Crime History: Hayward Bissell’s Highway Terror Spree Ends With Corpse Sitting Next To Him

Main image: "Dead End" sign [Public Domain Pictures]

The gruesome run of hulking Ohio murderer Hayward Bissell, 37, came to an end on January 23, 2000. Alabama police pulled Bissell over and discovered the mutilated body of Patricia Booher, 24, sitting upright and strapped next to him in the car’s front seat.

Bissell, who stood six foot four and weighed 400 pounds, and Booher, who was four foot ten and weighed 105 pounds, had initially embarked from Ohio on a trip to Florida. However, upon stopping in a Georgia parking lot, Bissell stabbed Booher to death and dismembered her body.

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When officers in DeKalb County, Georgia, stopped Bissell’s vehicle, they discovered Booher’s body placed upright and strapped in by a seat belt in the car’s front passenger seat. Her eyes had been gouged out, one of her hands and one leg were missing, and her heart had been extracted. Bissell was carrying Booher’s esophagus in his shirt’s front pocket.

"Blood Highway" by Sheila Johnson is the definitive true crime book on the Hayward Bissell case.

“Blood Highway” by Sheila Johnson is the definitive true-crime book on the Hayward Bissell case.

After being arrested, the massive Bissell tore up his cell in a berserk outburst. In the meantime, authorities pieced together the suspect’s trail, and discovered he had committed two other seriously violent crimes after killing Booher.

Shortly after the murder, Bissell got into a fender bender with motorist Donald Pirch in Fort Payne, Alabama. Pirch stepped out of his car with insurance papers in hand. He calmly approached Bissell, who floored his accelerator and plowed into Pirch.

Bissell dragged Pirch for 150 feet and then made a sharp turn, which disconnected the victim from the speeding car’s bumper and saved his life.

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An hour later, Bissell stopped in rural Mentone, Alabama. As unsuspecting resident James Pumphrey sat on his front porch, Bissell charged up and stabbed him repeatedly. When Pumphrey’s two Labrador Retrievers rushed over to help their owner, Bissell fatally slashed the dogs’ throats. The carnage stopped only when Carolyn Pumphrey, James’s wife, rushed out of the house with a .22 rifle.

Scrambling away, Bissell yelled, “Don’t shoot me! I’m leaving!”

The severely wounded James Pumphrey just barely survived the attack.

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Bissell told his arresting officers that he was “on a mission” for the CIA, and that the agency had ordered him to kill Booher. He had been treated repeatedly for mental illness in his native Ohio, and had records of violent behavior dating back to 1987.

On February 7, 2002, Hayward Bissell pleaded “guilty but mentally ill” to felony murder and other charges. The Georgia judge sentenced him to serve out the remainder of his natural life in prison. Bissell remains behind bars today.

The true-crime best-seller Blood Highway by Sheila Johnson, a newpaper reporter who covered the case, compellingly details the tragedy.

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Main photo: “Dead End” sign [Public Domain Pictures]

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