A night spent camping with a murderer

If you travel east on Rt. 299 from the Northern California coast, the wet winds will be suffocated by the mountains’ meticulous calm.

Somewhere out there (I’d say about a tank of gas east of the beach), a dirt road breaks off to the left and ascends through 20 miles of hairpin turns. Where it ends – next to a picnic table in a vacant campground – you’ll find a Ford Bronco inhabited by a 65-year-old bearded man who murdered his twin brother by strangling him to death.

Barry smokes a cigarette beside the Bronco

What follows is that man’s story, told to me in his words, when we shared that campground together on a cold evening in December of 2010.1


Barry Thornton was born roughly 600,000 cigarettes ago in rural Wisconsin.

This is his picture:

Barry poses behind the Bronco

Barry has a temper. He was expelled from one high school and struggled through the next. His fists split many lips.

His white beard cascades to his belly in straggled knots. His eyes dart wild through their sockets. His swollen hands speak of cold nights.

He was driving back from a grocery store when he spotted me hitchhiking … more

Posted on by Luke Whyte | 14 Comments