Robert Ben Rhoades
|Robert Ben Rhoades|
Rhoades' mug shot by the Illinois Department of Corrections.
November 22, 1945|
Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S.
|Other names||The Truck Stop Killer|
|Criminal penalty||Life without parole|
Span of crimes
|April 1, 1990|
|Imprisoned at||Menard Correctional Center|
Robert Ben Rhoades (born November 22, 1945), also known as The Truck Stop Killer, is an American serial killer and rapist. He was convicted for three murders, and slated to be tried for two more before charges were dropped due to the wishes of victims' families. He is additionally suspected of torturing, raping, and killing more than 50 women between 1975 and 1990, based on data about his truck routes and women who went missing during those years and who met the profile of his preferred victims. At the time he was caught, he claimed to have engaged in these activities for 15 years. He took photos of some of his victims, the best known being of his last victim, Regina Kay Walters, which included pictures taken moments before her murder in an abandoned barn in Illinois.
Robert Ben Rhoades was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1945 but it is uncertain as to exactly where he was raised.
In the early years of his life, Rhoades was raised by his mother alone, because his father was a soldier in the U.S. Army and was stationed in West Germany. Though, his father returned from overseas duty when Robert was still a child attending elementary school. After his father was discharged from the military, he found work as a firefighter.
By all reliable accounts, his early life was fairly normal, aside from unspecified social problems in his formative years. He was an active participant in the extracurricular activities of his attended schools, and involved himself with gridiron football, wrestling, choirs and French clubs.
Rhoades' criminal involvement in his high school years were only notable for an arrest at the age of 16 in 1961 for tampering with a vehicle, along with an arrest for publicly fighting at the age of 17 in 1962. After graduating Monticello High School in Monticello in 1964, he joined the Marine Corps. That same year, his father was arrested for molesting a 12-year-old girl, and subsequently committed suicide while awaiting trial. A few years later, in 1967 or 1968, Rhoades was dishonorably discharged from the military for his involvement in a robbery.
After his dishonorable discharge from the Marines sometime in the late 1960s, he attended college but dropped out. He later attempted to join a law enforcement agency but was likely rejected for his past dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he married three times, having a son with his first wife. Subsequently he worked in stores, supermarkets, warehouses and restaurants. Eventually, he became a long haul trucker. His personal interests and hobbies included involving himself in the BDSM scene during the 1980s; it was also during this decade that he allegedly verbally, physically and sexually abused his third wife, Deborah Rhoades.
Rhoades is believed to have first killed in November 1989, though he was accused by only one unnamed victim of kidnapping and torture. The 18-year-old victim was a drifter, and when Rhoades was detained, the victim declined to press charges, feeling that she would not be believed despite extensive evidence. In her statement to police she says that "I don't see any good in filing charges. It's just going to be my word against his. If there was any evidence, I would file. I would file charges and sue him." It was later asserted that she was fearful of Rhoades after enduring two weeks in his truck. Rhoades had converted the sleeper cab of his truck into his own personal torture chamber where he kept women, sometimes for weeks, torturing and raping them.
He is said to have killed for the first time in 1970. Rhoades preyed on hitchhikers and truckstop prostitutes. His first confirmed victims were Candace Walsh and her husband, Douglas Zyskowski, in January 1990. The couple were hitchhiking when Rhoades picked them up in his truck while on a long-haul journey. He immediately killed Zyskowski and dumped his body in Sutton County, Texas, where it was later found. He was not identified until 1992. Walsh he kept for over a week. During this time, he tortured and raped her multiple times before dumping her body in Millard County, Utah.
A month after Walsh's death, 14-year old Regina Kay Walters and her boyfriend, Ricky Lee Jones, both runaway teenagers from the Houston suburb of Pasadena, Texas, disappeared. Like with Zyskowski, it is believed that after being picked up by Rhoades, Jones was killed and disposed of while Walters was kept. Photos seized during a search of Rhoades' home confirmed that he held Walters for a long time, based on the degree of hair growth and bruising. Jones' body was found on March 3, 1991, in Lamar County, Mississippi. He was not identified until July 2008. In Bond County, Illinois, Jones had been charged in absentia with Walters' murder.
In the early morning of April 1, 1990, officer Mike Miller of the Arizona Highway Patrol found a truck at the side of I-10 with its hazard lights on. When he investigated inside the cab, he discovered a nude woman, handcuffed and screaming. There was also a male present who identified himself as the driver of the truck. After failing to talk his way out of the situation, Rhoades was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, sexual assault, and unlawful imprisonment. After further investigation, the arresting detective, Rick Barnhart, was able to make a connection to the Houston case and noticed a pattern stretching over the course of at least five months.
In executing a search warrant for Rhoades' home, police found photos of a nude teenager who was later identified as Walters, whose body was found in September 1990. Also present were photos of Walsh, whose body was discovered that October.
In 1994, Rhoades was convicted of the first degree murder of Regina Kay Walters and sentenced to life without parole at Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois. He was extradited to Utah in 2005 to be tried for the deaths of Candace Walsh and Douglas Zyskowski; however, in accordance with the victims' families' requests, the charges were dropped in 2006 and he was returned to prison. Rhoades later was extradited to Texas for the murder of Walter and Jones where Rhoades, in exchange for dropping the death penalty, pleaded guilty to their deaths and received a second life sentence.
Despite his other convictions in Texas, he continues serving his life without parole sentence at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois.
- "The Truck Stop Killer". GQ. November 2012.
- Cooper, Greg (2007). "Murder-One Jurisdiction at a Time: The Case of Robert Ben Rhoades". Forensic Examiner. 16 (4): 66–68. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
- "Robert Ben Rhoades" (PDF). murderpedia.org. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
- Reavy, Pat (June 25, 2008). "Texas town to try case involving Utah body". Deseret News.
- "Trucker Admits to More Murders". ABC News. 30 March 2012.
- "'Torture chamber' trucker sentence to life in prison". The Telegraph. March 30, 2012.
- Karen Brandel. "Cover Story: Dead End (February 29 - March 6, 1996)". www.tucsonweekly.com. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
- The People of the State of Illinois v. Robert Ben Rhoades, 259 Ill (1994).
- Busch, Alva (1995). Roadside Prey. Pinnacle. ISBN 978-0786002214.
- Hazelwood, Robert Roy; Michaud, Stephen (1998). The Evil That Men Do. St. Martins Paperbacks. ISBN 0-312-97060-9. LCCN 98-45537.