Robert Rhoades, also known as the Truck Stop Killer, was a man who used his job as a truck driver to commit a series of rapes and murders between the 1970’s and 1990’s.
Robert Benjamin Rhoades was born on November 22nd, 1945, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. His father worked in the military and was stationed in West Germany, so he was mostly raised by just his mother, Fay Rhoades.
His father, Ben Rhoades, was discharged from the military after serving in World War II, and found a job as a firefighter. By all accounts, life was normal for the Rhoades family. Robert Rhoades was involved in extracurricular activities in school, and was involved in several different sports activities including wrestling and gridiron football. He also participated in the school choir and the French Club.
Rhoades began his criminal activity in high school, getting arrested for tampering with a vehicle in 1961 (aged 16), and again for public fighting in 1962 (aged 17).
He joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1964, and later that same year, his father was arrested for molesting a 12 year old girl. His father committed suicide while he was awaiting trial.
Robert received a dishonorable discharge for his involvement in a robbery in either 1967 or 1968. Soon after, he enrolled in college but soon dropped out. He also applied for a position within law enforcement, but was rejected because of his dishonorable discharge from the Marines.
Rhoades worked several odd jobs in places such as supermarkets, restaurants and warehouses. He soon settled on becoming a long haul trucker.
Rhoades was married three times throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, and fathered a son with his first wife. He developed different interests during the 1980’s, and soon joined the BDSM scene. Rhoades soon referred to himself as “Whips and Chains” based on his BDSM activities. He was also allegedly abusive both sexually and physically to his third wife.
Rapes and Murders
Robert Rhoades started preying on hitchhikers and truck-stop workers in the 1970’s, using his job as a truck-driver. His first known victims were Patricia Candace Walsh and her husband Douglas Zyskowski. The couple were hitchhiking from Seattle to Georgia in January 1990 when Rhoades picked them up in Texas, and offered to give them a ride in his long haul truck.
Zyskowski was shot and killed almost immediately, and Rhoades dumped his body in Sutton County, Texas. Sadly, Zyskowski was not identified until 1992. Walsh was held captive for over a week. She was tortured and raped extensively by Rhoades before he shot her to death and dumped her body in Millard County, Utah. Her body was discovered a few months later by deer hunters, but she was not identified until 2003.
Rhoades picked up an 18 year old drifter, who managed to escape and reported her assault to the police. The victim refused to press charges after Rhoades was detained, stating that she felt no one would believe her despite the extensive evidence presented to police. It was revealed later that she was afraid of Rhoades after being held captive in his truck for two weeks.
In February 1990, Rhoades picked up a 14 year old named Regina Kay Walters and her boyfriend Ricky Lee Jones, who were both runaways from Pasadena, Texas. Jones was soon killed and disposed of in Lamar County, Mississippi, but Walters was kept alive for a while. Rhoades then chopped off most of her hair.
Walters was dressed in a black dress and heels, and pierced with fishing hooks, and Rhoades then took pictures of her with terror plastered on her face. She was killed soon afterwards by being strangled with baling wire, and dumped in a barn off the Interstate 70 in Illinois.
Pictured: Walters moments before she was killed by Rhoades.
Walters’ body was discovered in September 1990, and Jones’ body was found on March 3rd, 1991.
On the morning of April 1st, 1990, an officer from the Arizona Highway Patrol named Mike Miller saw a truck parked on the side of I-10 with its hazard lights on. He stopped to investigate and in the cab of the truck, there was a nude woman who was handcuffed and screaming for help. Rhoades tried to explain away the officer’s observation, stating that is was all consensual.
Officer Miller, already skeptical of the calm truck driver, placed him under arrest and called for backup. He moved away from his police cruiser to reassure the victim, and as he walked back to check on Rhoades, he found he had already maneuvered his handcuffed hands to the front of him and was getting ready to escape. The officer searched Rhoades and found a .25 caliber pistol on his person.
Rhoades was arrested and charged with sexual assault, aggravated assault and unlawful imprisonment.
After investigating Rhoades further, a connection to a case in Houston was made and police began to make the connection to Rhoades and a series of unsolved murders and rapes. It is likely that he raped and murder at least 50 women. Rhoades home was searched, and photos of Walters and Walsh were found.
In 1994, Robert Rhoades was convicted of murder in the first degree of Regina Kay Walters and was sentenced to life without parole at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois. He was set to be tried in Utah in 2005 for the murders of Patricia Walsh and Douglas Zyskowski, but the families requested the charges be dropped, and he was returned to prison in 2006.
Rhoades was later extradited to Texas for the murder of Walters and Jones where he pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty. He received a second life sentence. To this day, he is still serving time in the Menard Correctional Center.