Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Patrick W. Kearney: The Trash Bag Murderers

The Plea, the Sentence

Against the advice of his attorney, Patrick Kearney changed his not-guilty plea to a plea of guilty. His attorney advised him to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but Kearney pleaded guilty to the original three charges of murder, and asked to be sentenced immediately in an apparent move to avoid California's death penalty. His actions were moot; the death penalty law didn't go into effect until August 1977. All of Kearney's homicides predated that time, so the death penalty was never an option for prosecutors.

Superior Judge John Hews handed down a life term with the possibility of parole in seven years.

Judge Breckenridge said, "This defendant has certainly perpetrated a series of ghastly and grisly crimes. I can only hope the community release board will never release Mr. Kearney. He appears to be an insult to humanity."

For what seems to be approximately thirty-two murders, Kearney was eventually charged with 21 counts of murder and received 21 life sentences.

If all of his confessions are truthful, he also murdered two children, ages 5 and 8, along with four victims whose bodies were never recovered. At least seven of his victims remain unidentified.


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