Gary Ray Bowles
On Friday, November 18, 1994, Belinda was celebrating her birthday with her fiancé, William. However, it was not as festive a day as she would have hoped. She was concerned for her brother Jay, who failed to contact her on the special day, as he had promised days earlier.
The following afternoon, William went to his soon-to-be brother-in-law’s mobile home at 13748 Coral Drive in Duval County, Florida, to check up on him. Although the lights in the house were on, nobody was home and the Cadillac Jay drove was nowhere in sight. He left soon after, only to return with Belinda several times over the next two days.
The couple began to worry with each passing day. Jay had not only missed Belinda’s birthday but also failed to arrive for work for two days in a row. Together the couple decided to return one last time and take a closer look, this time inside the residence.
The Discovery of Walter Jamelle (Jay) Hinton
That Sunday they arrived at the home. William managed to break in by shattering a back window. Immediately upon entering, he was met with a foul odor, which emanated from within the residence. William entered the small home and found his way into the bedroom. The room was disheveled. Something was obviously amiss.
As reported in the state’s petition to the Supreme Court of Florida, William entered the bathroom that day and noticed a peculiar mound covered by blankets on the bathroom floor. He reached out to feel the object, which was hard to the touch. He removed a portion of the blanket and discovered the brutally beaten and decomposing remains of Walter Jamelle (Jay) Hinton. Immediately William and Belinda asked the neighbors to call the police.
Investigators methodically examined the crime scene and forensic evidence was obtained from the small mobile home. Family, friends and neighbors of the deceased were also interviewed, in the hopes of obtaining information about the murder.
The Stepping Stone
During a search of the residence, police discovered that the victim’s wallet, along with his personal papers, had been carelessly strewn on the bed. Lying beside the bed on the floor was a pile of sheets and a large stepping-stone covered in blood. The stone was most likely taken from the front yard and weighed approximately 40 pounds.
Upon further inspection, investigators found a large concentration of blood splattered on the bathroom floor where the body was discovered. Police also discovered miniature liquor bottles and beer cans scattered throughout the home. A receipt bearing the name Timothy Whitfield was found, and the victim’s car and watch were missing.
A medical examination showed that Jay’s forehead and cheekbone had been crushed. The state later maintained that the injuries were “consistent with the victim having been hit with the concrete stepping stone found in the victim’s bedroom.” The victim was also found to have five broken ribs and abrasions on one arm and leg. It was suggested from the wounds that a struggle had ensued between Jay and his attacker. The victim was believed to have been dead for more than three days.
Jay’s facial fractures were severe, but they were not fatal. The cause of death was asphyxiation from strangulation, which was further facilitated by toilet paper and a rag being lodged into the victim’s throat. The victim may have been unconscious at the time his mouth was stuffed with the material.
Who Is Timothy Whitfield
It did not take investigators long to find a suspect in the murder of Jay. Based on reports by several witnesses, including neighbors and friends of the victim, the police strongly believed that the house guest living with Jay at the time of his death was their leading suspect. Following a composite sketch of the man known as Timothy Whitfield, police began their search.
It took two days for the authorities to find their man. On October 22, 1994, the police apprehended and arrested the alleged assailant at the labor pool at Jacksonville Beach. The police interrogated Whitfield and learned that Whitfield was an alias. The 32-year-old suspect’s real name was Gary Ray Bowles. After intense grilling, he finally admitted to the violent murder of Jay.
Jay had not been his only victim. In fact, Gary had been listed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List” in connection with a series of other brutal slayings. He was suspected of having blazed a murderous trail that stretched along Interstate 95 from Maryland to Florida. Local investigators began to realize they had a vicious serial killer on their hands as they learned the full extent of Gary’s crimes.
Trouble in the Making
Gary Ray Bowles was born on January 25, 1962, in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He was the second son of William Franklin Bowles and Frances Carole Price Bowles. Gary’s father died on July 22, 1961 and never had the chance to greet his youngest child into the world.
Frances remarried several times after the death of Gary’s father. According to Frances’ testimony later in court, Gary had a good early childhood. However, at the age of seven or eight, Gary began to suffer from abuse by his first stepfather. His mother confessed that her husband was violent with her sons, often beating the boys with his belt or fists. When she tried to protect them, she too became subject to his abuse. Eventually, Frances divorced and remarried again to a man named Chet. The new marriage proved to be just as disastrous.
Chet was known to frequently fly into violent alcohol-induced rages and beat Gary, his bother and mother. His brutality resulted in the hospitalization of Gary’s mother on several occasions. Around the age of 10, Gary began to sniff glue and paint, as well as experiment with other drugs in an attempt to escape his unhappy situation. Eventually, Gary Ray Bowles dropped out of school during the eighth grade.
Gary Ray Bowles and the Streets
The violence against the boys and their mother continued unabated over the next year. Simultaneously, the boys’ anger towards their stepfather began to steadily increase. Finally, the boys had had enough. When he was 13 or 14, Gary Ray Bowles and his brother ganged up on their stepfather and severely beat him. At one point, one of the boys actually pummeled the man on the head with a rock.
Frustrated by his mother’s choice to remain in the marriage, Gary left home to live on the streets. Throughout his youth and adulthood he was able to provide for himself financially by prostituting his body to men. However, he never really made enough to maintain his own residence and he remained homeless for a majority of his teenage years and adulthood.
Gary Ray Bowles was not considered to be gay but likely engaged in homosexual activity strictly for financial gain. According to an article by Todd Simmons, Gary only received oral sex from the men he hustled and prohibited actual intercourse during his sexual encounters. Gary’s real interest was women, and he was known to have been involved in several relationships as an adult. He temporarily lived with some of his girlfriends, yet for the most part the relationships were unsuccessful and at times violent in nature.
Gary Ray Bowles
One of Gary’s relationships was particularly violent. During his early 20’s, he lived for a short period of time with a woman named Wesley in Hillsborough County, Florida. In June 1982 Gary brutally attacked the young woman, sexually assaulting and beating her.
Wesley received fingerprint-like bruising around her neck as a result of the attack, suggesting that Gary Ray Bowles attempted to choke her. One of her breasts was also bitten and her face severely battered to the point that her eyes were swollen shut. Doctors told Wesley that she also received internal lacerations to the vagina and rectum.
Moreover, an FBI agent stated that during her investigation of the crime scene, she noticed that the bedroom and bathroom of the Wesley’s residence contained a significant quantity of blood. According to her statement in the court report, the blood splatters on the walls reached as high as five feet above the bed. The crime was demonstrative of Gary’s violent nature and he was sentenced to six years in prison. However, it is unclear exactly how much of the sentence he actually served.
After his release from prison, another conviction was added to Gary’s criminal record. Gary was convicted in the summer of 1991 for unarmed robbery in Volusia County, Florida. He pushed a woman down and stole her purse before fleeing. Eventually, he was apprehended, arrested and sentenced to four years in prison. Again, it is unclear how long he actually served of the sentence. Following his release from prison, Gary went on to commit even more violent crimes that would catch the attention of the FBI, the media and the gay population.
Confessions of Murder by Gary Ray Bowles
Gary’s confession yielded a wealth of information concerning the events related to Jay’s murder. Investigators learned that Gary Ray Bowles met Jay in early November 1994 at Jacksonville Beach. The two likely engaged in homosexual activity sometime shortly after their meeting. After spending several days with Gary, Jay moved to a trailer on Coral Drive in Duval County. Gary assisted Jay with the move and was invited to live with him on a temporary basis.
Gary lived with Jay for about two weeks. During that time, Gary was asked to leave after a dispute concerning his behavior towards a female friend of Jay’s. However, the problem was eventually rectified and Gary Ray Bowles moved back in to the trailer.
During the interrogation into Jay’s death, investigators learned that on the day of the murder, Gary Ray Bowles had been partying with Jay and a friend named Rick. Gary alleged that he and Rick had been drinking beer and smoking pot on the afternoon of the murder while Jay was at work. The men continued to party, after Jay arrived home.
Gary Ray Bowles
At approximately 8 p.m., Jay drove Rick to the train station with Gary in the backseat. While they waited for the train, the men drank more beer and smoked more pot. Rick later testified that at the time of his departure to the train, Gary Ray Bowles was heavily inebriated from the alcohol, yet “coherent.”
After Rick caught his train, Jay and Gary returned to the trailer. Gary continued to drink approximately a half a dozen more beers. At some point, Jay went to his bedroom to sleep, leaving Gary behind in the living area of the trailer. Gary testified that something inside him “snapped” sometime that evening.
Gary Ray Bowles confessed to police that he went outside, got the stone, brought it into the house and put it down on the table. He claimed that he momentarily stopped to think, and then proceeded to carry the stone into the bedroom. As Jay lay asleep, Gary dropped the heavy stone on his head. Jay awoke, stunned by the blow. Shortly thereafter, a brief struggle ensued. An article by Vivian Wakefield stated that Gary then stuffed Jay’s mouth with a rag and toilet paper before strangling the man to death.
Unofficial, real-time court transcripts made later during Gary’s trial stated that he then took Jay’s car and possibly his watch and drove from the trailer but later returned to the house. Gary stayed at the house for approximately two days. At one point, he brought a homeless female acquaintance to the house for a short while before returning her to the place he had found her. It is believed that she was not aware that the crime had taken place.
Gary Ray Bowles Confesses To More Murders
The car that was stolen from Jay following his death was abandoned several days before Gary Ray Bowles was apprehended. Investigators learned that from that time up until his arrest he resided at a Jacksonville Beach motel. Shortly after Gary’s confession of the events surrounding Jay’s death, investigators learned that his murder was only one of several committed by Gary Ray Bowles.
Gary admitted to the authorities that same day that he was also responsible for the murder of two other men in Florida, John Roberts and Albert Morris. The FBI had already been involved with both murder investigations, in which Gary Ray Bowles was already a suspect. They were also involved with three other similar murder cases, in which Gary was also the leading suspect. It wasn’t long before investigators were able to piece together the clues that eventually led to their realization of the atrocities committed by Gary Ray Bowles.
The Killing Spree of Gary Ray Bowles
On April 14, 1994, Daytona police arrived at the residence of 59-year-old John Hardy Roberts, who had been brutally murdered. Roberts’ badly beaten body was discovered on his living room floor. He had been strangled and a rag was found stuffed into his mouth. His head also showed signs of severe trauma and his one of his fingers was almost severed from his hand.
Judging by the disarray of the room, it appeared as if a violent struggle had taken place prior to Roberts’ death. Blood was splattered everywhere. The coffee table and a glass lamp lay shattered in pieces about the floor. Moreover, the victim’s car and a wallet with cash and credit cards were missing.
During the investigation, the authorities found a great deal of evidence linking the murder to a potential suspect. All the evidence discovered at the crime scene pointed towards Gary Ray Bowles as the killer. Gary’s fingerprints and probation papers were found at the scene and phone records revealed that Gary made numerous phone calls to his family from Roberts’ home. According to the authorities, Gary Ray Bowles tried to use the deceased man’s credit cards.
Gary Ray Bowles
Gary later told investigators during his confession that Roberts offered Gary the opportunity to live with him temporarily at his home. Although the details of the relationship are unclear, it is believed Gary engaged in homosexual activity for a profit with Roberts. Several weeks into his stay, the two had a dispute over a woman and Gary was asked to leave. Blinded by rage, Gary attacked Roberts with a glass lamp, repeatedly beating him on the head. In Roberts’ attempt to escape, he fell onto the coffee table where he was asphyxiated by Gary. Gary then stole his car and wallet and fled the scene.
A manhunt for Gary Ray Bowles quickly ensued. Although the authorities were able to recover Roberts’ car in Georgia, Gary was nowhere to be found. Eventually, Gary’s trail led investigators to suburban Maryland where another similar murder had taken place.
On April 14, 1994, a maintenance man discovered the decomposing remains of 38-year-old David Jarman in the basement of his Silver Spring home. Like Roberts, Jarman had been badly beaten before having his mouth stuffed with a rag and being strangled to death. The victim’s car and wallet were missing.
According to Todd Simmons, Jarman was seen the night before his death at a gay bar in Washington, D.C., with a man who matched Gary’s description. Todd Simmons further stated that Jarman’s credit cards had been used and the signature on the receipt matched that of Gary’s. Gary was eventually charged for the murder, yet his whereabouts continued to elude authorities. Several weeks later, Gary’s trail led investigators further south to Savannah, Georgia.
Gary Ray Bowles and Another Dead Body
The decomposing remains of 72-year old Milton Bradley were discovered May 5 behind a shed at a golf club. A medical examination later determined that Bradley had been savagely beaten before being strangled. Like Roberts and Jarman, the victim’s mouth was stuffed with material before he was asphyxiated.
The murder shocked the small city because Bradley had been a well-known citizen and a recognized World War II veteran. According to Bob Morris of the Savannah Morning News, Bradley was a “quiet and gentle man” who was generous almost to a fault. Morris stated that he had suffered a severe head injury during the war, which later resulted in his having to receive a lobotomy. The procedure caused slight mental impairment, which undoubtedly made him more vulnerable prey to unsavory characters, such as Gary Ray Bowles.
During an investigation of the scene, police officer John Best discovered a palm print that was later matched with Gary’s. Furthermore, Bradley had been seen in the company of a man matching Gary’s description several times in the days leading up to his murder. There was little doubt that Gary Ray Bowles had been involved in the killing.
In July, the popular television program America’s Most Wanted filmed a segment about the crimes Gary was believed to have committed. Following its airing, the show received numerous responses from viewers, who claimed to have had information about his whereabouts. Gary was eventually charged with the murder of Bradley, yet he continued to elude the FBI and state authorities.
Gary Ray Bowles
That same month, another murder occurred that once again bore striking similarities to the other slayings. On May 19, the body of 37-year-old Albert Morris was discovered in his trailer in Nassau County, Florida. He had been beaten about the head with a blunt object, shot in the chest and strangled. Morris also had a towel stuffed in his mouth and tied about his head. His car and wallet with credit cards was missing from the scene.
Once again, Gary Ray Bowles became the leading suspect in the murder case. It is believed that Gary hustled himself off to Morris, whom he met at a gay bar in Jacksonville. Shortly after their meeting, Gary was invited to stay with Morris at his trailer outside of Hilliard, Florida. Simmons stated in his article that Gary lived with Morris for approximately two weeks prior to his death. On the night before his body was discovered, the two men were seen arguing at a bar before being thrown out.
Based on the evidence at the crime scene Gary Ray Bowles was charged once again for murder, although he was nowhere to be found.
The FBI, who had long been involved in the investigation, suspected that he was involved in yet another murder. That May, 47-year-old Alverson Carter Jr.’s body was discovered at his Atlanta residence. The murder scene resembled that of the other crimes attributed to Gary Ray Bowles, bearing the same MO. Forensic evidence linked him to the crime, for which he was later charged.
Carter was believed to have been Gary’s fifth victim. Gary was charged with no other murders until his arrest for the slaying of Jay Hinton. According to Wakefield, Gary Ray Bowles later confessed to the murders of Roberts, Morris, Carter, Jarman and Bradley. Following extensive interrogations by the FBI and state authorities, Gary was placed in a Duval County jail to await sentencing for his last known crime.
A Looming Death Sentence
On December 8, 1994, Gary Ray Bowles was indicted on two counts. He was charged for the first-degree murder of Jay Hinton and of robbery. Wakefield stated that Gary pleaded guilty solely to the charge of first-degree murder.
The proceedings moved swiftly. The state’s prosecution team argued that the murder of Jay was motivated by Gary’s drive for financial gain. Moreover, they argued that the crime was sexually motivated and inspired by his hate of homosexuals.
The public defenders assigned to represent Gary were attorney’s William White and Charles Cofer. They argued, among other things, that their client suffered from mental instability when he murdered Jay Hinton. His mental impairment was suggested to have been a result of the abuse Gary suffered during his early childhood, which was further exacerbated by his use of marijuana and alcohol on the night in question. They also argued that the murder was not sexually motivated, nor was it committed for financial gain.
Gary Ray Bowles Found Guilty
Following the presentation of arguments, the jury hearing the case adjourned for a brief period before returning a verdict. The jury found Gary Ray Bowles guilty of the first-degree murder and robbery of Jay Hinton. They recommended the death sentence by a vote of ten to two, which was agreed to by the court. It was suggested that Gary be executed by means of the electric chair.
Public defenders immediately filed a direct appeal with the Supreme Court of Florida. More than a half a dozen issues were argued in the appeal, one of which sited that the state failed to supply evidence proving that the murder was homosexually motivated. Moreover, it was also argued that the court erred in its finding that Gary Ray Bowles had committed the murder for financial gain.
Upon review of the case, the Supreme Court of Florida found that there was no causal connection between Gary’s alleged hatred for homosexuals and Jay’s murder. They affirmed the conviction but overturned the death sentence. They then remanded the case to the state circuit court for new sentencing. According to Wakefield’s article, de la Rionda was disappointed by the court’s decision to have Gary Ray Bowles retried. He stated in the article that he, “looked forward to trying him again and getting the death penalty again.”
Gary Ray Bowles
Once again, Circuit Judge Jack Schemer presided over the proceedings. During the re-sentencing trial, some of Gary’s prior felonies were included in the state’s case. The felonies included his convictions for sexual battery, robbery and the first-degree murders of Roberts and Morris, to which he had previously pleaded guilty.
Following intense arguments from both the prosecution and defense teams, the jury deliberated. On May 27, 1999, the jury returned its verdict after only one hour of deliberation. They unanimously found Gary Ray Bowles guilty and again suggested that he be sentenced to death in the electric chair.
Gary’s attorneys filed an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court. This time, 12 issues were raised in the defense’s petition. Among the issues, Bowles claimed that the court erred in allowing the state to introduce the Roberts and Morris murder convictions being that they were not in the original sentencing proceedings. Moreover, they also argued that the court erred in its finding that the murder was committed in the course of robbery for financial gain.
Death Offered Up Twice To Gary Ray Bowles
On October 11, 2001, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled in favor of the circuit court. They were able to find no errors during the resentencing procedure, thus supporting its recommendation for the death sentence. Frustrated by the decision, Gary’s lawyers then filed another petition, this time to the United States Supreme Court. However, the petition was denied in June 2002.
To date, Gary continues to petition the state courts. He hopes that one day he will be granted a new sentencing hearing. He is currently imprisoned at the Union Correctional Institute in Raiford, Florida where he awaits execution for three counts of first-degree murder. There he is expected to remain until his death.
credit murderpedia / Rachael Bell