Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Bonnie Garland

Bonnie and Richard

Yale University, Old Campus
Yale University, Old Campus

In November 1974, while Bonnie was out with friends at Yale, she met Richard Herrin, who was then a senior. There was an instantaneous attraction between them.  "They started singing with us," one friend later said, "Bonnie and Rich started getting closer and singing in unison and it was like sparks flying through the night...after that, Bonnie and Richard was one word" (Gaylin 38). The new couple were seen everywhere together. They went to the movies, attended parties, ate meals and studied together. Richard could play the guitar, which appealed to Bonnie's musical instincts. She would sing while he played back up. Bonnie continued with her interest in music by joining the famous Yale Glee Club and singing with a local band called Plum of the Pudding.

Almost from the beginning, the couple maintained a sexual relationship that for Richard, who was shy with women, was a new and sometimes frightening development. "The way she kissed me I felt like this was a very experienced woman," he later said. "Very sexual and stimulating kiss, the way she kissed, and I started to feel a little panicky, like what if she wants to make love. I don't know anything about making love" (Gaylin 38). To his surprise, Bonnie moved into Richard's room the following spring and lived with him on and off for the balance of the semester.

Garland & Herrin in happier times
Garland & Herrin in happier times

But soon, Bonnie's grades suffered. Some days, she would cut class or simply ignore her course schedule. For Richard, it didn't matter because he could hardly do any worse.  Bonnie's first semester was good; she had received two "A" grades and one "B". After she had met Richard Herrin, her grades deteriorated. When she took Richard home to meet her parents during the spring break of 1975, the results were disastrous.

Paul Garland described him as, "slovenly in appearance, slovenly in manners, difficult to talk to and physically unattractive" (Kornbluth 86). He was the exact opposite of what a "Yalie" should be, according to Paul Garland, who was proud of his own affiliation with the university. Herrin did not volunteer that he spoke Spanish nor did he share any of his future plans about Bonnie with her family. He withdrew into himself which caused the Garlands to later remark that he was, "a giant sponge" (86). Richard remembered the meeting differently. "It was really hard for me to talk to Mr. Garland," he later said. "He didn't seem the least bit interested in anything I had to say...I got no response whatsoever. I was trying to initiate a conversation, something that was a positive indication that I was doing something good" (Meyer 82).

Texas Christian University logo
Texas Christian University
logo

When Herrin was accepted to Texas Christian University (TCU), where he hoped to earn his master's degree. Bonnie decided to join him. Without telling her family, she moved to Texas for several months and lived with Richard while he attended classes. She later traveled to Los Angeles to meet his family and stayed with them for several weeks. Richard's mother, Linda Ugarte, immediately took a liking to the outgoing and vivacious Bonnie. "When she was finally ready to go," Mrs. Ugarte later said in court, "she was crying all the time she was packing. She really didn't want to leave...she came up to me with tears in her eyes, kissing me on the cheek" (Meyer 111).   

Bonnie had already decided to go back to Yale and try to continue her education while Richard returned to TCU in Texas. Their relationship wavered back and forth for months. Some days, Bonnie wanted to stay with Richard and other days she wanted to end it. Her parents were adamant about their disapproval of Richard Herrin and repeated their desire for her to break off the romance permanently. But Bonnie resisted, torn between their wishes and her own indecision.

 

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