Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Bonin: The Freeway Killer

Resumé of Death

Other murders followed quickly:

Ronald Gatlin, 18, of Van Nuys. Disappeared from North Hollywood March 14, 1980. Sexually assaulted and strangled. His body was discovered the next day in Duarte.

Harry Todd Turner, 14, Los Angeles. Disappeared from Hollywood on March 20, 1980. Sexually assaulted and strangled. His body was found five days later near the Santa Monica Freeway.

Glen Norman Barker, 14, Huntington Beach. Sexually assaulted and strangled. His body was found March 22, 1980, beside Ortega Highway.

Russell Duane Rugh, 15, Garden Grove. Disappeared while waiting for a bus to take him to his fast-food job. Sexually assaulted and strangled. His body was found March 22, 1980, beside Ortega Highway, alongside the body of Glen Barker.

Steven Wood, 16, Bellflower. Last seen April 10, 1980, on his way to school. Sexually assaulted and strangled. His body was found the next day.

Lawrence Eugene Sharp, 18, Long Beach. Last seen April 10, 1980. Sexually assaulted and strangled. His body found May 18, 1980, in a trash bin behind a Westminster service station.

Darin Lee Kendrick, 19, Cypress. Disappeared April 29, 1980, from a Stanton store where he worked. In addition to being sodomized and strangled by ligature, Darin apparently was forced to ingest chloral hydrate which left him with caustic chemical burns on his mouth, chin, chest and stomach. Darin also had an ice pick through his right ear that caused a fatal wound to the upper cervical spinal cord. His body was found the next morning.

Bonin had the police running in circles and was enjoying the publicity his killings were receiving. He would point out to his friends the work that the Freeway Killer was doing and once remarked that "this guy is giving good gays like us a bad name." He was keeping a scrapbook of his work in his van.

A nondescript arrest would soon blow the case wide open, however. In May, police busted a car thief named William Pugh. The 17-year-old was more than just a thief, however. He had been along for the ride when Bonin killed Harry Turner and would eventually serve six years for voluntary manslaughter — part of a plea deal in exchange for his testimony. In an attempt to save his own skin, Pugh told authorities that he had accepted a ride home from a man who had boasted of the Freeway Killings. Police began looking for William Bonin based on Pugh's allegations.

James Munro
James Munro

On the morning of June 2, 1980, Bonin and another accomplice, a mentally challenged drifter named James Munro picked up 19-year-old Steven Wells. According to Munro's testimony, Wells agreed to accompany the men back to the apartment they were sharing so that they could have sex. Munro, who is serving a 15-to-life sentence in Ione Penitentiary in California for his role in Wells' death, said that Bonin and Wells had sex and Bonin offered Wells $200 if he could tie up the young man. Wells agreed, Munro said, and shortly after he was bound, Bonin began to assault him verbally and physically.

Munro said he watched TV in another room while Bonin tied up and sexually assaulted the youth in his own mother's bedroom. Bonin called him in, he said:

"At that point I knew it was real. Bonin went to get a glass of water and I told him, 'No, don't do this.' But Bonin said, 'It's too late. There is nothing that you or I can do to stop it.'"

Bonin said Munro helped kill Wells, but Munro claims he was in another room when the man was strangled. Regardless, his actions amounted to first-degree murder, which could have put him in the gas chamber right next to Bonin and Butts.

After Wells was dead, Bonin and Munro took the body in Bonin's van over to Butts' home, who told them to "go dump it somewhere." The next day, Wells' body was found behind a gas station dumpster.

Sadly, if the killers had tarried just a little longer at their apartment, they would have been observed by the LAPD detectives who had begun surveillance of William Bonin. There was a chance that they would have been able to save Wells' life.

 

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