Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Patrick W. Kearney: The Trash Bag Murderers

Horrific Details

The Trash Bag Murders investigation began officially on April 13, 1975, when the body of Albert Rivera, 21, of Los Angeles, was found near Highway 74, east of San Juan Capistrano, in a heavy-duty trash bag.

Map showing San Juan Capistrano
Map showing San Juan Capistrano

But according to Kearney, in a series of letters, confessions and conversations with the police, the killing began much earlier, in the mid-'60s in Tijuana and San Diego.

He led them to the site where he had buried one of his first victims, known only as George, behind his and Hill's Culver City apartment. The victim was killed around Christmas 1968. The police dug where Kearney indicated, and came up with a skeleton with a single bullet hole in its skull.

After killing George, a paranoid Kearney laid low for over a year. Nobody came knocking on his door, and he realized that he had actually gotten away with murder.

A neighbor said she occasionally heard what she thought were gunshots, but had no idea they came from the Kearney and Hill apartment.

After his arrest, Kearney wrote letters to the police, detailing the crimes, the names of the victims and the places the bodies could be found. An 18th count of murder was filed the same day that the 13th Hillside Strangler victim was found.

As to John LaMay? Hill wasn't home when his young lover came to the house, so Kearney invited him in to watch television. Without provocation, Kearney shot LaMay in the back of the head, and later dumped his remains in the desert. He liked using the desert. The desert animals and insects removed evidence quickly and efficiently. "Things disappear very rapidly in the desert," he told investigators. "You can put a small animal on an anthill and it disappears right in front of your eyes."


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