Arthur Gary Bishop died a quiet, peaceful death Friday morning. There was no blood, there were no pleas for mercy, no cries for "Mommie, Mommie."
It was a different kind of death than those suffered by Danny Davis. Or Troy Ward. Or Kim Petersen. Or Alonzo Daniels. Or Graeme Cunningham.Bishop closed his eyes in lethal sleep. His lungs stopped. His heart stopped. It was an execution carried out with clinical perfection.
Society reserves capital punishment for its worst offenders. If Arthur Gary Bishop was not an appropriate candidate, no one ever would be. He clubbed, shot or strangled five young Salt Lake County boys.
He sexually abused them before he killed them. He sexually abused and mutilated them after they were dead. He exhibited a sickening depravity never before experienced in Utah on such a scale.
If a man deserved to die for his crimes, Arthur Gary Bishop did.
But Bishop remains an enigma. He loved little boys, but he killed them. He feared punishment from God for his actions, but he often quipped, "You can only go to hell once."
Even in death Bishop remains an enigma. Was he a repentant man who left this life "with no ill feelings toward anyone"?
Or was he the killer who told detectives, "I'm glad you caught me because I would have kept on killing"?
Was Bishop a repentant child molester who told one television reporter that the only way society can protect its children from people like him is to institute programs to teach them not to accept candy from strangers and not get into their cars?
Or was he the man who told Detective Don Bell only a few hours before that interview that the only way to protect children was "to make sex with children legal so I won't have to kill them?"
Was he really a repentant crusader against pornography?
Or was he in reality the man who told detectives if the federal government hadn't cracked down on smut he would not have had to take his own pictures and wouldn't have had to kill the boys he photographed?
Was he the repentant sinner who offered himself freely to the executioner to "allow the families of the victims to put all this behind them?"
Or was he instead the ruthless killer who told Bell that he would appeal his death sentences only if he no longer could handle prison life? "If I give up my appeals, you'll know I just can't take prison anymore," he said.
Was he the man who expressed sincere remorse for his victims?
Or was he the man who said, "What makes you think they would have grown up to be Eagle Scouts. They could have been dope pushers"?
Was he a unique sociopath who freely cooperated with prison psychologists?
Or was he the con-wise killer who told FBI researchers to "shove it" when they requested an interview?
Was he the man who told prison officials, "I don't want to die but I think it's necessary"?
Or was he the man who repeatedly set suicide dates while incarcerated in the Salt Lake County Jail, but never had the courage to carry out the deed?
Some people believe in one portrait of Arthur Gary Bishop. Some believe in another. According to Utah State Prison psychologist Al Carlisle, both extremes are correct.
"So often we get caught in the black and white of things," Carlisle said. With Bishop, it's not a case of black or white. It's a case of a both black and white, both good and bad.
It's easy, said Carlisle, to look at Bishop's crimes and say there is no good in him. "But he has a good side, too," Carlisle said. "Over the years I've worked with him I've seen both sides."
The good side of Arthur Gary Bishop once prompted him to scholastic honors in high school. It prompted him to earn his Eagle Scout. It prompted him to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
His descent into evil changed him but did not erase the good qualities from Bishop's character. In prison, Bishop has sincerely tried to rediscover the good within himself.
Carlisle often commented to Bishop on the progress he was making. Bishop would respond, "Yea, but I have a long ways to go."
Bishop confided in Carlisle that someday, sometime in the future after this life was over, he hopes he will have mastered his perverted attraction toward young boys. He took steps in this life to reach that goal.