As a truck driver on the road, Robert Ben Rhoades tortured, raped, and killed at least 50 women.
Robert Ben Rhoades was a truck driver and a serial killer.
On April 1, 1990, a highway patrol in Arizona spotted a tractor-trailer on the shoulder of the highway. He approached the vehicle to see if the driver needed any assistance. What he stumbled upon was a site out of a horror movie.
A young girl was tied up inside. She was chained to the truck, her mouth was gagged, and she wore a terrified look on her face. Robert Ben Rhoades, the driver, tried to explain that it was a private, consensual matter.
The patrol officer placed Rhoades under arrest. While waiting for backup, he discovered a .25 caliber automatic pistol in Rhoades’ possession.
After the Arizona state trooper found the chained up woman, Rhoades was charged with kidnapping and assault. Robert Ben Rhoades, as it turned out, was one of the most dangerous sex offenders and serial killers in the United States.
He was a truck driver and investigations following his arrest found that he had likely tortured, raped, and killed at least 50 women while on the road. However, it’s possible the number could be in the hundreds.
Even more disturbing than that, Rhoades was known for taking pictures of his victims right before he murdered them.
Rhoades’ first confirmed murders happened in January of 1990. But it’s presumed his first actual murder happened long before. The 1990 murders he confessed to were of newlyweds Candace Walsh and her husband, Douglas Zyskowski. The couple had left Seattle in November of 1989 and were hitchhiking to Georgia. Rhoades picked them up in Texas.
The crime that solidified a life sentence for Rhoades was the rape and murder of Regina Walters. She was 14 years old and from Pasadena, Texas. Walters was hitchhiking with her boyfriend, Ricky Jones, when Rhoades picked them up in February of 1990.
Rhoades promptly killed Jones (his remains were later found in Mississipi), but he kept Walters hostage for two weeks in what’s been called a “traveling torture chamber.”
He pierced her with fishing hooks and dressed her in black. Then he took her picture right before he killed her with a garrote made of baling wire. Afterward, he threw her body into a barn off of Interstate 70 in Illinois.
Walters remained Rhoades’ sole murder conviction. However, since his initial incarceration, he’s confessed to more murders that he’s committed over the years, including those of Walsh and Zyskowski which he didn’t admit to until over 20 years after the murders.
It was ultimately his truck logs that did him in. They placed him in the area of 50 unsolved murders. Investigators were able to trace him via his truck stop routes in conjunction with women who had been reported missing over a 15-year time span.
It’s estimated that at his peak, Robert Ben Rhoades was killing one to three women a month.
The truck logs were useful in placing Rhoades’ in areas where many women were reported missing. Though, at the same time, the amount that he traveled made it difficult to pin down just how many rapes and murders he committed.
Robert Ben Rhoades’ confession to the murders of Walsh and Zyskowski added a second life sentence to the one he already had. It was part of a plea deal in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty.
Steve Smith was the first assistant for the 112th District Attorney’s office in Texas who worked on Rhoades’ case. Smith said of the sentence, “The defendant essentially agreed to stack the life sentences in Illinois, which means he’ll never get out.”
Smith was also able to see what couldn’t be seen from outside the truck: a dungeon-like compartment between the seats as well as handcuffs on the ceiling so that victims could be chained and tortured.
Of the trial, Smith told reporters, “I’ve been a prosecutor since 1979 and it was one of the rare occasions when I was in the court where the defendant walked in and you felt the evil.” He added, “The hairs on my arm stand up right now talking about it.”