California serial killers, seven stand out as particularly vicious. The following killers in California monopolized news broadcasts and terrorized residents. How many do you remember?
1. William G. Bonin, the “Freeway Killer.”
In 1979, the mutilated body of a 13-year-old boy was found in Agoura, in Los Angeles County. The boy was wearing only a t-shirt, socks, and shoes. He had been cut and stabbed in multiple places and strangled. His genitals, which had been cut off, were found in a nearby field. Over the course of 1979 and 1980, Vietnam veteran Bonin went on to rape, torture, and kill at least 21 boys and young men, dumping the bodies near high-traffic roads and earning his nickname. A tip from an arrested car thief led police to Bonin. He was convicted of 10 murders in Los Angeles and four more in Orange County. He was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison in 1996.
(Although Bonin was the most notorious of the three, two other men, Patrick Kearney and Randy Steven Kraft, shared the name “The Freeway Killer.” The three men were not connected.)
2. Charles Ng.
“You can cry and stuff like the rest of them, but it won’t do you any good. We’re pretty cold-hearted.” So said Hong-Kong-born Charles Ng, who, with his accomplice Leonard Lake, killed at least 11 people and possibly as many as 25 at a rented a cabin in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. By the time police discovered crushed and burned human bone fragments and personal effects of the victims, Ng had fled to Canada. Canadian authorities extradited him and he was convicted of 11 murders. He remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison. http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Ng-Murder-Trial-Opens-With-Chilling-Videos-2982622.php
3. Juan Corona, “The Machete Murderer.”
In 1971, the body of a migrant farm laborer was found in a shallow grave in a peach orchard. This led to the discovery of more workers’ bodies and clues that trailed back to Corona, who ran a business hiring out farm hands. He was convicted of hacking 25 laborers to death. The initial verdict was overturned because the defense had not included Corona’s known schizophrenia as a mitigating factor, but he was convicted again at the retrial in 1982. He is currently serving life in the Sensitive Needs Yard of Corcoran State Prison.
4. Randy Kraft, “The Scorecard Killer.”
Between 1972 and 1983, Kraft raped, tortured, and killed at least 16 and as many as 67 young men. He is known as the Scorecard Killer because he maintained a coded list of his victims. Each entry comprised a victim’s initials, an abbreviation for cause of death, or a cryptic references to the location or other information. In 1983, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated on I-5 in Orange County. When officers examined the car, they found the cold corpse of Kraft’s last murder, along with photographs of several of the prior victims. He was convicted of 16 murders and is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
5. Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, Jr., “The Hillside Stranglers.”
In 1977, the naked bodies of three strangled prostitutes were found on hillsides in the Los Angeles area. Over the following months, more victims were found, naked and strangled, sometimes sodomized. Instead of prostitutes, these were schoolgirls, waitresses, and actresses. A nine-year-old boy found two bodies near Dodger Stadium. Another had Windex injected into her veins. The men were caught when police in Washington arrested Bianchi, where he had fled, and connected him to the Los Angeles area murders. Bianchi is serving a life sentence in the Washington State Penitentiary. Buono served in Calipatria State Prison until his death from a heart attack in 2002.
6. Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, “The Toolbox Killers.”
In June, 1979, Bittaker and Norris drove into the San Gabriel mountains in their silver cargo van, which they nicknamed “Murder Mac.” They found a barely visible fire road blocked by a padlocked gate. They cut the lock and replaced it with one of their own. The next night, they snatched a sixteen-year-old girl as she left a church meeting, dragged her into Murder Mac, drove to the fire road, let themselves through the gate, and took turns raping her. When they were finished, they wrapped a wire coat hanger around her neck and tightened the noose with vise-grip pliers. Afterward, they wrapped her body in a plastic shower curtain and dumped her into a canyon. They committed five more murders in the following weeks, earning their nickname by using different tools for each murder. They stuck an ice pick in the ear of their second victim, bashed a third with a sledgehammer, and inserted pliers into the genitalia and rectum of another. They discarded most of the bodies in remote parts of the mountains. When caught, Norris pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 years to life. Bittaker went to trial, but with Norris cooperating as a witness, he was convicted and sentenced to death. He remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
7. Richard Ramirez, “The Night Stalker.”
Ramirez slipped into a 79-year-old woman’s Los Angeles apartment in the wee hours of the night and stabbed her in her bed. Over the next fourteen months, he killed repeatedly, usually during the night while his victims slept, thus earning the nickname the Night Stalker. He was convicted of 13 murders and five attempted murders. He was sentenced to die in the gas chamber, but he died of complications from lymphoma while he was still on Death Row.
In addition to these seven, honorable mention goes to Charles Manson, most notorious of all, but with a lower death toll than the ones above; Wayne Adam Ford, who walked into a police station with a victim’s severed breast in his pocket and confessed to four murders; and William Chase, “The Vampire of Sacramento,” who drank the blood of his victims. Never doubt the bizarreness of California serial killers. This gives you something to think about on your next vacation for horror lovers.
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