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.
RECAP: On October 26th, 1997, a body was found in the water of Freshwater Slough (SLEW). The arms, legs and head were missing and the woman was dubbed Torso Girl and she has not been identified. On June 2nd, 1998, about two miles from the small town of Buttonwillow, a naked woman’s body was found floating in the water in the California Aqueduct. She was identified as 26-year-old Tina Renee Gibbs.
On September 25th of 1998, three men were driving a truck on the way to Vallejo, California and they pulled into a large gravel turnout off State Highway 12 and they noticed a woman’s naked body in the irrigation ditch. She was identified as 25-year-old Lanett Deyon White. On October 23rd, 1998, 29-year-old Patty Tamez’s nude body was found in the water and her left breast had been removed.
On November 2nd, 1998, Wayne Adam Ford called his brother Rodney and said he needed help to turn himself in because he had hurt some people. The two of them walked into the sheriff’s department the next day and Wayne had a baggie in his pocket that contained Patty Tamez’s breast. This case blew up in the media and there was some debate over how this case was handled and if Wayne asked for an attorney during the interview or agreed to waive his rights.
According to some of the audio tapes of the interview that was discussed in the book, Wayne did ask for an attorney. He was told that because he indicated that he wanted an attorney, they couldn’t continue the conversation. This is when the interviewer tried to use a different strategy. He said, “You would rather not straighten some things out because, I mean, obviously there’s a woman out there missing a breast. Or maybe more? And you know, if you don’t want to tell us what happened, we may not be able to straighten anything out. Because we don’t know who that belongs to. We don’t know what else you might have done. You know, what other families you might have hurt?”
He told him that if he got a lawyer, he may never get the opportunity to clear his conscience. He said, “If you need an attorney, there is no way you’re going to be able to clear your conscience, so I mean, that’s okay. That’s your right. But, you know, if you need to get something off your chest, and clear your conscience and maybe try to help some families and some people that you’ve hurt, then you need to decide that you don’t want an attorney, and you want to talk to me. I’m not gonna, I’m certainly not gonna try and twist your arm. So what I’m saying is if you would like to clear some things up, and maybe help some families out there, or a family at least, then you know, you need to talk to me. But if you, if you still feel like you need an attorney, then we’ll stop everything right now, and just go from there. So, it’s up to you, Wayne.” Wayne said he needed an attorney.
At this point, the police went back to talk to his brother Rod and then sent him in to reason with Wayne. At 9:15 they learned that Wayne was ready to talk, and the conversation lasted until about 10:45 PM. Freeman was the interviewer and he read Wayne his Miranda Rights, but he didn’t formally ask if he waived his rights to a lawyer. Wayne was crying during most of the confession and said he was having trouble thinking and he did ask for a lawyer again. Freeman asked if Wayne could show him where some of the evidence of his crimes might be located. Wayne said he would be willing to show them, but he wanted to bring a lawyer with. Freeman told him it doesn’t work that way, once a lawyer is in the mix, everything stops because a lawyer would advise you to stop talking. The audio tapes were very poor quality and it makes it difficult to properly hear everything that was said during this interview. The transcripts indicate that Wayne did give up his right to an attorney, but it was filled with “inaudible” so many times, that it’s hard to know if that’s the truth.
Detective Staggs took the breast that had been in Waynes's pocket and placed it in a styrofoam carton, surrounded by cold packs. A DNA analysis was done on the tissue to establish that it belonged to his last victim, Patty Tamez. Detectives were able to use the logbooks to figure out that Wayne had made a plywood delivery to a construction yard in Barstow (Bar-st-oh) after meeting with Patty. They spoke to a security guard at the plant named Roy Angeles and he said he remembered the truck and he remembered the driver. Wayne had definitely left an impression. According to the paperwork from that day, Wayne arrived at the plant around 3:51 PM on October 22nd of 1998 to collect pallet loads of bagged plastic cement which weighed 46,000 pounds. The truck left the plant two minutes before 7 PM and Wayne signed the pick-up form.
Roy remembers this encounter because he said Wayne was acting “extremely strange.” When he first pulled into the plant, he appeared confused and stopped short of the gatehouse. Roy said that drivers familiar with the plant’s routine would drive right up to the gatehouse and get out of the truck to go to an open window. They would receive a plastic card to gain access to the plant, then you swipe the card through a time punch system. The driver would then use a forklift to load the cement pallets onto the truck, punch out, return the card, get the bill and leave. This is all very normal procedure, but Roy noticed that Wayne was having problems with everything that day. He was irritated when he arrived, stopped short of the gatehouse, and ended up pulling up alongside of the gatehouse. He didn’t seem to want to get out of his truck, so Roy opened the window of the gatehouse and directed him three times to get out and come over to pick up his card.
Wayne finally got out and said he had never been to the plant before, so he was confused. Roy explained the procedures to him, and Wayne got upset when he was told he would need to get a forklift to load his own truck. Once Wayne got through the plant gate, two other trucks arrived, and they both left with their loads long before Wayne finished loading his. Roy figured he was having trouble evenly distributing the load over the trailer’s axles. According to the time stamps, he was in the plant for 3 hours and 7 minutes. When he finally left, Wayne told Roy he had a hard time getting it loaded right. The order was for 14 pallets, but Wayne only got 13 on the truck and said he would probably be underpaid for his trip now and he would never come back to the plant again.
There was a construction yard that Wayne visited on the same day and his signature was on the bottom of a shipping order. The clerk remembered an interesting encounter from October 22nd. She said that she arrived at work at 6:45 AM and there were two trucks in the driveway waiting to make deliveries and one of the drivers was very impatient and told her he had just driven from Oregon and wanted someone to unload the lumber from his truck immediately. The clerk called for help, but the employee that unloads trucks wasn’t even there yet, so the truck driver got impatient. While they were waiting, the driver started pacing near the front door, so she asked him to wait outside. The driver spun around and stared at the clerk with a glare and she said, “I had never seen a more frightening look from a truck driver. I thought that he was going to kill me.”
Based on the timeline, we know that Patty was picked up on October 22nd around 3 PM and it wouldn’t leave much time for them to make the deal, drive to a secluded location for sex, kill her, conceal the body, and get to the plant more than 15 miles away by 3:51 PM. That means that Patty may have been alive in the back of the truck the entire time at the plant, and anything could have happened during the 3 hours and 7 minutes that he was there. He could have had her tied up and gagged in the back.
The police were frantically trying to get a search warrant as they were getting his confession and it was close to 11 PM, so Freeman sent some deputies to the area of the campsite to secure it. He claimed that he dismembered his first victim with a saw and a knife, then buried the head and other body parts on the bank of the Mad River. He kept two thighs from one of his victims in his freezer before burying them at a campsite near Trinidad shortly before he turned himself in. The search warrant for Wayne’s trailer was granted by a Humboldt County judge and Wayne was placed under suicide watch because he had repeatedly mentioned that he wanted to end his life, so he was checked on every 15 minutes for the rest of the night and all the next day. After this, he was placed in solitary confinement because they were worried that other inmates would kill him after hearing about what he did.
The campsite that Wayne talked about was located in the woods, a little over 100 feet east of the Seawood Drive off-ramp from 101; the off-ramp was less than a mile from the Ocean Grove Lodge. At some point, the police officers decided to bring Wayne to the campsite so he could show them where the remains were. Deputy Coroner Charles Van Buskirk wrote,“at the bottom of a tree about 25 feet from the area where the tent was reported to have been located. The hole was 2 by 3 feet and 12 to 18 inches deep. The hole had irregular sides and some rather deep pockets extending away from the hole....Immediately visible in the hole was some thin white plastic sheeting, appearing to be a kitchen garbage bag. I observed what appeared to be the end of a transversely cut limb. The bone, surrounding musculature (musk-oo-la-chur) and skin were somewhat obscured by adherent forest material.”
Investigators seized many items during the search including a blue hacksaw blade, three pairs of latex gloves, an old coffee can that had a yellowish substance, a white plastic bag with the ‘Flying J’ emblem, a pair of pink women’s underwear, files and papers belonging to Wayne that proved he had control over the premises, several pornographic magazines and videos, various articles of clothing and blankets, and several drivers logs from his job. Traces of material in Wayne’s freezer appeared to corroborate his statement about keeping a woman’s thighs in his freezer.
Detectives searched the truck cab and sleeper where they found lots of trash, cigarette butts, paper cups, and various other things. Among the items that caught their attention were two broken acrylic fingernails, various lengths of rope and rubber tie-downs, rolls of duct tape, another “Flying J” plastic bag, a piece of cut carpet that tested positive for human blood, hairs and fibers, and some articles of clothing. Tests of the floor were positive for blood and so was the emergency exit door.
They uncovered two human thighs and several other pieces of human tissue, possibly breasts. The forensic pathologist examined the body parts and noticed they lacked decomposition, so they had been preserved and Wayne said he kept the thighs in his trailer freezer for about a year. He said he does not remember the woman’s name, but he could remember some of the things that happened. He claimed that he first saw her as a hitchhiker, and this was the day after he visited Lucie and his son. He picked up the woman in downtown Eureka and he noticed her because she had large breasts. They had sex in his trailer, and he choked her to death with his hands. He says this was an accident, he wasn’t trying to kill her, and he attempted to resuscitate her, but it didn’t work.
He put the woman’s body in the bathtub of his trailer and cut her apart with a saw, a razor blade, and some knives. He said,“I had to make her smaller. I had to get rid of them.” He placed the severed breasts in a pot on his stove and boiled them, and retained the rendered substance in a coffee can in his trailer. He buried the head and arms in a gravel bank of the Mad River not far from his trailer. Without the head, this woman couldn’t be identified. As a reward for helping the police, Wayne got a Whopper and iced tea.
Wayne admitted to murdering Lanett White and said he picked her up at the truck stop near Cherry and Slover Avenues in Fontana. He said they were having sex and he “accidentally” choked her into unconsciousness. He said Lanett was making too much noise, so he was just trying to shut her up, but he didn’t intend to kill her. Same story though, he claims he tried to resuscitate her, and it didn’t work. He remembered that she had a tattoo and he thought it said My Madre, which is close, it was Mi Madre Debi. Investigators had discovered a plastic bag in his trailer with the “Flying J” logo that matched what they found near her body.
Wayne says that after Lanett died, he tied her up in a blue tarp in the rear sleeper portion of his truck. He drove to Phoenix to make a pickup or delivery for the trucking company and her dead body was still in the back. He returned to California where he passed over the I-5 Grapevine through the mountains between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. At the top of the pass, the California Highway Patrol stopped him for a routine inspection, but they never looked in the sleeper, they usually check the brakes and tires to make sure you’re good to do the downhill run. By the next morning, the body began to smell, so he stopped in Lodi (Load-eye), took the turnout and tossed her body into the irrigation ditch and drove away.
Wayne claimed that the relationship between him and his ex-wife was very strained and the way she treated him was kind of the last straw. He said that she interfered with his visits with their son and “his anger toward her was growing every day.” He felt that if he didn’t turn himself in, he might end up taking some of his anger out on her and his son would end up being an orphan.
Mike Rustigan, a criminologist from San Francisco State University said he was very surprised that Wayne turned himself in and confessed. He told the Chronicle that, “It’s almost without precedent. Usually, they delight in trying to outwit the police, and they have absolutely no sympathy for their victims. To see genuine remorse in a guy capable of such savagery is extremely surprising.” He told The San Jose Mercury News that the fact that he had remorse for his actions was, “truly an exception in the annals of serial killers.”
The San Francisco Examiner contacted Jack Levin, a professor of criminology and sociology at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and he said, “He fits the profile of a serial killer motivated by the thrill. Most serial killers are sexual sadists. But Ford is different in that he is not a sociopath. He feels out of control and doesn’t want to kill again.”
Some newspapers decided to dub him, “the serial killer with a conscience.”
There were really strange things about this case, beyond his confession. Serial killers will typically follow an escalating curve of violence which means, their first killing is often less gruesome than their last killing. For example, when you look at the Jack the Ripper murders, the dismemberments only got worse with each murder. In Wayne’s, case, the murders began with the worst dismemberment, then the next murder did not involve any dismemberment. This was followed by him raping several women, but he didn’t kill them. When he murdered his third victim, there was no dismemberment and on his fourth and final murder, he did a partial dismemberment.
This meant that the act of killing wasn’t the motivation like it is for most serial killers. Jack Levin believes that he realized he was out of control, and he turned himself in because he wanted someone else to have control over him.
By early December of 1998, almost a month after his arrest, Wayne was making the jail staff very nervous. December was the anniversary of his son’s birth and he began banging on the bars of his cell. The corrections officer asked what his problem was, and Wayne said he needed to see a mental health officer right away because he might hurt himself. Someone was sent to speak with him for about an hour and he calmed down. Over the next few months, Wayne became aggressive and told the corrections officers that he sometimes had “blackouts” and that he was capable of hurting them if they made him too angry. There was another prisoner who had been accused of child abuse and Wayne warned the officers that they better not put them in the same area because during his blackouts he causes trouble.
So, this brings us back to where our story originally started. This case was going to pave the way for the new “Serial Killer Single Trial” law which would allow authorities to combine murders committed in various counties into one single case. The idea behind this law was to save on the costs of bringing serial killers to trial. When victims are killed in different places, the cost of multiple trials added millions to the legal bills of the proceedings, and it also gave defendants multiple shots at multiple appeals which can drag witnesses and victims through all the emotional burdens that come with trials.
Senator Rainey did offer an amendment to California Penal Code Section 790 by providing a new section. In any case where a defendant is charged with a special circumstance such as a crime punishable by death, the jurisdiction for any murder shall be in any county that has jurisdiction and that would be defined as the place where the murder or injury took place, or where the body was found. The defense lawyers were not into this change because it would allow police and prosecutors to basically shop venues and look for the jurisdiction that gave them the best chances of a conviction.
The rules of this were debated for most of 1997 and by July of 1998, it was decided that murders committed in different counties could be consolidated as long as the charged murders were connected and subject to a hearing in the jurisdiction where the prosecution is attempting to consolidate the charged murders. This left it up to the court to determine if a case should be consolidated.
Robinson was preparing to defend Wayne on the single murder for the Torso Case in Humboldt, yet San Bernardino County wanted to take jurisdiction for all four crimes. Since Patty Tamez and Lanett White had been killed in San Bernardino County, they had jurisdiction on two cases. The crimes all had several things in common, the victims were sex workers, there was sexual assault, strangulation, and placing the bodies in water, so they could argue to consolidate cases under the new law as well.
On April 6th of 1999, Wayne was indicted by a grand jury in Humboldt County, charged with a single count of murder for Jane Doe’s torso. He provided tearful confessions and kept repeating that he wanted help and he wanted to help the family. Psychology experts were hired to examine him, and they concluded that the brain injury that he suffered while he was in the Marines was a critical factor in his behavior.
On June 29th of 1999, The County of San Bernardino did the big move that everyone had been talking about. They moved to have Wayne arrested and charged with all four counts of murder, including the Humboldt County victim. Wayne’s attorney, Kevin Robinson, was livid and he drafted a motion for the court to oppose the transfer. He said that moving him at that point would make it impossible for Wayne to defend himself in the trial on the Torso Case. He felt that it would be unconstitutional to use the new serial killer consolidation law and it would violate his rights under the Sixth Amendment, which states that,“the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”
The Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney in charge of Wayne’s case was Worth Dikeman Jr and he responded by saying that according to the way the legislation was written, it was up to the San Bernardino County judge to decide if the case should be tried there. Judge Watson denied Robinson’s motion and preparations were made to transfer Wayne to San Bernardino. Wayne was very upset about this because he would be transferred to a new jail and his family wouldn’t be able to visit as often.
Four days after the decision to move Wayne, he tried to get rid of the judge and fire Robinson at the same time. In two handwritten motions, he filed a peremptory challenge against Watson, alleging that the judge was prejudiced against him and in the other note, he asked for permission to proceed as his own attorney. He claimed that Robinson had failed to provide adequate representation. The case was already transferred to San Bernardino County, so neither of these motions mattered.
Now that the case was officially being transferred, there were more problems to consider. If the San Bernardino judge found that the Humboldt Torso case was not connected together in its commission with the other crimes, Wayne’s rights to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment may be violated, especially because he didn’t agree to the move and tried to stop it. This could set him up for a valid reason to appeal if things didn’t go right.
Gruesome crime scene photos and graphic details about the deaths of the four victims were discussed in the Prosecutor’s opening statement during the trial, but defense attorneys described Wayne as a man who knew he had mental problems and went to the police for help. He was depressed when he walked into the Humboldt County Sheriff’s station and when the police pulled the severed breast from his pocket, he said that it was, “just the tip of the iceberg.” His defense attorney explained that he had a conscience and turned himself in, “because he decided the killings had to stop.”
Joe Canty explained the root of Wayne’s problems and said that it was complicated by a failed marriage and his chances of seeing his son were dwindling. He said that Wayne cried, felt shame, and showed moral courage when he turned himself into sheriff’s deputies and confessed to murdering four women. At the time, detectives hadn’t solved the deaths and Wayne wasn’t even a suspect.
Wayne told the detectives that he picked up sex workers and hitchhikers on his truck routes because he liked to have sex with them, but when the women started talking about their children, he got very upset, and he would just lose it because he couldn’t see his son. A sex worker took the stand and said Wayne had choked her during sex then showed her a photo of his ex-wife and their son. She said he cried and claimed his behavior was revenge against his ex-wife. Wayne’s ex-wife took the stand and said she encouraged him to spend time with their son, but after the divorce, he made little effort to see him. She said, “He would hold Max until he cried and would give him back to me.” She explained that he never fed or bathed their son and only changed his diaper once. After she filed for divorce, a custody agreement allowed him to have his son one week every three months and every other December for the holidays, but he didn’t call his son and only visited him on his second birthday.
She said that on one occasion, she arranged to bring Max to see Wayne during a California theme park vacation that she planned. Wayne took Max on a walk and only spent 90 minutes with him, but she had arranged for a 6 hour visit. The defense brought up his rough childhood and described his mother as cold and said his father was always gone, but struck fear when he was home. Even though they discussed Wayne’s mental problems in great detail, they were not seeking the insanity defense because he clearly knew the difference between right and wrong. They attempted to show that he was a broken man who turned himself in because he desperately wanted to do the right thing.
Prosecutors were basically like, don’t fall for that. The victims were raped, tortured and coldly discarded with pieces of their bodies removed so they couldn’t be identified. During Mazurek’s opening statement, an electronic presentation was used to show the jury photos of the severed breast belonging to Patricia Tamez. The jury was also shown graphic images of Lanett Deyon White’s nude and decomposing body that was found floating in an irrigation canal. Mazurek said, “He had killed her a couple of days before, and he had driven around with her in his truck for a while. White’s head turned black because lying against the truck’s hot floorboards, it decomposed faster.” He told the jurors that there was no evidence that Wayne was mentally ill, and he described him as a sadistic monster who preyed on women to satisfy his sexual appetite.
Wayne’s hands were clasped and resting at his mouth. He stared straight ahead as the court clerk read the verdict. The jury had been deliberating for more than a week. Wayne Adam Ford was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder on June 27th, 2006. This was for the murders of 26-year-old Tina Renee Gibbs, 25-year-old Lanette Deyon White, 29-year-old Patricia Ann Tamez, and 18–25-year-old Humboldt County Jane Doe.
After the verdict, three jurors on the case said they didn’t buy into the defense’s arguments that Wayne had suffered from a mental illness that led him to kill four women. The jury credited his brother, Rodney, for making him turn himself in to the police. Even though Wayne had provided a confession to detectives, he stopped short of telling them the actual details of how the four women died. Jurors said they were doubting his stories and his outburst in court during the testimony of Patty Tamez’s father, Rudolfo Tamez, really had a major impact on their decision.
As Rudolfo was testifying about the use of sexual asphyxiation on his daughter, Wayne shouted, “That’s not true, it never happened.”This really made the jurors take a second look at things. Murray said, “That made an impact on us. Noting that the whole jury jumped when Ford spoke. That told us right there that he was lying. If he knew that, he knew what he did with the others. So there was no amnesia.”
Jurors also gave a significant amount of weight to the testimony of a Sonoma County woman who testified that she was raped and strangled by Wayne, but she survived the attack. The jurors said that he ate meals, made deliveries and dumped the bodies, so this proved that he felt little for his victims.
On August 11th, Wayne was sentenced to death. He is on death row at the San Quentin State Prison in California. When Wayne was later interviewed, he said, “I was completely for the death penalty before I came in here. And to tell you the truth, I would have rather been killed a long time ago rather than spend the last 18 years in solitary confinement. It’s not fun.”
Depression (major depressive disorder) - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic
Adjustment Disorders | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Intermittent Explosive Disorder: Symptoms & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
Shadows of Evil: Long-haul Trucker Wayne Adam Ford and His Grisly Trail of Rape, Dismemberment, and Murder: Smith, Carlton: 9780312978877: Amazon.com: Books
Immature personality disorder - Wikipedia
Body Parts: Rother, Caitlin: 9780786035113: Amazon.com: Books
Kelly Pletcher and Wayne Adam Ford Now: Where Are They Today? Update (thecinemaholic.com)
Wayne Adam Ford | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers