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.
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?