Richard James Herrin had longed for a girlfriend but he’d never had much luck. Coming from the ghettos of Los Angeles and being of Latino heritage in the 1970s did nothing to help matters. But finally Cupid would smile on the Yale man when he met Bonnie Joan Garland.
Bonnie had come from a successful, ambitious family in New York. After attending an all-girls prep school, she was free from family-constraints when she landed at Yale. Having always felt rather unattractive, she was pleased when Rich, as he was called, vied for her attentions.
In the beginning the couple could not get enough of one another and both were content with a no-sex relationship. But when Bonnie took Rich home to meet her parents during one school break, she quickly realized her parents were not as impressed with Rich as she. During this same weekend, Bonnie and Rich took their relationship to an all new level; one that defied their no-sex rule.
For Bonnie, it was likely a rebellion against parental disdain. For Rich, however, it was an emotional commitment beyond anyone could imagine.
In a couple of years, as love, especially that of teens, is wont to do, the joys of having a steady boyfriend began to wear thin for Bonnie Garland and other young men began to catch her eye. Torn between her first love and the yearnings of a 20-something, Bonnie ached to know if the grass was greener on the other side without breaking the heart of the first man to whom she had given her body and soul.
Little did Bonnie know of the intensity Rich Herrin had to possess her, for had she the decision may have come more swiftly, possibly utilizing the macho prowess of her father in doing so. Instead Bonnie tried to sever the ties like the young adult into which she had grown but would be met with a murderous temper tantrum on Richard Herrin’s part.
The murder of 20 year-old Bonnie Garland is put a small part of the Richard Herrin story, the rest remains a swirling cesspool of an illegitimate birth, feelings of abandonment, desperation, religion, and arguments founded on claims of insanity.
Peter Meyer delves deep into the case of Richard Herrin in his 1984 book The Yale Murders, exposing all aspects of a case that left many asking, “Just what defines insanity?” Researching Herrin’s background as a honor roll student and poverty-stricken childhood in East Los Angeles to his days as a lackadaisical Yale scholarship student, Meyer does not disappoint readers with his many revelations.
As I began to read the case of Richard Herrin, I was a bit dismayed thinking the author had began on a very biased note and wondered if I should continue reading. But just as quickly as these thought entered my head, I was just as abruptly pulled from them and given a contrasting point of view. And so it went throughout the book, leaving me with equal information so as to form my own opinion.
In my opinion, The Yale Murder is an excellent example of fine true crime writing with its eloquent narrative and extensive research.
Ahhh, the pleasure of old-school true crime. Oh, how I have missed you.
Where Are They Now?
In January 1995, Richard James Herrin was paroled from prison in January 1995. At that time, Herrin moved to Socorro, New Mexico, to live with a girlfriend and obtained employment as the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (now known as New Mexico Tech) as a campus safety coordinator. His job came under fire in 1997 when several concerned citizens brought his background to the attention of NMIMT officials. However, they said they were aware of Herrin’s background as he had provided such on his application for employment. After this, Herrin seems to just fade away. He may possibly be living in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico or, as some speculate, in Los Angeles, California.
The latest information for Bonnie’s father, Paul Griffith Garland, Esq., indicate that he is living out his retirement years in Boca Raton, Florida, possibly along with his Joan B. Garland, who went on to become a psychologist, although I’m uncertain if she is still living. Their son, Patrick Garland lives in nearby Deerfield Beach.
Bonnie’s younger sister, Cathryn Ann Garland married Michael O’Hanlon in October 1994. They have two daughters.
Rich’s mother, Linda Ugarte died in February 2008.