Killer-mutilator of hitchhikers confesses, Humboldt police say

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 04:11:40 -0400


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http://www.mercurycenter.com/premium/front/docs/eureka07.htm
FWD  San Jose Mercury News - Saturday, November 7, 1998


A GHASTLY ACCOUNT OF DEATH, MUTILATION
ACCUSED KILLER PLEADS NOT GUILTY

By Tracey Seipel,
Brandon Bailey,
and Julia Prodis Sulek
Mercury News Staff Writers


EUREKA -- No one seemed to notice when Patty Tamez disappeared from a truck
stop on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Truckers routinely pick up
prostitutes at the oasis of gas stations and cheap motels. It's the kind of
place where people just show up one day and are gone the next.

When her body was found two weeks ago, caught in the grate of an aqueduct
in San Bernardino County, no one had been searching for her. She had been
strangled and one of her breasts had been cut off.

Her death had been a mystery until Tuesday, when Wayne Ford, a 36-year-old
truck driver, walked into the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department.

``He told the officer he had done some bad things and needed to talk to the
officer,'' said Gary Philp, chief deputy. ``He indicated he had something
inside his coat pocket.''

Sgt. Mike Thomas and Deputy Mike Gainey peered into the pocket of Ford's
heavy field jacket and pulled out a plastic bag. Inside was a woman's
severed breast.

Over the next three hours, Ford, at times distraught, told a gruesome tale.
Over the past year, he had killed four young women -- and dumped all their
bodies, or what was left of them, in canals or irrigation ditches. He had
sex with at least two of them and carried their nude bodies in his rig's
sleeper cab for two or three days before tossing them out. Most were
hitchhikers, he told them.

Ford, 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, was a long-haul trucker. When he was home in
Arcata, he lived in a small travel-trailer or in a tent in the woods. He
and his wife had split up two years ago. She lived in Las Vegas with their
3-year-old son. Ford often complained to his boss that his wife rarely let
him see their child.

Ford didn't go to the authorities alone on Tuesday. He had summoned his
older brother from Napa the day before.

Come up and see me, he told his brother, Rodney. He had something heavy on
his mind.

The next night, his brother escorted him to the sheriff's office, where he
told his story.

The first victim he dismembered, he told police, leaving only a torso
floating in a Eureka slough. She is still unidentified. She, too, was
missing a breast. But the one Ford carried in his pocket was not from that
torso found a year ago. The one he sealed in a plastic bag was fresh.

The next victim was Tina Gibbs. Driving his black 18-wheeler with a sleeper
cab, Ford picked her up late last spring on Tropicana Avenue in Las Vegas,
just off the glitzy strip.

They had sex, he told police, and it got rough, really rough. There was
bondage, and then strangulation. But he didn't dump her body right away.
With the 26-year-old woman dead in the back, he drove from Las Vegas to
Buttonwillow, a small farming town near Bakersfield. Just off state Highway
58, he found the perfect place to hide her naked body -- a remote section
of aqueduct in an area where police say other bodies have been left before.

Gibbs' body was found intact June 2. But it took two months to identify her
after circulating her fingerprints around the country. Although she had
spent time in Washington and Oregon, most recently she had been working as
a prostitute in Las Vegas. Her last known address was a Las Vegas motel.

Ford couldn't tell investigators why he kept the body in his truck for so long.

``I think he was just a disorganized predator. He didn't have a plan,''
said Kern County sheriff's Sgt. Glenn Johnson. ``He probably just drove
until he had decided what to do with it.''

Less than two months ago, on Sept. 20, Lanett White, a 25-year-old mother
of four, was walking to a store from her home in Fontana, a gritty
blue-collar town in the desert east of Los Angeles. Police say there's no
evidence she was a prostitute and they don't know why she may have gotten
in Ford's truck. But it appears to have been a fatal mistake.

Sometime late in the evening, she and Ford had sex, police said. And she
was killed later that night.

Again, he kept her naked body in the sleeper cab of his truck for the next
two of three days, police say. He drove north through the Central Valley to
the farming town of Lodi, where he threw her into an irrigation canal just
a couple of miles off Interstate 5.

``He seems like the type that wants to preserve some type of memento, or
maybe he's trying to lengthen the experience as much as possible,'' said
Chip Patterson of San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, which is
investigating one of the killings.

A motorist discovered White's body on Sept. 25. Police don't think she was
mutilated, but her body was so decomposed, they couldn't tell for sure.

San Joaquin County investigators are withholding her cause of death.

A month later, on Oct. 23, Patty Tamez was hanging around the truck stop
off Interstate 15 near Victorville, some 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The
29-year-old was a regular in the parking lots and coffee shops where
truckers pulled off the highway on their way to Las Vegas.

Although police declined to say whether Tamez was a prostitute, she was
known to take rides with truckers. And a few weeks earlier, a motel clerk
said she had checked in for the night with a passing trucker.

``She looked a little weird and I asked her, `Are you OK?' '' said Queen's
Motel manager Kay Chin. ``The guy said, `Don't worry about it. She's my
wife.' ''

Other merchants in the area said she seemed to be homeless and at times
disoriented.

``I think she had some problems. She would talk steady, but never really to
anybody,'' said Debbie Thronson, manager of a Denny's restaurant. ``She was
harmless but very confused.''

With her brown hair and dark eyes, ``she was a beautiful girl,'' Thronson said.

But Thronson didn't know much more about her.

``I just know she showed up one day,'' she said. ``A lot of people do that
here, and then they're gone.''

Although people in the area saw her that morning, no one has reported
seeing her climbing into Ford's truck. And no one reported her missing that
night.

At 9 p.m., a security officer discovered her body with one breast cut off
in an aqueduct 10 miles from the truck stop. She had been strangled.

Police are now analyzing the breast tissue Ford presented to authorities to
determine if it matches Tamez's DNA.

Ford is in the Humboldt County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond. On Friday,
with his public defender at his side, he pleaded not guilty to one count of
murder in connection with the unidentified torso found in Humboldt County.

Ford lived for the last two years in a silver Airstream trailer at the Town
and Country mobile home park. He kept a low profile, making occasional
appearances to buy beer and cigarettes at a nearby convenience store,
usually wearing jeans and a blue baseball cap.

``I don't think anybody really knew him,'' said resident Judy Coldiron.
``He didn't socialize with any of the neighbors.''

But another resident, 34-year-old office worker Serena Brooks, recalled a
chance encounter with Ford when she and some friends were at a downtown bar
last winter. They started talking and he proudly showed off pictures of his
son.

``He was really into his son,'' said Brooks, who added that Ford seemed to
really miss the boy.

Brooks said her reaction to Ford's arrest was ``total shock -- We had sat
and talked with this guy and he was a really nice guy.''

The case has attracted nationwide attention. Humboldt County authorities
say they are receiving numerous calls from mothers with missing daughters,
wondering if they, too, could have fallen victim to Ford.

The killings have spooked the town of Arcata, a college town on the far
North Coast of California.

``I live in Arcata and he lives two miles from my house if that,'' said
Lori Harnden, a 40-year-old mother of three teenage daughters. ``I
immediately went into shock.''


[Mercury News Staff Writer Elise Banducci contributed to this report.]

END FORWARD
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receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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http://www.mercurycenter.com/premium/front/docs/eureka07.htm

FWD  San Jose Mercury News - Saturday, November 7, 1998



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>A GHASTLY ACCOUNT OF DEATH,
MUTILATION

ACCUSED KILLER PLEADS NOT GUILTY


By Tracey Seipel,

Brandon Bailey, 

and Julia Prodis Sulek

Mercury News Staff Writers 

</paraindent>


EUREKA -- No one seemed to notice when Patty Tamez disappeared from a
truck stop on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Truckers routinely pick up
prostitutes at the oasis of gas stations and cheap motels. It's the
kind of place where people just show up one day and are gone the next.


When her body was found two weeks ago, caught in the grate of an
aqueduct in San Bernardino County, no one had been searching for her.
She had been strangled and one of her breasts had been cut off.


Her death had been a mystery until Tuesday, when Wayne Ford, a
36-year-old truck driver, walked into the Humboldt County Sheriff's
Department.


``He told the officer he had done some bad things and needed to talk to
the officer,'' said Gary Philp, chief deputy. ``He indicated he had
something inside his coat pocket.''


Sgt. Mike Thomas and Deputy Mike Gainey peered into the pocket of
Ford's heavy field jacket and pulled out a plastic bag. Inside was a
woman's severed breast.


Over the next three hours, Ford, at times distraught, told a gruesome
tale. Over the past year, he had killed four young women -- and dumped
all their bodies, or what was left of them, in canals or irrigation
ditches. He had sex with at least two of them and carried their nude
bodies in his rig's sleeper cab for two or three days before tossing
them out. Most were hitchhikers, he told them.


Ford, 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, was a long-haul trucker. When he was
home in Arcata, he lived in a small travel-trailer or in a tent in the
woods. He and his wife had split up two years ago. She lived in Las
Vegas with their 3-year-old son. Ford often complained to his boss that
his wife rarely let him see their child.


Ford didn't go to the authorities alone on Tuesday. He had summoned his
older brother from Napa the day before.


Come up and see me, he told his brother, Rodney. He had something heavy
on his mind.


The next night, his brother escorted him to the sheriff's office, where
he told his story.


The first victim he dismembered, he told police, leaving only a torso
floating in a Eureka slough. She is still unidentified. She, too, was
missing a breast. But the one Ford carried in his pocket was not from
that torso found a year ago. The one he sealed in a plastic bag was
fresh.


The next victim was Tina Gibbs. Driving his black 18-wheeler with a
sleeper cab, Ford picked her up late last spring on Tropicana Avenue in
Las Vegas, just off the glitzy strip.


They had sex, he told police, and it got rough, really rough. There was
bondage, and then strangulation. But he didn't dump her body right
away. With the 26-year-old woman dead in the back, he drove from Las
Vegas to Buttonwillow, a small farming town near Bakersfield. Just off
state Highway 58, he found the perfect place to hide her naked body --
a remote section of aqueduct in an area where police say other bodies
have been left before.


Gibbs' body was found intact June 2. But it took two months to identify
her after circulating her fingerprints around the country. Although she
had spent time in Washington and Oregon, most recently she had been
working as a prostitute in Las Vegas. Her last known address was a Las
Vegas motel.


Ford couldn't tell investigators why he kept the body in his truck for
so long.


``I think he was just a disorganized predator. He didn't have a plan,''
said Kern County sheriff's Sgt. Glenn Johnson. ``He probably just drove
until he had decided what to do with it.''


Less than two months ago, on Sept. 20, Lanett White, a 25-year-old
mother of four, was walking to a store from her home in Fontana, a
gritty blue-collar town in the desert east of Los Angeles. Police say
there's no evidence she was a prostitute and they don't know why she
may have gotten in Ford's truck. But it appears to have been a fatal
mistake. 


Sometime late in the evening, she and Ford had sex, police said. And
she was killed later that night.


Again, he kept her naked body in the sleeper cab of his truck for the
next two of three days, police say. He drove north through the Central
Valley to the farming town of Lodi, where he threw her into an
irrigation canal just a couple of miles off Interstate 5.


``He seems like the type that wants to preserve some type of memento,
or maybe he's trying to lengthen the experience as much as possible,''
said Chip Patterson of San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department,
which is investigating one of the killings.


A motorist discovered White's body on Sept. 25. Police don't think she
was mutilated, but her body was so decomposed, they couldn't tell for
sure.


San Joaquin County investigators are withholding her cause of death.


A month later, on Oct. 23, Patty Tamez was hanging around the truck
stop off Interstate 15 near Victorville, some 60 miles east of Los
Angeles. The 29-year-old was a regular in the parking lots and coffee
shops where truckers pulled off the highway on their way to Las Vegas.


Although police declined to say whether Tamez was a prostitute, she was
known to take rides with truckers. And a few weeks earlier, a motel
clerk said she had checked in for the night with a passing trucker.


``She looked a little weird and I asked her, `Are you OK?' '' said
Queen's Motel manager Kay Chin. ``The guy said, `Don't worry about it.
She's my wife.' ''


Other merchants in the area said she seemed to be homeless and at times
disoriented.


``I think she had some problems. She would talk steady, but never
really to anybody,'' said Debbie Thronson, manager of a Denny's
restaurant. ``She was harmless but very confused.''


With her brown hair and dark eyes, ``she was a beautiful girl,''
Thronson said.


But Thronson didn't know much more about her.


``I just know she showed up one day,'' she said. ``A lot of people do
that here, and then they're gone.''


Although people in the area saw her that morning, no one has reported
seeing her climbing into Ford's truck. And no one reported her missing
that night.


At 9 p.m., a security officer discovered her body with one breast cut
off in an aqueduct 10 miles from the truck stop. She had been
strangled.


Police are now analyzing the breast tissue Ford presented to
authorities to determine if it matches Tamez's DNA.


Ford is in the Humboldt County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond. On
Friday, with his public defender at his side, he pleaded not guilty to
one count of murder in connection with the unidentified torso found in
Humboldt County.


Ford lived for the last two years in a silver Airstream trailer at the
Town and Country mobile home park. He kept a low profile, making
occasional appearances to buy beer and cigarettes at a nearby
convenience store, usually wearing jeans and a blue baseball cap.


``I don't think anybody really knew him,'' said resident Judy Coldiron.
``He didn't socialize with any of the neighbors.''


But another resident, 34-year-old office worker Serena Brooks, recalled
a chance encounter with Ford when she and some friends were at a
downtown bar last winter. They started talking and he proudly showed
off pictures of his son.


``He was really into his son,'' said Brooks, who added that Ford seemed
to really miss the boy.


Brooks said her reaction to Ford's arrest was ``total shock -- We had
sat and talked with this guy and he was a really nice guy.''


The case has attracted nationwide attention. Humboldt County
authorities say they are receiving numerous calls from mothers with
missing daughters, wondering if they, too, could have fallen victim to
Ford.


The killings have spooked the town of Arcata, a college town on the far
North Coast of California.


``I live in Arcata and he lives two miles from my house if that,'' said
Lori Harnden, a 40-year-old mother of three teenage daughters. ``I
immediately went into shock.''



[Mercury News Staff Writer Elise Banducci contributed to this report.]


END FORWARD

-

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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