Sunday, July 27, 2014

Last Ride of the “Traveling Rapist”

Serial Burglar Turns Killer
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.



Gargantuan Media said...

Very well presented! Since the 1970's the prison population has increased 800% - well above any growth in population.

Private prison corporations such as GEO Group, who are on record giving nearly 1 million dollars to a single Arizona politician - Rep. John Kavanaugh, greatly benefit by having lengthy or Life sentences given to killers instead of the death penalty.

When killers walk free, as in the case of serial child killer Anthony Kirkland of Cincinnati, they kill again.

John said...

It took approximately 19 years from the death of Abbe and her baby until the State of Texas was allowed by the courts to execute Samuel Hawkins. Nineteen years - think about it. That baby, no, that fetus would have earned a drivers' license, worked its way through school and probably graduated from high school, and possibly even gotten married and had it's own child. All of this and Abbe's and her baby's killer was still alive walking the planet.

Shame on you, court system, for allowing such travesty.

I think of you often, Abbe, and though unlikely, I pray that Buzz has been able to find some normalcy and peace in his life.

Your tennis partner and friend,

John Ragland

Anonymous said...

Rhonda was my Sister her father was Grandfather who Adopted me whan I was just a baby! Rhonda We miss you so very dearly. I never got to meet you but I have heard you were such a sweet girl and had a bright future a head of you! Samuel Hawkins never did actually confess to Rhonda's Death but we as her family knew he was the one who had broke into her home, kidnapped, and killed her! Im glad he got the death penalty my sister wasnt but 12 Yrs Old @ the time, and abbe was just about to start her life with her husband and become a new mother and that baby was innocent and never made it to take it's first breath! Samuel Hawkins got exactly what he deserved!

Unknown said...

I worked for the City of Borger the day this happened and I still remember the sick horrified look that the police had when they came in my shop that day and days later they never said anything about it but i know it has haunted them until this day.Gary L. Shaver

Unknown said...

Abbey was my cousin, I was only 10 years old in 1977,but I firmly remember this like it was yesterday.
Fear weighed heavily on our family and on Borger Texas. I agree with John Ragland in that Hawkins did NOT deserve to live nearly as long as he did. Our judicial system has many flaws, and it is a crying shame that in our society people like Hawkins can appeal, and keep getting stays of execution all because they are good at manipulation. God have mercy on your soul Hawkins.

Kellie Minton

Unknown said...

Abbe was my cousin, and I can remember this day like it was yesterday. The fear that besieged my family and the Borger community was incomprehensible.
To think that Hawkins was granted the ability to live 19 years longer than Abbe and her child is a travesty. His transgressions should have been paid for much sooner. Shame on our judicial system for its ability to allow people like Hawkins to manipulate them.

Kellie Minton

RIP Rhonda said...

Rhonda was not abducted at a bus stop,She if your going to write a her story please get the facts straight. And yes it was proven that that Hawkins was Rhonda Killer. His wife was witness to everything,every gory detail, every despicable and sick act, yet Amarillo Police and DA allowed her to go free.... I remember this case like it was yesterday. I knew Rhonda for all of the short 12 years she was with us, she was full of life, loving, smart and so very much more. So Please do not disrespect her story with incorrect facts.

Unknown said...

His wife was involved too! How?

Debby said...

I was a member of the jury and we didn't hear anything about his wife being involved.

Debby said...

Sorry, clarification. I was on the jury for Rhonda.

Anonymous said...

Hi Debby, yes, his wife was there but cut a deal and they let her go. he kept Rhonda for several days in his home and before killing her and throwing her away like a piece of trash on the highway.Exactly to what extent her involvement was may never truly be realized. It should make you feel better about the verdict, but the prison chaplain said that Hawkins was the most evil man he ever met and that he never showed remorse for his crimes. I just can't help wondering what his wife and children are doing today. I am truly sorry that you had to be on the jury and go through that awful ordeal.

RIP Rhonda said...

Hi Debby, I am sorry you had to go though the ordeal as a jurist. For some unknown reason the DA cut a deal with Hawkins wife for her testimony, Hawkins was believed to have kept Rhonda at his home for 2-3 days and yes his wife was there. We will never know what her true involvement was, but anyone that sat idly by while he did what he did to Rhonda should have never gone free. The prison Chaplin stated that worked at the prison for over 20 years stated that he never met anyone filled with more evil than Hawkins. Hawkins never showed any remorse even during the execution. This man was pure evil and you did justice proud by finding him guilty. Rhonda was only 12 years old and I will not mention the horrors that she had to endure, but The legal system kept that evil man alive well longer than Rhonda had a chance to live, she was filled with such joy and just beginning life, but she is with God in a much better place now.