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Florida executes serial killer who targeted gay men along US east coast

Gary Ray Bowles was captured in 1994.

An undated photograph of Gary Ray Bowles.
An undated photograph of Gary Ray Bowles.
Image: PA Images

A SERIAL KILLER linked to a months-long killing spree in 1994 that targeted older gay men was executed yesterday in the US. 

Gary Ray Bowles, who was 57, was executed by lethal injection late last night in Florida.

In a final written statement, Bowles apologised for the “pain and suffering” he had caused: “I never wanted this to be my life. You don’t wake up one day and decide to become a serial killer.”

Bowles was dubbed the “I-95 killer” after being linked to a half-dozen homicides along an interstate highway of that name – a major road on the east coast of the US. 

Late on Thursday the US Supreme Court rejected defence motions calling for a stay of execution.

In 1994, after a months-long manhunt, Bowles was captured in the northern Florida city of Jacksonville and charged with the murder of Walter Jamelle Hinton.

Bowles subsequently confessed to the other murders – crimes that had been linked in part by the killer’s habit of stuffing rags or other objects down his victims’ throats. 

He received a death sentence in 1999.

According to court records, Bowles had a disturbing and chaotic childhood. His father died before he was born, and his mother remarried several times, twice to men who abused Bowles.

He took to drugs and drinking by age 11, and at 13 he nearly killed his second stepfather by smashing a rock into his head, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

A Washington Post profile, written in 1994 while police were desperately searching for the suspected serial killer, described Bowles as a “rugged, handsome and charming” young man who had left home as a teenager and turned to prostitution to survive.

He had a long arrest record, including for robbery, and spent a few years in prison in the 1980s after beating and raping a girlfriend – so viciously that one detective was quoted as saying, “I’ve seen better looking bodies in an autopsy”. 

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed the execution order earlier this summer.

Florida is one of 29 US states that still practice capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which advocates against the death penalty.

Inmates in that state are allowed to choose death by injection or by electrocution. A private citizen is paid $150 to serve as executioner, according to the state’s website.

© AFP 2019

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