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After he murders two Bellingham women, police arrest serial killer Kenneth A. Bianchi on January 12, 1979.

HistoryLink.org Essay 8613 : Printer-Friendly Format

On January 12, 1979, Bellingham Police detectives arrest Kenneth A. Bianchi as the prime suspect in the strangulation murders of two Western Washington University students, Karen L. Mandic and Diane A. Wilder.  He confesses to the crimes and then begins providing information about the serial killing of at least 10 women in Los Angeles, California, by the infamous “Hillside Strangler.”  To save himself from the death penalty, Bianchi will agree to plead guilty to the two murders in Bellingham and to five murders in Los Angeles, and testify against Angelo Buono, his accomplice in the California slayings.  He will receive eight life sentences and be incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.  

A Troubled Youth

Kenneth Alessio Bianchi was born May 22, 1951, in Rochester, New York, to a 17-year-old alcoholic prostitute.  He was adopted by Nicholas and Frances Bianchi in August 1951 and was their only child.  There were early indications that Kenneth had mental problems that would color his later life.  He was a compulsive liar, had a quick temper, and was prone to throw violent tantrums.  Although of above-average intelligence, he was a poor student and an academic underachiever.  Kenneth was also a rabble-rouser and took pleasure in manipulating his fellow students.

In 1965, Nicholas Bianchi died of a heart attack and Frances had to go to work to support Kenneth.  In 1966, he was enrolled at Gates-Chili High School, near Rochester, graduating in 1970.  Bianchi married Brenda Beck, his high school girlfriend, in 1971, but his philandering caused the marriage to end after just eight months.  He enjoyed having power and control over people and wanted to be a police officer.  Bianchi enrolled at Monroe Community College and began taking courses in police science and psychology, but did poorly and soon dropped out.  After an unsuccessful attempt at securing a position with the Monroe County (New York) Sheriff’s Department, Bianchi found work as a private-security guard.  But he stole from his employers, causing him to change jobs frequently.  

In January 1976, Bianchi left Rochester and moved to Los Angeles to live with his adoptive cousin, Angelo Anthony Buono Jr., age 42, who had a history of sexual violence.  Bianchi was introduced to the uninhibited California culture where sex and drugs were freely available.  In July 1976, Bianchi started working at California Land Title Company and used his first paycheck to get his own apartment at 809 E Garfield Avenue in Glendale.  He still wanted to be a police officer, but the Los Angeles and Glendale Police Departments turned him down.

Becoming the Hillside Strangler

While at the title company, he started dating coworker Kelli Boyd and soon they were cohabiting.  When she became pregnant in June 1977, Bianchi proposed marriage.  Boyd was skeptical and declined the offer, but continued to live with him.  Bianchi became morose, began staying out all night with Angelo Buono and lied to her about their nocturnal activities.  Between October 17, 1977 and February 17, 1978, Bianchi and Buono embarked on a rampage, killing at least 10 young women, ranging in age from 12 to 28, and terrorizing Los Angeles County for months.  Sometimes the duo impersonated police officers and preyed on prostitutes.  But Bianchi also befriended and killed women who lived in his neighborhood.  The victims were tortured, raped, and finally strangled.  Their naked, mutilated bodies were dumped on freeway embankments to taunt the authorities.  The media dubbed it the work of the “Hillside Strangler.”

On February 23, 1978, Kelli Boyd gave birth to a son, Ryan, at the Glendale Adventist Hospital.  In early March 1978, having tired of both Bianchi’s duplicity and Los Angeles, Boyd decided to return to her parent’s home in Bellingham to raise Ryan.  Bianchi begged for reconciliation and she finally relented, but demanded that he move to Bellingham, which he did in late May 1978.    

Life and Death in Bellingham

Reunited with his family, Bianchi rented a small house at 401 E North Street and found employment with Whatcom Security Agency, Inc., 2009 Iron Street, as a security guard.  In August 1978, he took a job in the security office at the Fred Meyer Super Shopping Center, 800 Lakeway Drive, where he met coworker Karen Mandic.  In November 1978, Bianchi was rehired by Whatcom Security Agency as “patrol captain.”  He applied to become a reserve deputy for Whatcom County Sheriff’s Department and began taking police courses.

Early Friday morning, January 12, 1979, the Bellingham Police Department received information from the security office at Western Washington University (WWU) that two students were missing: Diane A. Wilder, age 27, from Bremerton and Karen L. Mandic, age 22, from Bellevue, Washington.  Wilder was a transfer student, majoring in dance, at WWU’s Fairhaven College and Mandic was a junior, majoring in business administration.  They shared a rental house at 1246 Ellis Street.  Mandic clerked part-time at Fred Meyer Super Shopping Center to supplement money she received from her parents for her education.

Although it was supposed to be a secret, Mandic had told coworkers and friends that she and Wilder had been offered $100 each by Ken Bianchi, from Whatcom Security, to guard a residence in the secluded Edgemoor neighborhood for two hours while the security-alarm system was being repaired.  Located at 334 Bayside Road, it was a beautiful, sprawling, ranch-style house, overlooking Chuckanut Bay.  It was owned by William V. Catlow, a recently retired Georgia-Pacific Corporation executive, who was vacationing in Europe with his wife, Cleora.

On Thursday, January 11, 1979, Mandic left the Fred Meyer store for an extended dinner break at approximately 7:00 p.m. and was supposed to return around 9:00 p.m.  The store manager, who considered Mandic very reliable, became alarmed when she failed to return to work as promised.  At about 11:30 p.m., he called Steve Hardwick, a friend of Mandic’s who worked at the WWU security office, to see if he knew her whereabouts.  She had told Bill Bryant, another friend who worked at the WWU security office, about the job.  He offered to go along, but Mandic turned him down.  Hardwick and Bryant scouted both Mandic’s house, the Bayside address, and other likely locations, for the two women or Mandic’s green 1978 Mercury Bobcat two-door hatchback, but couldn’t find them.  Concerned about their mysterious disappearance, Hardwick immediately notified the Bellingham Police Department.

After hearing the story, the Bellingham Police contacted Whatcom Security to see if they had any information about the two missing women.  The owner, Randall W. Moa, called Bianchi who claimed he had been at the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office reserve unit meeting and denied knowing Karen Mandic.  Police then contacted Gordon Scott, commander of the reserve unit, who said Bianchi asked to be excused from the meeting, claiming he had to teach a class for his employer.  At 2:30 a.m., police spoke with Bianchi who admitted he hadn’t attended the meeting, but instead had gone driving alone in the county.

By morning, there was still no sign of the young women. Bellingham Police Chief Terry Mangan and Captain Duane Schneck visited Mandic and Wilder’s house and talked to their neighbors and friends, to no avail.  Convinced they had intended to return the previous evening, Mangan ordered a full-scale investigation.  Detectives Fred Nolte and Terry Wight were assigned to work the case full time.  The public was asked for any information that might lead to locating the missing coeds and Mandic’s vehicle.  Law enforcement agencies throughout the West were notified, through the Western States Information Network, about the disappearance.

Meanwhile, detectives obtained permission from Catlow’s family to search the house on Bayside Road.  Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, but they discovered wet footprints on the kitchen floor.  The WWU security office reported that neither Mandic nor Wilder had attended their morning classes.  A frantic search for answers continued throughout the day.

The Crime and Its Scene

At 4:30 p.m., Shirlee Schlemmer, who lived on Willow Road, spotted a green Mercury Bobcat parked at the end of Willow Court N, a heavily wooded, undeveloped cul-de-sac off Willow Road, and notified the police.  Detectives rushed to the spot and observed two bodies stuffed into the car’s back seat.  The Bellingham Fire Department arrived with a basket crane and floodlights to illuminate the area.  Robert Knudsen, Bellingham Police evidence technician, skillfully managed the crime scene.  The bodies were carefully removed from the car, wrapped in clean white sheets, to prevent the loss of any shred of evidence, and taken to Saint Luke General Hospital, 809 E Chestnut Street.  Medical Examiner Dr. Robert P. Gibb conducted the autopsies and determined death was due to strangulation by ligature.  The Mercury Bobcat was transported to the Bellingham Police garage for forensic analysis and the cul-de-sac cordoned off to search for evidence.

Meanwhile the Whatcom Security dispatcher contacted Bianchi and told him to report to the security-guard’s shack at the Port of Bellingham’s South Terminal.  Shortly after his arrival, detectives took Bianchi into custody for questioning.  Acting on a tip, they searched the area around the guard shack and discovered Wilder’s coat stuffed behind some pipes, only 20 feet from where Bianchi had parked his company pickup truck.  During questioning, his alibis were so contradictory that detectives believed they had found the murderer.  But without an eyewitness or a full confession, the case would rely almost entirely on circumstantial evidence.

On Saturday, January 13, the investigation intensified.  Detective Nolte, noting Bianchi’s California driver's license, contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to check on his background.  By happenstance, the call was referred to Detective Sergeant Frank Salerno, a member of the Hillside Strangler Task Force that had been investigating the murders of 13 women since October 1977.  Once he heard the address on Bianchi’s license, Salerno immediately made the connection and made plans to fly to Bellingham.

Amassing Evidence

The Bellingham detectives methodically established links between the murdered women and Bianchi.  At their house, they found a note to Mandic in Wilder’s handwriting that Ken Bianchi had telephoned on January 9.  Also, Mandic had told friends about the secret house-sitting job and mentioned Bianchi’s name.  A search of Mandic’s car turned up a piece of paper with the notation “334 Bayside 7 p.m. Ken.”  Detectives also noticed a small fresh dent in the bottom of the Mercury’s gas tank which they later matched with scraped rock under some bushes in the turnaround area of the Catlow home.  A witness had seen a man, matching Bianchi’s description, in the area that night, driving a Whatcom Security pickup truck.

On Sunday, January 14, Detective Salerno and his partner, Dudley Varney, arrived in Bellingham to determine if there were any similarities to the murders in Los Angeles.  Bellingham police served a search warrant at Bianchi’s house and seized his clothing as well as property stolen from places he had been assigned to guard. They also found a cache of stolen jewelry.  At least two of the pieces, a large turquoise ring and a gold ram's-horn necklace, matched the description of jewelry worn by “Hillside Strangler” victims.

On Monday, January 15, Bianchi appeared in Whatcom County Superior Court before Judge Jack Kurtz and charged with possession of stolen property.  Prosecutor David McEachran informed the court that Bianchi was also the prime suspect in the recent double homicide, a capital crime carrying the death penalty, and asked for a high bail.  Judge Kurtz agreed Bianchi was a potential threat to the community and a flight risk, and set bail at $150,000.  He appointed Bellingham lawyer Dean Brett to represent the defendant during future court proceedings.

Physical evidence collected from the crime scenes, the bodies, and the car was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) laboratory in Washington D.C., for analysis. Carpet fibers found on the clothing worn by Mandic and Wilder, as well as those found on clothing Bianchi wore that night, matched samples taken from the carpets at the Catlow residence. A meticulous search of the basement bedrooms revealed head hairs that matched Wilder’s. A single pubic hair, found in the basement stairwell, along with other pubic hairs found on Wilder’s body, matched Bianchi’s and traces of her menstrual blood was present on his underwear.

Legal Proceedings

On Friday, January 26, 1979, Bianchi was formally charged with two counts of first degree murder.  Although the FBI had yet to analyze some of the physical evidence, there was enough to proceed with the murder case, and the possession-of-stolen-property charge was dismissed.  In order to insure Bianchi a fair trial, Judge Kurtz issued a gag-order prohibiting anyone involved with the investigation, including witnesses, from releasing information about the defendant or his connection to the murders.  In addition, the judge sealed McEachran’s affidavit-of-probable-cause, which detailed evidence supporting the murder charges.

Bianchi was arraigned on Monday, January 29, 1979, and pleaded not guilty to two charges of first-degree murder. Judge Kurtz ordered he be held without bail and also be handcuffed during all future court appearances. Under state law, the prosecution was given 30 days to decide the issue of seeking the death penalty. The judge also denied a motion by The Bellingham Herald to lift the order sealing the affidavit-of-probable-cause, stating that the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial superseded the First Amendment right to free press.  (The issue was ultimately decided by the Washington State Supreme Court on April 30, 1979, which that ruled the newspaper should have pursued another legal avenue to push for First Amendment rights.)

On Friday, March 30, 1979, Bianchi changed his plea from “not guilty” to “not guilty by reason of insanity.”  Defense attorney Dean Brett said Bianchi claimed to have amnesia about the murders of Mandic and Wilder.  He said three psychiatrists examined the defendant and concluded he suffered from severe multiple-personality disorder.  Judge Kurtz granted a motion to appoint a blue-ribbon panel of six psychiatrists to examine Bianchi -- including a brain scan -- to determine whether  he was mentally competent to stand trial.  Two members of the panel would be selected by the defense, two by the prosecution and two by the judge.  McEachran filed a notice with the court that the state would seek the death penalty if the defendant was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. (Washington state law provides for capital punishment when there is more than one victim and when the deaths are part of a common scheme or plan.)

While psychiatrists were examining Bianchi, Bellingham detectives continued putting the finishing touches on their homicide investigation.  On April 23, 1979, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates increased the pressure on Bianchi by announcing the task force had enough hard evidence to charge him with 10 “Hillside Strangler” slayings.  On May 9, Los Angeles County District Attorney John Van de Kamp filed a complaint in Superior Court, initially charging him with five murders, those with the best evidence.  But they would be more than enough to send Bianchi to the gas chamber, if convicted.

As the time approached for a competency hearing, the only thing clear about Bianchi’s multiple-personality disorder was that the psychiatrists were, as usual, divided.  Two believed that Bianchi did indeed have multiple personalities and was not competent to stand trial, two were certain that he was faking and stated unequivocally that he should stand trial, and two claimed they could not be sure.  Under “hypnosis,” Bianchi had created an alter ego, “Steve Walker,” who confessed to killing Mandic and Wilder and gave a detailed account of the crime.  “Steve” also talked freely about the murders in Los Angeles that occurred between October 1977 and February 1978, thoroughly implicating his cousin, Angelo Buono.

But the mystery of Bianchi's supposed multiple personalities became irrelevant when the Los Angeles and Whatcom County prosecutors offered him a deal.  If he pleaded guilty to the two Bellingham murders and to five murders in Los Angeles, he would receive life sentences, avoid the death penalty, and be allowed to serve his time in California.  He also had to agree to testify “truthfully and completely” against Buono, his accomplice in the “Hillside Strangler” slayings.

On Friday morning, October 19, 1979, Judge Kurtz conducted a hearing to determine if Bianchi was competent to stand trial.  With the concurrence of the six psychiatrists, he found the defendant competent and bound him over for trial.  Whether Bianchi was insane when he murdered Karen Mandic and Diane Wilder would be left for a jury to decide.  With the deal already in place, Bianchi withdrew his insanity plea and pleaded guilty to both murder charges.  McEachran then withdrew his request for the death penalty.  After listening to arguments about how Bianchi should be treated, Judge Kurtz sentenced him to two life terms, to run consecutively, without the possibility of parole.

Arresting Buono

Within 30 minutes of his guilty plea, the Hillside Strangler Task Force arrested Bianchi’s cousin, Angelo Buono, at his residence/automobile upholstery shop, 703 E Colorado Street, Glendale, California. Buono was taken into custody without a struggle and charged in Los Angeles County Superior Court with 24 felonies, which included 10 murders, extortion, conspiracy, sodomy, and pimping and pandering.  Although the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office had evidence linking Buono to the crimes, they believed his fate rested on Bianchi’s credibility as a witness.  The acceptance of his guilty plea by Judge Kurtz in Bellingham had rendered him a competent witness in the eyes of the law.

On Saturday morning, October 20, 1979, Bianchi was flown from Bellingham to Los Angeles in a leased Continental Airlines jet.  He appeared before Superior Court Judge William B. Keen on Monday morning, October 22, 1979, and pleaded guilty to five of the 10 “Hillside Strangler” killings, one count of conspiracy-to-commit murder and one count of sodomy.  The judge immediately sentenced Bianchi to five life terms for the murders, one life term for the conspiracy and an additional five-year sentence for sodomy, to run concurrently.  After imposing sentence, Judge Keen said: “I wish I had the power to have the sentences run consecutively, but in this state (California) they must be merged as a matter of law” (The Bellingham Herald).  Although Bianchi would be eligible for parole in California in just seven years, officials estimated he would serve 20 to 35 years before being returned to Washington to serve his two consecutive life sentences.

Bianchi began violating the terms of his plea agreement almost as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles.  In what became the longest preliminary hearing in the history of Los Angeles County, 10 months, he attempted to influence judicial proceedings by making contradictory statements to destroy his credibility and have the case against Buono dismissed.  But, on March 16, 1981, Municipal Court Judge H. Randolph Moore ruled there was sufficient probable cause to believe Buono had committed murder and ordered him to stand trial.  The case was assigned to Superior Court Judge Ronald M. George (now Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court) and scheduled to begin on November 2, 1981.

Another Strangler

It was during the prolonged preliminary hearing that Bianchi met Veronica Lyn Compton, age 24, a self-proclaimed actress, poet and playwright.  In June 1980, she sent Bianchi a letter at the Los Angeles County Jail, asking if he would read her screenplay about a female serial killer, called “The Mutilated Cutter,” and help her with characterization.  The plot gave him an idea to gain his freedom -- the “Hillside Strangler” was still on the loose and killing women.

Compton visited Bianchi in jail on numerous occasions between June and September 1980, while he was waiting to testify against Buono, and they concocted an elaborate scheme to prove his innocence.  Compton would fly to Bellingham, strangle a girl with a length of white clothesline, and plant evidence to simulate the Mandic/Wilder murders.  Additionally, she was to send letters and cassette tapes to various locations in Los Angeles and Bellingham with messages that the wrong man was in jail and the “strangler” would strike again.  On Thursday, September 16, their last meeting, Bianchi provided Compton with the final touch; a semen specimen in the fingertip of a latex glove, to smear on the victim’s body.  He had concealed it in the spine of a book she had previously loaned to him.

Compton flew to Bellingham and on Friday, September 19, 1980, she befriended Kim Breed, age 26, a Bellingham Parks and Recreation employee, while drinking at the Coconut Grove tavern at 710 Marine Drive.  After spending several hours together, Compton lured Breed to her room at the Shangri-La Downtown Motel, 611 E. Holly Street, with the promise of some cocaine.  Once there, Compton managed to tie Breed’s hands and twice strangled her almost to the point of unconsciousness.  Although intoxicated, Breed was bigger and unusually strong, and managed to struggle free and escape.

Compton quickly disappeared from Bellingham, but she was easy to trace.  On Thursday, October 2, 1980, she was arrested at her home in the Shangri-La Trailer Park, Carson, California, on a Whatcom County warrant charging first-degree attempted murder, and held on $500,000 bail.  The media, delighted at this turn of events, dubbing Compton the “Copycat Strangler.”

Compton’s trial began on Monday, March 9, 1981, before Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Byron L. Swedberg.  To guarantee a fair trial, a jury of four men and eight women was selected from Pierce County, bused to Bellingham, and sequestered in a hotel for the duration.  The case was basically a question of credibility.  Breed testified that Compton set her up and tried to kill her and Compton claimed the incident had been a charade to gain publicity for her screenplay, “The Mutilated Cutter,” and that Breed was in on it.

The trial was concluded on Friday, March 20, 1981. After deliberating for just three hours, the jury found Compton guilty of first-degree attempted murder with a special finding of being armed with a deadly weapon (a ligature), which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.  On May 22, 1981, Judge Swedberg sentenced her to life with possibility of parole, due to the calculated viciousness of the attack on Breed.  (Indeterminate life sentences in Washington usually run about 13 and a half years, although the state parole board may review the prisoner’s sentence after seven and a half years.)

Buono's Trial

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Bianchi again tried to influence judicial proceedings by recanting his pretrial testimony against Buono and then disavowing his recantations, undermining his value as a creditable witness. Los Angeles County District Attorney Van de Kamp, who was eyeing the job of California Attorney General, was afraid of losing the case based, in his view, almost entirely on Bianchi’s testimony.  In July 1981, he allowed the trial prosecutor, Roger Kelly, to move to dismiss all 10 murder charges against Buono and release him. But, after deliberation, Judge George ruled that there was enough evidence to warrant a trial and ordered the case to proceed.  Van de Kamp then declared a conflict of interest as his office had already come to the conclusion that they could not convict Buono. Judge George accepted the conflict and reassigned the case to the California Attorney General's office under George Deukmejian.  It was then assigned to deputy attorneys general Michael Nash and Roger Boren to prosecute.  They believed that the evidence linking Buono to the murders was overwhelming, even without Bianchi’s testimony, and began vigorously preparing for trial.

Pre-trial hearings began on Monday, November 2, 1981, with numerous motions, testimony, and lengthy oral arguments.  On a motion by defense to exclude all hypnosis-induced testimony, Judge George ruled that Bianchi had feigned hypnosis and his multiple personalities, and his testimony was admissible.

Buono's trial began on Monday, November 16, with jury selection, a drawn-out process that took three months to complete.  The number of victims and mountains of forensic evidence to introduce slowed the proceedings, causing the case to drag on.  Bianchi, the 200th witness to testify, spent 80 days on the stand.  He continued to slow the trial’s progress, proving a reluctant witness and making deliberately contradictory statements.  At one point he claimed he had completely lost his memory.  Another time he denied committing any murders, including those in Bellingham.

Jury deliberations finally began on Friday, October 21, 1983.  On November 18, 1983, after being sequestered for 28 days, the jury of seven women and five men found Buono guilty of nine of the 10 murders and voted to impose life sentences without possibility of parole, rather than the death penalty.  With a duration of two years and two days, it remains the longest criminal trial in American history and cost Los Angeles County taxpayers $2 million.

On Monday, January 9, 1984, Judge George formally sentenced Buono to nine concurrent terms of life without the possibility of parole, a penalty set by the jury. “In view of the jury’s mercy, I am, of course, without authority to impose greater punishment,” he said.  “I would not have the slightest reluctance to impose the death penalty.  If ever there was a case where the death penalty was appropriate, it is this case” (Los Angeles Times).

Judge George placed much of the blame for the length of the trial on Bianchi, charging that he did everything possible to sabotage the case. He ruled that Bianchi did not testify “truthfully and completely” and ordered him remanded to the State of Washington to serve his sentence.  “It is my firm belief that Mr. Buono and Mr. Bianchi should never see the outside of prison walls,” Judge George said.  “They should never be paroled” (Los Angeles Times).

On February 1, 1984, the California Department of Corrections filed a detainer with the Department of Corrections in Washington to ensure that if Bianchi is ever released from their custody, he will be turned over to California to serve his life sentences there.  Both states would have to grant parole or clemency in order for Bianchi to ever be released from custody.

Compton's Life In and Out of Prison

After sentencing in May 1981, Veronica Compton was sent to the Washington Corrections Institute for Women at Gig Harbor.  She escaped on July 26, 1988, but was recaptured in a suburb of Tucson, Arizona, nine days later.  The Washington State Board of Prison Terms and Paroles added two years to her parole eligibility for escape and possession of a firearm.

On August 27, 1989, while in prison, Compton, age 33, married James P. Wallace, age 60, a retired Eastern Washington University (EWU) professor.  Their paths crossed in 1987 when she attended a lecture on crime and punishment delivered by Wallace, a legal affairs expert who sometimes taught at state prisons.  Shortly thereafter, Compton sent him a letter asking about some information in his lecture.  The pair began a two-year correspondence that eventually turned into romance and marriage.  Compton and Wallace were granted conjugal visits and in 1993, she gave birth to a daughter at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.  She returned to prison while Wallace and Compton’s mother cared for the baby.

Compton was released on parole on March 14, 1996 and went to live at Wallace’s home in Cheney.  But two weeks later, she was sent back to prison for parole violations.  While in prison, she wrote Eating The Ashes (New York: Algora Publishing, 2003) a book about rehabilitation in the U.S. penal system.  She was again released on parole in 2003, after being incarcerated for 22 years.

Buono and Bianchi

Angelo Buono was sent to Folsom Prison where, in 1986, he married for the fourth time.  His bride was Christine Kizuka, mother of three and supervisor at the California State Department of Employment Development in Los Angeles.  Because Buono was not eligible for parole, he was denied conjugal visits.  On Saturday, September 21, 2002, Angelo Buono, age 67, died from a massive heart attack in his cell at the Calipatria State Penitentiary.  In a telephone interview with CNN, retired Bellingham Police Detective Fred Nolte said: “The world will probably a better place without him -- he will not be missed.”

Kenneth Bianchi is incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.  On Thursday, September 21, 1989, he married Shirlee Joyce Book, age 36, of Monterey, Louisiana, in a 15-minute ceremony in the prison chapel.  The day before the wedding was the first time they had ever met.  But they had corresponded since 1986, exchanged taped messages, and enjoyed numerous phone calls.  Previously, Book had tried to correspond with serial-killer Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy (1946-1989), but all her letters had been rejected, either by officials at the Florida State Prison or by Bundy himself.  When prison officials denied Bianchi conjugal visits, he sued, but Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht declared that they had acted within their authority.  The visits had been denied for security reasons and because of his record of extreme violence toward women.

The Washington State Board of Prison Terms and Paroles, consisting of five members, ultimately determines the minimum terms of imprisonment for an inmate.  In July 1990, the state board set Bianchi’s prison term at 116 ½ years for the murder convictions in Bellingham.  He will not be eligible for parole until 2059 -- if he's still alive.  Should he be paroled, Bianchi will be remanded to the State of California to serve life sentences for five counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  

The Known Victims

Yolanda Washington, 19, murdered October 17, 1977

Judith Ann Miller, 15, murdered October 31, 1977

Elissa Teresa Kastin, 21, murdered November 5, 1977

Jane Evelyn King, 28, murdered November 9, 1977

Dolores Capeda, 12, murdered November 13, 1977

Sonja Johnson, 14, murdered November 13, 1977

Kristina Weckler, 20, murdered November 19, 1977

Lauren Rae Wagner, 18, murdered November 28, 1977

Kimberly Diane Martin, 17, murdered December 13, 1977

Cindy Lee Hudspeth, 20, murdered February 17, 1978

Karen L. Mandic, 22, murdered January 11, 1979

Diane A. Wilder, 27, murdered January 11, 1979 

Sources:
Darcy O’Brien, The Hillside Stranglers (New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2003); Ted Schwarz, The Hillside Strangler (Sanger, CA: Quill Driver Books, 2004); Megan Floyd, “Bellingham Man Held by Police,” The Bellingham Herald, January 13, 1979, p. 1A; “Non Murder Charges Prepared on Suspect,” Ibid., January 15, 1979, p. 1A; Megan Floyd, “Strangler Task Force Looks at Case,” Ibid., January 16, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Method Easier to Figure Out Than Motive,” Ibid., January 16, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Strong Link to L.A. Slayings Unfolds,” Ibid., January 17, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Rochester Connection Investigated,” Ibid., January 18, 1979, p. 1-A; “Bianchi Refused Bail Reduction,” Ibid., January 19, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Murder Story Draws National Attention,” Ibid., January 21, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Murder Charges Filed on Bianchi,” Ibid., January 26, 1979, p. 1-A; Dick Beardsley, “Evidence Secrecy Challanged,” Ibid., January 26, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Bianchi Pleads Innocent,” Ibid., January 30, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Bianchi Pleads Guilty,” Ibid., October 19, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Coed Murders, Classic Case,” Ibid., October 19, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Psychiatrists Held Key to Bianchi Case,” Ibid., October 19, 1979, p. 4-A; Bob Partlow, “Sensational Case Changed Lives of Local Cops,” Ibid., October 19, 1979, p. 5-A; “Bianchi Drama Lasted 277 Days,” Ibid., October 19, 1979, p. 6-A; “L.A. Officials Outline Killings,” Ibid., October 20, 1979, p. 1-A; Bob Partlow, “Emotional Ordeal Finally Over,” Ibid., October 20, 1979, p. 1-A; “Bianchi Given Six Life Terms,” Ibid., October 22, 1979, p. 1-A; “Jury Selection Moves to Tacoma in Compton Trial,” Ibid. March 9, 1981, p. 2-A; “Bill Johnson, “Compton Trial Opens,” Ibid. March 11, 1981, p. 1-A; “Bill Johnson, “Rope Wounds Similar to Hillside Strangler Victims,” Ibid. March 12, 1981, p. 1-A; Bill Johnson, “Officer Testifies She Stopped Compton,” Ibid. March 13, 1981, p. 1-A; Bill Johnson, “Compton Linked to Death-Threat Notes,” Ibid. March 11, 1981, p. 1-A; “Bill Johnson, “State Rests Case Vs. Compton With Bianchi Question,” Ibid. March 15, 1981, p. 1-A; Bill Johnson, “Compton Denies Trying to Kill Anyone,” Ibid. March 18, 1981, p. 1-A; Bill Johnson, “Compton Claims Action Was Ploy,” Bill Johnson, “Compton Found Guilty by Jury,” Ibid. March 30, 1979, p. 1-A; “Strangler Suspect Pleads Insane in Washington Case,” Los Angeles Times, October 19, 1979, p. A-3; Robert Kistler and Bill Farr, “Buono Charged in Ten Hillside Strangler Killings: Seized in Glendale; Cousin Bianchi Admits 5 Slayings Buono Seized, Charged in 10 Hillside Strangler Deaths,” Ibid, October 19, 1979, p. A-1; Bill Hazlett, “Kenneth Bianchi Faked Hypnosis, Judge Rules,” Ibid., November 4, 1981, p. A-6; Ted Rohrlich, “Bianchi Changes His Story, Denies Killing Two Coeds,” Ibid., July 21, 1982, p. A-8; Gene Blake, “Buono Spared From Gas Chamber, Given Life Term,” Ibid., November 19, 1983, p. A-1; Gene Blake, “Buono, Bianchi Get Life Terms in Prison: Hillside Stranglers 'Should Never See the Outside' of Penitentiary, Judge Declares,” Ibid., January 10, 1984, p. A-3; “Strangler Bianchi Marries in Prison,” The Seattle Times, September 23, 1989, p. A-8; “Parole Board Sets Sentence at 116 ½ Years,” Ibid., July 27, 1990, p. B5; “Denial of Conjugal Visits Between ‘Strangler’ and Wife Is Ruled by Judge,” Ibid., November 5, 1990, p. H-1.


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Kenneth A. Bianchi, booking photo, Los Angeles County Jail, October 20, 1979
Courtesy Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department


The Bellingham Herald, front page, January 16, 1979



Diane A. Wilder, Western Washington University identification photo, ca. 1979
Courtesy The Bellingham Herald


Karen L. Mandic, Western Washington University identification photo, ca. 1979
Courtesy The Bellingham Herald


Advertising brochure for 1978 Mercury Bobcat
Courtesy Ford Motor Company


The Bellingham Herald, front page, October 19, 1979



Angelo Anthony Buono Jr., mugshot, October 19, 1979
Courtesy Glendale, California, Police Department


 
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