In the summer of 2003, the body of thirty-six-year-old Sabrina Payne was found in a field near Tremont, Illinois. Sabrina was a black female who was known to support a drug habit with prostitution. Sabrina had last been seen at her home two days before her body was found. The original autopsy failed to determine a cause of death, leading some of the detectives to believe she had overdosed. One detective, however, felt uneasy about that assumption. His suspicions were confirmed as more bodies were found in Peoria and Tazwell counties over the next year.
On February 5th, 2004, the body of thirty-six-year-old Barbara Williams was found in a ditch near Edwards, Illinois. She was found partially clothed and lying face down in the snow. She had been seen alive between 9 and 10 pm the night before. An autopsy showed that she had multiple contusions and abrasions on her body. Toxicology showed that she had fatal levels of cocaine in her blood. At this point, police were not ready to call this a murder or entertain the idea of a serial killer preying on black drug-addicted prostitutes.
In October of 2004, thirty-two-year-old Shaconda Thomas was reported missing. She had last been seen by her family in August. Shaconda was known to disappear at times, but when she didn’t come back after several weeks, her family reported her missing. Shirley Ann Trapp was also reported missing in the late summer of 2004. She was seen three days before she was reported missing. Tamara Walls was reported missing in September of 2004, after not being seen for three weeks. All three missing women were also black females known to support a crack cocaine habit with prostitution.
Thirty-six-year-old mother of eight, Laura Lollar, disappeared from her home after leaving with a man and woman. Her long-time partner searched for her, but only was able to determine she had been with a man named Larry. Her boyfriend, and father to her seven daughters and one son, describes Laura as the love of his life and a beautiful soul. The two had experimented with crack cocaine, and Laura seemed to struggle with addiction prior to her disappearance.
On September 25th, 2004, Linda Neal was found on King Road in Tazwell County. She was found nude along the side of the road. Linda, like the other women, was known to be part of the drug scene in Peoria. At this point, police had determined there was likely a serial killer stalking black females in the Peoria area. A task force was formed, which one detective states would have occurred much quicker if the victims had been white females.
While police desperately searched for the killer, they kept a close eye on women in the community at risk. Despite their efforts, on October 15th, 2004, Brenda Erving’s body was found in a ditch near Farmington. Brenda was found nude, and an autopsy determined that she had been strangled and suffered blunt force trauma to her head. She also had fatal levels of cocaine in her system at the time of her death. Her children had feared for their mother’s safety, as she had known many of the women who had been killed or disappeared from Central Illinois. Brenda struggled with drug addiction.
Despite detectives’ best efforts, the case proved difficult to solve. They followed thousands of leads, but finally got the lead they were waiting for in December of 2004. Thirty-five-year-old Vickie Bomar was arrested for theft. From jail, she told authorities that she thought she could help them find the serial killer preying on her fellow sex workers. She believed that a man who had picked her up in July 2004 was responsible.
Bomar explained that in July, a man named Larry Bright lured her to his mother’s home where they shared alcohol and drugs. Once she was intoxicated, she said Bright attacked her, attempted to rape her, and pulled a knife on her. Somehow, Bomar was able to escape. Police were at first skeptical, as Bomar asked for a plea deal in exchange for her testimony. Why hadn’t she reported this back in July? Why wait until she was under arrest? Vickie Bomar claimed she was scared of being arrested for outstanding warrants, which is why she did not come forward in July 2004. A search of her criminal history confirmed the warrants, so detectives decided to take a look at the man named Larry Bright.
Larry Dean Bright was born in Peoria, Illinois, on July 8th, 1966. He served a two-year stint in prison at age nineteen for burglary and carjacking. According to Larry’s family, the time Larry spent in prison changed him for the worse. Larry became more angry, violent, and began using drugs. Larry had an injury, which started an addiction to prescription opioids and later crack cocaine. He also developed an addiction to pornography, preferring videos with black women. Larry lived with his mother, in a tiny guest house behind her home. Larry enjoyed gardening, creating a beautiful garden bed of flowers for his mother.
When the police arrived at Larry’s home following the tip, they noticed the beautiful flowers in the garden. Larry was placed under arrest for the unlawful restraint of Vickie. They questioned Larry about the murders, but he denied having any information about the murdered and missing women. Throughout the interview, Larry smoked several cigarettes. Detectives planned to take one of the cigarette butts and test it for DNA, but Larry ate them before leaving the interrogation room. Larry declined to give DNA voluntarily.
Police searched Larry Bright’s home on January 20th, 2005. The investigators dug up the garden, finding several small bone fragments and ashes that were later determined to be human. When the police questioned Larry again, they told him they were digging up his mother’s flowers. At this point, Larry broke down and confessed to multiple murders. He even led investigators to the remains of some of his victims.
Larry explained that around July 27th, 2003, he picked up Sabrina Payne on the south side of Peoria. He drove her to his home, which he shared with his mother. He claimed the two drank and used cocaine before having consensual sex. Larry said he did not intend to kill Sabrina, but he became enraged, thinking Sabrina was trying to rip him off. He strangled her to death and dumped her body near the cornfield where she was found.
Larry confessed to picking up Barbara Williams in February 2004. Again, he used drugs and alcohol with his victim. He stated that he once again lost control of his anger and killed Barbara. He claimed he caught Barbara stealing from him. He dumped her body along the road, where she was found the next day. The prosecution believed that after the first two murders, Larry developed a blood lust. At the time of his arrest, he said, “I knew then I would kill the others I would pick up. I went out hunting”.
Larry also confessed to killing Laura Lollar. He burned her body in his backyard burn pit, burying the remains in his mother’s yard. He said he wanted to destroy the bodies to avoid getting caught. He confessed to killing Tamara Walls and burning her remains. Her jawbone was found in the backyard. He admitted to strangling, beating, and burning Shirley Ann Trapp. Shaconda Thomas had the same fate after being picked up by Larry Bright. He burned the woman and buried the ashes in the yard. Because of his attempts to cremate his victims, he was nicknamed the Bonecrusher. Larry said that he attempted to burn Linda Neal and Brena Erving as well, but the attempts were unsuccessful due to the weather. He dumped both women along the side of the road.
Larry was facing the death penalty following his January 2005 arrest. In an attempt to spare his mother the embarrassment of a trial and avoid the death penalty, Larry Bright plead guilty to seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of drug-induced homicide on May 30th, 2006. Bright’s murders were not considered racially motivated, but detectives believed he was just attracted to black women. He is one of very few serial killers who chooses victims outside of his own race.
Larry was sentenced to seven life sentences without the possibility of parole, to be served concurrently. He was also given an additional thirty years for the drug-induced homicide. As part of the plea deal, Larry will be required to serve 100% of his sentence with no parole consideration. Larry is currently housed at the Shawnee Correctional Center in Vienna, Illinois. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars, but that brings little peace to the families of his victims. The loved one’s of Larry’s victims want people to know that the woman he killed were more than just drug addicts or prostitutes, they were people. They were mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends.
Evil Lives Here: Shadows of Death Season 5 Episode 1 In Mother’s Garden
Madhani, A. (2006). Guilty plea brings peace in Peoria case. Chicago Tribune
Dennis, J. (2006). Accused serial killer accepts deal for life in prison. The Pantagraph
Dennis, J. (2007). Two serial killings still unsolved. Northwest Herald.