In 1964, an animal trainer named David Pitts picked up a hitchhiker named Larry Ranes from Kalamazoo, Michigan, a serial killer, as would later be revealed. What happened between them inspired He Went That Way, a movie starring Jacob Elordi as Ranes and Zachary Quinto as Pitts.
Although Elordi and Quinto’s characters are based on real people, He Went That Way, directed by Jeffrey Darling, is a dramatized account of Pitts and Ranes’ time together, based on Luke Karamazov, a fictionalized novel about Ranes written by Conrad Hilberry.
In the movie, adapted by Evan M. Weiner, Elordi’s character based on Ranes is Bobby Falls. Quinto’s role, meanwhile, is Jim Goodwin, patterned on Pitts. And without giving too much away, the real-life Pitts was among the few who survived their Ranes encounter that year.
Who did Larry Ranes kill?
The fictionalized version of the Larry Ranes story aside, the real-life Larry Ranes shot, killed, and robbed another man named Gary Smock while on the same hitchhiking trip he met David Pitts. Pitts’ celebrity chimp, Spanky, was with them in the car on that trip. Ranes later said that fact saved him.
After killing Smock, Ranes spoke openly about the murder, leading to his arrest. Smock’s belongings were also recovered. Under interrogation, Ranes admitted to the police he killed and robbed four men in 1964. Ranes was later declared insane, and by the end of the year, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He died behind bars in 2023 at the age of 78.
Ranes’ brother — Danny Ranes — was also a serial killer who, along with an accomplice named Brent Koster, murdered and raped four women in 1972 and was sentenced to life in prison. Danny died in 2022.
Why didn’t Ranes kill Pitts?
One of the most enduring questions of the Larry Ranes story is why he chose to spare David Pitts in the three days they spent together in 1964. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Pitts later said Ranes told him about the murders and even threatened to murder him and his chimpanzee travel companion, but he didn’t. According to Pitts, Ranes told him he talked his “way out of death.”
Pitts also later said that when he and Ranes finally parted ways, the killer told him, “You are not to tell anyone about this for two weeks. At that time, I’m going to kill myself. But, if you do, I have your ID and know where to find you. I will come kill you. Is it a deal?”
Referring to the 2024 film based on Ranes’ story, He Went That Way, the movie’s co-producer Hugh Broder told MLive, “That’s what made the interesting story. Not that he was a killer or anything like that, but why he didn’t kill this guy. That’s what we explore in the film.” Open in select theaters, He Went That Way is streaming on Jan. 12, 2024, on Apple TV and Amazon Prime.