Kenneth Alessio Bianchi
May 22, 1951
|Other names||The Hillside Strangler|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment|
Span of crimes
|October 16, 1977–|
January 11, 1979
|January 12, 1979|
|Imprisoned at||Washington State Penitentiary|
Kenneth Alessio Bianchi (born May 22, 1951) is an American serial killer, kidnapper, and rapist. He is known for the 1977-79 Hillside Strangler murders committed with his cousin Angelo Buono Jr., as well as for murdering two more women in Washington by himself. Bianchi is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment in Washington State Penitentiary for these crimes.
Kenneth Bianchi was born on May 22, 1951, in Rochester, New York, to an alcoholic prostitute who gave him up for adoption two weeks after he was born. He was adopted in August 1951 by Nicholas Bianchi and his wife Frances Scioliono-Bianchi, and was their only child.
Bianchi was deeply troubled from a young age, with his adoptive mother describing him as "a compulsive liar" from the time he could talk. He would often fall into inattentive, trance-like daydreams where his eyes would roll back into his head. From these symptoms, a physician diagnosed the five-year-old Bianchi with petit mal seizures. He was also frequently given physical examinations by doctors because of an involuntary urination problem, causing him a great deal of humiliation.
Bianchi had many behavioral problems and was prone to fits of anger. Frances responded by taking him to a psychiatrist multiple times, with Bianchi being diagnosed with a passive-aggressive personality disorder at the age of ten. Bianchi's IQ was measured at 116 at the age of eleven, but, despite having above-average intelligence, he was an underachiever and was moved twice from schools because he failed to get along with teachers. Frances described him as "lazy" and his teachers claimed that he was working below his capacity.
After Bianchi's adoptive father died suddenly from pneumonia in 1964, the teenaged Bianchi refused to cry or show any other signs of grief. After her husband's death, Frances had to work while her son attended high school and was known for keeping him home from school for long periods of time. Shortly after Bianchi graduated from Gates-Chili High School in 1970, he married his high school sweetheart. The union ended after eight months. Supposedly, she left him without an explanation.
As an adult, Bianchi dropped out of college after one semester and drifted through a series of menial jobs, finally ending up as a security guard at a jewelry store. This gave him the opportunity to steal valuables, which he often gave to girlfriends or prostitutes to buy their loyalty. Because of his many petty thefts, Bianchi was constantly on the move.
The alphabet murders occurred in and around Rochester from 1971 to 1973. Three young girls (Carmen Colón, Wanda Walkowicz, and Michelle Maenza) were kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered. Bianchi was never formally charged in these crimes, but he was a suspect because he worked as an ice cream vendor near two of the murder scenes and drove a car similar to a suspicious vehicle spotted near one of the abduction sites. Bianchi has denied any responsibility for these murders.
Bianchi moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1977 and started spending time with his older cousin (and Frances's nephew), Angelo Buono, who impressed Bianchi with his fancy clothes, jewelry, and talent for getting any woman he wanted and "putting them in their place." Before long, they worked together as pimps and, by late 1977, they had escalated to what would become known as the "Hillside Strangler" murders. Bianchi and Buono had raped and murdered ten young women and girls by the time they were arrested in early 1979.
Bianchi and Buono would usually cruise around Los Angeles in Buono's car and use fake badges to persuade women that they were undercover police officers. Their victims were women and girls aged 12 to 28 from various walks of life. They would then order the victims into Buono's car, which they claimed was an unmarked police car, and drive them to Buono's home to torture and murder them. The victims were:
|Yolanda Washington||19||Oct 17, 1977||She was found naked and her corpse had been cleaned before being dumped. Faint rope marks were visible around her neck, wrists, and ankles. She had been raped and strangled to death.|
|Judith Lynn Miller||15||Oct 31, 1977||She was found naked and face up on a parkway. Ligature marks were visible on her neck, wrists, and ankles. She had been repeatedly raped, sodomized, and strangled to death.|
|Lissa Kastin||21||Nov 5, 1977||She was found naked near a country club. Ligature marks were visible on her neck, wrists, and ankles. She had been brutally raped, but not sodomized, and strangled to death.|
|Jane King||28||Nov 9, 1977||The severity of decomposition prevented determination as to whether she had been raped or tortured, but it was clear that she had been strangled to death.|
|Dolly Cepeda||12||Nov 13, 1977||She and Sonja Johnson were found on November 20, 1977 in a trash heap. Their bodies were already decomposing, but it could be determined that both had been raped and strangled to death.|
|Sonja Johnson||14||Nov 13, 1977||She and Dolly Cepeda were found on November 20, 1977 in a trash heap. Their bodies were already decomposing, but it could be determined that both had been raped and strangled to death.|
|Kristina Weckler||20||Nov 20, 1977||She was found naked on a hillside by hikers. Ligature marks were visible on her wrists, ankles, and neck, her breasts were bruised, and blood oozed from her rectum. There were two puncture marks on her arm where she had been injected with Windex.|
|Lauren Wagner||18||Nov 28, 1977||Ligature marks were visible on her neck, ankles, and wrists, and there were burn marks on her hands indicating torture.|
|Kimberly Martin||17||Dec 13, 1977||She was found at the end of Alvarado Blvd. She was naked and showed obvious signs of torture and rape.|
|Cindy Lee Hudspeth||20||Feb 16, 1978||She was found the next day in the trunk of her car, which was abandoned off a cliff. Ligature marks were visible on her neck, ankles, and wrists, and she had been raped and tortured. She was strangled to death, put in the trunk, then pushed off the cliff.|
|Karen Mandic||22||Jan 11, 1979||She and Diane Wilder were lured by Bianchi into a house he was guarding. Both women were strangled to death.
(These last two murders were committed by Bianchi alone, without help from Buono.)
|Diane Wilder||27||Jan 11, 1979||She and Karen Mandic were lured by Bianchi into a house he was guarding. Both women were strangled to death.
(These last two murders were committed by Bianchi alone, without help from Buono.)
Both men would sexually abuse their victims before strangling them. They experimented with other methods of killing, such as lethal injection, electric shock, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even while committing the murders, Bianchi applied for a job with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and had even been taken for several rides with police officers while they were searching for the Hillside Strangler.
On January 11, 1979, working as a security guard, Bianchi lured two female students into a house he was guarding. The women were 22-year-old Karen Mandic and 27-year-old Diane Wilder, both students at Western Washington University. Bianchi forced Mandic down the stairs in front of him and then strangled her. He murdered Wilder in a similar fashion. Without help from his partner, Bianchi left many clues and police apprehended him the next day. A California driver's license and a routine background check linked him to the addresses of two Strangler victims.
Shortly after Bianchi committed the eleventh and twelfth murders, he revealed to Buono that he'd gone on LAPD police ride-alongs, and that he was currently being questioned about the Strangler case. Buono flew into a rage and threatened to kill Bianchi if he did not move to Bellingham, Washington, which he did in May 1978.
Following his arrest, Bianchi admitted that in 1977 he and Buono, while posing as police officers, stopped a young woman called Catharine Lorre with the intention of abducting and killing her, but released her after learning she was the daughter of actor Peter Lorre. Only after the men were arrested did Catharine learn of their identities.
At his trial, Bianchi pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that another personality, one "Steve Walker", had committed the crimes. It was believed he had recently seen the film "Sybil," about a schizophrenic suffering from multiple personalities triggered by childhood abuse. He convinced a few expert psychiatrists that he indeed suffered from multiple personality disorder, but investigators brought in their own psychiatrists, mainly Martin Orne. When Orne mentioned to Bianchi that in genuine cases of the disorder, there tend to be three or more personalities, Bianchi promptly created another alias, "Billy". Orne proved that Bianchi lied about having multiple personalities to avoid being prosecuted, and tested Bianchi by introducing him to his lawyer, who was not present. Bianchi interacted with the imaginary lawyer. Orne then brought in his real lawyer, flustering Bianchi, who claimed that the imaginary lawyer had vanished.  He eventually pleaded guilty in order to avoid the death penalty in Washington State.
Eventually, investigators discovered that the name "Steven Walker" came from a student whose identity Bianchi had previously attempted to steal for the purpose of fraudulently practicing psychology. Police also found a small library of books in Bianchi's home on topics of modern psychology, further indicating his ability to fake the disorder. Once his claims were subjected to this scrutiny, Bianchi eventually admitted that he had been faking the disorder. He was eventually diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder with sexual sadism.
In an attempt to obtain a reduced sentence, Bianchi agreed to testify against Buono. However, in giving his testimony, Bianchi made every effort to be as uncooperative and self-contradictory as possible, apparently hoping to avert Buono's conviction. In the end, Bianchi's efforts were unsuccessful, as Buono was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1980, Bianchi began a relationship with Veronica Compton, a woman he had met while in prison. During his trial, she testified for the defense, telling the jury a false, vague tale about the crimes in an attempt to exculpate Bianchi. She also admitted to wanting to buy a mortuary with another convicted murderer for the purpose of necrophilia. She was later convicted and imprisoned for attempting to strangle a woman she had lured to a motel in an attempt to convince authorities that the Hillside Strangler was still on the loose. Bianchi allegedly had given her some semen during a prison visit to plant on the planned victim to make it look like a rape/murder committed by the Strangler.
In 1992, Bianchi sued Catherine Yronwode for US$8.5 million for having an image of his face depicted on a trading card; he claimed his face was his trademark. The judge dismissed the case after ruling that, if Bianchi had been using his face as a trademark when he was killing women, he would not have tried to hide it from the police.
Bianchi is serving his sentence at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. He was denied parole on August 18, 2010, by a state board in Sacramento. He will be eligible to apply for parole again in 2025.
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