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The Freeway Killer, William Bonin

Today, we will talk about Bonin. People call him the ‘Freeway Killer’. Between 1979 and 1980, he raped, tormented, and killed at least 21 young men. Bonin would dump their corpses along freeways in South California. After being sentenced for 14 of his killings, he was executed by lethal injection in 1996. His brutal side was still seen during his jail sentence. He corresponded with many of his victims’ families about how their kids reacted to his torture.

Birth of The Freeway Killer

Born January 8, 1947, to alcoholic parents, William Bonin along with his older and younger brothers were raised mainly by his grandfather, a convicted child molester. The habit of abuse and the brutal cycle of rape permeated Bonin’s life at an early age. As a kid young William was raped by his father. At the tender age of 6 Bonin was sent to an orphanage. During this time he was subjected to constant sexual attacks perpetrated by the older boys. Ultimately, William became a willing partaker in the homosexual sex conducts with the other boys. At the age of 9, Bonin was released from the orphanage and started his evolution from prey to predator as he started to assault younger boys in the region.

The brutality of The Freeway Killer

In 1965 Bonin recruited into the Air Force and was sent to Vietnam. While logging over 700 hours of war and patrol time, Bonin received a Good Conduct Medal. William Bonin also exhibited outstanding courage under fire by staking his own life to save the life of a fellow soldier. Bonin was honourably released from the U.S. Air Force in October 1968 and returned to Connecticut to live with his mother before shifting to California. Air Force officials later learned however that Bonin, during his term in the service, had sexually assaulted two fellow soldiers at gunpoint. From this sense, the depravity and sexual brutality of William Bonin would reach new depths.

First Crime Of The Freeway Killer

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In 1969 The Freeway Killer would have his first run-in with law enforcement. He was caught for the sexual attack of 5 young men throughout Los Angeles County. During the attacks, Bonin picked up the boys while driving around then handcuffed and sodomized them. During pre-trial evaluations Bonin was deduced as a “mentally disordered sex offender” and upon conviction was remanded to Atascadero State Hospital. It was here that the light was shed on the abuse Bonin attained as a child. Though he had no remembering of the abuses, physical evidence verified otherwise and the doctors deduced that his subconscious had repressed any ability to recall the experiences consciously.

Doctors also found a variety of other physical and psychological abnormalities. They reported brain damage in the area that is thought to restrain vicious impulses; manic-depressive illness, and various unexplained scars on his head and backside. As with the abuses; Bonin could not remember the origins of his scars. Bonin stayed at Atascadero for five years.

He was released, not due to being cured but due to the reality that nothing more could be done for him. On his file, the doctors clearly stated that he was no longer a danger to others. Though he was assessed at great length by neurologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists; the real treatment William Bonin received is unknown to this date.

Another Attempt

The Freeway Killer had not examined his chart because within 16 months of his discharge he had sexually attacked 14-year-old David McVicker at gunpoint and tried to kidnap another teenage male. Bonin received a verdict of one to 15 years in jail. McVicker would be his last rape victim that lived to testify.

Released in October of 1978, Bonin was eager for a fresh start. He instantly moved to the town of Downey, CA, and soon found a job as a tow truck driver. William even met a girl with whom he started dating. He told friends he and she went to nearby Anaheim every Sunday. Bonin became acquainted with fellow Downey resident Everett Fraser. Fraser would throw elaborate parties at his house, to which he would always invite Bonin. A 22-year-old factory worker and a part-time magician named Vernon Butts was in attendance at one of these parties. Over time Butts became enamored with Bonin and was fascinated by sadistic homosexual activities. Sharing the same ideology, the ne’er-do-well Butts leaped at the opportunity of becoming Bonin’s first accomplice. Together, they would prowl the highways of Southern California in Bonin’s olive drab van, looking for teens to ravage.

May 1979

In May of 1979 the corpse of 14-year-old Reseda resident, Thomas Lundgren was found in Malibu. Lundgren had been emasculated as well as slashed across the throat, stabbed, and suffocated to death. In August the remains of Mark Shelton, a 17-year old from Westminster were discovered at Cajon Pass. On August 5, 1979, sometime between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., The Freeway Killer and Butts picked up Marcus Grabs. Grabs were hitchhiking along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach. The depraved duo sodomized whack and stabbed Grabs over 70 times. They then dumped the corpse in Malibu Canyon.

Butts would go on to help Bonin in at least 5 more killings. Despite the obvious resemblances in modus operandi of the three killings, officials in Orange, as well as Los Angeles County, declined to acknowledge the likelihood of a serial killer being in operation. Nonetheless, that manner of thinking would change as the death toll continued to rise.😪

Another One

Three weeks later the mutilated and semi castrated body of 15-year-old Donald Hyden of Hollywood would be discovered near Ventura Freeway. On September 12, 1979, the corpse of David Murillo, 17, was found in the same area. Both teens had been sodomized and suffocated with a ligature. David’s head had been bashed in with a tire iron. Eight days later, an 18-year-old Newport Beach youth named Robert Wirostek was abducted as he cycled to his employment at a grocery store: his corpse was discovered on September 19 alongside the Interstate 10 Highway.

And So On

In late November 1979, a body of an anonymous youth was discovered in Kern County. The victim was savagely beaten, then suffocated to death before his body was discarded. On December 2nd, the nude corpse of 17-year-old, Frank Dennis Fox was discovered alongside a highway five miles east of San Diego. On December 13th another John Doe was found, destroyed and discarded like trash. In early January of 1980, the corpse of Michael McDonald from Rialto was found fully clothed corpse in San Bernardino County Approximately a week and a half later the strangled body of 15-year-old, Long Beach teen, John Kilpatrick was discovered in Rialto.

In early 1980 Bonin had recruited a new accomplice, another sexual psychopath, Gregory Matthew Miley. On February 3rd, while driving from Downey to Hollywood they met a 15-year-old hitchhiker named Charles Miranda. They forced Miranda into the van and robbed him of his wallet. Bonin then demolished the boy and beat and raped him. Bonin then persuaded Miley to join in, not being able to sustain an erection, Miley raped the boy with a blunt object.

On February 5th 1980 the two men kidnapped, raped and murdered James McCabe. The 12-year-old boy was waiting at a Huntington Beach bus stop for a bus to Disneyland. The two men fooled young James into the van by promising to take him to Disneyland. Once inside, Miley drove as Bonin whack and raped the boy. Ultimately, Miley pulled over into a secluded region and as Bonin strangled the boy with a tire iron, Miley jumped up and down on his chest. James McCabe’s corpse was left near a garbage dumpster in the Garden Grove region of the city of Walnut, CA. These devils used McCabe’s six dollars, his Disneyland entrance fee, to purchase themselves lunch.

Ronald Gain

Ronald Gatlin, an 18-year-old from Van Nuys, CA was discovered in March 1980. Not only was Gatlin beaten and sodomized as the others were; Gatlin endured deep lacerations in his ear and neck resulting from being tormented with an ice pick. His corpse was discovered in the city of Duarte. One week later, on March 21st, 14-year-old Glenn Barker was also raped, whipped, and strangled to death with a ligature; which had become The Freeway Killer’s signature technique of killing. Unlike the others, Barker’s corpse bore multiple cigarette burns, probably the evidence of a new accomplice. Later that same day 15-year-old Russell Rugh was kidnapped from a bus stop in Garden Grove. He too had been raped, bound, beaten and strangled to death. His corpse was found laid next to that of Barker’s in Cleveland National Forest in Southern California.

William Pugh

One evening in late March, The Freeway Killer encountered William Pugh at a function held by Everett Fraser. Bonin requested him a ride, agreeing to take him wherever he was going. Once inside, Bonin asked Pugh if he would like to engage in sexual intercourse with him. Amazed by the question, Pugh tried to jump out of the van at the next stoplight. Bonin grabbed him by the collar, pulled him back in, and according to Pugh; admitted to him his exploits as “the Freeway killer”.

He told Pugh just how much he admired picking up teenage males to rape, torment, and murder. He then leaned in even closer and said, “If you want to murder somebody, you should make a plan and discover a place to dump the body before you even pick a victim.” He dropped Pugh off at home without incident. Pugh, a common thief had never murdered anyone; that would all change very soon.

Harry Todd Turner was a 15-year old runaway from a boy’s house in the Lancaster community. Bonin and Pugh found the boy street walking in Los Angeles and gave him $20.00 for sex. Once inside the van, Bonin bound, raped and bit the boy several times. Exhausted from the attack, Bonin told Pugh to beat the child. Pugh beat Turner about the skull and body for various minutes with a blunt object. Bonin then strangled Turner to death with his T-shirt and discarded him near the Santa Monica Freeway.

A Busy Day Of Freeway Killer

April 10, 1980, proved to be a busy day for the psychopaths; kidnapping 16-year-old Steven Wood from Bellflower, as well as 18-year-old Lawrence Sharp from Long Beach hours later. Both young men were sodomized, whipped and strangled with Wood’s naked body being discarded beside the Pacific Coast Highway. Sharp would be found in May behind a Westminster gas station.

Bonin would re-team with Vernon Butts in the April 29, 1980 kidnapping of 19-year-old Daren Kendrick. Kendrick was kidnapped from the parking lot of his job. While he was raped and whipped like the other victims, Kendrick was compelled to swallow chloral hydrate which left him with caustic chemical burns on his mouth, chin, chest, and stomach. The young man also underwent an ice pick being driven through his right ear that caused a disastrous wound to the upper cervical spinal cord. His corpse was found in Carson near the Artesia Freeway.😔

On May 19th Bonin asked Butts to accompany him on his next onslaught. Butts refused the offer and Bonin went on alone to kidnap a 14-year-old South Gate boy named Sean King. According to Bonin, King’s corpse was discarded in Yucaipa, though to date his remains are yet to be discovered. Excitedly, Bonin returned to Butt’s house and bragged of the killing to his accomplice.

Horrible Murder

In late May, Bonin asked a 19-year old, mentally challenged drifter by the name of James Munro to move in with him. Affected by his demeanour, Munro decided to the arrangement. Bonin also persuaded his supervisor at the Montebello delivery firm for which he worked to give Munro a job. Approximately a week later Munro and Bonin spotted Steven Jay Wells at a bus stop on El Segundo Boulevard.

After being persuaded into the van, Wells was driven to Bonin’s apartment where, according to Munro, the youth was raped, beaten, and strangled with his irt. The two men then stuffed the dead body into a box and proceeded to the home of Vernon Butts. Bonin asked Butts for advice concerning methods of disposing of the body with Butts simply responding, “Try a gas station like’ or ‘where – I don’t know which – ‘we dumped the last one.” Wells’ body was found discarded behind a Huntington Beach gas station.

Car Theft

Unbeknownst to Bonin, William Pugh had been caught in May for unrelated car theft. While incarcerated, Pugh heard on the news of law enforcement’s search for the perpetrator of the wave of murders. Confiding witwiththllor, Pugh expressed that he may know who is responsible for these crimes. The counsellor relayed the information to an LAPD homicide sergeant named John St. John. St. John interviewed Pugh, finding his testimony to be credible; St. John decided that Bonin might indeed be the Freeway Killer.


Round-the-clock supervision of William Bonin started on June 2nd, 1980, the same day that Steven Jay Wells was killed. On June 11 police examined Bonin trying to pick up five different teenage boys. William Bonin was caught later that evening while sodomizing a young man in his van. In July, police arrested 22-year-old Vernon Butts, accusing him as an accomplice in six of the “freeway” murders.

Bonin was formally charged with 14 counts of killing, eleven counts of robbery, plus one count each of sodomy and mayhem. Butts, charged with 6 counts of killing himself and wearing the death penalty, started to tell police of other accomplices. James Michael Munro, who upon Bonin’s arrest had stolen his car, was caught in Michigan on July 31 and returned to California to stand prosecution on charges of murdering Stephen Wells. Miley was caught in Texas and charged with the killings of Charles Miranda and James McCabe. Butts, Miley and Munro all agreed to testify against Bonin in exchange for being limited to the death penalty. Pugh, also trying to save his skin, agreed to a request deal in exchange for his testimony and ultimately received 6 years for manslaughter.

No Guilt

Bonin asserted no guilt for what he had done. Once met with the evidence Bonin freely admitted to police concerning the crimes for which he was arrested as well as to those that law enforcement knew nothing of. Bonin admitted to murdering 21 young men and boys, though officials cite that through blood and semen stains as well as hair and carpet fibres, the number of casualties for which he is credible maybe double that. He shared characteristics of each crime in terrifying detail. After his arrest, Bonin said to a reporter “I’d still be killing. I couldn’t stop killing. It got easier each time.”

Bonin’s trial started on November 5, 1981, in Los Angeles County. Here he was accused of the killing of 12 of his victims, the victims who were killed within the county jurisdiction. Vernon Butts, Greg Miley and James Munro testified for the trial. They spelt out details of the torture endured by various “freeway” victims, the happiness with which Bonin caused pain and the roles each of them played in the commission of these horrors. In return; Butts, Miley and Munro drew life verdicts in return for their testimony against Bonin.


On January 5, 1982, after eight days of consideration, jurors sentenced Bonin to ten counts of murder and ten of robbery. (He was acquitted in the deaths of Thomas Lundgren and Sean King.) Two weeks later, he was formally penalized to death. About one year later he was convicted in Orange County of the other four killings, for which he earned a second death sentence. Though sentenced to death, Bonin took advantage of the American legal system and appealed his sentence various times. After exhausting all of his appeals, on February 23, 1996, William George Bonin was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison. Bonin was the first individual to be executed by lethal injection in the history of California.

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