If you want to kill somebody, you should make a plan and find a place to dump the body before you even pick a victim.
Bonin

William George Bonin, a.k.a. "The Freeway Killer", was an American pedophile, and later hebephilic and ephebophilic serial killer, serial rapist, and one-time robber. Bonin also shares his nickname with two other killers, who were believed to be a single serial killer.

Background

Bonin was born in Willimantic, Connecticut, on January 8, 1947, as the second of three sons raised by alcoholic parents. Due to their parents' constant absences, Bonin and his brothers were frequently left with his grandfather, a convicted child molester. They were also neglected by their parents and fed by neighbors. When he was six years old, Bonin was sent to live in an orphanage and stayed there until he was nine. A year later, he was arrested for stealing license plates and other crimes and sent to a juvenile detention center. As a teenager, Bonin began to molest children. After graduating from high school in 1965, he became engaged and also joined the U.S. Air Force. He served in the Vietnam War as an aerial gunner, earning a Good Conduct Medal in the process. During his service, Bonin risked his life to save another airman but also raped two soldiers at gunpoint, though this crime was apparently never reported. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force in October 1968. Afterwards, Bonin returned to Connecticut to live with his mother but eventually moved to California.

A month later, Bonin began abducting and sexually assaulting youths, claiming five victims. He was arrested a year later, convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault, and sent to the Atascadero State Hospital to be medically treated. He was later moved to a proper prison after it was ruled that he couldn't be treated. However, Bonin was released in May 1974 after doctors concluded he was no longer a danger to others. Sixteen months later, he was arrested again and charged with the rape of 14-year-old hitchhiker David McVicker at gunpoint and the attempted abduction of another teenager, being sentenced to between one and fifteen years at California Men's Facility. He was released on October 11, 1978, and moved to Downey, where he lived in an apartment complex. Bonin eventually found work as a truck driver and began to date a girl. In Downey, he became acquainted with his neighbor, Everett Fraser, and became an attendee at the parties Fraser held at his apartment. During one of these parties, he met and became acquainted with a factory worker and part-time magician named Vernon Butts and a Texas native named Gregory Matthews Miley.

Murders, Arrest, and Execution

"I'd still be killing, I couldn't stop killing. It got easier each time."

Bonin's first murder victim was thirteen-year-old hitchhiker Thomas Glen Lundgren, who was last seen leaving his house before being abducted by both Bonin and Vernon Butts. Later, Bonin was arrested again for raping a seventeen-year-old boy but was released due to an administrative error. After his release, he was driven home by Everett Fraser, to whom he constantly said that no one was going to testify against him again. Two months later, Bonin and Butts abducted seventeen-year-old Mark Shelton; he was raped and entered in a fatal state of shock, which resulted in his death. His body was then dumped in San Bernardino County. A day later, they killed seventeen-year-old hitchhiker Markus Crabs at his home, then dumped his body alongside a Malibu freeway. Several days later, they abducted and killed fifteen-year-old Donald Ray Hyden, and his body was found in a dumpster near the Ventura Freeway, Hyden had been bound, beaten about the face, sodomized, then stabbed in the neck and genitalia and bludgeoned about the skull. Evident attempts had also been made to remove his testicles and slash his throat. Two weeks later, Bonin and Butts abducted seventeen-year-old David Murillo while he was cycling to a movie theater. He was lured to their van, and there, he was raped, bludgeoned, and strangled to death. Eight days later, they abducted and killed eighteen-year-old Robert Wirostek while he was cycling to work. On November 29, Bonin and Butts abducted an unidentified boy, who was beaten and strangled to death before being dumped in Kern County.

William Bonin being escorted to court in 1981.

A day later, Bonin abducted, raped, and strangled seventeen-year-old Frank Dennis Fox, whose nude body was found two days later alongside a highway five miles east of San Diego. Ten days later, fifteen-year-old John Kilpatrick was abducted, killed, and his body dumped in Rialto. On January 1, 1980, Bonin mutilated and strangled sixteen-year-old Michael Francis McDonald. Though his body was found soon after, it was not identified until March 24. On February 3, with the help of Gregory Miley, Bonin stole the wallet of fifteen-year-old hitchhiker Charles Miranda before raping and strangling the boy to death with a tire iron. Hours later, they abducted twelve-year-old James Macabe while he waited for his bus to show up and take him to Disneyland. The boy was raped, beaten, and strangled to death with his own T-shirt; and his body was found days later alongside a dumpster in Walnut. On March 14, Bonin abducted eighteen-year-old Ronald Gaitlin. He was beaten and sodomized with an ice pick before being strangled to death, and his body was found a day later in Duarte. One week later, Bonin lured fourteen-year-old Glen Barker to his van, where he was raped, beaten, and burned with a lit cigarette before being strangled to death. Hours later, Bonin abducted fifteen-year-old Russell Rugh from a bus stop in Garden Grove. Like Barker, he was beaten and strangled to death. Both bodies were dumped in the Cleveland National Forest and found on March 23.

Days later, Bonin offered a ride home to seventeen-year-old William Ray Pugh and he accepted it. Minutes later, Bonin asked Pugh if he wanted to have sex; Pugh panicked and ignored him for several minutes before attempting to leave the van, but he was grabbed by the collar and dragged to the passenger seat. He then said how he enjoyed picking up hitchhikers and strangling them to death, terrifying Pugh even more. Strangely enough, Pugh was driven to his home without being assaulted. Days later, with the help of Pugh himself, Bonin lured fifteen-year-old Harry Todd Turner to the van, and there, Turner was sodomized by him and savagely beaten and bludgeoned by Pugh before being strangled with his own T-shirt by Bonin. On April 10, he abducted sixteen-year-old Steven Wood and strangled him to death. Hours later, he abducted and killed an eighteen-year-old acquaintance of his named Lawrence Sharp, beating and strangling him; his body was found behind a Westminster gas station. Three weeks later, Bonin and Butts lured nineteen-year-old supermarket employee Darin Kendrick to their van, and there, he was forced to drink hydrochloric acid and then stabbed with an icepick. His body was dumped near the Artesia Freeway, where it was eventually found. On May 19, Bonin abducted fourteen-year-old Sean King and strangled him to death, then dumped his body in Yucaipa. Nine days later, Bonin invited nineteen-year-old homeless drifter James Munro to his house. He did not kill Munro but offered him a chance of employment at the Montebello delivery firm.

During the Freeway Killer investigation, in which there were two other perpetrators, Patrick Kearney and Randy Kraft (see below), a now-arrested William Pugh heard details about the case and said to a counselor that Bonin might be the killer. The counselor reported this to the police, resulting in an interview with Pugh. With Bonin as the prime suspect, police investigated his past and found that he was arrested for sexually assaulting boys. As a result, Detective John St. John ordered a surveillance team to monitor Bonin and his movements. On June 2, despite the monitoring, Bonin and Munro managed to lure eighteen-year-old Steven Jay Wells from a bus stop and kill him. On June 11, the surveillance team noticed Bonin luring a fifteen-year-old boy known only as Harold T. The team followed Bonin to a parking lot, where they arrested him in the act of assaulting the boy. In custody, Bonin confessed to abducting, raping, and killing 21 boys and young men, with Butts as his primary accomplice. Despite his confession, police believe that he may have murdered even more people. Bonin's accomplices were all arrested soon afterwards. They all agreed to testify against Bonin in order to avoid the death penalty.

Bonin was linked to many of the murders by physical evidence. On November 5, 1981, his trial started in Los Angeles County, where he was charged with twelve of the murders relating to the victims whose bodies were found within the particular jurisdiction. During the trial, Miley and Munro testified against Bonin, describing in graphic detail the murders they committed with him. After the trial ended, a jury deliberated for six days and found Bonin guilty of ten of the murders, acquitting him of the deaths of Thomas Lundgren and Sean King, Lundgren because Bonin explicitly denied involvement, King because Bonin led police to his body and was exonerated by a related plea deal. The combined convictions resulted in a death sentence. He spent a total of fourteen years on death row, during which he filed multiple appeals against his conviction, all of which were unsuccessful. During this time, he became acquainted with Randy Kraft, another "Freeway Killer" on death row. In March 1983, Bonin went to trial in Orange County for four other murders and was found guilty later that year on August 26. He was executed on February 23, 1996, being the first person to be executed by lethal injection in the history of California after the gas chamber was branded as a cruel and unusual method of execution by the state.

Accomplices

Vernon Butts.

James Michael Munro.

Gregory Matthews Miley.

  • Vernon Butts (c. 1959 - January 11, 1981):
    • Factory worker and part-time magician
    • Described by Bonin as an extremely active accomplice
    • Assisted Bonin in the murders of Thomas Lundgren, Mark Shelton, Markus Grabs, Donald Hyden, David Murillo, Robert Wirostek, Darin Lee Kendrick, Steven Wells, and an unidentified boy
    • Arrested on July 25, 1980, and charged with three murders, as well as additional counts including conspiracy, kidnapping, robbery, sodomy, oral sex, and sex perversion
    • Agreed to testify against Bonin to avoid the death penalty and recorded a testimony
    • Committed suicide by hanging himself with a towel while awaiting trial, rendering his testimony inadmissible as evidence
    • Previously attempted suicide four times during incarceration
  • James Michael Munro:
    • Lodger and a coworker of Bonin's
    • Previously a homeless drifter
    • Met Bonin after he picked him up and offered him employment
    • Assisted Bonin in the murder of Steven Wells
    • Also believed to have aided Bonin in the murder of Dennis Franklin Fox
    • Arrested on July 31, 1980, and charged with Wells's murder
    • Agreed to testify against Bonin to avoid the death penalty
    • Sentenced to a term of 15 years to life for the second-degree murder of Wells
    • Was eligible for parole in 2000, but it was denied at the behest of Wells's parents
    • Currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison
  • William Ray Pugh:
    • Aged 17 at the time of Bonin's killings
    • Met Bonin after he picked him up and had a tense conversation with him in his van
    • Assisted Bonin in the murder of Harry Todd Turner by beating and bludgeoning him
    • Informed police about Bonin while in jail for unrelated auto theft
    • Arrested and charged with the murder of Turner after other friends of Bonin informed police about Pugh's true connection to Bonin
    • Was sentenced to a six-year sentence for the voluntary manslaughter of Turner
  • Gregory Matthews Miley:
    • Lived in Texas
    • An acquaintance of Bonin's
    • Assisted Bonin in the murders of Charles Miranda and James Macabe
    • Arrested on August 22, 1980, and charged with Miranda and Macabe's murders, as well as two counts of robbery and one count of sodomy
    • Charged with an Orange County murder and seven related felony counts on October 29, 1980
    • Agreed to testify against Bonin to avoid the death penalty
    • Sentenced to a term of 25 years to life for the first-degree murder of Miranda
    • Was beaten to death while incarcerated at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2016.

Modus Operandi

Bonin's victims were young male hitchhikers, schoolboys, and male prostitutes. They were either enticed or forced into his camper van; and when inside, they were bound hand and foot with handcuffs, wire, or cord. They were then raped, tortured, and killed by a variety of ways, mostly by a signature "windlass" strangulation method. After killing them, their bodies were dumped alongside freeways in southern California. He was also assisted by Butts, Munro, Pugh, and Miley in a minimum total of twelve murders.

Known Victims

Note: The dates denote when the victims disappeared

Confirmed

Murders and crimes for which Bonin was charged and convicted

  • 1979:
    • August 5: Markus Crabs, 17 (sodomized, beaten, and fatally stabbed 77 times)
    • August 27: Donald Ray Hyden, 15 (stabbed in the neck and genitals, strangled, and fatally bludgeoned)
    • September 9: David Murillo, 17 (raped, bludgeoned, and fatally strangled; his body was found three days later)
    • November 30: Frank Dennis Fox, 17 (raped and fatally strangled; his body was found on December 2)
  • 1980:
    • February 3:
      • Charles Miranda, 15 (raped, beaten, and fatally strangled with a tire iron)
      • James Michael Macabe, 12 (raped, beaten, and fatally strangled with his own T-shirt; his body was found three days later)
    • March 14: Ronald Gatlin, 18 (sodomized with an icepick and fatally strangled)
    • March 20: Harry Todd Turner, 15 (sodomized, bit, beaten, bludgeoned, and fatally strangled with his own T-shirt; his body was found five days later)
    • March 21:
      • Glenn Norman Barker, 14 (raped, beaten, burned with a lit cigarette, and fatally strangled)
      • Russell Duane Rugh, 15 (beaten and fatally strangled)
    • April 10:
      • Steven Wood, 16 (strangled)
      • Lawrence Eugene Sharp, 18 (beaten and fatally strangled; his body was found on May 18)
    • April 29: Darin Lee Kendrick, 19 (forced to drink hydrochloric acid and fatally stabbed in the ear with an icepick)
    • June 2: Steven Jay Wells, 18 (raped, beaten, and fatally strangled with his own T-shirt)
    • June 11: Harold Tate, 17 (attempted; handcuffed, bound, and tried to rape and strangle)

Other

Murders and crimes which Bonin wasn't convicted for or were unrelated to his serial killings

  • Unspecified dates: Numerous unnamed children (all molested only)
  • Unspecified dates during the Vietnam War: Two unnamed soldiers (both raped only)
  • November 17, 1968: Unnamed youth (sexually assaulted)
  • Unspecified dates from late 1968 to early 1969: Four unnamed youths, 12-18 (all sexually assaulted)
  • 1975:
    • August: David McVicker, 14 (raped and attempted to strangle)
    • Unspecified date: Unnamed boy (attempted to abduct)
  • 1979:
    • May 28: Thomas Glen Lundgren, 13 (emasculated, bludgeoned, stabbed, slashed his throat, and fatally strangled)
    • Summer: Unnamed man, 17 (raped only)
    • August 4: Mark Shelton, 17 (sodomized with various objects and unintentionally killed after he went into shock)
    • September 17: Robert Wirostek, 18 (raped and fatally strangled)
    • c. November 1: Unnamed male, 19-25 (beaten and fatally strangled)
    • December 10: John Kilpatrick, 15 (strangled)
  • 1980:
    • January 1: Michael Francis McDonald, 16 (mutilated and fatally strangled)
    • May 19: Sean King, 14 (raped and fatally strangled)
    • June 11: Five unnamed teenage boys (attempted; tried to lure in with a ruse on separate occasions, but failed each time)

Other Freeway Killers

Patrick Kearney.

Randy Kraft.

Bonin was one of the three "Freeway Killers" active in Calfornia in the 1970s. The other two were:

  • Patrick Kearney (b. September 24, 1939):
    • Also nicknamed "The Trash Bag Killer"
    • Killed 21-43 victims
    • Targeted males aged 8-28
    • Shot them to death, mutilated their bodies, and engaged in necrophilia with them
    • Sometimes drained the blood of victims post-mortem
    • Became a homosexual pickup artist
    • Would frequently kill his victims after engaging in arguments with his homosexual lover, David Hill
    • Suspected after murdering a man scheduled to meet up with Hill
    • Fled with Hill, but both were persuaded to turn themselves in by their families; Hill was exonerated
    • Pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and was incarcerated
    • For full article, see here
  • Randy Kraft (b. March 19, 1945):
    • Also nicknamed "The Score-Card Killer"
    • Killed 17-67 victims
    • Targeted males in their late teens to mid-20s
    • Usually strangled them to death or killed them with a combination of torture and drugs
    • Sometimes also stuffed an object into the victims' rectums
    • Took photos of his victims after killing them and kept a record of them
    • Arrested after being pulled over for drunken driving and the body of a victim being found in the trunk of his car
    • Charged and briefly sentenced to death, but the sentence was downgraded to a life sentence
    • Became acquainted with Bonin during his time on death row
    • For full article, see here

On Criminal Minds

While Bonin has yet to be directly mentioned or referenced on the show, he appears to have been an inspiration for the following unsubs:

  • Season Two
    • The Mill Creek Killer ("The Last Word") - Both were serial killers who had a specific gender preference (males in Bonin's case, females in the Mill Creek Killer's), lured them with ruses, killed them via blunt-force trauma (though this was only one of Bonin's methods), had some sexual element in their crimes (Bonin raped and tortured his victims, while the Mill Creek Killer engaged in necrophilia with his), and were active at the same time and place as at least one other independent serial killer.
  • Season Four
    • William Harris ("Soul Mates") - Both were ephebophilic serial killers and rapists who share the same first name, were put in orphanages as children, were registered sex offenders, had a specific gender preference (males in Bonin's case, females in Harris'), abducted, raped, and strangled their victims (though that was only one of Bonin's methods), killed their victims to ensure that they would never be arrested again, and were active at the same time as at least one other serial killer (though Harris and Baleman were a team while Bonin, Kearney, and Kraft were all completely independent of each other).
    • Hugh Rollins ("A Shade of Gray") - Both were pedophilic and hebephilic serial killers and serial rapists (budding at least) who had targeted males, were put in orphanages as children, were registered sex offenders, abducted, raped, and strangled their victims (though that was only one of Bonin's methods), and killed their victims to ensure that they would never be arrested again. And also interestingly enough, were active in the same area and the same time as at least one other unrelated murderer with a similar victimology and M.O. (Bonin was active at the same time as Randy Kraft and Patrick Kearney, while Rollins was active at the same time as Danny Murphy).
  • Season Five
    • Robert Matthew Burke ("...A Thousand Words") - Both were ephebophilic serial killers and rapists who had a specific gender preference (Bonin targeted males, while Burke targeted females), committed sexual offenses prior to their murders, committed their murders with at least one accomplice, raped and strangled them (though this was only one of Bonin's methods), and killed their victims so they would never get arrested again for their crimes.
  • Season Six
    • Michael Kosina ("Middle Man") - Both were serial killers and rapists who had at least one teenage accomplice, were members of teams, committed sexual offenses prior to their murders, lured or abducted victims with help from their accomplices, and would rape, beat, and strangle them (though these were only two of Bonin's methods) so they wouldn't get caught for their crimes again.
  • Season Seven
    • Ben Bradstone ("Proof") - Both were ephebophilic serial killers and serial rapists with a specific gender preference (males in Bonin's case, females in Bradstone's), targeted high-risk victims, lured or abducted, then raped, and finally killed via stabbing in the neck and genitals (though this was only one of Bonin's methods), and also tortured their victims with acid ingestion.
  • Season Twelve
    • Mark Tolson ("A Good Husband") - Both were homosexual killers who targeted males, tortured and killed them via stabbing (though this was only one of Bonin's methods) inside their vans, and performed overkill on their victim's bodies.

Sources

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