Wayne Adam Ford was a former long-haul truck driver who murdered four women from 1997 to 1998. When he turned himself into the Humboldt County Sheriff Department in Eureka, California, he had a woman's breast in a bag in his coat pocket. He was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder on June 27th, 2006 and was sentenced to death in August of 2006.
There is no question who did it in this case, it was Wayne Adam Ford. He admitted his guilt and provided evidence that you couldn’t dispute. There were problems from the beginning due to the issue of legal jurisdiction. Wayne had shown up at the police station in Humboldt County, California, on the evening of November 3rd, 1998 and he was charged with one count of murder in that county, but he also confessed to committing similar crimes in three other counties. He specifically chose to turn himself in, in an area where prosecutors had rarely imposed the death penalty, yet his case ended up more than 740 miles south in San Bernardino (Bern-a-deeno) County.
When Wayne initially confessed in Humboldt County, the authorities had agreed not to seek the death penalty if he confessed the whole story and provided all details to every homicide he had ever committed and he agreed. He was transferred to San Bernardino County where the death penalty was quite common and it was being pushed for in this case. This venue change was very unexpected and it was due to a law that came into force in California just two months after Wayne turned himself in. Authored by a California State Senator, Richard Rainey, a Republican from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay area, the new law gave prosecutors the right to consolidate murders committed in one or more counties into a single trial in one county, provided that the murders could be shown to have been “connected together in their commission.”
This was basically a serial killer law, but it had never been used before, so it was up to the courts to interpret. Even though Wayne’s crimes took place well before the effective date of the legislation, which was January 1st of 1999, his case became the test case for this new law. It was really complicated because there were so many questions. How were the crimes connected and did they qualify for consolidation and prosecution in one county? Was it possible to make the new law apply to crimes that took place before it was in effect? There were a lot of kinks to work out. They were worried that if he was convicted, it might be easily argued that the new law shouldn’t have been in effect. On the day that he turned himself in, a woman’s breast was found in his pocket.
Let’s rewind and start from the beginning.
Wayne Adam Ford was born on December 3rd, 1961, to Calvin Eugene Ford and Karen Birgette Danzigger. His older brother was Calvin Rodney Ford. All four of these family members ended up going by their middle names later on, so I’m going to use the names that came up most in each story, so this isn’t so confusing. Wayne’s mother, Karen didn’t really have the nurturing gene. When she was growing up, she often moved between Germany and the United States as she bounced between her grandmother who she thought was her mother until she was 9 and her real mother. She developed early and by age 13, she was teasing older men, including her teachers. She didn’t grow up with her father and she was craving that attention.
Wayne’s father, Eugene joined the Army and his entrance scores were so good that he was among the top 1% of inductees and he was selected for intelligence work. This involved the interception of global radio signals. They met at a birthday party and started dating. Karen and her mother had actually been in a slapping fight with each other that night, which wasn’t abnormal for them. At one point during the relationship, Karen downed a bottle of her mother’s pills and laid down on the bed and waited to die. This wasn’t the first time Karen had tried to harm herself. When Eugene was called for emergency leave, Karen was scared he wouldn’t return and attempted to end her life.
After they got married, Karen said that their sexual relationship changed right away. Eugene would do whatever he wanted her, and she says it wasn’t always consensual. eugene said this wasn’t true, they had been having sex all along and nothing changed. There were physical altercations between the two. He said one time he threw her on the bed so hard that she rolled off the other side and another time, Karen slapped him and drew blood.
Karen was extremely upset when she found out she was pregnant with Rodney. She was scared that this was going to mean she was trapped in the marriage, and she was also worried that she would get fat. She put herself on a diet where she could only eat 900 calories a day and she was on the verge of being anorexic when he was born. She said she went on birth control after this because she did not want to risk having another child, but she didn’t take the pills on a weekend that that they were together. Karen says that Eugene forced himself on her and she later told Wayne that he was the product of rape.
So, she was 19-years old with two children and she didn’t want a husband that wasn’t home due to his job. She didn’t get along with the other army wives and she hated Wayne for being born. Rodney didn’t seem to need affection from his parents, but Wayne did. When Wayne was 2 years old, he fell down the stairs outside their mobile home and hit his head near the hairline. He was profusely bleeding and had to get 3 stitches. This is not the only major head injury that he endures.
People have described Karen as having very wild mood swings. Rodney found his mother in the kitchen with blood dripping from both wrists one day and she said she cut them on a can, but he knew it wasn’t an accident. She was very unhappy with her life and didn’t want to live on base. Karen had an affair with one of Eugene’s men, so he sent her back to the states. She went back to California and had an affair with his 15-year-old brother, Billy. Karen called it an affair, but he was underage, so that’s rape. When Eugene came home, Karen told him about sleeping with his brother, so he bought her and the kids a house about 220 miles away from Billy, before he went back to finish his assignment.
As the kids were growing up, it was painfully obvious that Eugene favored Rodney because they had more in common and he just didn’t understand Wayne. He wasn’t able to verbalize his feelings and would just throw temper tantrums when he got upset. When Wayne was 12, he called his dad, crying and asked if he could live with him. He said that’s fine, when should I get you? Wayne said right now, mom kicked me out and I’m standing on the front porch with my stuff. Karen said she couldn’t control Wayne anymore, so she didn’t want to live with him. She kicked Rodney out shortly after this. Rodney came home one night, and the door was locked. He shouted for his mom to let him in, and she said nope, you’re just like your dad, you can’t be around anymore. Rodney stayed with some families in the neighborhood for a while, but his father found out about this and came to get him. Wayne started acting out as soon as Rodney moved in because he wanted all of the attention.
Eugene had a construction business at this time, and he expected that the boys would help him out after school. Rodney looked at this as a great learning experience, but Wayne was unhappy. Eugene confided in his friend Keith and told him that Wayne was shutting down on him. He asked if maybe he could try talking to him. Keith agreed to this, so he went to Wayne’s room to chat. The shades were drawn, and Wayne was sitting in the middle of a big pile of clothes and schoolbooks, and he was rubbing his feet. He said his feet hurt and he took his socks off to show Keith his open sores that were infected. He said he hadn’t showered or changed his clothes in months.
Keith asked Wayne to move into his home for the summer and they did well together. At the end of the summer, he moved back in with his father and that’s when things started to fall apart again. Eugene had met another woman, they got married, and she had a daughter. Now, Wayne was getting less attention again. He bounced back and forth between living with his father, mother, and uncle for the next few years.
When Wayne was 14, he got in trouble for breaking into a store in Napa and was sent to juvenile court, so he got a probationary sentence and the records were destroyed after 10 years. Eugene was angry, but he worked on an informal arrangement with some friends in the police department. Wayne would wash police cars every day after school for 6 weeks as punishment, but this got extended by 4 weeks when Wayne stole a car to go out cruisin. After this, Wayne moved back in with his mom, and she had gotten remarried to a man named Steve. Wayne would stay out late and the two of them would run around town searching for him because they didn’t want him to get in trouble with the police for breaking curfew. One of Wayne’s teachers called, and she was pregnant and said Wayne hit her. He was suspended for a week and the teacher asked that he talk to a therapist, but Wayne refused.
Karen tried to confront him about his behavior, and he grabbed her in the garage. It was the first time that she had ever been afraid of her son. She called a lawyer to get suggestions on what to do and she was told that as long as he lived at home, she was legally responsible for his actions, so he was sent to live with his uncle Jimmy. He had a horrible temper and decided to run away. After a while, he changed his mind and went straight to juvenile hall instead of heading back to his uncle’s. They asked why he was turning himself in and he said it was because he tried to run away. Jimmy didn’t even know how to handle this because Wayne knew he did something wrong and turned himself in, so how could he really punish him more than that?
Wayne had to tell on himself when he did things. On another occasion, Jimmy and his wife went away for several days. When they got back, he knew something was wrong with his Camaro and Wayne busted into tears and said he had taken the car. The next night, the doorbell rang, and a police officer was standing there with Wayne. He tried to steal a battery from another car because he killed the battery in the Camaro by leaving the lights on.
There’s not a ton that we know about Wayne’s childhood, but people that knew him have filled in some of the gaps over the years. His first wife, Leigh recalls that Wayne got along well with his mother, but he never talked about his father much. She said that shortly after they got married, she tried asking him about his relationship with his father and he smashed his fist through the wall and broke several bones in his hand. He did tell her that when he was little, his father locked him out of the house for an entire night as a punishment and it was a really traumatic event for him.
Some of Wayne’s family members say that he and his brother never received much love when they were growing up and they believe that he was always longing for recognition and acceptance from his father. He was 9 when his parents got a divorce and he started bouncing around from home to home and he felt that his mom abandoned him because she joined the Peace Corps and traveled to India.
He dropped out of high school and started working for a construction company. Two weeks before his 17th birthday in December of 1978, he enlisted in the Marines, and he wanted to get enough money to pay for a college education. He lied about his age to join. He scored more than 91% on the Corps enlistment aptitude test, even though he had dropped out of high school. He spent a little over five years as a Marine and he received a medical discharge. He had a promising military career and was thriving in the highly disciplined lifestyle. His military specialty was in defending against nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. He was calm, methodical, and learned how to use and apply complex protocols for coping with poison gases, radiation, or viruses and bacteria's. In addition to his Marine duties, he got a part-time job at a pizza parlor and that’s where he met Leigh, the woman who eventually became his first wife.
When they first met, it wasn’t a whirlwind romance. Wayne was very quiet and guarded, he hated feelings of any kind. The two of them went on a few dates and Leigh made it clear that she was interested in him, but Wayne didn’t call her for more than a week. When Leigh saw him next, she called him out on this, and he said he forgot her phone number. She said, “Wayne was kind of stand-offish. And so it was interesting, because he was treating it like he could take it or leave it.”
Leigh decided that she was no longer interested in Wayne and that’s when he put the effort in. He showed up to her apartment which was almost a 15-mile hike from the base, and this made her feel special. He was putting in an effort to be with her. One night, in December, shortly before 1 AM, Leigh was driving with Wayne, and they were heading back to her apartment. They saw two cars that had just been involved in an accident, so they stopped to help. One man was seriously injured, so Wayne told Leigh to take her car and find a phone to call for help. It took her awhile to find a phone and she got herself in such a frenzy that she had a hard time finding her way back to the scene of the accident.
When she got there, the firefighters and policemen had already arrived, and she couldn’t find Wayne anywhere. Leigh asked if they had seen him, and they kept saying no and asking if she had seen the third car. She’s like, I was the third car and they said no, the red car. She had no idea what they were talking about, and she eventually left. She believed that Wayne had walked back to the Marine base. The next morning, she found out that Wayne was in the hospital. When she went for help, a car with a drunk driver came by and hit Wayne and another man, knocking them over an embankment down into a ditch which was about 30-40 feet below. Wayne was in intensive care with severe injuries to his head, face, and left side. He was in the intensive care unit for 9 days. Wayne later stated to The Los Angeles Times that he was in a coma for 9 days, but Leigh says that isn’t true and he was fairly talkative the next day. This is important because when we get into the murders that he committed, it’s been mentioned that he may have had more brain damage than anyone realized from this accident.
When Leigh got to the hospital, she saw that Wayne was a mess. His four front teeth had been knocked out, his upper lip had almost been torn off and he had broken his upper mandible. The doctors spent most of the night extracting bits and pieces of his broken teeth from his mouth. Leigh said that Wayne’s face was like a balloon. It was swollen so bad and they had to sew his lip back. The hospital that Wayne was treated at was later shut down, so the medical records were lost. The accident report from the fire department and the police had been destroyed. California law requires hospitals to retain their records for 7 years, so his records no longer existed by the time this case started. We do know that Leigh met Wayne’s mother for the very first time at the hospital, but this also causes some issues with the timeline. His mother arrived at the hospital before Leigh, but it was at least a day or more after the accident. This means that Wayne could have been in a coma for many hours or even a day or two and he could have suffered brain damage.
Leigh took Wayne back to her apartment after he left the hospital and she took care of him for the next two weeks until he was able to return to the military. By May of 1981, Wayne asked Leigh to marry him and she said yes. Servicemen with wives received an additional allotment, but they had to keep the marriage secret from Leigh’s family until the fall of 1981 because they wanted her to finish college and get a degree before getting married. They secretly got married in Las Vegas, Nevada because Wayne was leaving for a training course in Alabama that would last about 6-8 weeks. They would collect the extra cash, Leigh would finish school, then have a big wedding in the summer. That was the plan, but it didn’t work out the way they thought.
One of Leigh’s roommates let the secret slip in front of her sister and she told their mother. Her parents were very disappointed in her and decided to punish her with the silent treatment for awhile. About a week after the marriage, Leigh started noticing some changes in Wayne’s personality. She said, “Something was starting to change. His attitude, his demeanor. He became more demanding, more domineering, just within this short period of time.”
While they were doing the long-distance thing, they had a pretty heated fight. Leigh was supposed to get Wayne’s money, then send it to him, but it didn’t get to him on time. He called her up and was yelling at her, then he sold his wedding ring for some beer money and this deeply hurt Leigh. By August of 1981, Wayne returned and he had passed the instructors’ course as an honors graduate and he was very upset when he found out his wife was pregnant.
Wayne told her that she was going to get an abortion, or he was leaving her. He took her to the clinic and during the interview, they asked if anyone was forcing her to do this. Leigh said, “What if I said yes?” They let her know they wouldn’t do the abortion if that’s the case. Leigh left the room crying and Wayne grabbed her and demanded that she get back in there, so she had the abortion.
After this point, Wayne began working as a Marine NBC instructor at El Toro and he also had a series of part-time jobs. He was working very long hours each day, but he became very abusive towards Leigh and started forcing her into sex. She said, “He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He would force the issue, and if I didn’t comply, I would be verbally abusive to the point where, after a period of time, it was like, well, if I have sex with him right now, he won’t bug me for the next three hours. And it was like a constant barrage of...it was like my whole life at home had to do with sex.”
Things progressed and Wayne began forcing his wife to always be naked when they were at home, and he would approach her with sexual demands. Leigh said, “It’s like if I sat down and watched TV or something like that, he would feel free to come up and start suckling on a breast. I mean it was just a constant barrage of this, like it was all I was there for. That I was an object of his pleasure.”
Wayne forced Leigh into what he believed was the “typical wife duties.” She had to do all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. She also had a full-time job. Wayne would head out with his buddies and hit up the video game parlor in his free time. Leigh was expected to come home after work and cook these big, elaborate meals and she was forced to cook naked. He was allowed to get angry with her, but she couldn’t get angry back because she would get in trouble. If she wouldn’t give in when he asked for sex, he would mentally torture her for hours, and keep her up until 3 or 4 in the morning until she gave in.
Over time, Wayne’s obsession with boobs became very apparent. He got a deck of playing cards from a Hollywood sex shop that showed women with bound breasts and he forced Leigh to do all the poses that were on his cards. On one occasion, he cut holes in a white sheet, so only her breasts were exposed. On another occasion, he made a wax impression of Leigh’s breasts.
In January of 1982, Wayne and several other Marines went on a short vacation to a cabin. Leigh had to work, so she wasn’t able to go. At some point, Leigh got a call from the other guys, and they asked if Wayne called her, and she said no. They were like, ok, if he calls, tell him to come back. They refused to tell her what happened. Around 11 that night, Wayne did call and said the other Marines picked up two young girls, both 15, and brought them back to the cabin. Wayne said he had oral sex with one of the girls and he claimed this was consensual. When they were bringing the girls back to the village, they passed one of the girl’s boyfriends on the road and she claimed Wayne raped her.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department showed up at the cabin to arrest Wayne and he ran out the back door and wandered around the woods for a few hours before calling Leigh. He was later arrested, but he hired a lawyer who was able to pressure the girl and her parents into dropping the complaint, based on the fact that the girl had been playing hooky from school when the incident took place. The parents could have been criminally liable for failing to control her.
After this incident, Wayne’s mother and her boyfriend needed a place to stay, so he invited them to move into the apartment. This worked great for Leigh because he stopped forcing her into sex so often and she didn’t have to be naked all the time. His mother did notice how mean he was and she told him he better knock it off or he was going to lose Leigh. Due to Wayne’s constant racist comments, his mother and her boyfriend moved out pretty quickly.
Once they were gone, Wayne decided that he wanted to show off his wife in very sexually revealing ways. They had a pool party at the apartment and he bought her a skimpy swimsuit that was white and it had a gold patch right on the crotch. When it got wet, it was see through. Leigh said she was fine wearing the suit, but Wayne forced her to get it wet so everyone could look at her. She was forced to wear revealing outfits around Wayne, but then he made her wear really baggy clothes to work every day. Leigh said she was trying so hard to control her emotions that she lost her personality and was walking around like a zombie.
She got a new job and guys started saying things to her that really boosted her confidence and she became defiant with Wayne. She met a man at work named Bob and he treated her with respect. Leigh felt bad because she didn’t want to give up on her marriage, but Bob was better for her. Her breaking point happened about a week before Christmas. Wayne was against the whole Christmas thing, even presents, but she finally convinced him to allow her to set up a tree.
Every day, when Leigh got home, she would stand on her tiptoes and peek in the window before opening the door. Even though Wayne had never bought her a Christmas gift before, he bought like 20 of them this time and he was wrapping them. When he saw her in the window, he drug her inside and made her open the gifts because she had ruined everything. This was the breaking point. Leigh hadn’t attempted to do anything wrong, and she was sick of taking the blame.
The two of them decided to go to marriage counseling. The counselor talked to both of them separately, then they did a session together. Once the meeting was over, the counselor grabbed Leigh by the arm and told her she was going to have someone drive her home, she didn’t want her to leave with Wayne. She said she was fine, Wayne would never harm her, and they left. The counselor strongly suggested that they stay apart for a week as a cooling off period. Wayne stayed on the base and Leigh stayed at the house. Leigh decided to go out with some friends from work and they had dinner. When Bob drove her home that night, she saw Wayne sitting in a car outside the house.
She knew if she walked in the house, there would be trouble, so she asked Bob to drive her to a payphone so she could call her sister. This is when she found out that Wayne had been calling her sister repeatedly, he was drunk, and he decided he was not staying away for a week, he was staying at the house. Wayne had shown up at the house with roses, but he went out drinking when he realized that Leigh wasn’t home. Then, he changed into camouflage and hid in the bushes outside the house with his bow.
It wasn’t too long after this when Leigh announced that she wanted a divorce. Wayne said, ok, but he wanted her to stick around until he found someone to replace her. Leigh said she wasn’t willing to do that, so they moved forward with the divorce. This DID NOT end in a calm manner. Wayne became obsessed with trying to find out if Leigh was cheating on him and he decided it must be her friend Bob from work. He drug her to the phone and made her call him. Wayne invited Bob to breakfast, and they were going to meet up at a restaurant.
Obviously poor Bob was very concerned that Wayne was trying to lure him to the restaurant to kill him, but he was very worried about Leigh, so he agreed to go.
After they hung up, Wayne raped Leigh and it was brutal. He left bruises and burns on her back and wrists. Afterwards, he walked her down to the restaurant and Wayne had a calm conversation with Bob where he asked him if he could introduce him to a new woman and preferably one with big breasts.
Bob was blown away by this conversation and he gave Leigh his keys. He told her to drive home, grab clothes, and he said he would get her out of there. He felt that Wayne was going to harm him, and he didn’t want Leigh there for it. The two men didn’t fight, and Bob stuck to his promise, he got Leigh out of there and the two of them moved in together. Wayne continued to stalk Leigh. He called her at work, and he always figured out where she was living. When he called, he would make it very clear that he knew where she had been recently. This behavior went on for weeks.
One day, he showed up at Leigh’s office, grabbed her by the arm, and dragged her outside and started yelling at her. He had their wedding rings pinned to his jacket. Bob showed up during this and Wayne asked if they could all go to a coffee shop, so they did. Wayne described the various sexual experiences he’d had with Leigh. For the next several months, Wayne continued to stalk Leigh and he would stop by the apartment and write things on the windows.
Bob and Leigh couldn’t stand it any longer, so they ended up moving away. The stalking didn’t stop. In April of 1984, Wayne went AWOL from the Marine Corps because he was obsessed with finding Leigh. He did track her down and she was able to get the divorce finalized.