Arthur Gary Bishop (September 29, 1952 – June 10, 1988) was a convicted American child molester and serial killer. He confessed to the murders of five young boys in 1983, as a result of a routine police investigation.
Arthur Gary Bishop was born in Hinckley, Utah, the eldest of six brothers. Bishop was raised as a devout Latter-day Saint (Mormon), and was an Eagle Scout and an honor student. When he was 19, Bishop served as a missionary in the Philippines.
Bishop was arrested for embezzlement in February 1978 and given a five-year suspended sentence, but he skipped his parole and fled to Salt Lake City, living under the alias “Roger Downs”. In October 1978, the LDS Church excommunicated Bishop.
In Salt Lake City, Bishop, registering under his pseudonym, joined the “Big Brother” program. No one initially suspected “Downs” of child molestation, although dozens of children would accuse him of abuse after he was arrested for murder.
Bishop killed his first victim, a four-year-old named Alonzo Daniels, on October 14, 1979. Bishop lured the boy from the courtyard of his apartment complex to his own apartment with the promise of free candy.:2 After attempting to sexually assault the child, Bishop drowned him in a bathtub, and subsequently buried the boy’s body in the desert.
In November 1980, Bishop killed for the second time. At a skating rink, he met an 11-year-old boy named Kim Peterson whom he lured to his apartment on the pretext of buying a pair of roller-skates the boy was trying to sell. Witnesses described the man Peterson had talked with at the roller-skating rink the day prior to his disappearance as being white, aged 25–35, around 200 pounds and with dark hair.:3 Bishop bludgeoned Peterson to death and his body was buried close to that of Alonzo Daniels outside of Cedar Fort. Bishop was again routinely questioned, but was not considered a suspect in Peterson’s disappearance.
On October 20, 1981, Bishop killed for the third time; luring a four-year-old named Danny Davis from a supermarket to his home half a block away. Several shoppers recalled a smiling man standing near the child, but could only give vague descriptions as to his appearance. Police launched one of the biggest searches in Salt Lake County history::4 teams of searchers scoured neighborhoods, searching fields and nearby mountains, divers dredged ponds and lakes, shoppers at the supermarket where Davis vanished agreed to undergo hypnosis in an effort to dislodge greater details of the abductor, fliers were printed offering a $20,000 reward, and the FBI were contacted but were unable to find any trace of the boy.
Almost two years later, on June 22, 1983, Bishop struck again, abducting a boy named Troy Ward from a park near his home the day after his sixth birthday.:5Troy was seen leaving the park on foot with a man just prior to 4 p.m. As with the prior victims, Bishop sexually assaulted him, bludgeoned him and drowned him in his bathtub.
One month later, on July 14, Bishop killed his final victim: 13-year-old Graeme Cunningham, who vanished from his neighbourhood prior to embarking upon a camping trip with a friend and an adult chaperone: Arthur Bishop. The boy’s disappearance was statewide news.
Local police looked into their past reports and found that Bishop (“Roger Downs”) lived in the vicinity of four of the murders, and knew the fifth child’s parents. Police brought “Downs” in for questioning on the pretext of his assisting officers with their enquiries into Graeme Cunningham’s disappearance. At the station, police managed to obtain Downs’s real name, and eventually got him to confess to all five murders.
The next day, Bishop led the police to three skeletons near Cedar Fort and two more recent corpses near Big Cottonwood Creek. Bishop told police he obtained a thrill from the act of murder, stating: “I’d do it again.”:7
Trial and execution
Bishop was brought to trial on February 27, 1984. During his trial, Bishop claimed that an addiction to child pornography molded his violent sexual fantasies and eventually drove him to act them out. The trial lasted six weeks; on March 19, 1984, Bishop was found guilty of five counts of aggravated murder, five counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of sexually abusing a minor, and sentenced to death. Upon receiving his sentence, Bishop apologized to his victims’ families and made a request to be executed by lethal injection.
After his conviction, he wrote a letter in which he explained the motivation for his crimes:
|“||I am a homosexual pedophile convicted of murder, and pornography was a determining factor in my downfall. Somehow I became sexually attracted to young boys and I would fantasize about them naked. Certain bookstores offered sex education, photographic, or art books which occasionally contained pictures of nude boys. I purchased such books and used them to enhance my masturbatory fantasies… Finding and procuring sexually arousing materials became an obsession. For me, seeing pornography was lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite. I became stimulated and had to gratify my urges or explode. All boys became mere sexual objects. My conscience was desensitized and my sexual appetite entirely controlled my actions.||”|
- Alonzo Daniels, age 4, October 14, 1979
- Kim Peterson, age 11, November 8, 1980
- Danny Davis, age 4, October 20, 1981
- Troy Ward, age 6, June 22, 1983
- Graeme Cunningham, age 13, July 14, 1983