Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Bonnie Garland

Murder

Over the weekend of July 2, 1977, Herrin made plans to go to New York to visit Bonnie who would be arriving home that Saturday. Without her knowledge, Herrin arrived in Scarsdale the following morning and telephoned the house. "The purpose of my visit was to meet and straighten out our relationship, which was temporarily on the rocks," he said later (Herrin). Mrs. Garland told him that Bonnie had brought home a new boyfriend. Though he was angry, he tried not to show his feelings. He made arrangements to stay with a friend in Long Island for a few days.

When he finally met with Bonnie on Wednesday, July 6th, they embraced and began to talk about the future.  "I wanted to see her face to face to hear in her own words what she had told me in her letter," he later said (Herrin). Bonnie wanted to see other men, she told him, but still loved him. Herrin couldn't believe her attitude. "She hoped I would still want to see her," Herrin said during a later interview, "but I had to realize that there would be other men in her life now. She was very adamant about it. I tried to talk her out of it" (Gaylin). He felt betrayed and humiliated. He had devoted his whole life to Bonnie and their future. Everything he had ever hoped for in his life, it always included her. After their discussion, he came back to her Scarsdale home and Bonnie graciously agreed to let him stay over. That night, according to Herrin's testimony, they made love in her room and it seemed just as passionate and sincere as it had ever been. For the first time in months, Herrin emerged out of the pit of despair.

The next day, however, they continued to discuss their relationship. Bonnie again told Richard that she would still see him occasionally, but she had to be free to see and sleep with other men. Again, Herrin felt as if he had lost her. By nightfall, they had relaxed and were friendly towards one another. Then they went to her room where Bonnie stripped off her clothes and flopped into bed. Richard decided to read for a while and soon, Bonnie fell asleep.

But Herrin was furious. Bonnie had hurt him like no other woman ever did. She had taken his love and trivialized it by having sex with other men. And worse, she wanted him to share her with any future boyfriends. He stared at her while she slept. "Knowing that I couldn't have her exclusively," he later told the police, "knowing that I didn't want to share her and knowing that I didn't want to live without her, I entertained the thought of killing her in her sleep" (Herrin). He began to look around the room for something to use to hurt her. He considered strangling her with a pair of nylons but was afraid it would be too noisy.

He walked outside into the darkened hallway. "I went downstairs to a kitchen closet," he said later, "took a hammer from the closet wrapped it in a yellow towel and left it outside her room in the hall" (Herrin). He returned to the room to check on Bonnie to be sure she was asleep. Then he retrieved the hammer and held it in his right hand. He checked again to see that she was still sleeping. Without hesitation, he raised the hammer high and with all his might brought the tool down upon Bonnie's skull with terrifying force. Blood splattered on the ceiling of the room. "I did notice blood start to come out of her ear," he said later. "Her body jerked. Her eyes...her eyes rolled back and she was making a little noise, a guttural noise." In a second, he smashed the hammer again into her head. "The next blow did break the skull and all the blows after that all penetrated into the same area-the temple area" (Gaylin 96). On at least one occasion, the hammer became trapped in the wound. "I might have had trouble pulling it straight out," he said later, "I had to jiggle it to get it back out...I felt I was covered in blood!" (96). But still Bonnie was making noises. Herrin became concerned that she would wake her parents. He dropped the hammer, grabbed her throat and attempted to strangle her with his bare hands. "I struck her on the head at least three times," he later confessed, "I may have struck her in the chest, may have tried strangling but I was too weak" (Herrin).

Then, in a state of panic and sure that her parents heard the commotion, he ran from the room. He found a set of keys and stole one of the Garland family cars. "I grabbed the car keys," he said "left the house through the rear entrance and got in the car" (Herrin). But Bonnie's parents never awoke; they had slept through the entire event. Herrin quickly drove away into the darkness. Though Bonnie had suffered catastrophic injuries, she was still alive. It was a little past two in the morning.

 

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