The 1970’s; considered to be one of the most dangerous time periods in America. From serial killers to corrupt cops, it seemed like everywhere you turned you were surrounded with the echoes of violence.
The thought is especially frightening when you realize that there were serial killers and rapists roaming the highways, traveling without worry through the day and into the night.
There are still creeps like Ted Bundy or psychos like Ed Kemper waiting to drive by somebody hitchhiking to choose as their next victim. Somebody like Regina Kay Walters.
Truck Stop Killer’s Early Life
Robert Ben Rhoades was born November 22nd, 1945 in Council Bluffs, Iowa to what sounds to be an average family life for the time. Rhoades was raised by his mother, while his father was stationed in Germany during World War II.
Growing up, Robert’s life wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. He participated in sports, had a regular social life, and didn’t display any unusual behavior during his childhood.
However, in his teenage years, he did have a few notable arrests due to theft and getting into physical altercations.
Robert Rhoades, A Marine
After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High in 1964, Rhoades joined the marine corps. During this same time period, Rhoades’s father was arrested for the molestation of a 12 year old child.
Whether or not Robert was subject to this type of behavior from his father seems to draw a blank amongst sources, however, this does lead to the thought that maybe his childhood was not as normal as documentation states.
While awaiting a trial for his sentencing, Rhoades’s father committed suicide. Between 1967 and 1968 Robert was arrested again and dishonorably discharged from the Marine corps for his involvement in a robbery.
From the late ’60s to the early ’70s Rhoades attempted to attend college but dropped out, tried to seek a career in law enforcement but was unable due to his criminal history. The picking up and quickly letting go of career paths and odd jobs was a regular pattern in Robert Ben Rhoades’s life in his early adulthood.
A Suitable Career Choice
Between the ’70s and early ’80s, Rhoades married three times and had a son whom he conceived with his first wife. The violence in the home began with his third wife which sources indicate he was physically, verbally, and sexually abusive with.
During this time period, Robert continued to find work in random jobs from grocery stores to restaurant work. That was until he found a job that he enjoyed doing, long-haul trucking.
Robert Rhoades Begins Trucking
Having involvement in the BDSM scene may have allowed Rhoades to feel more comfortable with picking up hitchhikers and sex workers who were unfortunately some of his first victims.
Rhoades was a sexual sadist and would torture his victims and gain sexual pleasure from it. Along his routes, he would stop at truck stops and pick up “night workers” or people hitchhiking along the road in the middle of the night.
His first confirmed victims on record were a hitchhiking couple, Patricia Candace Walsh and Douglas Zyskowski. During a truck route, he picked up the couple, immediately killing Zyskowski and dumping his body in a ditch.
He kept Walsh for a week, torturing and raping her along the way until he killed her and dumped her body in Millard County, Utah.
Rhoades Picks Up Walters
About a month after dumping the body of Patricia Candace Walsh, Rhoades picked up another victim; an 18 year old woman that was able to escape. However, in the fear of disbelief and likely degradation she declined to press charges after Rhoades was detained.
It is likely that the motivation to decline pressing charges was due to the sheer terror of being captive by Rhoades in his sleeper cab that he had converted into a rape and torture chamber that he’d subject his victims.
Just a few days later young runaways 14-year-old Regina Kay Walters and her 18-year-old boyfriend Ricky Lee Jones were reported missing in February of 1990. It’s evident that Robert had picked them up somewhere outside their hometown of Pasadena, TX, while they were hitchhiking.
Knowing Rhoades M.O. It’s likely he quickly killed Ricky and disposed of the body shortly after picking the young couple up.
Regina Kay Walters Murder
It’s evident that Rhoades held Walters captive for an extended period of time in comparison to the rest of his victims. Whilst he held the 14-year-old girl captive he would periodically have her call her father from payphones just to psychologically torture him, making it extremely clear that he is a sadistic individual.
During the time that Walters was captive to Rhoades, he tortured her in a myriad of ways. He took her to an abandoned and dilapidated farmhouse in Illinois and forcefully shaved her pubic hair and pierced her genitals with a fishhook.
Taking the torture to a psychological level he forced her to wear a black dress and high heels while he snapped photos of her just before killing her.
Robert Ben Rhoades murdered Regina Kay Walters by strangling her with a wire and ditched her body in the abandoned building, leaving her corpse to rot until it was discovered later that year.
The Truck Stop Killer Arrested
On April 1st, 1990 Robert was pulled over on the I-90 with his hazards on when a state trooper stopped to do a safety check.
Upon approaching the vehicle the officer heard a woman scream and immediately searched the vehicle discovering a screaming naked woman (later identified as Kathleen Vine) who had been handcuffed kidnapped.
After a failed attempt at talking his way out of the situation, Rhoades turned over a firearm he was carrying, a .25 caliber pistol, and was placed under arrest for aggravated assault, unlawful imprisonment, and sexual assault.
While searching Rhoades vehicle the authorities discovered what appeared to be a “torture kit” including fishhooks, dildos, whips, leashes, cutlery, and chains.
During the course of the investigation the arresting detective, Rick Barnhart, was able to make a connection to the Pasadena, Houston case along with a string of similar events over the length of five months.
After obtaining a search warrant, law enforcement searched Rhoades’s home. During their investigation, they discovered a photograph of a nude 14-year-old girl, later identified as Regina Kay Walters alongside a photograph of a woman who was later identified as Patricia Candace Walsh.
The body of Walters wasn’t discovered until September of 1990. Seven months after she was reported missing. Walsh’s body wasn’t discovered until October of the same year. Lastly, the remains of Ricky Lee Jones were not discovered until March third of the following year in Lamar County Mississippi.
Roberts Pleads Guilty
In 1994 Robert Ben Rhoades was charged with the first degree murder of Regina Kay Walters and was sentenced to life without parole in Menard Correctional Center in Chester Illinois.
In 2005 he was extradited to Utah to be tried for the murders of Walsh and Zyskowski but the charges were later dropped due to what sources suspect as concern from the families and wanting to move on from the situation after such a long period of time.
Later on, Rhoades was extradited to Texas to stand trial for the murders of Regina Kay Walters and Ricky Lee Jones. After a year long trial, Rhoades plead guilty to murdering Walters and Jones in exchange for an additional life sentence to drop the death penalty.
Over 50 Murders
After Rhoades was convicted, law enforcement crossed reference his case amongst several other cases that spanned a fifteen year period during the time that he was active in his crimes. This suggests that he is responsible for over 50 murders indicating that he was kidnapping and disposing of 2-3 victims per month.
Although Rhoades never confessed to any additional murders, it’s quite evident that the ones he did confess to weren’t the only ones that he’d committed.
The torture scene discovered in the cab of his truck indicated that he’d done this several times over and over, was always prepared and knew exactly what he was doing and what he enjoyed about the things he did.
A Survivor Identified
In 2015 several authorities shared a photo on Facebook of a young woman in the cab of what appeared to be Rhoades truck in 1985.
Law enforcement shared this photo as an attempt to locate the woman as the picture was found on the same roll of photographs that the photos of Regina Walters were located on.
The police were looking to identify the woman and lucked out when a woman from Saskatchewan, Canada, named Pamela Milliken identified the woman. It was her. She was the mystery woman.
Escaping The Truck Stop Killer
Milliken told authorities that she recalled hitchhiking to Winnipeg to go and locate her brother. During her journey, Pamela was picked up by Rhoades in his truck.
Upon entering his cab he snapped a photo of her. Responding how anybody would, she asked “why?” To which he replied he does it to “show the photos to cops in case he gets robbed and the passenger gets away.” This is definitely a fair enough reason, while still creepy nonetheless.
Milliken stated that she was poor and Rhoades pointed at the ever popular sticker that he had on his dashboard that read “GAS, GRASS OR ASS”.
Milliken stated to authorities that she didn’t have any pot and she had no money so she knew what she was going to have to do. She then explained that her and Rhoades had a “consensual” sexual encounter and he shortly dropped her off at a bus stop in Winnipeg.
Where Is Robert Rhoades Today?
Rhoades is still serving his two life sentences in Illinois and hasn’t made any other confessions to any of the other murders that occurred during the time that he was active.
The notorious Truck Stop Killer is behind bars, however, many people still go missing on the road. Small trucking companies that run long haul could still potentially be a mysterious enough position for somebody looking to commit the same heinous crimes that were committed by Robert Ben Rhoades over a 15 year period.
I always say as a general rule of thumb to never pick up hitchhikers, and definitely never hitchhike. You never know who’s getting into your car or who’s vehicle you’re getting into. I mean, hitchhiking is always a recurring thing you hear about when it comes to true crime and serial killers.
Maybe some more survivors of the Truck Stop Killer will come forward and tell their story of survival of this sadist.