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Why Was LA In The 70s And 80s Such A Hotbed Of Serial Killers?

During the 1970s and 1980s, Los Angeles was a city gripped with fear as more than 20 serial killers were operating simultaneously within a five-mile radius. Killers like “The Hillside Strangler” and “The Freeway Killer” became household names as their crimes struck panic among Angelinos. As body after body turned up around the city, Los Angeles became known as the “serial killer capital of America,” and the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division embarked on a quest to find and stop these cold-blooded killers. 

A new true crime docuseries, “City Of Angels, City Of Death,” on Hulu, takes a look at a few of the most notorious killers  to stalk the streets of ’70s and ’80’s LA.

One notable killer (or killers) was the Hillside Strangler, identified as Kenneth Alessio Bianchi, and his cousin, Angelo Buono Jr. The pair killed ten women and girls between 1977 and 1978, disposing of their bodies in the hills surrounding the greater Los Angeles area. According to CNN, the murderous duo posed as police officers to ensnare their victims. They began targeting sex workers and then widened their net to cover middle-class neighborhoods, where they took their victims back to Buono’s house to torture and rape them. Bianchi was arrested in Washington state for murdering two college students in 1979 ,and later confessed to the California murders. He received five life sentences, but not before he testified against his cousin, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Bianchi remains behind bars, while Buono died in 2002.

Another noteworthy serial killer who hunted the streets of Los Angeles was William Bonin, better known as the Freeway Killer. Bonin was a truck driver who kidnapped, raped, and murdered teenage boys and young men, according to the California Department of Corrections. Though he was convicted of 14 murders between 1979 and 1980, he confessed to killing 21 people, most of them hitchhikers. Police caught and arrested Bonin while he was in the act of raping a teenage boy in his van. 

Bonin garnered the nickname “The Freeway Killer” for dumping most of his victims along various freeways around Los Angeles. He shares the infamous moniker with Patrick Kearney and Randy Graft.

William Bonin was executed by lethal injection in 1996.

Another shocking string of murders was carried out by the Sunset Strip Killer, who, with his girlfriend, was accused six gruesome murders that included decapitation and necrophilia (in that order). Douglas Daniel Clark and Carol M. Bundy started their twisted series of killings soon after Clark brought sex workers to their shared home, participating in threesomes. Bundy helped Clark lure an 11-year-old neighbor into their home, where they sexually abused and photographed the child. Bundy called authorities on her boyfriend after he murdered two teenage girls and violated their corpses. Bundy, however, didn’t reveal Clark’s identity, and he went on to kill and decapitate two more women. He then took their heads home to gratify his sexual desires.

Bundy also murdered and decapitated a man she was having an affair with after she detailed Clark’s heinous actions.

Clark remains on death row, while Bundy died in prison in 2003, according to the LA Times.

Another killer the detective in “City of Angels, City of Death” discuss is the Skid Row Stabber. This unidentified serial killer terrorized the predominantly homeless community of LA’s Skid Row between 1978 and 1979, according to the LA Times. In 1979, police charged Bobby Joe Maxwell with stabbing 10 homeless men after a jailhouse informant told authorities that Maxwell confessed to the killings. It later came to light that the cellmate, Sydney Storch, was at the center of a jailhouse scandal where inmates fabricated confessions in exchange for lighter sentences.

Maxwell’s conviction was overturned in 2010, and he was later found not guilty while in a coma following a massive heart attack in 2017. He died in 2019.

The Skid Row Stabber’s identity remains unknown.

“City of Angels, City of Death” begins streaming on Hulu on Wednesday, November 24th. 

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Written by Stephanie Green

I am dreamer and book reader.

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