Riverdale loves to invent twisted new serial killers to horrify Betty Cooper each season, but the show’s lasted masked murderer may be closer to fact than fiction. After taking down the Black Hood and Gargoyle King, Betty is up against a mysterious slasher known only as the Trash Bag Killer in Season 5. Strangely enough, that name is shared by an actual serial killer, which leads to a big question: Is the Trash Bag Killer on Riverdale a real person? While the show’s new big bad has a lot in common with the IRL murderer, there is one major difference.
Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers for Riverdale Season 5, Episode 4, "Purgatorio." So far, not much is known about the Trash Bag Killer, or TBK as the show uses for shorthand. After the seven-year time jump revealed Betty is now an FBI trainee, she recounted a recent run-in with the wanted criminal during therapy. The slasher earned his nickname by stuffing the dismembered body parts of his victims into various trash bags, and also, as revealed in Betty’s flashback, covering himself in trash bags. For some reason, though, he spared Betty when she rushed into his lair without backup — opting to hold her captive for two weeks before escaping, seemingly without physically harming her.
To make TBK even creepier, it seems like he is based on a real murderer. Before Riverdale took the name, the Trash Bag Killer was a moniker given to Patrick Kearney, one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history. Active throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Kearney earned his nickname from his unique way of disposing his victims’ bodies. Just like the Riverdale villain, he often dismembered the bodies of the people he killed and placed them in trash bags.
However, there is one major difference between Kearney and TBK. Kearney exclusively preyed upon men, oftentimes picking up his victims at gay bars or flirting with them on the roadside. While viewers aren’t fully aware of TBK’s pattern, he seems to target young women. Betty first went after TBK after he abducted and killed a missing girl, and he seemed to have some sort of interest in Betty as well.
Fans are sure to find out a lot more about the Trash Bag Killer as Riverdale Season 5 continues with new episodes on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
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