Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lawrence Bittaker & Roy Norris

"No Further Danger"

Roy Lewis Norris was born in Greeley, Colorado, on February 2, 1948. Unlike Bittaker, Norris lived in his hometown until he was 17, when he dropped out of school and joined the Navy. He was stationed in San Diego, but in 1969 Norris spent four months in Vietnam. Norris never saw combat, but he did see drugs. Marijuana was his drug of choice, and it was widely available.

Back in Southern California by November 1969, Norris attacked a female driver in downtown San Diego. He forced his way into her car and attempted rape. It only took three months for Norris to get arrested again. Free on bail pending trial for attacking the motorist, Norris knocked on another San Diego woman's door. He asked if he could use her telephone. When the woman refused, he tried to break in through a living room window, then ran around back to the kitchen. Breaching a window there, he finally entered the house, but police arrived before he could harm his intended victim.

At that point, the navy had seen enough of Norris. He received an administrative discharge for "psychological problems" after he was diagnosed as having a "severe schizoid personality." Still awaiting disposition of his previous assault cases, Norris attacked a young woman in May 1970, on the campus of San Diego State College. He tackled the student from behind, clubbed her with a stone, and then slammed her head repeatedly into a concrete sidewalk. This time the charge was assault with a deadly weapon, and it was finally enough to take Roy Norris off the streets. He was confined to Atascadero State Hospital as a mentally disordered sex offender. He spent five years there before being released on probation. Officially he was described as someone who would bring "no further danger to others."

Norris proved the prediction wrong three months later, in Redondo Beach. Cruising the streets on a motorcycle, he spied a 27-year-old woman walking home from a restaurant after a quarrel with her boyfriend. Norris stopped to offer her a ride, which she declined. Undeterred by the rejection, Norris leaped off his bike and attacked the woman, strangling her into semi-consciousness with her own scarf. Dazed, she did not resist as Norris dragged her behind a nearby hedge and raped her. Police were unable to act because of her vague description of her attacker. But one month later the woman saw Norris again. She memorized his license number. Convicted of forcible rape, Norris was shipped to the California Men's Colony at San Louis Obispo.

It could have been worse. The "colony" is easy time, as California prisons go--a cakewalk compared to Soledad, Folsom, or San Quentin. Norris also met a friend at the colony who would change his life.

Reminiscing years later, Norris would claim that Larry Bittaker twice saved his life at San Louis Obispo. The experience bound him to Bittaker, although the details are vague. The "prison code" demanded that Norris follow any plan Bittaker devised, no matter how bizarre.

It helped, of course, that they shared near-identical fantasies of domination, rape and torture. Next time a woman fell into his clutches, Bittaker confided, he would kill her afterward, a sure-fire method of evading punishment. In fact, he thought, it might be fun to play a game, selecting one victim for each "teen" year, 13 through 19, and to see how long each victim could be kept alive and screaming.

Bittaker was paroled on November 15, 1978, returning to Los Angeles, where he found work as a machinist. Norris was freed exactly two months later, on January 15, 1979. He moved in with his mother at an L.A. trailer park, and used his navy training to find work as an electrician. Bittaker wrote to Norris in February 1979 and arranged a rendezvous at a cheap downtown hotel. Over drinks, they renewed their prison friendship and repeated their dark desires.

Spring was coming to the Southland.

It was nearly hunting season.

 

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