Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!
A twice-parolled sex offender, William Bonin tortured, raped, and killed at least twenty-one young boys and men between 1979 and 1980. He’s suspected of committing at least fifteen more murders.
Like most serial killers, Bonin grew up in a dysfunctional family. Born in Connecticut in 1947, Bonin endured an alcoholic father who beat his family and once gambled away their home. His grandfather was a convicted child molester, and despite her own childhood sexual abuse, Bonin’s mother often left him and his brother in their grandfather’s care. Neighbors said the Bonin children were always unkempt and hungry.
At age eight, Bonin was incarcerated in juvenile hall for stealing license plates. The older boys molested him, instilling a warped understanding of sex in the young child. The facility also dealt out harsh punishments for insubordination, including submersion in ice water.
Connecticut medical records state Bonin was approached for sex by an older boy and agreed to participate if he was restrained, allowing him to feel more secure.
Years later, Georgetown University Hospital neurologist Dr. Jonathan H. Pincus would examine Bonin. He stated Bonin’s early sexual awareness and request for restraint made it inconceivable for him to believe Bonin hadn’t been sexually abused and forcibly restrained by adults prior to his experience at juvy.
After he was released, Bonin began sexually molesting other children, including his brother. As an adult, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served as a gunner in the Vietnam War, and by all accounts was a good soldier. After the war, Bonin married, then divorced, and eventually moved to California where he began his further descent into sexual depravity.
In 1969, he was accused of molesting five boys in L.A. County. Bonin picked up the boys in his vehicle, then handcuffed and sodomized them. After his conviction, doctors labeled Bonin a mentally disordered sex offender, and he was remanded to the Atascardaro State Hospital. He received treatment but the details are unknown.
Bonin claimed to have no memory of childhood sexual abuse, but doctors believed he was repressing and stated he was severely and repeatedly sexually abused as a child. Bonin was found to have several physical and psychological problems including brain damage in the area thought to restrain violent impulses, manic-depressive disorder, and unexplained scars on his head and behind.
Bonin was released in 1974 and placed on probation. It didn’t take long for him to succumb to his urges once again.
In August 1975, fourteen-year-old David McVicker was hitching to Huntington Beach and accepted a ride from Bonin. McVicker would later tell the Los Angelas Times that Bonin was “totally cool. There was nothing in the least bit strange about him.”
When Bonin requested sex, McVicker asked him to stop the vehicle. Instead, Bonin took out a gun, drove to a deserted area, and raped him. McVicker went to authorities and Bonin was sent back to prison. He served three years, and then despite a kidnapping conviction, two counts of sodomy with a child, and a diagnosis as a sexual predator, was released to prowl on young children yet again. And this wouldn’t be the last time the California penal system gave Bonin an assist.
Yes than a year later, he was arrested in Orange Country for assaulting a seventeen-year-old hitchhiker. A records mix-up freed Bonin before his trial, and he never showed in court.
German exchange student Marcus Grabs was the first known murder victim. On a backpacking tour of the U.S., the seventeen-year-old was last seen hitchhiking on the Pacific Coast highway in Newport Beach on August 5, 1979.
Police state Bonin and his friend Vernon Butts picked up Marcus, raped and then beat him, leaving his naked body in Malibu Canyon. Marcus Grabs was stabbed more than seventy times and found with a yellow nylon rope around his neck, as well as an electrical cord wrapped around an ankle.
Vernon Butts had a long criminal record and sadistic homosexual activities excited him. He happily assisted Bonin will several of his killings and would eventually be arrested for his role in the murders.
Three weeks later, fifteen-year-old Donald Hyden was discovered mutilated in a trash bin near the Ventura Freeway. Hyden had been raped and strangled with a ligature. The killers had slashed his throat and attempted to castrate the boy.
David Murillo, another seventeen-year-old, was found dead on September 12, 1979. He had also been sodomized and strangled with a ligature.
In the months after Murillo’s murder, several other young men lost their lives to Bonin: Charles Miranda, 15; James McCabe, 12; Ronald Gatlin, 18; Harry Todd Turner, 14; Glen Norman Barker, 14; Russell Duane Rugh, 15; Steven Wood, 16; Lawrence Eugene Sharp, 18; Darin Lee Kendrick, 19. All were found sexually assaulted and strangled.
Finally, luck would slam the case open. In May, 1980, a car thief named William Pugh was arrested. He confessed he’d been with Boninn when he killed Harry Turner. The seventeen-year-old would serve six years for voluntary manslaughter as part of the plea deal that brought authorities William Bonin.
Nineteen-year-old Steven Wells would die at the hands of Bonin and another accomplice, James Munro, before he was captured. Munro’s testimony also helped convict Bonin.
Just nine days after murdering Steven Wells, Bonin was on the hunt again. Police officers tailing him watched as the predator tried to pick up five different men. A fifteen-year-old boy accepted, and Bonin drove to a deserted police parking lot. When officers approached the fan, Bonin was sodomizing the teenager. Tape and rope matching those found on previous victims were in the van, as well as the scrapbook of the Freeway Killer stories that Bonin kept. Butts and Munro were picked up soon after.
Bonin had no remorse, only embarrassment at being caught. He confessed in graphic detail to killing twenty-one men and boys with an near prideful attitude.
“I’d still be killing. I couldn’t stop killing. It got easier each time.” –William Bonin
Bonin confessed to killing 21 young men and boys and shared aspects of each crime in horrifying detail. He was soon convicted and sentence to death, but Bonin worked the justice system by repeatedly appealing his case for seventeen years. Disgustedly, in the extra years of his life, Bonin published a book of short stories and had an art exhibition at a gallery in Seattle. He also corresponded with many of the survivors of his victims, going so far as to tell one mother that her son had been her favorite because he was “such a screamer.” Bonin never offered an apology.
William Bonin was executed on February 23, 1996 at San Quentin. Munro and another accomplice, Miley, remain in prison.
Although Bonin was cruelly tortured as a child, setting the stage for his later assaults and killings, the American justice system also failed his victims. Do you think he should have been given the second chances he was?
Thanks to Jessica R. Patch for suggesting William Bonin for Thriller Thursday.