Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: 1979
Method of murder: Strangulation / Stabbing
Lawrence Bittaker was serving time for assault when he met convicted rapist Roy Norris at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo in 1978. The two soon became firm friends and began hatching a horrendous plan - to kidnap, rape, torture and murder teenaged girls, at least one from each teen year, from 13 through to 19.
Paroled on November 15, 1978, Bittaker bought a silver GMC Cargo van, which he christened “Murder Mack.” He then waited for Norris to be released in June 1979, before the depraved duo initiated their horrendous scheme.
On June 24, 1979, 16-year-old Linda Schaeffer disappeared while walking home from church, never to be seen again. Just two weeks later, on July 8, 18-year-old Joy Hall vanished without a trace from Redondo Beach, California.
On September 2, Jacqueline Lamp, 13, and Jackie Gilliam, 15, were thumbing rides in Redondo Beach when they disappeared. Shirley Ledford, 16, went missing in Sunland on October 31. Shirley was found the following morning in Tijunga. She had been strangled with a coat hanger, but it was evident that she’d been subjected to horrendous torture prior to death. Her breasts had been slashed, her face mutilated, and her body was covered in bruises apparently inflicted by a pair of pliers.
The break in the case came on September 30, when a young woman from Hermosa Beach managed to escape the deadly attentions of Bittaker and Norris. The victim failed to make a positive I.D. but Norris had in the interim been mouthing off to friends about the murders. He was placed under surveillance and arrested soon after when he was found in possession of drugs.
Under police questioning, Norris soon cracked and began talking, naming Bittaker as his accomplice. After Bittaker was arrested, the police executed a search warrant and recovered sickening evidence of murder. The killers had captured their horrific exploits with photographs and tape recordings. These showed their terrified victims being brutally assaulted and tortured.
Norris would eventually plead guilty and turn state's evidence against Bittaker. In exchange he was spared the death penalty and was given a life sentence with parole eligibility in 30 years. For his part, Bittaker was sentenced to death on March 24, 1981. Decades later that sentence has yet to be carried out.