Serial killer and former long haul truck driver Robert Ben Rhoades plead guilty this past week to two additional murders in a Sutton County, Texas court. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty against him for the 1990 murders of Patricia Candace Walsh, 24, and her newlywed husband, Douglas Scott Zyskowski, 28. In the plea agreement reached Monday, March 26, 66-year-old Robert Ben Rhoades would be sentenced to two more life terms for the additional murders and waive any rights to appeals or parole in the future.
The Seattle, Washington couple had just been married in Texas and were hitchhiking to Georgia to preach the Gospel when they were picked up by Robert Rhoades in near El Paso, Texas. Police believe Zyskowski was immediately murdered and that Walsh was
held captive and tortured for about a week before she was shot multiple times and her body dumped in Millard County, Utah.
Rhoades was already in prison serving a life sentence in Illinois for the murder of a 14-year-old girl from Pasadena, Texas. Regina Walters had ran away from her Texas home with another teen runaway, Ricky Lee Jones, on February 2, 1990. She was reported missing on February 4, 1990. Ricky Jones and Regina Walters then started to hitchhike their way towards New Mexico.
Rhoades murdered Regina Walters, torturing her and strangling her to death with a garrote constructed of a piece of wood and bailing wire. On September 29, 1990, Regina’s body was located in a barn loft near Greenville, Illinois, but police at that time did not know who had killed her or the whereabouts of her companion, Jones.
On February 2, 1990, Rhoades had picked up a hitchhiker in California and kept her in captivity for two weeks. He raped and tortured her as he made his way towards Houston, Texas in his semi-truck. The woman then escaped and reported this to police. Officers identified the perpetrator, but in fear for her life, the victim refused to acknowledge that he was the man who had held her against her will.
On April 1, 1990, Trooper Mike Miller, an Arizona highway patrolman, observed a semi-truck parked on the shoulder of I-10. As Miller approached the vehicle to offer assistance, he observed a woman tied up in restraints, a horse bit type harness in her mouth. Robert Ben Rhoades, who was also in the sleeper cab, was taken off guard by the officer’s sudden presence. He claimed immediately that this was a private and consensual act between two people, but the woman told a different story.
The victim said she had accepted a ride from him in a coffee shop in Buckeye, Arizona and had fallen asleep in his truck cab only to wake up in restraints. She stated that Rhoades beat her with a whip, attached a chain around her neck and used other various torture devices on her.
The earlier victim, who before had declined to identify Rhoades, then came forward and Rhoades was convicted and spent time in prison for kidnapping and rape. Police had searched not only Rhoades’ truck and other vehicles, but his apartment in Houston as well. They found items that belonged to murder victim Regina Walters as well as photographs of her near the point of death. Rhoades was charged and convicted in the first degree murder of Regina Walters and sentenced to life in prison.
The body of Ricky Lee Jones, 18, was located in Lamar County, Mississippi on March 3, 1991 but wasn’t identified until 2008. Zyskowski’s body was found in January 1990 along a highway about 320 miles east of El Paso, Texas. He’d been shot, and his body wasn’t identified until 1992. The remains of Patricia Walsh were found in October 1990 by deer hunters in Utah, but they weren’t identified until 13 years later by dental records. Police in different states are continuing to compare information in an effort to shed light on any other crimes Rhoades may have committed, as he had told one victim in 1990, that he had been “doing this” for 15 years.