Kenneth Bianchi and the Hillside Strangler

Topics: Hillside Strangler, Angelo Buono, Jr., Police Pages: 13 (5388 words) Published: June 28, 2008
It takes more than a few homicides to get the attention of the people in a city the size of Los Angeles. Murders are a daily occurrence, particularly when one involves a person living in a high-risk lifestyle, like a prostitute. So when three women were found strangled and dumped naked on hillsides northeast of the city between October and early November of 1977, very few people lost sleep over it. Only a couple sharp homicide detectives got nervous that this was just the beginning. Everything changed Thanksgiving week when five young women and girls were found on hillsides in the Glendale-Highland Park area. These five young women – one of which was twelve, another only fourteen – were not prostitutes, but "nice girls" who had been abducted from their middle-class neighborhoods. Newspapers and television stations talked of rape, torture, abduction and murder. The collective consciousness of a populace numbed by violence was suddenly and unpleasantly engaged. The city went into a panic. The term "Hillside Strangler" was coined by the media, even though police were convinced that there was more than one person involved. People did what they always do in a panic: they warn their children to be careful; buy large dogs; install new locks on their doors; take self-defense classes; carry guns and knives to protect themselves. None of this seemed to work, however, since the stranglers still did not have any problems getting new victims. On Sunday, November 20, 1977, LAPD Homicide Detective Sergeant Bob Grogan was hoping to be able to enjoy his day off when he was called to an obscure area in the hills between Glendale and Eagle Rock. As he tried with difficulty to locate the site, he thought to himself that whoever was using this area to dump bodies must be very familiar with the neighborhood to even know this place existed. immediately noticed the ligature marks on her wrists, ankles and neck. When he turned her over, blood oozed from her rectum. The bruises on her breasts were obvious. Oddly enough, there were two puncture marks on her arm, but no signs of the needle tracks that indicate a drug addict. As Grogan examined the scene, he saw no indication of any disturbance in the foliage nor any sign that the body had been dragged there. He made a mental note to himself that the murder occurred somewhere else and a man, maybe two men, had carried her body and dumped it there in the grass. A few hours later that afternoon, Grogan's partner, Dudley Varney, had been called to investigate two homicides on the other side of that same hilly area. The two dead girls had been found by a nine-year-old boy who had treasure hunting in a trash heap on the hillside. It was a pretty horrible sight, made all the more grotesque by the decay and army of insects that had taken over the flesh. Again, there was no indication that the murders had occurred where the bodies were found, nor was their any evidence that the bodies had been dragged there. Small as the young girls were, there was the probability that more than one killer was involved in dumping their bodies on the hillside. It did not take long to identify the girls as Dolores Cepeda, twelve, and Sonja Johnson, fourteen, both of whom had been missing for about a week from St. Ignatius School. The girls had been last seen getting off a bus and going over to a large two-tone sedan to talk to someone on the passenger side. A person on the passenger side corroborated the theory that there were two killers, probably both men. The next day, the first girl that Bob Grogan investigated was identified as Kristina Weckler, a quiet twenty-year-old honors student at the Pasadena Art Center of Design. As he searched her apartment at 809 East Garfield Avenue in Glendale, Grogan was overcome by sadness and, then, rage. Her effects and her diary showed her to be a loving and serious young woman who should have had a bright future ahead of her. He could not help but think fearfully of his own teenage...
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