‘Lost Women Of Highway 20’ Episode 3 Recap & Ending: What Happens To John Ackroyd?

The three-episode series comes to a conclusion, and we get to see the complications involved in the case where Rachanda Pickle, Kaye Turner, and two other girls were killed. The final episode of Lost Women of Highway 20 focuses on the case of the newest victims, Melissa Sanders and Sheila Swanson, and then on the fate of John Ackroyd, who just seemed to be on a killing rampage until he was caught and put in prison. The series highlighted the fact that killers such as John have to be caught during their initial days; otherwise, they don’t just magically stop, and bodies keep piling up. A culture that wouldn’t listen to the victims, pay attention to children and made them feel they couldn’t talk about their abuse to anyone, was bound to be in a position where it allowed people like John to prosper and commit crimes over decades.


Spoilers Ahead

What Did John Do In Lebanon?

In the previous episode, we knew John had been transferred to the small town of Corvallis, which was a college town, meaning a lot of young girls were going to live in Corvallis or nearby regions. John was a roving mechanic, which meant that he was off-driving his truck. There was simply no way to keep track of him at that time. The authorities at the Oregon Department of Transportation were simply told that he was to work in Corvallis, but they had heard of the Kaye Turner case and the disappearance of the stepdaughter, Rachanda, but they had no choice. John’s area of interest was not Corvallis, though, but the rather dull town of Lebanon, where he met Melissa Sanders and Sheila Swanson. According to their friend, Kim Rhoads, John introduced himself as ‘The Pervert’ and started to ‘groom’ Sheila and Melissa. He once asked them to come to a party he was throwing in Newport, and the two girls never returned from that trip.


What Was The First Breakthrough?

The first real breakthrough came when the newly appointed detective on the Rachanda case, Will McAnulty, was told to handle the case files for John Ackroyd. After he put together John Ackroyd’s files in a chronological and systematic order, he figured that the only person to save John was Roger Beck’s wife, Pam, who had provided an alibi for them in Kaye Turner’s case. Jennifer, Rachanda’s cousin, knew Roger as he was married to her dad’s sister, Pam. She knew how volatile Roger was and how he could have coerced Pam. Will looked up Pam and found that she had divorced Roger, and thought that perhaps after 13 years of having covered up for the monsters, she would be willing to tell the truth. Will approached Pam and found out what he expected. She had lied through her teeth back in 1978 and told Will that when they came back home on Christmas Eve, Roger and John were covered in blood, and they talked about having ‘run over’ a jogger. But under Roger’s threat, she decided to help them out by providing an alibi for them. Now that the truth was known to McAnulty, the case for bringing in Roger and John had become extremely strong. There was circumstantial evidence, to begin with, and now, with Pam’s testimony, they could nab the two killers and perhaps even find out what really happened to Rachanda.

What Were The Attempts Made To Know The Truth?

John was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment, while Roger was given a fifteen-year sentence in the murder case of Kaye Turner. But Rachanda’s file had been closed. There was simply no breakthrough in her case. There was some evidence, but without the body or the remains, nothing could be moved forward. The two girls, Sheila and Melissa, disappeared just a month before John was arrested, and even their case never got any headway. Twenty years down the line, Byron really wanted to know what happened to his sister. There were authority figures like Mike Harmon and others, who really cared about the case and thought Byron deserved some semblance of justice. Harmon’s attempt was to offer John a deal in 2012, as he figured that he would confess to the murders and at least help the police discover Rachanda’s body. But John didn’t budge. He didn’t take any deals and entered a no-plea contest, whose records were sealed by the Linn County Courts. Taking a no-plea contest in a murder case meant John had something to hide, which he wasn’t willing to reveal even after twenty years of prison. This convinced Byron, beyond a reasonable doubt, that John was Rachanda’s killer. 


Where Did It All Go Wrong?

The unusual case also becomes baffling when one glances over what actually transpired and what the authorities were doing. John’s first known offense was against Marlene Gabrielsen, who told the police about her sexual assault, and yet they didn’t take any action against him. Had they arrested him, believing Marlene’s testimony, he might not have had it in him to do what he did to Kaye. But he just figured that he could get away with it, and he did roam around for 14 years until, in 1992, the forensics lab got better equipment to finally convict John after they found compelling evidence from Kaye’s clothes, which he himself had given to the police.

Marlene’s case was the real turning point. That was perhaps just John’s beginning of becoming a serial killer. Marlene had survived, but the rest of the women, including Rachanda, didn’t. Out of all the cases, John was convicted for only Kaye’s murder, while the rest were lost in oblivion. A cold case investigating team headed by the District Attorney and Linda Snow did uncover Melissa and Sheila’s bodies and found some crucial evidence to charge John with their murder, but they were too late. John passed away in jail in 2016, and the chance for justice was gone. There were speculations that John had killed many women between the years 1978 and 1992, but these were the only cases that were ever investigated or at least known about. Kaye received justice, while the rest of the women didn’t. Their family and friends were left with the sinking feeling that they had to combat every day. However, the case made everyone aware of how to be vigilant and create a space where children could talk about the harm someone was doing to them or if they were in trouble. Nobody can ever know the exact truth, but one can be watchful instead of being paranoid. In a poetic way, the woods that ran through Highway 20 know the truth of what John Ackroyd did, and they hide many secrets even to this day, waiting to be uncovered.


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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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