Hillside Strangler

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Hillside Strangler
Other names The Hillside Stranglers
Criminal penalty
Life imprisonment (both Buono and Bianchi)
Killings
Victims 10
Span of killings
October 16, 1977–February 16, 1978
Country USA
State(s) California
Date apprehended
January 12, 1979 (K.B.)
October 22, 1979 (A.B.)
Angelo Buono
Angelo Buono.jpg
Born (1934-10-05)October 5, 1934
Rochester, New York
Died September 21, 2002(2002-09-21) (aged 67)
Cause of death
Heart Attack
Kenneth Bianchi
KennethBianchi 1979.jpg
Born (1951-05-22) May 22, 1951 (age 62)
Rochester, New York

The Hillside Strangler is the media epithet for two men, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, who were convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing, and killing girls and women ranging in age from 12 to 28 years old during a four-month period from late 1977 to early 1978. They committed their crimes in the hills above Los Angeles, California.

Murders[edit]

The first victim of the Hillside Strangler was a Hollywood prostitute, Yolanda Washington, whose body was found near the Forest Lawn Cemetery on October 18, 1977. The corpse was cleaned and faint marks were visible around the neck, wrists, and ankles where a rope had been used. It was discovered that the victim had been raped.

On November 1, 1977, police were called to a La Crescenta neighborhood, north east of downtown Los Angeles, where the body of a teenage girl was found naked, face up on a parkway in a residential area. The then homeowner covered her with a tarp to prevent the neighborhood children from viewing her on their way to school. Bruises on her neck indicated strangulation. The body had been dumped, indicating she was killed elsewhere. The girl was eventually identified as Judith Lynn Miller, a runaway prostitute who was barely 15 years old. This event caused the homeowner to relocate his family out of state for their protection.[citation needed] The coroner's report further detailed her being bound much like the first victim, Yolanda Washington.

Five days later, on November 6, 1977, the nude body of another woman was discovered near the Chevy Chase Country Club. Like Judith Lynn Miller, she had been strangled with a ligature. The woman was identified as 21-year-old Lissa Teresa Kastin, a waitress, and was last seen leaving work the night before she was discovered. Whereas some of the other victims were prostitutes, Lissa Kastin was a characteristically "good girl" who had also worked part-time for her father's real estate and construction business. A ballet student, she was saving money to continue her training and hoped to become a professional dancer.

Two girls, Dolores Cepeda, 12, and Sonja Johnson, 14, boarded a school bus and headed home on November 13, 1977. The last time they were seen was getting off this bus and approaching a car. Inside the car were reportedly two men. A young boy, cleaning up a trash-strewn hillside near Dodger Stadium, found two bodies, six days later, November 20. Both girls had been strangled and raped, and were identified as Cepeda and Johnson.

Later that same day, November 20, 1977, hikers found the nude, sexually assaulted body of Kristina Weckler, 20, on a hillside near Glendale. Unlike previous victims, there were signs of torture, indicated by oozing injection marks. It was later revealed that Weckler had been injected with Windex.

On November 23, 1977, the badly decomposed body of Jane King, 28, an actress, was found near an off ramp of the Golden State freeway. She had gone missing around November 9. With the continued discovery of bodies in hilly areas, a task force was formed to catch the predator, dubbed the "Hillside Strangler".

On November 29, 1977, police found the body of Lauren Wagner, 18. She also had been strangled with a ligature. There were also burn marks on her hands indicating she was tortured. The law enforcement task force—Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Glendale Police Department—began to assume that more than one person was responsible for the murders, even though the media continued to use the singular Hillside Strangler.

On December 13, 1977, police found the body of 17-year-old prostitute Kimberly Martin on a hillside.

The final victim in Los Angeles was discovered on February 16, 1978, when a helicopter pilot spotted an orange Datsun abandoned off a cliff on the Angeles Crest Highway. Police responded to the scene and found the body of the car's owner, 20-year-old Cindy Hudspeth, in the trunk.

Sometime in 1977, the two men gave a ride to Catharine Lorre with the intent of killing her as well. However, when they discovered that Catharine was the daughter of Austrian actor Peter Lorre, famous for his role as a child murderer in Fritz Lang's acclaimed film M, they let her go without incident. She did not realize who the men were until they were arrested.

Trial[edit]

After intensive investigation, police charged cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, Jr. with the crimes. Bianchi had fled to Bellingham, Washington where he was soon arrested for raping and murdering two women he had lured to a home for a house-sitting job. Bianchi attempted to set up an insanity defense, claiming that he had dissociative identity disorder, and a separate personality from himself committed the murders. Court psychologists, notably Dr. Martin Orne, observed Bianchi and found that he was faking the illness, so Bianchi agreed to plead guilty and testify against Buono in exchange for leniency.

At the conclusion of Buono's trial in 1983, presiding judge Ronald M. George, who would later become Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, stated during sentencing, "I would not have the slightest reluctance to impose the death penalty in this case were it within my power to do so. Ironically, although these two defendants utilized almost every form of legalized execution against their victims, the defendants have escaped any form of capital punishment."[1] Bianchi is serving a life sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary of the Washington State Department of Corrections in Walla Walla, Washington. Buono died of a heart attack on September 21, 2002, at Calipatria State Prison of the California Department of Corrections in Calipatria, California, where he was serving a life sentence.[2]

Veronica Compton[edit]

In 1980, Bianchi began a relationship with Veronica Compton. During his trial, she testified for the defense. She was later convicted and imprisoned for attempting to strangle a woman she had lured to a motel in an attempt to have authorities believe that the Hillside Strangler was still on the loose and the wrong man was imprisoned. Bianchi had given her some smuggled semen to use to make it look like a rape/murder committed by the Hillside Strangler. She was released in 2003.

Film adaptations[edit]

Year Title Cast Notes
as Angelo Buono as Kenneth Bianchi also starring
1989 The Case of the Hillside Stranglers Dennis Farina Billy Zane Richard Crenna as a police sergeant Made for television; based on Two of A Kind: The Hillside Stranglers by Darcy O'Brien
2004 The Hillside Strangler Nicholas Turturro C. Thomas Howell
2006 Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders Tomas Arana Clifton Collins, Jr. Brittany Daniel as a psychiatrist Direct-to-video

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bachmann, Patrick (Writer/Producer) (1997). The Hillside Stranglers (television production). A&E Television. 
  2. ^ King, Gary C. "The Hillside Strangler: Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi." Investigation Discovery. 2. Retrieved on January 10, 2010.

External links[edit]