Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

ARTHUR GARY BISHOP

Eagle Scout

Utah map with Hinckley locator (AP)
Utah map with Hinckley locator (AP)

Hinckley, Utah, is a tiny desert town with less than 700 residents. It lies 100 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, in bone-dry Millard County, where tourists are scarce and locals scratch their living from the sun-baked soil. The landscape breeds hard men and women, scorpions and rattlesnakes.

In 1951, without warning, it gave birth to a monster.

Long after the fact, defense attorneys would describe Arthur Gary Bishop as "a lonely, frightened child," but nothing in the public record validates that claim. In fact, he seemed to be a model son, and even in extremis never raised the specter of abuse. Reared by devout Mormon parents in the ways of their faith, Bishop was an honor student and a proud Eagle Scout. An anonymous high school classmate of Bishop's, posting decades later to a Mormon website at www.xmission.com, recalled that Bishop was "a geek, rarely if ever finding someone who would accept the rare offer of a date." His election to serve as business manager for the student council was no indication of popularity, this classmate recalled, "a tradition that went on...to vote a nerd to student council, as a joke to humble the social elite during the coming year."

Such jibes aside, younger brother Douglas Bishop, born in 1956, appeared to idolize his only sibling. Nearly three decades would pass before a stunned community learned how much the Bishop brothers really had in common, and even then no probing questions would be asked.

In 1969, after graduation from high school, Gary followed the tenets of his church by serving as a teenage missionary in the Philippines. With that service completed, he came home and enrolled at Stevens-Henager Collegea Utah business school that promises its students "fast-track, career specific education"and completed the school's accounting course with top-notch grades. His diploma pronounced Bishop ready to make his way in the world.

But the world was not ready for him.

There was a darker side to Gary Bishop, slowly revealed by degrees, that would never be guessed from his transcripts, early work experience, or conversations with his family and friends. The perfect son would later say he was addicted to pornography, and more specifically to "kiddy" porn. Where most viewers would have been revolted, Bishop was enthralled. He nurtured fantasies, elaborating on them over time, until the fantasies alone were not enough.

Mug shot of Arthur Gary Bishop
Mug shot of Arthur
Gary Bishop

No one can say with any certainty when Gary Bishop crossed the line from morbid daydreams into active pedophilia. Years later, scores of Utah parents would complain of Bishop molesting their children, but none came forward at the timenot even as fantasies degenerated into murder. They were silent, some perhaps warning their children to avoid the stranger's company, none reaching out to the police while it might still have done some good.

Bishop's first brush with the law had nothing to do with children or sex. In February 1978 he was accused of embezzling $8,714 from a used-car dealership where he had worked as a bookkeeper since July 1977. His friends and family were stunned, but Bishop seemed prepared to take his medicine. He pled guilty as charged, receiving a five-year suspended jail sentence in return for a promise of full restitution. His repentance seemed sincere.

Until he dropped out of sight.

Gary Bishop was on the lam, an unlikely fugitive who would spend the next five years living under pseudonyms, finding work where he could, stealing money when it suited him. The arrest warrant issued for his probation violation would never be served.

The next time Bishop went to jail, it would be for murder, and he would be Utah's most notorious killer of the twentieth century.

 

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