The Truck Stop Killer: Robert Ben Rhoades the brutal murderer and his torture truck
Authorities suspect that the Truck Stop Killer was responsible for the murder of over 50 women during his brutal killing spree.
It was April 1, 1990, when a state trooper from the Arizona Highway Patrol Division was out on a usual patrol when he noticed a tractor-trailer parked on the shoulder of the highway. When he approached the vehicle to offer the driver assistance he stumbled upon a scene you would expect from the darkest of horror movies.
Chained in the back of the truck was a naked young woman with her mouth gagged and a petrified expression on her face. The driver of the truck, Robert Ben Rhoades, explained to the state trooper that what he was witnessing was a consensual, private matter with the woman.
The state trooper didn't buy the story and quickly arrested Rhoades at the scene, whilst he was waiting for backup to arrive, he discovered an automatic pistol to be in Rhoades' possession.
At the time of arrest, Rhoades was only facing assault and kidnap charges, nobody knew that he was actually a brutal serial killer and one of the most dangerous sexual offenders that the US had ever known.
Robert Ben Rhoades, born November 22, 1945 in Council Bluffs, Iowa turned out to be one of the most sadistic sexual predators that the US had ever encountered.
In his early life, Rhoades got into trouble from a young age, he was arrested for tampering with a vehicle and for fighting in public before he enlisted in the Marines.
Not long after Rhoades joined the Marines, his father was arrested for molesting a 12-year-old girl, however, he committed suicide before his trial began.
Several years after his father's death, Rhoades found himself back in trouble with the police for his involvement in a robbery which led to him being dishonourably discharged from the Marines.
By the 1970s, Robert Ben Rhoades had established regular employment working as a truck driver. It was much later on that authorities discovered the horrific truth that while he was out on the road, the Truck Stop Killer raped, tortured and murdered as many as 50 women. Even taking photographs of some of his victims prior to brutally murdering them.
Rhoades's first confirmed murder took place in January of 1990, however, it is thought that his actual first murder happened a long time before this.
After his arrest in Arizona in April of 1990, Rhoades confessed to the murders of newly married couple, Douglas Zyskowski and Patricia Walsh. The newlyweds had left their home in Seattle in November of 1989 and were hitchhiking to Georgia, preaching the Christian gospel.
The Truck Stop Killer picked them up in Texas and immediately murdered Douglas Zyskowski, he held Patricia Walsh prisoner for just over a week before shooting her to death, during her time being held by Rhoades, he repeatedly raped and tortured her.
The police discovered the body of Douglas Zyskowski near interstate 10 east of Ozona, Texas in January, though taking until 1992 for identification. It took almost 13 years before the authorities identified the body of Patricia Walsh, her remains had been found by deer hunters close to the mouth of a canyon in Millard County, Utah, only able to be identifiable by dental records.
Shortly after the Truck Stop Killer had murdered the newlywed couple, he went on to rape and murder a 14-year-old girl from Pasadena, Texas, Regina Kay Walters.
Regina Kay Walters was hitchhiking with Ricky Jones, her boyfriend, when Rhoades picked them up in February of 1990.
Rhoades quickly killed Ricky Jones, whose remains were found later in Mississippi, but he held Regina Kay Walters hostage for several weeks in what has now been dubbed his "travelling torture chamber."
During the time he held her as a prisoner, he took various photos of her, these photos were found when authorities searched the home of Rhoades, the disturbing photos showed Regina with varying different hair lengths and various bruises, this gave the indication that he had kept her hostage for a substantial amount of time.
In an even more twisted part of the story, whilst Regina Kay Walters was being held captive, Rhoades would frequently call her father using payphones, on one of the calls he told Regina's father that he had cut her hair.
Rhoades tortured her using fishing hooks and a various assortment of other horrific instruments he kept in his truck, before killing her he took one final set of photos (pictured above). Authorities have confirmed that he killed her with a baling wire garrotte. He then proceeded to dump the body of Regina Kay Walters in a barn off of Interstate 70 in Illinois, where is was discovered in September.
By the time that the body of Regina Kay Walters was discovered, the Truck Stop Killer had already been in police custody for around five months. This was not the end of his stories of murder and torture.
In 1994, Robert Ben Rhoades, known as the Truck Stop Killer, was convicted of the murder of Regina Kay Walters and sentenced to life in prison, but it took a long time before authorities could get him for any other crimes.
Once Rhoades had started his prison sentence he began confessing to other murders that he claimed to have committed during his life on the road as a trucker.
It was 2012 before he had to face the consequences of the murders of Patricia Walsh and Douglas Zyskowski, more than 20 years after the murders were committed.
Following on from a years-long pre-trial, the Truck Stop Killer entered a guilty plea to both of the murders as part of a deal that was made with prosecutors to avoid receiving the death penalty, Rhoades received another life sentences.
Steve Smith, who was a District Attorney who worked on the case said, “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. The hairs on my arm stand up right now talking about it.”
Other authorities, police and prosecutors who worked on the Truck Stop Killer case over the years all said that they could sense Rhoades' evil whilst in his presence.
Although it has never been proven, authorities strongly suspect that Robert Ben Rhoades was responsible for the murder over dozens of women over the years.
Police and private investigators have cross-referenced his trucking logs with the records of young women who had been reported missing over a 15-year period when it is believed that Rhoades was an active killer, the results of these investigations have suggested that he was responsible for around 50 murders, as many as three women a month during his peak killing period.
Authorities described his truck as something from a horror movie, equipped with handcuffs on the ceiling to chain his victims whilst he tortured and raped them, they found chains, cords, whips and leashes as well as various sex toys, clips, pins and fishhooks that he is said to have used on the genitals of the women.
Without the confessions of Robert Ben Rhoades it is likely that we will never know the full extend to his crimes and the exact number of murders he actually committed.
More recently, in 2015, law enforcement agencies shared a photo of a young woman on Facebook that Rhoades had taken inside his truck in 1985. The photo was found on the same roll as the photos of Regina Kay Walters, authorities believed that the photo was that of another victim of the Truck Stop Killer and were trying to identify her.
A woman by the name of Pamela Milliken came forward and confirmed that in fact the woman seen the photo, taken by the Truck Stop Killer was her.
Pamela Milliken told authorities that she was hitchhiking whilst trying to find her brother in Winnipeg before finding herself in Robert Ben Rhoades's truck. He took a photo of her as soon as she climbed into his truck, when she questioned him as to why he was photographing her he told her that he kept photos of all his passengers so that he could show them to the police in case he was ever robbed by a hitchhiker.
“He told me he was going to Florida, and he wanted me to come with him,” Milliken said. “At one point, he pointed to a sign on his dashboard that said ‘CASH, GRASS or ASS — No one rides for free,” she recalled. “I didn’t have any money. I didn’t smoke pot, so I knew which one it would be.” They had what Milliken described as a consensual sexual encounter and he dropped her off at a bus depot in Winnipeg.
Robert Ben Rhoades, now 75, is currently serving his two life sentences without the possibility of parole at the Menard Correctional Centre in Chester, Illinois.
Families of missing women from around the Truck Stop Killer's killing spree are still hopeful that whilst Robert Ben Rhoades still lives that they may one day get further confessions and some closure on what happened to their missing relatives.
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