The Hillside Stranglers

Part 1

People throw the term serial killer around. Did you ever notice? Well, maybe not. Because, I guess you have to be talking about murder to be talking about serial killers. And, really, only certain groups of people are talking about murder – those who like to talk about murder, those who are obsessed with solving the unsolved murders, the media, and murderers themselves. I fall into the first category (aren’t you relieved!?) and nearly every time I talk about a murder people think I’m nuts. Ho Hum. Whoa is me. Anyway – serial killers. I’ve heard the term so much that I’ve forgotten what it even means. So, before we talk about the scum that became the hillside stranglers, serial killers from 1977-78, let’s talk about what defines a murderer as, not just a killer, but a serial killer.

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According to the FBI, serial murder is the unlawful killing of 2 or more victims by the same offender or offenders in separate events. So, a serial killer is called such only when they have 2 or more victims and kill over a period of time. Serial killers also follow patterns in their murders – like the hillside stranglers who, you guessed it, strangled their victims and left many of their bodies on the Hollywood hills . The pattern doesn’t end with strangulation in the case of the hillside stranglers, though. They only killed females and they raped and usually tortured them, also. But we’ll get to that party here in a few minutes.

Serial murders are a unique group and encompass less than 1% of murders each year. Though these murders happen very infrequently, the general obsession with serial killing might lead you to believe it happens so much more than it does. Serial killers make for great T.V. and the media has made these people famous – see Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy. So, something horrific that doesn’t happen very often becomes everything we talk about for years. Look at me – holy crap – I’m still talking about it! Several myths have surrounded the serial killer – from only being white males to only being driven by sexual impulses. In actuality, if you want to know what’s created a serial killer, take a look at said serial killer from birth onward and study them biologically, socially, and psychologically. Then, you’ll understand their predisposition toward killing and often their psychopathy. So, the next time you’re at a dinner party and discussing serial killers (this happens a lot, no?) just remember, they don’t just suddenly snap and kill, often poor childhoods and loneliness are involved, and there are many women serial killers, you sexist.

Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, known as the Hillside Stranglers, raped, tortured, and murdered 10 women in California and Washington between October of 1977 and February of 1978. They were despicable human beings and their youngest victims were 12 and 14. Cousins through adoption, Ken and Angelo were not caught until Ken killed 2 additional women in the state of Washington- bringing his murder count to 12 – and left so much evidence behind that he was identified and arrested within 24 hours of the murders.

Kenneth Bianchi was born in May of 1951 in Rochester, New York to an alcoholic prostitute. Not wanting the child, she gave Ken up for adoption two weeks after his birth. He was not adopted until August 1951 leaving many to believe that this lack of bonding with any person may have contributed to his anger and aggression, his cold and unfeeling demeanor, and his eventual ability to kill (hug your babies, ya’ll). Ken was adopted as the only child into the Bianchi family. As he grew, he had continued bouts of bedwetting and multiple behavioral problems prompting his mother to take him to multiple physicians and psychiatrists. This caused Ken a great deal of humiliation as a child. Ken’s mother described him both as an impulsive liar and as lazy as a child, often siting “immaturity” as the reason for many of Ken’s problems. And, when Ken was 13, his adoptive father died leaving Ken to be raised solely by his mother, under which one can only suspect was a very strange and unhappy relationship. It is believed that the continued forced doctor’s appointments to be “diagnosed” with something and this strained and strange relationship with Mrs. Bianchi contributed greatly to Ken’s aggression toward both his mother and future women. Ken did not graduate from high school until he was 20. He married his high school sweetheart but was divorced within 8 months. He finished only one semester of college and moved around New York continuously in his early 20’s, taking multiple jobs and stealing at many of them. Ken had a strong desire to be a police officer, even from childhood. However, his poor academic performance, coupled with his inability to keep a steady job kept him from ever being accepted into any police training program. In early 1976, disappointed with his life in New York, Bianchi moved to Los Angeles to spend time with his cousin, Angelo.

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Angelo Buono was born in Rochester, New York in October 1934. Little is known about his childhood. However, as an adult, he considered himself a “ladies man” indicating that he could get women to do whatever he wanted. A brutal and dominant man, he often made women refer to him as “the Italian stallion”. Prior to his relationship with Bianchi, Buono already had a criminal history of grand theft auto, assault, and rape. In 1976, when Bianchi made the move to Los Angeles, Buono successfully owned his own car upholstery business. Seventeen year’s Angelo’s junior, an impressionable and immature Ken took notice to Angelo’s womanizing and his financial stability. Buono quickly became Bianchi’s role model, furthering his distrust and aggression toward women.

Bianchi went to Buono in mid 1976 indicating that he was financially drained and needed a way to make some money. Buono came up with the idea of pimping women to make some cash. The pair decided they would use Bianchi’s charm and Buono’s multiple contacts in the Los Angeles area to set up a pimping business. The pair’s first prostitutes, two teenager runaways to Los Angeles, were forced into the prostituting business by being continuously threatened and ultimately held as prisoners in an apartment by Buono and Bianchi . One of the young girls was pimped out to a lawyer who, distraught by her situation, arranged to have the girl escape from the city. The other young girl, seeing that her friend was able to leave, got away from Buono and Bianchi not long after.

It was at this time that Bianchi decided, based on his continued longing, the pair should impersonate police officers in order to meet young women for their pimping business. This is a knack they would use nearly exclusively to capture women from that point forward. They found a young woman and forced her to the apartment and placed her in one bedroom. Then, they purchased a “trick list” of men who frequented prostitutes from known prostitute, Deborah Noble. Deborah and her friend, Yolanda Washington, who worked a certain strip of Sunset Boulevard, delivered the list to Buono and Bianchi in October of 1977. Buono and Bianchi quickly learned the list was false and, in their anger, set out to get back at Deborah and Yolanda. The pair did not know where to find Deborah, but found Yolanda on her frequented area of Sunset Boulevard.

She would become the first victim of the hillside stranglers.

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