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People/Characters: Bonnie Garland

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The killing of Bonnie Garland by Willard Gaylin
True Stories of Law & Order: The Real Crimes Behind the Best Episodes of the Hit TV Show by Kevin Dwyer

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Bonnie Garland was from a wealthy family; her father had grown up in poverty but had been very successful and they lived in Scarsdale, New York.  In 1974 at 17 she entered Yale University where she soon fell in love with senior Richard Herrin.   In 1977, Bonnie went on an extended tour of Europe with the Yale Glee Club and fell in love with someone else.   Richard came to New York to convince her to continue their relationship.   He was allowed to stay at the Garlands' home, and while they were all sleeping, found a hammer and beat Bonnie so severely with it that she later died.   He confessed to the police, but, to the horror of the Garlands, who were also Catholic, was championed by Yale's Thomas More Catholic Church, who argued that Bonnie was dead but Richard could be salvaged.  He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and was convicted of first degree manslaughter.   He received the maximum sentence of 8-1/2 to 25 years.   The Garlands felt that he should have been convicted of murder: Joan Garland commented, "If you have a thirty-thousand-dollar defense fund, a Yale connection, and a clergy connection, you are entitled to one free hammer murder."  Herrin regarded the sentence as excessive, and argued after two years that he had served enough time.  He was released in 1995 having served 18 years.

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