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Laura Brand, a serial killer expert and forensic psychology practitioner who has interviewed over 50 of America’s "most sadistic killers,” according to her website, has also been dubbed the “Siren of San Quentin." Despite these nicknames, she has always been pretty good at keeping the darkness out of her life, she told Oxygen.com in an interview this week.
However, this is with the exception of having a professional relationship with “Toolbox Killers” Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris. Her conversations with Bittaker are the subject of the upcoming original documentary, "The Toolbox Killer," which will be available to stream on Peacock Thursday and then appear on Oxygen.
For five months in 1979, Bittaker and Norris drove around California in an enhanced van that they nicknamed "Murder Mac" while seeking victims. The duo was armed with a toolbox full of pliers, ice picks, and sledgehammers that they used on the teenage girls they abducted. Bittaker and Norris raped, tortured, and killed five girls in all: Lucinda "Cindy" Schaefer, 16; Andrea Hall, 18; Jacqueline Gilliam, 15; Jacqueline Leah Lamp, 13, and Shirley Lynette Ledford, 16.
Brand told Oxygen.com that the pair had met while in prison, where she said Bittaker, who admitted committing his first murder at the age of 11, groomed Norris, a convicted serial rapist, into a serial killer.
“The only time I’ve had nightmares is with Bittaker and Norris because I’ve gone so deep with their case," she said.
Brand started corresponding with both Bittaker and Norris in 2014. Four years later, she traveled to San Quentin Prison, where Bittaker was being held on death row, to speak with him in person. During her visit, he drew her a map of where he put two of his victims’ bodies and told her where she could find a tape that captured one victim’s torture. Both men died in prison, reportedly of natural causes.
Speaking with Oxygen.com, Brand said she believes that talking regularly to Bittaker gave her one of the only nightmares that made her feel she was pushing boundaries in exploring the case.
“It was a dream within a dream and I turned over and Bittaker was laying on the other side of the bed and just staring at me and he was smiling. And I said to him, ‘You can’t be here,’” she said. “And he said to me, ‘Where am I?’”
Brand told him that he was inside her subconscious. That's when she woke up.
Bittaker is not someone that anyone should want inside their subconscious; Brant calls him one of America’s most sadistic killers.
“I’ve encountered so many serial killers and there’s no level of sadism to the extent that Bittaker actually got to,” she said. "He was using the tools to torture these girls for hours and holding them captive for hours. That’s not typical for every serial killer.”
She noted that he “went out of his way” to brutalize people.
“He loved the psychological pain, the sexual pain, the physical pain,” she added. “All those three aspects were what was getting him off: really inflicting them onto the victims.”
Brand said she learned a lot about both psychopathy and sadism from Bittaker.
“Going forward, working with offenders, those are two aspects I will carry with me forever,” she said, adding that her work with him has helped her reach a deeper understanding of humanity. Now, she said she hopes that “The Toolbox Killer” will prompt viewers to think deeply about the human mind.
“I think it’s gonna be a mind-blowing true crime documentary,” she said. “There’s a lot of brand new details about the crimes themselves and details outside of the crimes that you will learn for the first time.”
The two-hour special, from Mike Mathis Productions, will premiere on Thursday, Sept. 23 on Peacock and air on Oxygen on Sunday, Oct. 3.
For more on Bittaker and Norris, including how the two were captured, check out Oxygen's digital evidence kit on "The Toolbox Killers."
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