The Texas Boondocking Murders Effect

Chills ran down my spine when the Texas boondocking murders story made headlines earlier this month. My mind raced with memories of all the questionable places where Jim and I have camped.

creepy Two Guns free camping
It was almost like we dared ourselves to stay there.

James and Michelle Butler’s sad endings could have easily happened to us, or any of my RVing friends who prefer a free place to camp overnight. We pick free campsites with help from different websites or the Escapees Days End Directory. Each time we rely on other RVers opinions of the surroundings. Sometimes staying at a noted gritty little overnight spot is worth it. In rare cases like the Butlers’, it wasn’t.

Sierra Blanca abandoned truck stop
Sierra Blanca abandoned truck stop was the second scariest place we’ve stayed.

If the Butlers had known that five people have recently disappeared from the Corpus Christi beach where they set up camp, they probably wouldn’t have stayed. He was ex-military, and likely smart enough to know to avoid questionable spots. Maybe he was also more paranoid than me and Jim. After all, we’ve stayed in sketchy places like creepy Two Guns and many WalMart parking lots that people with more common sense whould have avoided.

Why do Jim and I tread into areas that would turn off most other RVers? Why do we rely on gut intuition and stay? Because we really want to trust others. Because of all the stories from other travelers who told us they had amazing experiences wherever they roamed, all because they trusted strangers.

We feel also like twelve years on the road has given us the street smarts to know which places to avoid altogether and who to walk away from.

But now I’m wondering if we are too trusting.

walmart RV camping
Statistically, Walmart’s crime statistics are highest of all retail outlets.

Within the last six months, at least four RVers / travelers have been murdered while doing what they love most. Earlier this summer it happened on the Alaska Highway. A young vandwelling couple was randomly murdered while staying in the same kind of roadside pullout Jim and I utilized last summer.

Basin and Range RV boondocking
We feel safer in empty wild, natural places like this.

And now, the Butler’s murder case has got me thinking. The cruel act was so brazen, it’s hard to believe the two suspects had enough wherewithal to casually cross the Mexican border with their victims’ home and three cats. But they did. Clearly, it’s easy to misunderestimate the inner workings of deranged lunatics.

Alaska Highway pullout boondocking
Alaska Higway roadside pullouts make great temporary campsites.

Maybe we put too much faith in humanity. The Texas boondocking murders might change that somewhat. For as much as I want to walk the talk of this verse we taped to the inside of our bathroom medicine cabinet, I’m having a hard time believing it when I think of that couple’s sad ending:

Presume innocence of each piece of life, at least until you know better,
And the joy of a loving community will be yours.

Slab City RV camping
We never felt unsafe boondocking at the Slabs. 

There’s such fine line between watching your back and falling into a trap of paranoia and distrust. I know that where you stand on that line determines how much you are able to enjoy a freewheelin’ full-timing lifestyle. The more paranoid you are, the less you’re willing to put yourself out there. That’s not us, and I hope it never will be.

Abandoned truck stops make easy boondocking spots

Although Jim and I aren’t ready for the predictable and boring routines most snowbirds follow, nor are we ready to start packing heat, I also know that these murders have emotionally impacted my enjoyment of going off the beaten path. The next time we entertain the thought of staying at some abandoned gas station, truck stop or even out in the middle of the Nevada desert, the tragic story of the Texas boondocking murders will be top of mind.

11 thoughts on “The Texas Boondocking Murders Effect”

  1. I don’t understand why you want to give Sierra Blanca, Tx a bad rep for camping at the truck stop. I have been here for 10 years now Sierra Blanca is one of the safest camping areas that I have seen in years. There is nothing scary about the old truck stop I would be more worried about cities than I would be of a small town in the middle of nowhere.

    • Ok Crazyrancher, I should have been clearer. The old truck stop was only scary in my mind, it was pretty iffy looking at dusk when we pulled in. Of course everything went fine and we were safe. I appreciate small towns more than you know, sorry if it seemed like I dissed Sierra Blanca.

  2. Camping in remote locations or Questionable locations can make you appear vulnerable. whether you are or not is based on your preparedness and state of mind. If you spend enough time out here eventually you WILL cross paths with someone who intends to do you harm! Don’t be a victim be prepared.

    • Appreciate your sharing your thoughts Gary. Honestly I’ve never felt as vulnerable while camping as I did while staying in urban RV parks. I agree it’s smart to be prepared (I’ve taken self-defense classes), but I don’t believe that running into an evil-doer is inevitable. Thanks for reading.

  3. Statistically a woman is at more risk of being killed by a male she knows than by a stranger. Every choice we make comes with the possibility of risk – I think we all acknowledge that when we hit the road. What is an acceptable risk is an individual choice, but again, a choice. Be situationally aware and go forth. Oh and trust your gut!!

  4. It makes me sad that we have to worry these days more about the two legged critters more than the four legged critters when boondocking. But with that said, it makes me worry when I read a news story like the one I read yesterday which happened in Phoenix. A man attacked two women in an IHop restaurant hitting them repeatedly with a coffee carafe. He had a history of arrests for criminal assault, theft, etc. I don’t want to be the person who said, “I wish I had had a gun.” I want to be the person who is comfortable and capable of using a gun if threatened and if fearing for my life. We both carry and feel safer for it. On another note–Ray and Jeanie joined us for late lunch the other day–it was so good to see them!

    • Hi Janna, thanks for sharing. That is a crazy story! I can totally appreciate how you and the Cowboy feel more confident in the precautions you take. Training and education is key to any self-defense mode. I took a class earlier this year and feel better about when I run alone. And that’s awesome you saw Ray and Jeanie! I hope they are doing well.

  5. I’m with you. We have skipped spots due to gut feelings but have also stayed in sketchy spots. The Texas couple story really hit home! And we also stayed just anywhere in Alaska only fearing bears, not people. I really want to believe that most people are good and don’t like that belief shaken. We will probably more careful now, although we are packing. As s result we will miss some beautiful spots.

    • Same as us Patti. I know that fearing people was not on my mind while we were up there. I can relate, and know that we too will use more discretion in the future.


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