23 February 1996 – William George Bonin
The motorways of California were particularly unsafe between 1979 and 1980, thanks to William George Bonin. That is, until the American was convicted and put to death by lethal injection for raping and killing 14 people on this day in 1996.
Of course the figures are conservative as there were probably many more. Bonin was, after all, a serial killer, christened the ‘Freeway Killer’, because he’d target his victims along the highways of Orange County and Los Angeles. He’d team up with mates and literally stalk the roads for prey. And he’d find them in the shape of young boys and men, raping and killing up to 36 people in a two-year terror reign.
He was done for murdering a raft of people. Their trussed-up bodies were found often nude, with signs of anal intercourse and frenzied stabbing, beating, strangulation or mutilation. One of his victims had been just 12 years old.
But he got sloppy and caught up in his own megalomaniac hype after a child saw reams of newspaper cuttings covering his fatal sexploits stuffed in his glove box. That led to a tip off to the police and the law eventually caught up with him. Bonin was found guilty of 10 murders in the county of Los Angeles and four in Orange County – and both trials earned him death penalties.
But for all his heinous crimes, Bonin did make one particularly poignant observation: ‘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.’
Maybe he was right. Still, Bonin had the sum total of 14 years on death row to think quietly about his crimes (that’s one year for each of the victims he was found guilty of murdering), before he was executed on 23 February 1996 by lethal injection. And his was the dubious honour of being the first Californian prisoner to be executed by injection, and the lethal drugs took just four minutes to work their murderous magic.
- Glenn Barker, 14
- Dennis Frank Fox, 17
- Ronald Gatlin, 19
- Marcus Grabs, 17
- Donald Hyden, 15
- Darin Lee Kendrick, 19
- James McCabe, 12
- Charles Miranda, 15
- David Murillo, 17
- Russell Rugh, 15
- Lawrence Sharp, 17
- Harry Todd Turner, 14
- Steven Wood, 16
- Steven Jay Wells, 18