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The Hillside Strangler Imagine that you're a part of a serial killing double act, and you've suddenly decide to get a job in the security services. What do you do next? (A) Kill again. (B) Have an argument with your murdering partner. (C) Go in search for yourself and try to cash in on the award. Or (D) Play dominoes. Now for the answer to this question, check out this 45-minute documentary produced in 2012.

The Hillside Strangler

In this episode of 'Born to Kill', narrator, Christopher Slade, orates' the ghastly life and times of Hollywood's killing cousins -- The Hillside Strangler. Now to aide Christopher's narration, on display there's stock-photography, archived footage, location scouting, as well as one and one interviews with people who were familiar with this murderous event. Like, Former Detectives: Frank Salerno, Terry Magan, and Bob Grogan; Humanitarian: Doctor Lois Lee; Prosecuting Attorney: Roger Boren; Author: Ted Schwartz; Criminal Experts: Helen Morrison and Louis Schlesinger; plus an Acquaintance: Sharon Reese.

What now follows is a basic overlay of how this program plays out:

  • Who is the Hillside Strangler?   This was the name the press gave to the two cousins' who kidnapped, beaten, and killed, ten women living in the Los Angeles area of California, between the years 1977 and 1979. On a side note, two additional victims were attributed to this series of murders in Washington State as well. 
  • Who were these cousins?
    • Kenneth Alessio Bianchi was born in Rochester, New York, on the 22nd of May, 1952. Now his mother was an unnamed prostitute who gave him up for adoption when he was only two weeks old. Moreover, when the over-caring local family -- called the Bianchi's -- adopted Kenneth at the tender age of three months, from then on in, his life was one roller-coaster ride full of illness, theft, compulsive lying, betrayal, and ultimately, murder. 
    • Angelo Buono Junior was born in Rochester, New York, on the 5th of October, 1934. Now prior to meeting up with his cousin, Kenneth -- in 1975 -- he already built up a long track record in criminal behavior. This included such activities as grand theft auto, assault, rape, and failure to pay child support to his then wife, Mary, and their five children.
  • Who did they kill?
    • Yolanda Washington -- aged 19 years -- died on the 17th of October, 1977
    • Judith Ann Miller -- aged 15 -- died on the 31st of October, 1977
    • Lissa Kastin -- aged 21 -- died on the 6th of November, 1977
    • Jane King -- aged 28 -- died on the 10th of November, 1977
    • Dolores Cepeda and Sonja Johnson -- aged 14 and 12 respectively -- died on the 13th of November, 1977
    • Kristin Weckler -- aged 20 -- died on the 20th of November, 1977
    • Lauren Wagner -- aged 18 -- died on the 29th of November, 1977
    • Kimberely Martin -- aged 17 -- died on the 9th of December, 1977
    • Cindy Lee Hudspeth -- aged 20 -- died on the 16th of February, 1978
    • Karen Mandic and Diane Wilder -- aged 14 and 12 respectively -- died on the 11th of January, 1979.
  • What was their modus operandi?   (1) Both Bianchi and Buono would cruise around Los Angeles in their car, and use fake badges to trick their intended victims into thinking they were undercover police officers. (2) Once they safely got their victim' inside Buono's garage, they would sexually abuse and torture them, before strangling them to death. (3) Occasionally they'd experiment with their method of killing, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, lethal injection, or electric shock treatment. And (4) Provocatively they'd place their victim's naked dead bodies in an open area for the authorities to find.
  • How did they get caught?   After failing to kidnap the daughter of famed actor, Pete Lorre -- Catharine -- the cousins decided to part ways, with Buono staying in California, and Bianchi taking a job as a security guard in Washington State. However, Bianci's name suddenly came under the police's raider when the dead bodies of Cindy and Karen were found nearby, prompting them to haul him into custody, and then force him to tell the truth.

Now when I normally watch an episode of 'Born to Kill', I always try to keep my 'thinking hat on', and not become over emotional about who done what to whom and for why. Granted, in the past I've been really crap at doing just that [click here for an illustration of what I mean]. But this time -- with the Hillside Strangers -- no, I've managed to keep myself in check, due to certain hypothesized similarities I've noticed between their crimes and 'Jack the Rippers' [ditto].

Well, both 'Saucy Jack' and this murderous double act, have quite a few things in common don't you know. For example: (1) They're perverse hatred for women. (2) The way they terrorized the local populous with their crimes. (3) How they almost taunted the police by parading their victims dead bodies for all to see. (4) How they chose their victims based on location and gender. And (5) They're pathological and delusional tendencies whilst killing.


OK, I know I could go on, and surmise that Jack could have been two men instead of one -- as this would most probably explain certain discrepancies with his own particular crimes. But I won't. No. I'm sure this would then take me off on a tangent, whisking away my thoughts on Bianchi and Buono.

You see, there were two very important questions 'Born To Kill? The Hollywood Hillside Strangler' poses, which I would like to try and answer myself:

The Hillside Strangler Victims
Question 1) Would Bianchi have killed if he never met Buono?   Now from my point of view -- yeah -- most probably. But I'm nigh on positive that the answer would also remain the same if the question was revered. Buono was an evil womanizing brute, with a distain for all things he thought he was deprived of in life. Bianchi was a self-centered compulsive liar, with a need within himself to stand out from the crowd. And together, they made a serial-killer that could only have been stopped if they screwed-up upon the way -- which they did -- thank God.

2) Does nurture outshine nature? At the tail end of this documentary, there was a section in it which implied Bianchi and Buono became the murderous that they were, all because of their troubled childhood's. Granted, to a degree, I agree with this statement -- nurture does enhance nature at times. However, in the same breath, I'm sure there were millions of other people in the same shoes Bianchi and Buono where in, and they never killed for the sake of killing!

Ex Detective, Bob Grogen, said it the best I think -- elaborating that either part of this 'living weapon' would have suddenly become volatile one way or another. Also, Doctor Lois Lee and Helen Morrison confirmed Bob's stance -- stating that all it took was a counterpoint to substantiate the act of murder in both cases.

Still, women are dead, criminal's are caught, all that matters now is that society learns from this crime, and tries to prevent is from happening again in the future.

The Hollywood Hillside Strangler

'Nothing has changed in Hollywood since then' -- Ex-Detective, Frank Salerno -- Say no more.


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