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Man tells how he escaped clutches of I-95 serial killer

A man has recalled the moment he escaped the clutches of the I-95 serial killer who brutally murdered six gay men and shoved leaves, socks and sex toys in their mouths during a string of slayings in 1994. 

Jackie Strickland was friends with Albert Morris, 37, who was shot, beaten, and strangled by Gary Ray Bowles on June 13, 1994. Investigators also said there was an item shoved down his throat.

Bowles was using the alias, Joey Pearson, when Morris, who frequented gay bars in Jacksonville, brought him home. Morris had agreed to let Pearson live with him  temporarily in exchange for helping out around the house. 

While living together, Morris had asked his friend Strickland to give Pearson ‘a ride’.

As part of the Oxygen series, Mark of a Serial Killer, Strickland revealed how driving Pearson along I-95 nearly cost him his life. 

In the clip, Strickland said he was nervously making small talk with Pearson, who was looking at the landscape as they drove. 

Jackie Strickland (pictured) has recalled the moment he escaped the clutches of I-95 serial killer, Gary Ray Bowles, who brutally murdered six gay men in 1994

Strickland was friends with Albert Morris (pictured), 37, who asked him to give Gary Ray Bowles, who was under the alias Joey Pearson, a ride

Strickland was friends with Albert Morris (pictured), 37, who asked him to give Gary Ray Bowles, who was under the alias Joey Pearson, a ride 

‘I said, “You gone stay with Al and do work around there? And he goes, “Well I’m gonna do a little bit of construction, and then I think I’ll move on,”‘ Strickland recalled. 

Crime journalist, Pat Lalama, is also featured in the clip detailing how Pearson ‘out of nowhere’ tells Strickland to ‘stop the car’ and ‘pull over’.

Strickland said he stopped the vehicle and watched Pearson jump out of the car. 

‘There’s nothing around us. He’s running out of the car pointing his finger towards the woods,’ Strickland said. 

According to Lalama, Pearson tried to get Strickland out of the vehicle and into the woods by asking him to ‘come look at this’. 

‘All of a sudden, from up above I guess the voice of God come into my head and told me not to get out of the car and I heard this two times in my head. I immediately felt that I just couldn’t trust him. 

‘He was trying to convince me; to lure me into the woods. I’m sitting there thinking that I’m not gonna get out of this car,’ Strickland said. 

Pearson eventually got back into the car, lit a cigarette and claimed that he had seen ‘a tent’ in the pasture that he wanted to show Strickland. 

‘To know that I was so close to becoming a victim. This guy was looking to probably kill me and run off with my car and the money that I had,’ Strickland said. 

Strickland said that they didn’t find out until later that Pearson was actually Bowles.

Later on, Strickland was contacted by America’s Most Wanted and explained to them that Pearson had a fascination with Jacksonville Beach, a place where Pearson wanted to spend more time.   

Strickland’s friend, Morris, was among six gay men who were brutally killed by Bowles in 1994. 

It began in Daytona Beach with the murder of 59-year-old John Hardy Roberts. In between, there were victims in Rockville, Maryland; Savannah, Georgia; Atlanta; and Nassau County, Florida. 

Strickland's friend, Morris, was among six gay men who were brutally killed by Gary Ray Bowles (pictured during his November 1994 arrest)

Strickland’s friend, Morris, was among six gay men who were brutally killed by Gary Ray Bowles (pictured during his November 1994 arrest) 

John Hardy Roberts

Walter Hinton

In each case, Bowles had a signature: He stuffed the victims’ throats with objects — towels, rags, toilet paper, dirt, leaves and even a sex toy. Among those killed were John Hardy Roberts (left) and Walter Hinton (right) 

Bowles (pictured) was executed by lethal injection in August 2019 at Florida State Prison

Bowles (pictured) was executed by lethal injection in August 2019 at Florida State Prison

In each case, Bowles had a signature: He stuffed the victims’ throats with objects — towels, rags, toilet paper, dirt, leaves and even a sex toy. 

Roberts, who was his roommate at the time, was beaten and strangled to death in March 1994.

It wasn’t hard for Daytona Beach police to figure out who killed Roberts. Bowles left a probation document at the scene and also was caught on an ATM camera trying to withdraw money from Roberts’ account. 

What proved more difficult was capturing him, something they were unable to do until after five other men in three states had been slain. 

The second murder took place in Maryland, on April 14, 1994. On that day authorities said Bowles strangled David Jarman and stole his credit cards, his money and his car.

Milton Bradley was a 72-year-old World War II Navy veteran living in Savannah, Georgia, in May 1994 when he met Bowles.  

Also in May, 47-year-old Alverson Carter Jr’s body was discovered at his home in Atlanta, Georgia. The crime was similar to the others and forensic evidence linked Bowles to the crime. 

Morris became his fifth victim when he was killed in June 1994 in Hilliard, Florida. 

In November 1994, Walter Hinton was murdered in Jacksonville Beach. 

Hinton was Bowles’’ sixth and final known victim in a series of killings in an eight-month span that terrorized the Interstate 95 corridor and won him the nickname the ‘I-95 killer’.

Bowles was arrested after killing Hinton and confessed to killing the other five men. He received the death penalty for Hinton’s murder.

Bowles, 57, was raised in West Virginia, where he experienced drugs and violence at a young age. 

His father was a coal miner who died of black lung before he was born. His mother remarried multiple times, and his first two stepfathers were abusive, according to court records. 

His mother and brother testified that Bowles began drinking, smoking marijuana and huffing glue when he was 11 years old. When he was 13, he fought back against his second stepfather, smashing a rock in his head and nearly killing him, according to court records.

That’s when Bowles left home. Investigators say Bowles survived by letting gay men perform sex acts on him for money, though he maintained he was straight.  

Bowles was executed by lethal injection in August 2019 at Florida State Prison. 

Bowles did not say anything before his execution, but said in a handwritten statement that he was sorry for his actions.

‘I’m sorry for all the pain and suffering I have caused. I hope my death eases your pain,” Bowles wrote. 

‘I want to tell my mother that I am also sorry for my actions. Having to deal with your son being called a monster is terrible. I’m so very sorry. I never wanted this to be my life. You don’t wake up one day and decide to become a serial killer,’ the note reads. 


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