January 6 1982 - The Freeway Killer is Convicted

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William Bonin was a serial killer in 1979 and 1980, abducting, raping and murdering 21 boys and discarding their bodies along the freeway in southern California.

Described by the prosecuter as "the most arch-evil person who ever existed", Bonin was convicted of first-degree murder 38 years ago today, and sentenced to die. After 14 years on death row, he was executed by lethal injection in 1996. Good riddance.


William Bonin was born in 1947, the second of 3 boys to an alcoholic mother and an alcoholic, abusive and gambling addicted father. He and his brothers were neglected, often clothed and fed by neighbors. For a time, the boys were placed in the care of their grandfather, a convicted child molester who had molested their mother and all 3 of them.

Eventually, the boys were put into an orphanage, which, you guessed it, punished the children for bad behavior with beatings, forcing them to hold stress positions and quickly drowning them in sink water. After capture, Bonin did not talk much about his time in the orphanage, only mentioning that he'd only allow the older males to rape him if his hands could be tied behind his back.

At age 10, he was reunited with his horrible family and began committing some non-violent crimes. He went to a juvenile detention center, and while there, he was physically and sexually abused by many people, including his counselors.

(Now, I'm not saying that there aren't children who went through worse and didn't come out serial killers and I'm in no way saying these experiences justify his life. However, if you're trying to not raise a serial killer, I'd read the above and do exactly the opposite.)


What follows is a rap sheet that more than certainly should have lead to a life in prison for Bonin, completely eviscerating his chances to become a serial killer. However, he was consistently let back out onto the streets.

After getting out of juvie, Bonin began molesting his younger brother and some neighborhood kids. His mother pressured him to marry to "cure his homosexuality" which he did, but eventually divorced.

He joined the air force and served in Vietnam, receiving a medal for risking his life to save another wounded airman. (Yay) But then claimed that he sexually assaulted soldiers an gunpoint, and said that his time in Vietnam instilled a belief in him that human life is overvalued (boo).

At age 21, he begins molesting and torturing boys between the ages of 12-18. He got caught and arrested for attempted kidnapping, plead guilty and was sent to a state hospital for being a "mentally disordered sex offender" who would be amenable to treatment in 1971. During treatment, he was found to have a very high IQ, manic depression and damage to his prefrontal cortex.

After 2 years, he was send back to prison because the hospital couldn't treat him anymore due to his consistent forceful sex with other male inmates. In 1974, he was deemed no longer dangerous and was released.

After his release, he kidnaps a 14 year old boy and beats and rapes him, then begins to strangle him but felt bad and let him go. He also raped a 15 year old 2 days after. He rejected $35 for sex, and Bonin tried to hit him with his car.

He is caught. He's sentenced to 1-15 years in 1975. He gets out in 1978. And begins killing.


All in all, Bonin confessed to 21 murders, but some believe there could be up to 15 more. Their deaths are horrifying and do not require immense detail.

Bonin's method was to kidnap young hitchhikers. He would either entice or force them into his van. Once inside, he would overpower them, bind them, assault, beat and kill them. Most were strangled with their own T-shirts, but some were beaten to death. One boy was forced to drink hydrochloric acid, 3 boys had ice picks driven into their ears, and one boy died of shock.

To ensure they didn't escape, he removed the inner handles of the vehicle and hid weapons throughout. He would kill them in his van, and discard them on the freeway.

Horrifyingly, after his first murder, Bonin was arrested for molesting a 17-year old... A clear parole violation which would have sent him back to prison. But, because of a clerical error, he was released and picked right back up where he left off.


Though sometimes I find it difficult to get 4 friends together to go to dinner, Bonin was able to find 4 people who were all involved in at least 1 murder. In fact, of the 21 murders, at least 12 had assistance from one of his 4 accomplices.

Vernon Butts:

Bonin met Butts through a neighbor in his apartment complex. Butts, 21, admitted that he was terrified and fascinated by Bonin. According to Bonin, he assisted in 9 of the murders, and in the ones he didn't participate in, Bonin would come by his home after to tell him all about it. He was named as Bonin's primary accomplice.

He eventually confessed to all of the charges brought against him, saying he participated in the sexual assault of the boys, but said he only had a limited role in the torture in all of the cases except one.

Butts hanged himself in prison while awaiting trial in 1981.

Gregory Miley:

Bonin met Miley at the same time as Butts. He played a big role in 2 of Bonin's murders that happened on the same night. He was 18 years old, illiterate and had an IQ of 56. He ultimately plead guilty and was sentenced to 25 years to life for first degree murder.

He died from injuries after being attacked by another inmate in the exercise yard.

James Munro:

Murno was a bisexual, homeless drifter who met Bonin and began a sexual relationship with him. He initially thought Bonin was a "good guy" but that changed when he told him that together, he wanted to abduct, rape and kill a hitchhiker. He was sentenced to 15 years to life for second degree murder.

William Pugh:

In what can only be described as the strangest accomplice ever, William Pugh was first almost a victim of Bonin's. He was in Bonin's car when he began to realize something was wrong. Bonin grabbed him and told him that he liked to rape and kill male hitchhikers, but let Pugh go because they were spotted leaving a party together.

After escaping this deranged serial killer, Pugh ended up being his accomplice, helping to kidnap and murder another victim in the same month he was nearly a victim, himself. He was originally tried for first degree murder, but it was brought down to voluntary manslaughter.

He was sentenced to 6 years, served only 4, and was released in 1985.


When the police started to get suspicious of Bonin, they began surveillance on him. After 9 days of surveillance, they caught him in the act of raping a 17-year-old boy in his van. He was arrested for that crime, but upon seeing everything in his car, they were able to charge him with all of the murders.

He confessed to all 21 murders. He showed embarrassment for getting caught, but never showed any remorse for his crimes. He tried to appeal his conviction many times, even saying Butts was the ringleader and he was merely a follower, but he never won any appeals.

After his execution in 1996, his family refused to claim his remains.

The world is a better place with William Bonin no longer in it, which was decided 38 years ago today.



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