Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Bonnie Garland


Bonnie Garland & Richard Herrin
Bonnie Garland & Richard Herrin

When Bonnie returned to Yale in the spring semester of 1977, she was determined to apply her best effort to succeed. She had enrolled in additional classes, practiced with the glee club several nights a week, took voice lessons and sang with a local choir. Bonnie also began to date other men. The Yale community was more of what she was accustomed to in her life than the laid back demeanor of Richard Herrin.

In May 1977, Bonnie left the United States on an extended tour in Europe with the Yale Glee Club. The tour included Geneva, Munich, Copenhagen and Paris. It was an exciting time for her and the chance of a lifetime to gather memories she would never forget. Her singing career was becoming more important to her and to the Garland family. Bonnie had a strong, soulful voice and was able to perform several solos on the tour, an important and desirable responsibility.     

Yale Glee Club promo
Yale Glee Club promo

At every stop of the tour, whose itinerary Yale published in its newsletter, was a letter from Richard. He wrote of being lonely, depressed and praying for the day when she would return. But above all, he wrote of his undying love for her. Bonnie, however, had other thoughts. She had confided in friends that she wanted to end her relationship with Richard but just couldn't build up the courage. She knew that he would take it hard. Instead, she chose simply not to write. For Richard, that may have been worse because not knowing the truth, he tortured himself with every possibility. "I even went so far to think maybe she had eloped with somebody in Europe," he later said in court, "and I would never see her again. She would stay in Europe for the rest of her life" (Gaylin 72). It was a time of excruciating agony for Richard, left alone without his beloved Bonnie and no one to talk to. "I was sitting around moping, not knowing what was going on," he said in court, "I was ashamed to admit that I hadn't heard from Bonnie. Perhaps a person would conclude that Bonnie didn't love me anymore...and I would feel ashamed for people to think that" (72).

For weeks, he waited for the letter that never came. He checked his mailbox each and every day, sometimes twice a day, convinced that he had somehow missed a letter or it had been lost in the mail. He dwelled on her for hours each day and their happy times together. He neglected his classes and began to drink in local bars where he would sit alone and wallow in self-pity. For the very first time in their two year relationship, Bonnie and Richard were not in communication. To Richard, this was a very bad sign. Always paranoid about Bonnie leaving him for an "elitist" Yale student, he felt he was losing control of her and it would be only a matter of time before she left him completely. On July 1st, after six weeks of waiting to hear from her, his worst fears were realized. He received a letter from Bonnie in which she told him that she was seeing another man, was very confused and needed time to think things over.

Herrin was devastated. "I started crying," he later testified in court, "fell on the bed, crying, read the letter over and over. I spent the next two or three hours reading the letter and crying and I tried to tell myself that it really didn't say anything definite about the relationship...I went into despair" (Connell). He was convinced that Bonnie was unfaithful to him, a possibility that brought rage and hatred into his thoughts. "If I found out that Bonnie had slept with another man," he once said, "I would cut out her genitals, and cut off her breasts, but not kill her" (Meyer 122).

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