10 June 1988 – Arthur Gary Bishop

Arthur Gary BishopIt was porn that did it. That was the measly defence offered up to explain away Arthur Gary Bishop’s spate of child molestations and murders.

An addiction to child porn had allegedly fed his desire to kill, so said the Utah boy’s defence team. Indeed he was to write while in prison:
‘For me, seeing pornography was lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite…. My conscience was desensitized and my sexual appetite entirely controlled my actions.’

But this argument failed to draw in the jury, especially amid all the hard evidence.

Free to roam

Bishop is said to have made his first killing in 1979, but he’d already had a brush with the law after he siphoned off around £8,700 from a used-car lot. They saw fit to hand him a five-year suspended sentence, which set him loose on his killing spree just a year later.
In order to evade the law, he changed his name and kept moving and soon he was to home in undetected on his innocents.

Young targets

His first was just four years old. He assaulted Alonzo Daniels then viciously took a hammer to him when he started to cry, before submerging him in the bath. There are lurid details of how he stuffed the boy’s body in a box and carried it out to the car right past the boy’s mum, who was calling out to her lost son.

The following year, an 11-year-old boy by the name of Kim Peterson was the target and the year after that, a four-year-old again, called Danny Davis. In the latter disappearance the FBI was called in and a $20,000 reward was offered up. But Bishop remained unphased – he’d been busy embezzling to feed his killer addiction anyway, so he wasn’t desperate for money.

Laid low

But by this time Utah was crawling with police trying to find the abductor, so Bishop laid low for a couple of years until June 1983, when he could resist no longer. He snaffled six-year-old Troy Ward, followed by 13-year-old Graeme Cunningham, who was 13 a month later.

Bishop was operating under the assumed name of Roger Downs by this time and had caught the eye of the suspicious police. He was hauled in and slowly his facade crumbled and out came the truth. He was to take them to burial sites of the murdered boys.

No defence

According to the American Life League, he is said to have vowed that ‘If pornographic material would have been unavailable to me in my early stages, it is most probable that my sexual activities would not have escalated to the degree they did.’ Not that the defence did him much good. He was found guilty of his crimes and was given a deathly choice: firing squad or lethal injection.

He chose the toxic option, but Utah could have saved the money. Apparently there was a priced on his head anyway – £5,000 to be precise if someone bumped him off in jail. And when it transpired that his brother was also a paedophile rumours abounded that it would be £10,000 for the pair.

But these rumours came to nothing and Utah splashed the cash for an execution on this day in 1988, when Bishop was aged roughly 37 years old.

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