|“||Why is it wrong to get rid of some fuckin' cunts?||”|
Angelo Buono, Jr. and Kenneth "Kenny" Alessio Bianchi, collectively known as "The Hillside Strangler(s)", were a team of pedophilic and ephebophilic serial killers, and rapists responsible for the murders of at least fourteen women during the late 1970s.
Buono was born in Rochester, New York, on October 5, 1934. His parents were Italian immigrants who divorced when he was young. When Buono was five, he moved to Glendale, California with his mother Jenny and his sister Cecilia. He displayed a high interest in sex at a young age and, when he was a teenager, claimed to his classmates to have raped several girls. Buono also idolized serial rapist Caryl Chessman, a.k.a. "The Red Light Bandit", considering him his "hero" even though he believed that Chessman should have also killed his victims. Buono began stealing cars and was placed in reform school. In 1955, he married his high-school sweetheart, seventeen-year-old Geraldine Vinal, whom he had impregnated, but left her less than a week later. Buono and Vinal's child, named Michael, was later born on January 10, 1956, but Buono divorced Vinal and refused to pay child support for Michael. Later on, he married Mary Castillo, whom he also impregnated earlier on, and fathered a total of five children with her.
In 1964, Buono was believed to have raped his two-year-old daughter Grace, although there isn't enough information from sources to elaborate upon the incident. Buono and Castillo's marriage also ended in divorce in 1964; she claimed that he had been physically and sexually abusive. Castillo tried to reconcile with him, but after he handcuffed and threatened her at gunpoint, she abandoned her intentions. He got married a third time the following year, to a single mother named Nannette Campino and conceived two children with her. On an unspecified date, Buono was arrested for stealing cars and sentenced to one year in prison, but due to his large family, the sentence was suspended so he could work. Campino later divorced him in 1971 like his previous two wives, not only because he was abusing her, but also because he raped her daughter. The following year, Buono married once again, to a woman named Deborah Taylor, but didn't live with her. He became a car upholsterer in 1975 and was, despite his physical appearance and abusive behavior, considered very attractive to women. During that time, Buono frequently forced women to perform oral sex on him and also started dating a teenage girl, whom he impregnated twice.
Like his cousin Buono, Bianchi was born in Rochester, New York. He was born on May 22, 1951, almost seventeen years after Buono. His mother, a seventeen-year-old alcoholic prostitute, gave him up for adoption when he was born. He was adopted by local residents Nicholas Bianchi and Frances Sciolono. Though his upbringing was stable, Bianchi became a pathological liar early in his childhood and spent a lot of time daydreaming; the latter was attributed to petit mal seizures when he was five. He also had a short fuse and was diagnosed with passive-aggressive personality disorder. Bianchi also was unable to sleep and wet the bed frequently as a child. Though he had an IQ of 116, he was an underachiever in school.
On January 2nd, 1957, Bianchi accidentally fell off of a jungle gym and landed on his face. His mother, in an attempt to change his ways, sent him to a private Catholic elementary school. In July of 1963, he pulled down a six-year-old girl's pants, having spontaneously decided that he liked doing so. Following Nicholas's death from pneumonia in 1964, an unemotional Bianchi had to leave and attend a public high school. There, he dated frequently and joined a motorcycle club. After graduating in 1971, he married his high-school sweetheart Brenda Beck (just like Buono had before him), but they divorced after eight months. Deciding that he wanted to become a police officer, Bianchi enrolled at Monroe Community College to study police science and psychology but dropped out of college after just one term. He applied for a position at the sheriff's department but was rejected. He took on a series of menial jobs, eventually becoming a security guard at a jewelry store, from which he was fired for stealing and giving the loot to his various girlfriends. The habit stuck with him through a series of jobs.
In 1975, he moved to California and moved in with his cousin, Angelo Buono, who taught him how to use a fake police badge to extort free sex from prostitutes. The two also became pimps for a brief time until the two girls who worked for them, Sabra Hannan and Becky Spears, managed to escape. Bianchi applied for jobs at two different local police departments, but neither had any open positions. He got a job at a title company and spent his first paycheck on an apartment and a Cadillac. He moved in with Kelli Boyd, whom he met at work. In May of 1977, she announced that she was pregnant with his child; although she rejected his proposal for marriage, she continued to stay with Bianchi.
Killings and Incarceration
In October of 1977, the two committed their first murder together. The victim was Yolanda Washington, a nineteen-year-old prostitute. Over the following three weeks, they killed two more women. The third, Lissa Kastin, was a waitress working to pay for her ballet lessons. While the first three murders didn't attract too much attention because most of the victims were prostitutes, the duo's fourth and fifth murders, two middle-class girls aged twelve and fourteen, attracted much more attention. By the end of the year, they had killed four more. It was initially believed that there was a single killer, whom the media nicknamed "The Hillside Strangler". Even after it was suspected by the police that there were two killers, the name was still used in the singular. By the beginning of 1978, the pair had killed a total of ten women together. At that point, they stopped killing, possibly because Bianchi's son was born at that time. Also, Bianchi, who had continued applying for law enforcement jobs even while killing, had made some acquaintances in the LAPD and been brought along when officers drove around the city, scouting for the killers. On the night when the duo tried to abduct an eleventh victim, the two got into a heated argument during which Bianchi revealed that he had been questioned in the Hillside Strangler case. A furious Buono threatened to kill him if he didn't get out of town. For whatever reason Bianchi had, he and his family moved to Bellingham, Washington in May of 1978, where he got a job as a security guard. In January of the following year, Bianchi abducted two female Western Washington University students, Karen Mandic, and Diane Wilder, took them to a house he guarded, raped, tortured and killed them.
Fortunately, he left behind some clues this time; his car, which had California plates, was spotted and he was connected to the addresses of two Hillside Strangler victims. The next day, January 12th, he was arrested without incident. When Bianchi's photo was broadcast in the media in Los Angeles, the investigators received a call from a lawyer named David Wood, who had helped one of the two girls Buono and Bianchi had pimped escape. He tipped them about Buono, who was also arrested on October 22th 1979. Shortly before that, Bianchi had informed the investigators of his cousin's involvement in the murders. During the two years leading up to the Stranglers' trial, Bianchi formed a relationship with Veronica Lynn Compton, an actress and playwright with an obsession with serial killers, from behind bars. She sent him a copy of a screenplay, titled The Mutilated Cutter, about a female serial killer she had written, asking for his thoughts on the subject. She grew increasingly fixated with him until he managed to manipulate her into copycatting a Hillside Strangler murder in order to make it look like the killer was still at large, even smuggling out some of his semen out of prison in a rubber glove (DNA evidence had no forensic use at the time, but semen could still be analyzed to show what blood type the man who produced it had). Compton lured a woman to a motel and attempted to strangle her, but was overpowered and arrested.
In anticipation of his 1981 trial, Bianchi prepared to mount an insanity plead, claiming to have a separate personality named "Steve Walker" who had committed the murders (Bianchi had watched the movie Sybil the night before he made the claim). He was interviewed by multiple people who specialized in multiple personalities and hypnosis, who attempted to find out whether he truly was insane. It was eventually determined that he was faking it (he had been inventing more "alter egos" since he was told that it was uncommon for there to only be one extra personality). During the trial, there was a great deal of trace evidence implicating the two; there had been fibers from Buono's upholstery workshop and home on two victims, there was an imprint of a fake police badge on his wallet and there were hairs from rabbits he had raised on another victim. Bianchi also agreed to plead guilty and testify to his cousin's involvement, though he remained uncooperative throughout the trial. In 1983, both men were found guilty of the murders they had committed and, in spite of the cruelty of their crimes, spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison. Buono died of natural causes while serving his sentence in 2002 at the Calipatria State Prison in California. Bianchi is still serving his sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington and won't be eligible for parole again until 2025.
The Alphabet Murders
The so-called Alphabet murders were a series of murders in Rochester, New York, Buono and Bianchi's hometown, between 1971 and 1973. The victims were girls of different ethnicities, aged ten-eleven who lived in the town and came from poor Catholic families. They were raped, strangled, and dumped in the wilderness. One thing that made the case notable was the fact that all three victims had double initials, i.e. their first and last name began with the same letter, and their bodies were then found in nearby areas whose names began with the same letter. The first victim, Carmen Colon, 10, was found in Churchsville. The second and third victims, Wanda Walkowicz, 11 (found in Webster), and Michelle Maenza, 11 (found in Macedon), were killed in 1973. After that, the perpetrator appears to have stopped killing. There have been a few suspects, including a "person of interest" who killed himself six weeks after the murders stopped but was cleared by DNA testing in 2007.
One of the most notable suspects is Bianchi, who lived in Rochester and worked as an ice cream vendor at the time of the murders. Though he denies having committed the murders, he remains under suspicion and there is circumstantial evidence against him; his car was spotted at two murder scenes and the third victim had told her father that she was going out for ice cream the day she disappeared. Another suspect was Joseph Naso, 77, who was arrested in Reno, Nevada in April 2011 on suspicion of a number of murders dating back to 1977. Some of his suspected victims in California, including Roxene Roggasch and Paula Parsons, had double initials. Another victim attributed to him was also named Carmen Colon, like one of the Alphabet murder victims, and was found near Port Costa, California in 1978. While he was tried for his six murders, he was ruled out from the Alphabet murders when his DNA was tested against a sample from one of the victims.
Buono and Bianchi initially targeted prostitutes, but later moved up to middle-class women. The oldest victim was twenty-eight years old and the youngest twelve. The two would hunt for victims while cruising around the streets in their car. When they found a suitable victim, they would pick her up, either by soliciting them if they were prostitutes or by pretending to be undercover cops, even carrying fake badges. Once the victim was in the car, they would drive her to Buono's home and spend several hours raping and torturing them before killing them by strangling them with a garrote, which was their signature weapon. They also killed some of their victims by different means, including gas asphyxiation, lethal injection, and electric shock. The bodies were disposed of outdoors, often in hilly areas.
- Note: This list only covers crimes the duo committed together, not crimes committed individually or before they joined together.
- October 17, Cathedral City: Yolanda Washington, 19 (beaten, raped, strangled, and posed her body in a lascivious position)
- October 31, La Crescenta-Montrose: Judith Ann Miller, 15 (raped, sodomized, strangled, and posed her legs in a diamond-like shape)
- November 6, Glendale: Elissa Teresa Kastin, 21 (beaten, raped, and strangled)
- November 9, Beverly Hills: Jill Barcomb, 19 (molested, beaten, and strangled)
- November 13 (date of disappearance), Highland Park: Sonja Johnson and Dolores Cepeda (both raped and strangled):
- Sonja Johnson, 14
- Dolores Cepeda, 12
- November 17, Santa Monica: Kathleen Robinson, 17 (strangled)
- November 20, Highland Park: Kristin Weckler, 20 (sexually assaulted, tortured with Windex injections, and fatally asphyxiated with gas from an oven)
- November 23, Los Angeles: Jane Evelyn King, 28 (sodomized and strangled)
- November 28, Glassell Park: Lauren Rae Wagner, 18 (tortured by electrocution and fatally strangled)
- December 9, Echo Park: Kimberly Diane Martin, 17 (strangled)
- February 16, 1978, La Cañada Flintridge: Cindy Lee Hudspeth, 20 (sexually violated and fatally strangled)
- January 11, 1979, Bellingham, Washington: Karen Mandic and Diane Wilder (both were raped and fatally strangled by Bianchi alone):
- Karen Mandic, 22
- Diane Wilder, 27
- Buono once claimed to several of his classmates that he raped several girls. This claim has never been verified.
- Bianchi is also a suspect for three additional murders known as the "Alphabet murders" (see above).
- At one point in 1977, the two also managed to lure Catharine Lorre, daughter of actor Peter Lorre, into their car, but let her go when they learned who her father was.
- There is also some discrepancy about 26-year-old Laura Collins being one of their mutual victims.
- What's also interesting to note is that C. Thomas Howell, the actor who portrayed George Foyet in Seasons Four and Five, previously portrayed a film adaptation of Bianchi in the 2004 film The Hillside Strangler, a film based on Buono and Bianchi.
On Criminal Minds
- Intro: Buono is among the many criminals whose mugshot is shown during the show's intro.
- Season Two
- "The Perfect Storm" - The duo was first referenced in this episode.
- Season Three
- "Doubt" - Bianchi was mentioned and appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Nathan Tubbs - Both were psychopathic killers who were divorced before their killings, tried to apply for law enforcement and were rejected, had jobs as security guards, targeted women, used their positions to lure them into their cars, were given names by the media, and had female copycats.
- "Children of the Dark" - The duo was mentioned by Reid as an example of killing teams whose members were biologically related to one another.
- "Limelight" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, the duo appear to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Jeremy Andrus - All were serial killers and serial rapists, were also psychopathic sexual sadists with organized crimes, targeted women, lured them with ruses (at least once in Andrus' case), tortured them with electrocution before strangling them to death, and dumped their bodies in numerous outdoor locations .
- Season Four
- "The Angel Maker" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bianchi in particular seems to have been an inspiration for Cortland Bryce Ryan - Both were serial killers and serial rapists who targeted women, were given nicknames for their crimes, and were the objects of fascination and obsession of at least one woman who attempted to replicate their crimes. Both Compton and Kelcher even went as far as to acquire their semen (though for different reasons).
- "Soul Mates" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, the duo appear to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsubs, The Soul Mates - Both teams consisted of ephebophilic serial killers and rapists who shared predator personalities and were psychopathic sexual sadists, targeted women, tortured their victims before strangling them, and had fights that would eventually lead to their incarcerations.
- Season Six
- "What Happens at Home" - Bianchi was also mentioned by Reid along with Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, as an example of serial killers who enjoy having official, uniformed jobs, referring to when he worked as a security guard prior to his arrest, believing the unsub was also fascinated by and attracted to authoritative jobs.
- Season Nine
- The Black Queen" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, the duo appear to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsubs, John Nichols and Sam Russell - Both teams consisted of serial killers (yet one member also killed victims alone), operated in California, targeted high-risk prostitutes (the Hillside Stranglers initially, though they later targeted middle-class women), and strangled them (though Nichols stabbed them).
- Season Eleven
On Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior
- Season One
- "Lonely Heart" - While the Hillside Stranglers were never directly mentioned or referenced on Suspect Behavior, Bianchi in particular appears to have been an inspiration for Marcus Graham - Both were psychopathic serial killers who targeted women, lured them with ruses, and both became the object of affection of a woman they became acquainted with while incarcerated, and both manipulated said women into copycatting their crimes by attempting to kill a woman, and both women failed to kill their intended target (although Lancroft did kill some victims while Compton failed to kill any).
- TruTV Crime Library articles about Buono and Bianchi
- Evil Beyond Belief (2009)
- Murderpedia articles:
- Radford University's summaries:
- Angelfire page about Veronica Compton
- Alphabet Killer webpage
- Online news article about Joseph Naso
- Online article about the Alphabet murders
- Crime and Investigation's article about the Hillside Strangler murders
- Serial Killer Magazine: Issue 17 (2014)
- The Hillside Strangler: The three faces of America's most savage rapist and murderer and the shocking revelations from the sensational Los Angeles Trial! (2004)