When true crime author Tony Stewart contacted me to review his book THE TRASH BAG MURDERER I was intrigued. Not only had I never heard of the “Trash Bag Killer” Patrick Kearney but there was also the added intrigue that the author was a survivor of this serial killer.
As a child and youth, Tony Stewart lived in the same Californian neighbourhood as Kearney (he even did odd jobs for the serial killer) and he and his brother Ron separately had encounters with him that, unbelievably, did not end in their grisly deaths. (When you read the book you will discover the horrific manner in which Kearney killed his victims. In short, Kearney preyed on young men, teens and even children.).
“…Personally, I did not perceive any abnormal or peculiar characteristics in his persona; he appeared to be a calm, soft-spoken considerate man, but this compassion turned out to be pure deception to lure victims to their deaths. My brother and I were fortunate, we escaped…” author Tony Stewart, The Trash Bag Murderer.
Kearney, an engineer with an IQ of 180 (genius territory) turned himself in to authorities in 1977 (along with his lover and room mate David Hill) and confessed to the murders of over 32 males (the true number is thought to me up to 43). Hill was never convicted for lack of evidence. The details of Kearney’s crimes are very tough to read but Stewart has been thorough in his detailing of the victims’ lives and how they came to be killed.
What I liked about this book is the personal element of Stewart’s knowledge of Kearney and also the extensive research that the author has put into the story. As a working journalist I appreciated the research and determination Stewart has communicated in his work. A quest for the truth and also a respect for the victims and their families is at the heart of the book and Stewart has been dogged in chasing up case files and details of Kearney and the police investigation into his crimes that span the 1960s and 1970s in California and even Mexico.
There is plenty of extra content in this book beside the story – transcripts of interviews, a summary of Kearney’s crimes and letters from relatives of the victims. There’s also the extra-fascinating chapter where Stewart ponders whether Kearney could be the infamous Zodiac Killer who has never been found.
Verdict: Definitely worth a read.