Florida I-95: The horror ended with his last words, "I never wanted my life to be like this"

Lisa S. Gerard
Prison CellPhoto bycamilo jimenezonUnsplash

Disclaimer: This article was written for informational purposes only.

Interstate 95 (I-95) is the main Interstate Highway of Florida's Atlantic Coast. It begins at a partial interchange with US Highway 1 (US 1) just south of downtown Miami and heads north through Jacksonville, and to the Georgia state line at the St. Marys River near Becker. The route also passes through the cities of Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie, Titusville, and Daytona Beach.

Gary Ray Bowles, a serial killer who preyed on older gay men during an eight-month spree that left six dead, was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison.

According to Bowles, following yet another release from prison in 1991, he was convicted of unarmed robbery for which he served two of his sentenced four years and moved to Daytona Beach. His then-girlfriend became pregnant but had an abortion after she learned that Bowles was a prostitute. Bowles told police officers that he blamed gay men for the abortion, and this led him to become a murderer.

His reign of terror began in March of 1994, in Daytona Beach with the murder of John Hardy Roberts. He cruised the interstate to take more lives in Rockville, Maryland; Savannah, Georgia; Atlanta; and Nassau County, Florida. In each case, Bowles left his signature by stuffing the victims’ throats with objects — towels, rags, toilet paper, dirt, and leaves.

Bowles received the death penalty for the November 1994 murder of Walter Hinton in Jacksonville Beach. Hinton was Bowles’ sixth and final known victim in a series of killings in the eight-month span in 1994 that terrorized the Interstate 95 corridor and won him the nickname the “I-95 killer.”

Gary Ray BowlesPhoto byWikipedia Gary Ray Bowles

Who was Gary Bowles?

Per Wikipedia: Bowles was born in Clifton Forge, Virginia, and was raised in Rupert, West Virginia. His father Frank, who worked as a coal miner, had died from black lung disease six months before, and his mother Frances remarried several times. Bowles was abused by his second stepfather, a violent alcoholic who also abused Bowles' mother and older brother.

The abuse continued until, at the age of 13, Bowles fought back and severely injured his stepfather. He left home soon thereafter, angered by his mother's decision to remain in the marriage. He was homeless for the next few years, earning money as a prostitute to men.

In 1982, he was arrested for beating and violently assaulting his girlfriend and was sentenced to six years in prison. In 1991, after his release from prison, he was convicted of unarmed robbery in the theft of an elderly woman's purse, a crime for which he was sentenced to four more years in prison; he was released in two.

Daytona Beach police quickly figured out who killed Roberts, the first victim in March 1994. Bowles left a probation document at the scene. Additionally, he attempted to withdraw money from Roberts’ account and was caught on the ATM's camera. The difficulty was capturing him. His eventual arrest followed the slaying of five more men in three states.

He chose not to speak at his execution but opted to leave a written note with his apologies:

“I’m sorry for all the pain and suffering I have caused. I hope my death eases your pain,” Bowles wrote. “I want to tell my mother that I am also sorry for my actions. Having to deal with your son being called a monster is terrible. I’m so very sorry. I never wanted this to be my life. You don’t wake up one day and decide to become a serial killer.”

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Writer | Memoirist | All Things Florida! Mental Health, Parenting, Life Over 50

Melbourne, FL

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