It is hard to predict a serial killer and their motives, they are generally unpredictable, and they tend to live normal lives. Serial killers come from all backgrounds and it is hard to pinpoint exactly what they do and why they do it. For William Bonin, his upbringing was dysfunctional. Bonin was born in Connecticut in 1947, the middle child of two brothers. Bonin had an abusive, alcoholic father who also suffered from a gambling problem while Bonin’s mother was also an alcoholic and was rarely in the picture. This led to Bonin and his brothers being primarily raised by their grandfather who just so happened to be a convicted child molester (“William George Bonin,” 1997). Some serial killers are however molded by their environment and their surroundings, could Bonin’s childhood have affected him into who he would become? It is a proven fact that most serial killers do what they do due to rejection and/or abandonment from their childhood. Could this have possibly affected Bonin in some way, shape, or form? When Bonin was 8 years of age, he ran away from home and during his adolescent years, he was sent to a juvenile detention center for stealing license plates. While at the detention center, Bonin was allegedly sexually assaulted by older teenage boys (Ruiz, 2018). It is noted that after leaving the juvenile detention center, he began molesting children. After his high school years, Bonin joined the U.S. Air Force where he served time in the Vietnam War as a gunner, earning a Good Conduct Medal. When Bonin returned home to Connecticut, he would marry, get divorced, and move out to California (“William George Bonin,” 1997). Bonin would soon begin his reign of sexual assault, terror, and murder.
Bonin was first arrested in 1969 at the age of twenty-two, when he sexually assaulted five young boys in the community of South Bay. Bonin would go on to serve five years in prison however, that did not seem to fathom Bonin. After his release, Bonin struck again. In 1975, Bonin was arrested for sexually assaulting a fourteen-year-old boy named David McVicker and Bonin was sent back to prison for an additional four years (Ruiz, 2018). Upon his release in 1979, Bonin told himself that he would never get caught again, Bonin would resort to murdering his teenage victims. Bonin would not do this act alone, he would go on to have four accomplices by the names of Vernon Butts, Gregory Miley, James Munro, and William Pugh (Ruiz, 2018). Bonin would be known as the “Freeway Killer,” Bonin, along with his 4 accomplices, kidnapped, robbed, raped and murdered teenaged boys between 1979 and 1980 in Los Angeles and Orange County. In most cases, Bonin would pick up hitchhiking boys, and once inside the van would have sex with them, then strangle them with their clothing while leaving their bodies alongside of the California freeway (“William George Bonin,” 1997). “Vernon Butts was a lowlife drifter with a long criminal record of petty offences who was what prosecutors refer to as “doing life in prison on the installment plan.” He had been in and out of penal institutions and was excited by sadistic homosexual activities – undoubtedly something he had picked up during one of his stays behind bars. Butts accompanied Bonin on several of his killing forays and was as depraved and twisted as William.” “His first murder victim was Marcus Grabs, a 17-year-old German exchange student.” “He was last seen hitchhiking along the Pacific Coast Highway on Aug. 5. 1979. His naked body was found a few days later in Malibu Canyon, stabbed nearly 80 times with a nylon rope around his neck” (Ruiz, 2018). This would be the first of many murders that Bonin, along with his accomplices would commit. According to Charles Montaldo, Vernon Butts was the sole accomplice into helping Bonin murder Grabs. Just weeks later on the day of August 27th, the body of Donald Hyden was found in a dumpster. Hyden’ throat was slashed and evidenced had shown that he had been strangled and raped. Hyden was fifteen-years-old. David Murillo was found in the same situation as Hyden, whom had disappeared one evening on his way to the movies, was also found beaten, sodomized, and mutilated (Ruiz, 2018). All with Butts being the sole accomplice to Bonin’s ferocious acts. However, these would not be the only murders that Bonin and his accomplices would commit. On February 3, 1980, Bonin was driving a van with accomplice Miley, together, picked up Charles Miranda, 15, in West Hollywood. They drove several blocks away, parking the car and began to sodomize Miranda. After the co-defendant took six dollars from Charles, the two men tied his feet and hands together. Bonin and Miley raped, robbed, and strangled Miranda, dumping Miranda’s nude body in an alley, and drove on to Huntington Beach, seeking other victims. Just a few short hours later, Bonin and Miley would find 12-year-old James McCabe, where they invited him into Bonin’s van having sex with him, strangling him, and leaving McCabe’s body by a dumpster where it was found 3 days later (“Capital Punishment,” 2017). Bonin would not always have an accomplice, in some cases, Bonin would act alone. It appeared that Bonin would act alone in Ronald Gatlin’s, 18, murder. It was said that Ronald’s nude body was found, and signs showed that Gatlin was sodomized and strangled with a ligature. However, around March 20, 1980, the Bonin and another one of his accomplices, William Pugh, would work together in the murder of Harry Todd Turner, 14, in Hollywood. Again, like most of Bonin’s murders, Turner’s body was found naked along with signs showing Turner being beaten, sodomized, and strangled (“Capital Punishment,” 2017). On April 10, 1980, Steven Wood, 16, was picked up by the Bonin in Los Angeles. Steven’s nude body was found the next morning in an alley. Wood had been beaten, sodomized and strangled by ligature. It appeared that Bonin would act alone in Wood’s murder as well. On April 29, 1980, Bonin along with Butts would capture Darin Lee Kendrick, 19, in the parking lot of a supermarket. Kendrick’s body was found nude the next day. “In addition to being sodomized and strangled by ligature, Darin apparently was forced to ingest chloral hydrate which left him with caustic chemical burns on his mouth, chin, chest and stomach. Darin also had an ice pick through his right ear that caused a fatal wound to the upper cervical spinal cord.” (“Capital Punishment,” 2017). On June 2, 1980, Bonin and his other accomplice, James Munro, along with the help of Vernon Butts, would all be linked to the murder of 18-year-old Steven Wells. Together, they all helped with the murder and dumping of Wells’ body where it was found nude a day later (“William George Bonin,” 1997). However, after the death of Steven Wells, William Bonin’s reign of terror would not last much longer.
Following the night of June 2, 1980, Bonin would soon begin to be surveilled by police after one of his accomplices, William Pugh, got arrested days earlier for auto theft chargers along with connections to these murders. Pugh would go on to give up Bonin for a lighter prison sentence. It was said that Pugh told police that he accepted a ride from Bonin and that Bonin was going to kill young boys, this causing the beginning of Bonin’s soon capture (“Capital Punishment,” 2017). “On June 11, 1980, Bonin set out in his van, stopping to talk to five young men along the way. Finally, one young man accepted a ride. Police caught Bonin in the act of sodomizing the 15-year-old victim. They found a length of white nylon cord, several knives, and a thick scrapbook of clips about his killings in his van.” The police had William Bonin in custody. While in custody, Bonin had confessed to abducting, raping, and killing twenty-one boys and young men. Originally, police had suspected him of many other murders, but Bonin was officially charged with fourteen murders. William Bonin was officially sent to trial on November 4, 1981. He was sent to death (Ruiz, 2018). The trail of William Bonin was rather a short and sweet one, prosecutors could not find anything to convince them to save the life of Bonin. “He took advantage of the American legal system and appealed his sentence. Every time an appeal failed, he tried a different route. He tried to bargain with the knowledge he had of other unsolved murders, but his aid wasn’t worth his life, authorities said. Finally, 17 years after the judge pronounced sentence, the U.S. Supreme Court told the lower federal courts that no more stays would be issued unless they were issued by the Supreme Court. Bonin had a date with the executioner” (“William George Bonin,” 1997). William Bonin was executed on February 23, 1996 in the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. For his last meal, Bonin wanted nothing else but two large pepperoni and sausage pizzas, three pints of coffee ice cream and three six-packs of regular Coca-Cola. William Bonin’s last words were as followed: “That I feel the death penalty is not an answer to the problems at hand. That I feel it sends the wrong message to the youth of the country. Young people act as they see other people acting instead of as people tell them to act. And I would suggest that when a person has a thought of doing anything serious against the law, that before they did, that they should go to a quiet place and think about it seriously.” Bonin was officially pronounced dead at 12:13 am (“Capital Punishment,” 2017). William Bonin was 49. Bonin would go on to become the third prisoner in California to be executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Bonin was said to be “one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history” (Ellingwood, Moehringer, & Trounson 1996).