The ‘Hillside Strangler’
The ‘Hillside Strangler’ is the media epithet for two men, Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi. The two were blood cousins, who were convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing girls and women ranging in age from 12 to 28 years old. During a four-month period from late 1977 to early 1978, the two committed their crimes in the hills above Los Angeles, California.
The Murders and the Murdered
The first victim of the ‘Hillside Strangler’ was a Hollywood prostitute. Her name was Yolanda Washington. Her dead body was found near the Forest Lawn Cemetery on October 18th, 1977. The corpse was cleaned but faint marks were quite visible around her neck, wrists, and ankles where a rope had obviously been used to bind her. She had also been raped.
On November 1st, 1977, police were called to a California neighborhood, north east of Downtown Los Angeles. There they discovered the body of a teenage girl. She was found naked and face up on a parkway in a residential area. The the homeowner covered her with a tarp to protect the neighborhood children from viewing her on their way to school. Bruises on her neck indicated strangulation. The body had been dumped, indicating she was killed elsewhere.
The girl was eventually identified as Judith Lynn Miller, a runaway prostitute who was barely 15 years old. The coroner’s report further detailed her wounds and evidence of being bound were very much like Yolanda Washington.
Five days later, on November 6th, 1977, the nude body of another woman was discovered near the Chevy Chase Country Club. Similar to Judith Lynn Miller and Yolanda, she too had been strangled with a ligature. The woman was identified as 21-year-old Lissa Teresa Kastin, a waitress, who was last seen leaving work the night before she was discovered.
Whereas the other victims were prostitutes, Lissa Kastin was a characteristically “good girl” who had also worked part time for her father’s real estate and construction business. A studied ballet and hoped to one day become a professional dancer.
Jill was 19-years old at the time of her death.
She was living in Hollywood, having recently moved from New York shortly before her death and was last seen alive on November 9, 1977. Her beaten and strangled body was discovered the next day in Franklin Canyon, north of Beverly Hills. She had also known Judith Miller, another victim. Jill had pleaded guilty to prostitution in Syracuse, N. Y. in January 1977 and was placed on a one year probation. She was arrested once for violation of her probation and was allowed to continue on probation in September of that same year. Six weeks later she was found nude, beaten & strangled. Tests showed she had been sexually molested.
TWO AT A TIME
Dolores Cepeda and Sonja Johnson
On November 13th, 1977, two young girls, Dolores Cepeda, 12 and Sonja Johnson, 14, boarded a school bus that would take them toward home. The last time the two girls were seen was after they had stepped from the school bus and walked up to a car. Inside the car were reportedly two men.
On November 20th, a young boy, who was cleaning up a trash-strewn hillside near Dodger Stadium, found two dead bodies. They were the corpses of two girls. Both had been strangled and raped. the bodies were soon identified as Dolores and Sonja.
Later that same day, November 20, 1977, hikers found the nude, sexually assaulted body of Kristina Weckler, 20, on a hillside near Glendale. Unlike previous victims, there were signs of torture, indicated by oozing injection marks.
On November 23, 1977, the badly decomposed body of Jane King, 28, an actress, was found near an off ramp of the Golden State freeway. She had gone missing around November 9.
TIME TO FIGURE OUT WHO THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER IS AND STOP HIM
With the continued discovery of bodies in hilly areas, a task force was formed to catch the predator, now dubbed the “Hillside Strangler.”
On November 29, 1977, police found the body of Lauren Wagner, 18. She had been strangled with a ligature. There were also burn marks on her hands indicating she was tortured.
The law enforcement task force — Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Glendale Police Department — began to assume that more than one person was responsible for the murders, even though the media continued to use the singular, Hillside Strangler.
On December 13, 1977, the police found the body of 17-year-old prostitute Kimberly Martin on a hillside.
The final victim in Los Angeles was discovered on February 16, 1978, when a helicopter spotted an orange Datsun abandoned off a cliff in the Angeles Crest area. Police responded to the scene and found the body of the car’s owner, 20-year-old Cindy Hudspeth, in the trunk.
THE LUCKY ONE
Sometime in 1977, the two men gave a ride to Catharine Lorre with the intent of killing her as well. However, when they discovered that she was the daughter of Hungarian actor Peter Lorre, famous for his role as a child murderer in Fritz Lang’s masterpiece film M, they let her go without incident! She did not realize who the men were until after they were arrested.
CHARGING TWO MEN AS THE ‘HILLSIDE STRANGLER’
After intensive investigation, police charged cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, Jr. with the crimes of the Hillside Starngler.
Kenneth Bianchi had fled to Washington, where he was soon arrested for raping and murdering two women he had lured to a home for a house-sitting job. He attempted to set up an insanity defense, claiming he had a personality disorder and a separate personality from himself had committed the murders.
Court psychologists disagreed and found him to be faking the illness. Kenneth finally folded and soon agreed to plead guilty. He also agreed to testify against his cousin in exchange for leniency.
At the conclusion of Angelo Buono’s trial, in 1983, the judge, Ronald M. George, said he would ‘impose the death penalty without a second thought if the jury had allowed it.’
IN THE END
Kenneth Bianchi is serving a life sentence in the Washington State Penitentiary. Angelo Buono died of a heart attack on September 21, 2002, in Calipatria State Prison, where he was serving a life sentence.
credit – murderpedia