Solved: The Hillside Strangler (1977 – 1978)

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Our next Case is the Hillside Strangler, these murders terrorized Los Angeles, California between October 1977 and February 1978. The Hillside stranglers got the nickname originating from the fact that many of their victims bodies were discovered in the hills surrounding the greater Los Angeles area. Well…how unique.

These murders were taking place while Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were killing their very first victims, and John Wayne Gacy was trapping young boys into his home to murder them by strangulation. This was pretty much the prime age of when Serial killers were becoming very popular in the US.

Although, the Hillside Strangler doesn’t receive the national attention like the rest of the serial killings that were happening, the brutal crimes shocked the residents of Los Angeles to their core. The flaunting of the law, committing horrendous murders right out in the open and picking up victims from very crowded, inner-city areas just added fear to the public and the city felt it. Them knowing there was a murderer on the loose who could approach from the shadows and take somebodies life without anybody knowing was shocking to them.

October 18, 1977, police discovered the body of a 19-year old woman, Yolanda Washington, she was found naked just casually laid out on the open grass of a hill in Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Area of Los Angeles.

Washington had been tied up, raped, and then strangled, and the police knew almost instantly they were not dealing with no ordinary murder or a “Crime of passion” but something…something more dark and sinister. I mean hello, the murderer just dumped a body into the most open area in the cemetery. The murderer must have wanted the body to be found fast or was this to send a message?

After Yolanda Washington was found, that only set off a chain of murders, all the police could do is sit and wait for the next body to appear. It was only 13 days later on Halloween morning when police found the next body, 15-year-old Judith Ann Miller, she was found with almost the exact same rope marks as Yolanda Washington, but she was found in the La Crescenta area, it was Northern Los Angeles area. It was then the Los Angeles County coroners office determined her time of death was just 6 hours ago. 6 hours! They had pretty much just missed the person/persons. Police concluded after Washington and Miller were found these were just the start of  serial homicide case, but they were wondering how many more was there still to come?

And just like that, 6 days later, the body of 21-year-old Lissa Kastin would be found on November 6, 1977, and just like with the previous 2 victims, Kastin had been raped, she was found on Chevy Chase Drive in Glendale, California.

12 days later, the body of 17-year-old Kathleen Robinson was found on November 18 and she had also been strangled.

Well this escalated quickly, 4 bodies in one month, but why these girls? What made them vulnerable for murder? Why did the person/persons choose these girls? What could these young girls possibly have done to get murdered in such a horrific way?

Police was absolutely certain at this point: Whoever was the Hillside Strangler, they were killing with no intentions of stopping anytime soon. Could you imagine just having to wait for your next body to turn up? With no leads, no evidence because the Strangler knew how to clean a body and remove all evidence that would link them back to the killings, which with no doubt left police in the dark and they would hold onto a crime scene for days just wondering if something would turn up.

If strangulation, rape, and being tied up was not enough, the strangler decided he wanted more. The Hillside Strangler went down a much darker road as more bodies surfaced, the Strangler started to experiment with torture and he had found new ways od disposing of the bodies of the victims. He began electrocuting the victims before strangling them, and then would burn their bodies while they were still alive, what unbelievable torture that had to have been, but the killer probably needed a new high which is why he went down this road, it even got to the point of experimenting that he tried carbon monoxide poisoning as one of his methods of killing.

It would also be discovered that the Strangler attempted to use lethal injection on his victims as well, but this wouldn’t last long, probably because the killer had such a craving for watching the victims struggle and gasp for area that all these new methods was just not giving him the satisfaction as watching himself strangle them.

Kenneth Bianchi began the process of becoming a Los Angeles police officer. HE would go on ride alongs in the cars with the Los Angeles Police Department while they patrolled the city and looked for the Hillside Strangler. The officers would talk about the murders and the details of the case with Bianchi and became particularly close with him over weeks. But this is about to shock you to the core.

Not only was Kenneth Bianchi wanting to become a police officer, he was also in fact the Hilliside Strangler! The police had no clue, the murderer was sitting in the same room as them, listening to them talk about these horrendous crime scenes while he was flaunting his ego right in their faces, but that’s just the beginning.

With the media doing what the media does best, and started to make the Los Angeles Area start panicking, the strangler had a hold over all of Southern California with no end in his sight of stopping.

Now we know Kenneth Bianchi and the Hillside Strangler was the same person this would be later shown as misleading, The Hillside strangler would kill at least 12 lives, raping and strangling woman and young girls and dumping their bodies.

Lets take a look at the rest of the victims, we had already talked about, Yolanda Washington, Judith Miller, Lissa Kastin, and Kathleen Robinson, the rest is:

  • Aborted Abduction of Catharine Lorre Baker (November 1977)
  • Dolores Cepeda and Sonja Johnson (November 13, 1977)
  • Kristina Weckler (November 20, 1977)
  • Evelyn Jane King (November 23, 1977)
  • Lauren Wagner (November 29,1977)
  • Kimberly Martin (December 14, 1977)
  • Cindy Hudspeth (February 17, 1978)

After several months of investigations going absolutely no where for the police department, they were wanting to make an arrest, even though right in front of their faces the killer was helping them look for himself all along! After the body of Cindy Hudspeth was found in February, the murders just…stopped.

It was almost at the 4 month mark of when the killings started and they just stopped, there was no bodies, but come to find out, the reason why these stopped was because Kenneth Bianchi moved to Washington State, which explained why they stopped.

In Mary 1978, Kenneth Bianchi just decided that he was going to uproot his life and move to Bellingham, Washington, was he running from the law? Were they starting to figure out it was somebody close to them? Even though Bianchi moved he wasn’t able to escape his murder tendencies that would get the best of him though.

On January 11,1979, Bianchi struck again after a long period of nothing, he murdered 2 woman in the same day. Now don’t get me wrong, the Hillside Strangler was bold and didn’t mind killing but 2 people in the same day? That’s a big escalation, but I guess a serial killer would be if he hadn’t had his “fix” after 4 months, and guess what…Bianchi made mistakes when killing these 2 woman. He left his California identification card behind at the crime scene!! Rookie mistake!

Investigators found the card and finally, they believed that the Hillside Strangler had been caught in Washington but….that wasn’t the case.

Just like that im going to drop another bomb shell on you, it would have been shown that Kenneth Bianchi didn’t act alone until the Washington Murders, to get him out of the death penalty, Bianchi told the police and investigators that he had nothing to do with the murders and that his cousin, Angelo Buono helped him and planned the entire killing spree!

But just like how sloppy Bianchi is, Buono was completely different. After Bianchi pointed fingers at Buono, police searched Buono’s home, and they found no fingerprints in his own home! This guy was so clean and cautious I mean seriously in your own home how is there no fingerprints, fibers, DNA anything in this mans home. Without Buono, Bianchi was sloppy which caused both of them to sit in jail.

With Bianchi and Buono, the 2 Hillside Stranglers, they were both brought up on charges, Bianchi pleaded guilty and testified against Buono to catch a deal. Bianchi even got married while locked up in 1989 and still remains imprisoned their today. Angelo Buono was charger with murder, but how can they charge somebody with something when there was no evidence that put him at the murders?

Buono’s court last 2 years, he thought that his cousins testimony was the only thing the prosecution had but lets smack you in the face real quick. The prosecution had 400 witnesses  that would testify against him. This right here would seal his fate and was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. But Angelo Buono died in 2002.

This story had so many ups and downs it took awhile to research, but at least these families of the victims know that the person/persons that took there daughters, wives, children away from them will no longer hurt anybody!

Sources:

10 Twisted Facts About The Hillside Strangler – Listverse

Hillside Strangler – Wikipedia

One of the “Hillside Stranglers” sentenced to life – HISTORY

The Hillside Strangler case, the longest criminal trial in… – UPI Archives