Sunday, January 1, 2012

Serial Killer Bedtime Stories: Kenneth Bianchi

It's cold outside, so curl up by the fire and enjoy tonight's serial killer bedtime story about Kenneth Bianchi.

Kenneth Alessio Bianchi and his cousin Angelo Buono, Jr., together are known as the Hillside Stranglers. He is serving a term of life imprisonment in Washington. Bianchi is also a suspect in the Alphabet murders, three unsolved murders in his home city of Rochester.

Bianchi and Buono would usually cruise around Los Angeles in Buono's car and use fake badges to persuade girls that they were undercover cops. Their victims were women and girls aged 12 to 28 from various walks of life. They would then order the girls into Buono's "unmarked police car" and drive them home to torture and murder them.

Both men would sexually abuse their victims before strangling them. They experimented with other methods of killing, such as lethal injection, electric shock, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even while committing the murders, Bianchi applied for a job with the Los Angeles Police Department and had even been taken for several rides with police officers while they were searching for the Hillside Strangler.

One night, shortly after they botched their would-be eleventh murder, Bianchi revealed to Buono he had attended LAPD police ride alongs, and that he was currently being questioned about the strangler case. After hearing this, Buono erupted in a fit of rage. An argument ensued at one point during which Buono threatened to kill Bianchi if he did not flee to Bellingham, Washington. In May 1978 he did flee to Bellingham.

On January 11, 1979, Bianchi lured two female students into a house he was guarding. The women were 22-year-old Karen Mandic and 27-year-old Diane Wilder, and were students at Western Washington University. He forced the first student down the stairs in front of him and then strangled her. He murdered the second young girl in a similar fashion. Without help from his partner, he left many clues and police apprehended him the next day. A California driver's license and a routine background check linked him to the addresses of two Hillside Strangler victims.

Following his arrest, Bianchi admitted he and Buono, in 1977, while posing as police officers, stopped a young female by the name of Catharine Lorre with intentions of abducting and killing her. But after learning she was the daughter of actor Peter Lorre, they let her go. Only after he was arrested did Catharine learn of the true identity of the men whom she encountered.

At his trial, Bianchi pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that another personality, one "Steve Walker", had committed the crimes. Bianchi even convinced a few expert psychiatrists that he indeed suffered from multiple personality disorder, but investigators brought in their own psychiatrists, mainly the psychiatrist Martin Orne. When Orne mentioned to Bianchi that in genuine cases of the disorder, there tends to be three or more personalities, Bianchi promptly created another alias, "Billy". Eventually, investigators discovered that the very name "Steven Walker" came from a student whose identity Bianchi had previously attempted to steal for the purpose of fraudulently practicing psychology. Police also found a small library of books in Bianchi's home on topics of modern psychology, further indicating his ability to fake the disorder.

The multiple personality defense failed, and Bianchi was sentenced to life. He is serving his sentence at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington.

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