Patrick Wayne Kearney, a.k.a. "The Trash Bag Killer", is a prolific American necrophiliac serial killer and one of the three killers who were believed to be a single serial killer, "The Freeway Killer".


Born in East Los Angeles, California, Kearney was the oldest of three sons and raised in a stable family. However, because of his appearance, he was a victim of bullying at a young age. As a teenager, Kearney started to fantasize about killing people. He lived in Texas for a short time and eventually moved back to California, where he worked as an engineer for the Hughes Aircraft Company. In his personal life, Kearney was a skilled gay pickup artist and fluent in Spanish, attributes that would later help him during his murders. After moving to Redondo Beach, he met with a man named David Hill and they eventually became lovers. Kearney would go out for long solitary drives after having arguments with Hill. During these drives, he would pick up male hitchhikers or homosexual men from gay bars.

Kearney's first known murder victim was an unidentified 19-year-old man in 1962; he took him to a secluded area on his motorcycle and shot him in the head before engaging in acts of necrophilia with the man's corpse. He proceeded to kill many more victims in the next several years. The investigation dubbed him not only "The Trash Bag Killer", but also "The Freeway Killer", a name shared by two other killers, William Bonin and Randy Kraft (see below). Days later, the remains of a victim murdered by Kearney were found and police discovered that he was last seen with Kearney and Hill. Both fled to El Paso, Texas, but were arrested after their families convinced them to turn themselves in. Hill was released after it was deduced that he had no involvement in the murders. Kearney confessed to 38 murders, but was charged with 21 counts of murders. Police believe that he may be responsible for even more murders. Kearney pleaded guilty and subsequently avoided a death sentence. He is now incarcerated at California State Prison.

Modus Operandi

Kearney would mainly pick up male hitchhikers or homosexual men from gay bars and shoot them, usually in the temple, above the ear, with a .22-caliber derringer. Most of the victims were killed while asleep or distracted. After murdering them, he would take the bodies to a secluded place and engage in acts of necrophilia, then take them home, where they would be sodomized with X-Acto knives. They were then mutilated and dismembered with hacksaws. As a forensic contermeasure, he would sometimes extract the bullets from their heads and then dispose of the bodies in canyons, landfills, and along the freeways, usually in trash bags, earning him his current nickname.

Alternatively, Kearney would take the bodies to the desert to be eaten by animals. He would also drain his victims' blood to eliminate odors and sometimes even bathe the dismembered body parts to minimize the blood and eliminate fingerprint evidence. Kearney would sometimes beat his victims' bodies to get a sensation of power over them and also to suppress his anger. Additionally, some of his victims resembled bullies from his childhood and adolescence. With his younger victims, Kearney smothered them and then dismembered their bodies, just like he did with his older victims.

Known Victims

  • 1962, Indio, Los Angeles, California, U.S.:
    • Spring: Unnamed man, 19 (shot in the head)
    • Unspecified date: Unnamed man, 16 (a cousin of the previous victim)
    • Unspecified date: Mike, 18 (surname unrevealed)
  • Unspecified date in 1965, Orange County, California, U.S.: Unnamed man
  • December 1967, Tijuana, Mexico: George (surname unrevealed; shot in the head as he slept and the bullet extracted; sodomized, dismembered, and flayed post-mortem)
  • June 21, 1971, Los Angeles, California, U.S.: John Demchik, 13
  • September 22, 1973, unspecified location in California, U.S.: James Barwick, 17
  • August 24, 1974, Los Angeles, California, U.S.: Ronald Dean Smith, Jr., 5 (smothered; his body was found on October 12)
  • 1975:
    • April 13, San Diego, California, U.S.: Albert Rivera, 21
    • November 10, Los Angeles, California, U.S.: Larry Gene Walters, 20
  • 1976:
    • March 3, Redondo Beach, California, U.S.: Kenneth Eugene Buchanan, 17 (shot four times)
    • March 21, Redondo Beach, California, U.S.: Oliver Peter Molitor, 13 (killed by unknown causes)
    • April 19, unspecified location in California, U.S.: Larry Armedariz, 15
    • June 16, Redondo Beach, California, U.S.: Michael Craig McGhee, 13
    • June 20, Los Angeles, California, U.S.: John Woods, 23
    • August 23, Los Angeles, California, U.S.: Larry Epsy, 17
    • August 28, unspecified location in California, U.S.: Wilfred Lawrence Faherty, 20
    • August, San Diego, California, U.S.: Randall Lawrence Moore
    • Fall:
      • Los Angeles, California, U.S.: Robert Benniefiel, 17 (his body was never found)
      • San Diego, California, U.S. David Allen, 27
    • October, Orange County, California, U.S.: Mark Andrew Orach, 20
    • November 15-24, Indio, California, U.S.: Timothy B. Ingham, 19
  • 1977:
    • January 23, Los Angeles, California, U.S. (found): Nicholas "Nicky" Hernandez-Jimenez, 28
    • February, Los Angeles, California, U.S.: Arturo Romos Marquez, 24
    • March 13, Los Angeles, California, U.S.: John Otis LaMay, 17 (shot in the back of the head and dismembered post-mortem)
    • April 6, Redondo Beach, California, U.S.: Merle Chance, 8 (smothered with a sweater; his body was discovered on May 26)
  • Unspecified date and location: Tony Stewart, 19 (attempted)

Other Freeway Killers

William Bonin

William Bonin.

Randy Kraft

Randy Kraft.

Kearney was one of the three "Freeway Killers" active in Calfornia in the 1970s. The other two were:

  • William Bonin (January 8, 1947 - February 23, 1996):
    • Killed 21-36+ victims
    • Targeted boys in their early- to late-teens
    • Raped and tortured his victims
    • Killed his victims to silence them, by strangulation with their own T-shirts, stabbing, or battering
    • Assisted by several acquaintances during the murders
    • Started molesting and sexually assaulted boys in his teenage years
    • Arrested for molesting a 17-year-old boy during the killings, but was erroneously released
    • Suspected after a would-be victim who was released confided in a counselor
    • Arrested again on June 11 while sexually assaulting a boy known as "Harold T."
    • Found guilty and executed by lethal injection
    • For full article, see here
  • Randy Kraft (b. March 19, 1945):
    • Also nicknamed "The Score-Card Killer"
    • Killed 17-67 victims
    • Targeted males in their late teens to mid-20s
    • Usually strangled them to death or killed them with a combination of torture and drugs
    • Sometimes also stuffed an object into the victims' rectums
    • Took photos of his victims after killing them and kept a record of them
    • Arrested after being pulled over for drunken driving and the body of a victim being found in the trunk of his car
    • Charged and briefly sentenced to death, but the sentence was downgraded to a life sentence
    • For full article, see here

On Criminal Minds

Also, while Kearney wasn't mentioned in Season Two episode The Last Word, the fact that he was active at the same time as Randy Kraft and William Bonin seems to be one of the many inspirations for the episode's prominent unsubs, The Mill Creek Killer and The Hollow Man.

In the Season Eight episode Broken, the scenario of Paul Westin and Mitchell Ruiz fleeing after Mitchell found out about Paul's murders is very similar to how Kearney and Hill fled to El Paso after police found the remains of a victim.

Kearney may have inspired a significant part of spree killer Mark Tolson, the unsub of the Season Twelve episode A Good Husband. Like Kearney, Mark was a homosexual killer who targeted men, was active in California, and had a longstanding relationship with another man (though Mark's husband left him prior to his killings; whereas Kearney's lover, David Hill, was still with him when he committed his murders). Mark also found his victims in bars, killed his victims in his vehicle, and dismembered their bodies (though Kearney did it ante-mortem, while Mark did it as a torture method with his last three victims).