Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris:
In late October 1979, California authorities were busy hunting down and capturing The Hillside Strangler, Angelo Buono. In the meantime, two more barbaric killers had teamed up to fulfill a prison time fantasy - to kidnap, rape, torture and kill a girl for each teenage year. For two months, the duo hunted roads and beaches, looking for victims, which matched their demented fantasy. They almost met their goal, killing five young girls, ages ranging between 13 to 18. This is their story.
Bittaker and Norris Meet:
In 1978, Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker, age 38, and Roy L. Norris, age 30, met while in the California State Prison at San Luis Obispo. Norris was labeled as a mentally disordered sex offender and previously spent four years at a state mental institution. Once released, he raped again and returned to prison. Bittaker spent most of his adult life behind bars for various offenses. As their friendship grew, so did their fantasies of raping and murdering teenaged girls.
The Murder Mack:
After their release from prison, they paired up, transformed Bittaker's 1977 GMC van into what they nicknamed, "Murder Mack," and began their kidnap, torture and killing spree of young girls. As is characteristic of psychopaths, the pain inflicted on their victims grew more vicious with each new captive.
On June 24, 1979 in Redondo Beach, Cindy Schaeffer, age 16, was walking to her grandmother’s house after attending a church program. Bittaker and Norris pulled up next to her in the 'Murder Mack' and tried to entice her to go for a ride. Her attempts to ignore the two failed. She was forced into the van and taken to a pre-selected spot in the mountains. There she was tortured and denied her requests to pray before the two beat and strangled her to death with wire coat hangers.
On July 8, 1979, the duo went hunting for their second victim and found 18-year-old Andrea Hall hitchhiking on the Pacific Coast Highway. With Bittaker hiding in the back, Norris stopped and offered Hall a ride. Within minutes after she entered the van, Bittaker attacked, raped and took pictures of her bound and in fear. As if playing a game, Bittiaker then asked why she should be allowed to live. Not liking her answer, he stabbed her in the ear with an ice pick and choked her to death.
Jackie Gilliam and Jacqueline Lamp:
On September 3, 1979, the murderous pair picked up their youngest victims from a bus stop at Hermosa Beach. Jackie Gilliam, 15, and Jacqueline Lamp, 13, were kidnapped and taken to the mountain location where they were raped and tortured for two days. As with Hall, both girls were stabbed in each ear with an ice pick, their small bodies viciously attacked with vice grips, then strangled to death with coat hangers tightened with pliers.
The killer's last known victim was killed on October 31, 1979. Sixteen-year-old Lynette Ledford was kidnapped and her body mutilated. The young girl was stabbed numerous times and with pliers, Bittaker ripped at her body. During her torture, her screams and pleas were tape-recorded as Bittaker repeatedly beat the young girl's elbows with a sledgehammer, all the time demanding that she not stop screaming. In the end, the pair strangled her with a coat hanger.
Just For Fun:
For 'fun' the pair decided to leave Ledford's brutalized corpse on the lawn of a suburban home in Hermosa Beach, just to see the reaction of the media. The Hillside Strangler, Angelo Buono, had been caught just a few days before the discovery of Lynette Ledford's body, although authorities were not swayed into identifying her killer as Buono.
Norris was the murderous pair's downfall. He bragged to an old prison friend about his crime spree. The friend tipped off police and the story sounded much like that of victim, Shirley Sanders. On September 30, Shirley Sanders managed to escape from two men who used chemical mace on her, then raped her inside a van. Police interviewed her again, this time armed with pictures, and Sanders was able to identify the van and Norris and Bittaker as her attackers.
Norris Points the Finger at Bittaker:
The two were arrested for unrelated crimes and held without bail for violating their probations. During an interrogation, Norris began admitting details about the pair's murderous activities and he pointed the finger at Bittaker for being the one who killed their victims.
500 Photos - 19 Missing Girls:
Norris worked out a deal with authorities in exchange for his testimony against Bittaker, as well as showing police where they hid the bodies of their victims. Overall, police found over 500 photos of teenaged girls, 19 of which were listed as missing. But Norris clammed up and would only tell investigators what happened to five of the 19 missing girls.
During Bittaker's and Norris' trial, the disturbing pictures of their crimes and the tape-recording of Lynette Ledford's final painful hours was shared with the jury. The impact was substantial. Bittaker was sentenced to death and the judge included an extra 199-year life sentence just in case his death sentence was ever commuted to life. Norris was given 45 years to life for his cooperation in the investigation.
A Frightening Note:
Norris will be eligible for parole in the year 2010.
Couples Who Kill by Carol Anne Davis