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William J. GUATNEY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   


A.K.A.: "Freight Train"
 
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Child molester
Number of victims: 5 - 15
Date of murders: 1975 - 1979
Date of arrest: August 22, 1979
Date of birth: 1922
Victims profile: Boys aged between 9 to 13 years
Method of murder: Beaten or stomped to death
Location: Nebraska/Kansas/Illinois, USA
Status: Ruled incompetent for trial, 1980. Murder confessions suppressed. Committed to mental institution, 1980. Died 1997
 
 
 
 
 
 

William "Freight Train" Guatney loved to ride the rails. For almost forty years he traveled the United States in box cars, living off the land and picking up odd jobs in towns where he was known as a "likeable hobo," described by his many friends as "the happy-go-lucky type." But Guatney also had a darker side.

At fifty-seven, he had seen America the hard way, and he hated being called a bum. "I'm two people," he once told a female acquaintance. "I can also be mean." In retrospect, friends noted that "He was a strong man when he got mad." 

The special target of his anger -- and his lust -- appeared to be young boys. In August 1979, Guatney was arrested in Illinois, charged with three counts of murder on warrants issued from Kansas and Nebraska.

Homicide investigators viewed the charges merely as a starting point, suggesting Guatney might have murdered fifteen children in the past five years alone. Nebraska charged him in the deaths of 13-year-old Jon Simpson and 12-year-old Jacob Surber, abducted from the state fair at Lincoln, in 1975. 

Both were discovered days later, and Guatney was arraigned on August 22, 1979, refusing to enter a plea. The Kansas charge involved Jack Hanrahan, a 12-year-old who disappeared from his Topeka neighborhood on May 20, 1979. 

Molested and murdered, his corpse was found in a creek bed ten days later; on August 20, Guatney was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sodomy. At least two victims were suspected by police in Illinois, where 9-year-old Mark Helmig was murdered at Pekin, in 1976, and Marty Lancaster, 14, was killed at Normal two years later. 

The authorities considered Guatney a suspect in the deaths of at least ten other boys, scattered throughout the Southwest.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers

 
 

SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE: PC-nonspecific

MO: Transient linked to murder of boys age nine to 13

DISPOSITION: Ruled incompetent for trial, 1980; murder confessions suppressed; committed to mental institution

 

 

 
 
 
 
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