Hillside Strangler

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The Hillside Stranglers
Born Kenneth Alessio Bianchi
Angelo Anthony Buono, Jr.

Bianchi: (1951-05-22) May 22, 1951 (age 65)
Buono: (1934-10-05)October 5, 1934
Died Buono:
September 21, 2002(2002-09-21) (aged 67)
Cause of death Heart attack
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment
Conviction(s) Murder
Killings
Victims 10
Span of killings
October 16, 1977–
February 16, 1978
Country America
Date apprehended
Bianchi:
January 12, 1979
Buono:
October 22, 1979

The Hillside Strangler, later the Hillside Stranglers, is the media epithet for a serial killer who terrorized Los Angeles between October 1977 and February 1978, with the nickname originating from the fact that many of the victims' bodies were discovered on the sides of the Hollywood Hills. The police, however, knew because of the presence of multiple distinct DNA traces and the positions of the bodies that two individuals were killing together, but withheld this information from the press. These two individuals were discovered to be cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, who were later convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing, and murdering ten females, ranging in age from twelve to twenty-eight years old.[1][2]

The Hillside Strangler murders began with the deaths of three prostitutes who were found strangled and dumped naked on hillsides northeast of the city between October and early November of 1977, but it was not until the deaths of five young women who were not prostitutes, but girls who had been abducted from middle-class neighborhoods, that the media attention and subsequent "Hillside Stranger" moniker came to be.[3] There were two more murders in December and February before the Hillside Strangler murders abruptly stopped, an extensive investigation proved fruitless until the arrest of Bianchi in January, 1979 for the murder of two more young women in Washington and the subsequent linking of his past to the Hillside Strangler murders. The most expensive trial in the history of the California legal system at that time followed, with both Bianchi and Buono eventually being found guilty of these crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Background[edit]

Main articles: Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono

In January 1976, Bianchi left Rochester and moved to Los Angeles to live with his cousin, Angelo Buono.[4] Buono provided a strong role model for the easy-going Bianchi, and, when Bianchi was short of money, Buono came up with the idea of getting some girls to work for them as prostitutes.[5] Two teenage runaways, Sabra Hannan and Becky Spears, met Bianchi and Buono and, once under their control, were forced to prostitute themselves. Eventually, Becky Spears happened to meet lawyer David Wood, who was appalled at her situation and arranged for her to escape from the city. Encouraged by Spears' escape, Sabra Hannan ran away from Bianchi and Buono a short time later. With their pimping income gone, they had to find more teenage girls. Impersonating police officers, eventually they found another young woman and installed her in the previous girl's bedroom. Also, they bought from a prostitute named Deborah Noble a supposed "trick list" with names of men who frequented prostitutes. Deborah and her friend, Yolanda Washington, delivered the trick list to Buono in October of 1977.[5]

Murders[edit]

Yolanda Washington

Yolanda Washington[edit]

Yolanda happened to mention to Buono that she always worked on a certain stretch of Sunset Boulevard, and when Bianchi and Buono found that Deborah had deceived them about the list, they decided to take out their rage on Yolanda — since they didn't know how to find Deborah Noble — and so the first victim of the Hillside Stranglers was nineteen-year-old Yolanda Washington.[6] Her naked body was found on October 18, 1977, on a hillside near the Ventura Freeway, and Detective Frank Salerno of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department was called to the scene.[7] It was determined that the corpse was cleaned before being dumped, faint marks were visible around the neck, wrists, and ankles where a rope had been used; and that the victim had been raped.[2]

Judy Miller[edit]

Judy Miller

On November 1, 1977, police were called to a La Crescenta neighborhood, northeast of downtown Los Angeles, where the body of a teenage girl was found naked, face up on a parkway in a middle-class residential area. The homeowner had covered her with a tarp to prevent the neighborhood children from viewing her on their way to school.[7] Ligature marks were on her neck, wrists and ankles; indicating to police she was bound and strangled, and the body had been dumped, indicating she was killed elsewhere; Det. Salerno also found a small piece of light-colored fluff on her eyelid and saved it for the forensic experts. A coroner's report further detailed that she had been raped and sodomized.[7] The girl, who was described as being "small and thin, weighing about 90 pounds and appearing to be about 16 years old",[7] was eventually identified as fifteen-year-old Judith Lynn Miller,[8] a runaway, drug addict and prostitute.[2]

Lissa Kastin

Lissa Kastin[edit]

Five days later, on November 6, 1977, the nude body of another woman was discovered near the Chevy Chase Country Club, in Glendale. Like Judith Lynn Miller, she bore five-point (neck, wrists and ankles) ligature marks and of having been strangled and raped, but not sodomized.[7] This woman was identified as twenty-one-year-old Elissa Teresa "Lissa" Kastin,[9] a waitress, dancer and occasional prostitute, who was last seen leaving the restaurant where she worked the night before she was discovered.[10]

Dolly Cepeda
Sonja Johnson

Dolly Cepeda and Sonja Johnson[edit]

On November 13, 1977, two girls, twelve-year-old Dolores Ann "Dolly" Cepeda[11] and fourteen-year-old Sonja Marie Johnson,[12] boarded a school bus from St. Ignatius School and headed home. The last time they were seen was getting off this bus and approaching a two-tone sedan which reportedly had two men inside. The two corpses were found by a nine-year-old boy who had been treasure hunting in a trash heap on the hillside near Dodger Stadium, on November 20, 1977.[13] Both of the girls' bodies had already begun to decompose, but it was still determined that they had been strangled and raped.[10]

Kristina Weckler

Kristina Weckler[edit]

Earlier that same day, November 20, 1977, hikers found the naked body of twenty-year-old Kristina Weckler,[14] a quiet honors student at the Art Center College of Design deemed by Detective. Bob Grogan of the LAPD to be a "loving and serious young woman who should have had a bright future ahead of her",[13] on a hillside between Glendale and Eagle Rock. When found by Det. Grogan, ligature marks were on her wrists, ankles and neck; and when he turned her over, bruises on her breasts were obvious and blood oozed from her rectum. Unlike the first three victims however, there were two puncture marks on her arm, but no signs of the needle tracks that would indicate a drug addict.[15] It was later revealed that Weckler had been injected with Windex, a hard-surface cleaner.[10]

Jane King

Jane King[edit]

On November 23, 1977, the badly decomposed body of twenty-eight-year-old Evelyn Jane King,[16] an actress who had gone missing around November 9, was found near the Los Feliz off-ramp of the Golden State Freeway.[13] The severity of decomposition prevented determination as to whether she had been raped or tortured but, she had been strangled like the others and in response authorities created a task force — initially composed of 30 officers from the LAPD, the Sheriff's Department and the Glendale Police Department — to catch the predator now dubbed the "Hillside Strangler".[13]

Lauren Wagner

Lauren Wagner[edit]

On November 29, 1977, police found the body of eighteen-year-old Lauren Rae Wagner,[17] a business student who lived with her parents in the San Fernando Valley,[10] in the hills around Glendale's Mount Washington. She had ligature marks on her neck, ankles and wrists; but there were also burn marks on her hands indicating she was tortured.[18] Her parents had expected her to come home before midnight, and the next morning when they found her car parked across the street with the door ajar, Lauren's father questioned the neighbors. He found that the woman who lived in the house where Lauren's car had been parked saw her abduction. This woman stated that she saw two men: one was tall and young; the other one was older and shorter with bushy hair.[18] She also stated that she heard Lauren Wagner cry out, "You won't get away with this!", during her abduction.[18]

Kimberly Martin

Kimberly Martin[edit]

On December 14, 1977, the body of seventeen-year-old prostitute Kimberly Diane Martin,[19] which was naked and showed signs of torture, was found on a deserted lot near Los Angeles City Hall. Kimberly Martin had previously joined a call girl agency because she feared exposing herself on the streets with the Hillside Strangler on the loose, but, unfortunately, the killers happened to place a call to her agency from a Hollywood Public Library pay phone and she was the call girl who was dispatched. When the police investigated the apartment she had been dispatched to, they found it vacant and broken into.[20]

Aborted murder of Catharine Lorre[edit]

At some point in 1977, the two men gave a ride to Catharine Lorre Baker, the daughter of actor Peter Lorre - famous for his role as a serial killer in Fritz Lang's film M, with the intent of killing her as well. However, when they found a picture of the woman sitting on Peter Lorre’s lap among her identification, they let her go without incident. She did not realize who the men were until they were arrested, at which point she recalled that two men flashing L.A. police badges had approached her in the past.[21]

Cindy Hutspeth

Cindy Hudspeth[edit]

The final victim was discovered in Los Angeles on February 17, 1978, when a helicopter pilot spotted an orange Datsun abandoned off a cliff on the Angeles Crest Highway.[10] Police responded to the scene and found the body of the car's owner, twenty-year-old Cindy Lee Hudspeth[22] - a student and part-time waitress, in the trunk. Her corpse again showed ligature marks, and she had been raped and tortured. It appeared she had been strangled and put in the trunk of her car, which was then pushed off the cliff above.[20]

Investigation[edit]

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 that a personality separate from himself committed the murders. Court psychologists, notably Dr. Martin Orne, observed Bianchi and found that he was faking, 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."[23] 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.[24]

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. ^ "'Hillside Strangler' dies in prison". cnn.com. Archived from the original on January 16, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Vronsky, Peter. Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters. p. 187. ISBN 0-425-19640-2. 
  3. ^ "The Rampage Begins". crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on February 9, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Killing Cousins". crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Yolanda Washington obituary". findagrave.com. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Early Victims". crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Judy Miller obituary". findagrave.com. 
  8. ^ "Lissa Kastin obituary". findagrave.com. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Vronsky, Peter. Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters. p. 188. ISBN 0-425-19640-2. 
  10. ^ "Dolly Cepeda obituary". findagrave.com. 
  11. ^ "Sonja Johnson obituary". findagrave.com. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Two Killers". crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Kristina Weckler obituary". findagrave.com. 
  14. ^ "The 'Hillside Strangler'". crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Jane King obituary". findagrave.com. 
  16. ^ "Lauren Wagner obituary". findagrave.com. 
  17. ^ a b c "A Witness". crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Kimberly Martin obituary". findagrave.com. 
  19. ^ a b "Three More". crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. 
  20. ^ Vronsky, Peter. Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters. p. 191. ISBN 0-425-19640-2. 
  21. ^ "Cindy Hudspeth obituary". findagrave.com. 
  22. ^ Bachmann, Patrick (Writer/Producer) (1997). The Hillside Stranglers (television production). A&E Television.  External link in |title= (help);
  23. ^ King, Gary C. "The Hillside Strangler: Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi." Investigation Discovery. 2. Retrieved on January 10, 2010.

External links[edit]