As more and more women's bodies were discovered on the LA hillsides, having been raped and strangled, the search was on for their killer or killers...
In Los Angeles in the 1970s, fear was spreading through the community when police suspected they had a serial killer on their hands…
First, on 18 October 1977, prostitute Yolanda Washington vanished. Her body was found at a cemetery. She’d been raped and strangled.
Then, 13 days later, the body of teen runaway, Judith Miller, was found. Again, raped and strangled.
Within months, 10 bodies piled up on the LA hillsides – most raped and strangled, some tortured.
Then, over a year later, two students were found dead in Washington. By then, police had a suspect – Kenneth Bianchi, 27.
Kenneth Alessio Bianchi was born in May 1951 in Rochester, New York. His mother was a teenage alcoholic prostitute who gave him up for adoption after two weeks. Nicholas and Frances Bianchi adopted Kenneth at 3½ months.
From a young age, Kenneth wanted to be a police officer, but his application failed. In 1975, he moved to LA to live with his cousin, Angelo Buono, 17 years his elder, and said to be sadistic with a dominant personality.
Kenneth struggled financially and started scams, like setting up as a psychological counsellor – without credentials. It’s thought he turned to his cousin Buono for financial support, and Buono said they could make money by becoming pimps.
The pair bought a list of men who visited prostitutes from Yolanda Washington. But the list turned out to be a con. So, reportedly enraged, Buono and Bianchi killed her.
Their first victims were prostitutes and homeless.
But in November 1977, a high-school student, Kathleen Robinson, 17, was found showing similar injuries to previous victims. Within days, the bodies of Dolores Cepeda, 12, and Sonja Johnson, 14, were discovered.
The media soon nicknamed the serial killer the Hillside Strangler.
Bianchi and Buono posed as police officers in order to abduct women. And some of their victims showed signs of torture.
But then the pair fell out, and Bianchi moved to Bellingham, Washington.
In January 1979, two students, Karen Mandic, 22, and Diance Wilder, 27, believed they were seeing a man about a job. But, Bianchi raped and strangled them before dumping them. Then a piece of paper was found detailing the meeting, which led to Bianchi’s arrest…
Police searched his house and found earlier victims’ jewellery. Forensics tied him to five Hillside Strangler killings.
In October 1979, Kenneth Bianchi admitted five killings in California, plus two in Washington and was given seven life sentences.
To avoid the death penalty, he made a plea deal and, in 1981, became the key witness against Buono, who was charged with 10 murders. Bianchi’s testimony was inconsistent and erratic, but eventually the jury returned guilty verdicts. In 1983, Buono was sentenced to life without parole for nine of the murders.
Buono died of a heart attack in September 2002, while Bianchi is still behind bars. Bianchi was also a suspect in the Alphabet Murders.