Hitchhiker gets life for Christmas Eve I-85 murder

John Asher Farrell Villarreal
John Asher Farrell Villarreal

ANDERSON Co., SC (WSPA) – A man accused of shooting two people and dumping them on I-85 has pled guilty.

John Asher Farrell Villarreal, 25, of Travelers Rest got life in prison for the murder of Mary Marie Fowler, the attempted murder of James Dobson, carjacking and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Villarreal shot both victims in the back of the head. Dobson survived but is now in constant pain. He has 6 bullet fragments still in his brain. His left eye is gone from the bullet is nearly blind in the right eye. He is paralyzed on his left side, can no longer walk and has slurred and slowed speech.


Testimony in court revealed Villarreal had an online romantic relationship with a 17-year-old girl being abused by her step dad.

Villarreal was 22 at the time. He told her he would come get her in a “wet extraction” because it would be so bloody.

He told her he would steal a car and go get her, but he couldn’t hotwire a car.

Former Anderson Co. Sheriff John Skipper said James Jerry Dobson II and his friend Mary Marie Fowler picked up Villarreal on the side of the road on Fletcher St. in Greenville.

It was raining and agreed to take him to the Georgia state line for $25.

“He stopped for the boy on 85 because he was walking in the rain. And he’s a good boy. He was concerned about the boy. But look what the boy turned and done to him. He’s caused him immeasurable hurt,” said Dobson.

During the ride, Skipper said Villarreal asked the couple to pull over to the side of I-85 southbound between mile-marker 16 and 17 so he could use the bathroom.

Skipper said Villarreal told investigators that’s when he pulled out a gun with a homemade silencer on it, shot Dobson and Fowler in the backs of their heads and dumped them on the side of the interstate. The sheriff said Villarreal then dumped clothes they had in the car at another location and continued to Georgia.

The solicitor said Villarreal also cut the seatbelts out of the car because they were blood stained.

When Villarreal got to Georgia, Skipper said he was stopped by troopers and got a ticket for speeding in Johnson County. Skipper said Villarreal told investigators he considered shooting the trooper, but didn’t because of the dash cam.

On December 24, Police got a call about bodies on the side of the road. Both were alive at the time. Fowler died later that day at the hospital.

Also that day, Villarreal got into a fight with the mother of the girl. The police were called but he was soon released and headed back to SC.

During the investigation, officials discovered Villarreal parked the car at an abandoned house he called a “safe house” in Travelers Rest.

Villarreal apparently rode a bicycle back and forth from his home and the “safe house.” Deputies are analyzing other items found there as evidence.

On December 29 Villarreal tried again to go get the girl in Georgia, but was unsuccessful.

On the way back, he stopped at a library in Anderson and sent a Facebook message. He parked the victim’s vehicle at an Anderson Co. home and a deputy found it.

Villarreal was arrested.

Court testimony revealed he admitted to planning to kill his girlfriend’s family because they wouldn’t let her go with him.

During a search, investigators found multiple firearms, newspaper clippings about the killings and a homemade silencer.

His attorney said Villarreal has a history of mental illness and experienced extreme trauma as a child as he witnessed his father beat and almost killed his mother.

As a teen he was hospitalized for PTSD and is on the autism spectrum.

Villarreal also had an extreme alcohol problem and had to go through detox in jail.

His lawyer said he had a “actual conversion experience,” found his faith and wants to own up to his actions and suffer the consequences.

“He knows he’s going to prison and feels like it’s a calling for him to help other inmates and lead bible studies so others learn from what he has done.”

In court Villarreal said, “I’m deeply sorry for what I did because I was wrong. I was a screwed up son of a gun and I shouldn’t have done it. And I want to say to every single one of you family members, every single one of these cops, every single one, everyone here that I was absolutely wrong. I was a wretched wicked sinner and I know only two things, I am a terrible sinner and Christ is a wonderful savior.”