by Robert A. Waters
It was 1977. President Jimmy Carter presided over a rising “misery index,” Star Wars blasted movie box office records to oblivion, and Elvis Presley died on his bathroom floor at Graceland. In Texas, an unknown rapist prowled the dark streets of Amarillo.
Samuel Christopher Hawkins’ MO was simple. Each night after work, he crept through middle-class neighborhoods, checking for unlocked doors. On entering a home, he searched every room, hoping to find some unlucky woman alone. By now, his excitement had reached a fever-pitch, and his urges were unstoppable. In his confession, Hawkins stated that his own father had told him the best way to get back at society was to “attack white women.” Hawkins subjected each victim to an established ritual, always placing a pillow case over her head so she couldn’t identify him.
For two years, he assaulted women, and not even the vaunted Texas Rangers could catch him. Then Hawkins graduated to murder. Not just any murder, but the slayings of a twelve-year-old girl and a 19-year-old pregnant woman. Hate, fueled by surging sexual demons, prompted him to kill the innocent.
The first to die was Rhonda DeAnn Keys. On February 2, 1976, Hawkins abducted the pre-teen from her school bus stop, and drove her to a secluded area. An autopsy was inconclusive as to whether he sexually assaulted Rhonda, but it did show that he beat her to death, possibly with a steel pipe. After killing her, Hawkins drove to a secluded bridge and dumped her body beneath it. Seven days later, a farm-boy discovered her remains. Rhonda’s hands were tied behind her back, and a bloody pillow-case covered her head.
Hawkins waited for more than a year before committing his second murder. The victim was Abbe Rodgers Hamilton, a 19-year-old pregnant housewife. The killer’s chilling confession to police was recorded: “My name is Samuel Christopher Hawkins ... A short while ago, I can't remember exactly when, I drove to Borger, Texas with a friend.... We went in my friend’s car. The man I was with met one of his old girl friends and stayed with her so I took his car. I started looking around Borger for somebody to rape. I drove to the south part of Borger. I started checking doors and came to a house that had one open. This house was facing west, and it had a drive way that went north and south. The house was a red color and they were building a room on the end of it. There was a red Monte Carlo, I think it was about a 1976 model, parked in the driveway. There was also another small car in the driveway and I think it was a Pinto or a Vega.
“I parked my car in the area of the driveway, right behind the Monte Carlo and Pinto. I checked the door and it was open. I walked straight into a bedroom that seems like it was kind of behind the kitchen and to the left. I had a hunting knife that I had bought at the T.G. & Y. store on 24th. and North Grand st. (sic) in my hand. I noticed a woman lying on a bed on her side. I put the knife to the woman’s throat and she jumped. When the woman jumped, the knife went into her neck. The woman got hysterical and reached up and felt the blood on her neck and started screaming ‘give me a towel, give me a towel.’
When the woman got hysterical, I did too. I started stabbing the woman in the neck but I don’t know how many times I stabbed her. When the woman became hysterical, she grabbed the telephone and was going to call on it. I guess this is when I cut her again. The woman was holding the phone, and I took the knife and cut the wire. I then went into the dining area and got some red and white napkins. The red and white design was in squares. I made an attempt to calm her down and tie her up. I had cut the napkins with the knife that I had and used these to tie her with. The woman wouldn’t give up so this is when I cut her again. I couldn’t tie the woman up as such so the knots stayed loose. I did not think that the woman was dead when I left but I didn’t know for sure. I did not rape this woman but I intended to when I went in the house. I got scared when I stabbed the woman and this is why I didn’t rape her and I ran out of the house....”
Police finally caught Hawkins after a young boy noticed him prowling an Amarillo neighborhood and wrote down his license number. Investigators eventually linked him to 40 rapes in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida. Because of this, investigators and the media began calling him “the traveling rapist.”
Convicted of killing Rhonda Keys and Abbe Hamilton, Hawkins earned two death sentences. He died by lethal injection on February 21, 1995.
Although he enjoyed killing others, Hawkins changed his tune when it came time for his own death, claiming that Texas was wrong to execute him. “I’m well-balanced, intelligent, dignified, reasonable,” he said. “The illusion is that you're dealing with some animal that can't be reformed.”
Of course, reformation isn’t the point. Execution is designed to make people pay for despicable, inhumane acts. It’s for providing some means of emotional restoration to families of victims. And it’s to stop people like Hawkins from killing other innocent women.
In this case, that was done.
Since his execution, Hawkins has never murdered anyone else.