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Crime News The Toolbox Killer

'They Couldn’t Live Without Each Other’: Where Are The Notorious Toolbox Killers Now?

In the late 1970s in California, a pair of notorious serial killers, Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, preyed on young women and documented the attacks.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

In 1979, Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris partnered up and hit the road in California in a van they’d chillingly nicknamed “Murder Mac.” 

They were searching for victims to torture and kill. Between June and October of that year, the pair murdered five young women, who ranged in age from 13 to 18. Before murdering these girls, Bittaker and Norris brutalized them in calculated ways and often recorded the torture in what has been called acts of “astonishing cruelty.” 

The infamous murderers are described as “real-life bogeymen” who were “organized and sexually sadistic” in the true-crime book by Jack Rosewood and Rebecca Lo, “The Toolbox Killers.”

Bittaker and Norris’ gruesome crimes are explored in the Peacock original “The Toolbox Killer,” which features criminologist Laura Brand's in-depth interviews with Bittaker done in his later years. So, where are the two killers now?

The two men met while doing time at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo. After they got out, they reconnected and the heinous murder spree soon began, reported the Los Angeles Times. They were called the “Toolbox Killers” because they used items like pliers and ice picks to torture and murder their victims.

Those victims include Lucinda Lynn “Cindy” Schaefer, 16; Andrea Hall, 18; Jacqueline Gilliam, 15; Jacqueline Leah Lamp, 13; and Shirley Lynette Ledford, 16, reported the Los Angeles Times in 1989. Investigators have not yet found the bodies of Schaefer and Hall.

“Toolbox” terror that had gripped Californians ended on November 20, 1979, when Bittaker and Norris were busted. The arrest came after Norris talked about their crimes to a friend who subsequently went to the police. 

Norris later flipped on Bittaker. Norris agreed to plead guilty and testify against Bittaker to avoid facing the death penalty. In April 1981, he was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison.

Bittaker faced 26 charges, including five counts of murder, five counts of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, rape, oral copulation, sodomy, and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. He was convicted on all counts and sentenced to death on March 22, 1981. 

Four decades after killing five young women, Bittaker, 79, died of natural causes on death row in San Quentin State Prison on December 13, 2019. 

Three months before he died, Bittaker suffered a series of heart attacks that left him feeling “vulnerable” and “mortal,” “The Toolbox Killer” reveals.

“It’s kind of a taste of maybe what my victims were going through,” Bittaker is heard saying in a recorded phone conversation with Brand.

Norris, 72, died of natural causes in prison two months later.

“So many people call them soulmates, and you’ve got to wonder,” Brand told producers. “They died like an old married couple, like they couldn’t live without each other.”

To learn more about the case, Bittaker's thoughts on the murders, and the efforts to recover the bodies of Schaefer and Hall, watch “The Toolbox Killer,” streaming now on Peacock and Oxygen.