They are treated terribly in prison, which is exactly what they deserve.

      Thanks for commenting.

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