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The ‘Hillside Strangler’ Terrorized Los Angeles In The 1970s — Who Was He?
The “Hillside Stranglings” left the Los Angeles community in fear as women were found strangled to death around the city. The culprits behind them were a pair of cousins, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono
In the late 1970s, Los Angeles was terrorized by a series of murders: Women were strangled to death and left around the city.
“The Hillside Strangler: Devil in Disguise,” a four-part Peacock docuseries premiering Tuesday, August 2, is a deep dive into Kenneth Bianchi, the brutal serial killer who was convicted of committing horrific murders, along with his adoptive cousin Angelo Buono.
Here’s what to know about Bianchi, whose psychological analysis tapes are featured in the four-part series, as well interviews with investigators and his former girlfriend.
Roots of a killer
Born in May 1951 in Rochester, New York, Bianchi was adopted when he was an infant, a detail discussed in a videotaped session seen in the special.
“Growing up, he had some emotional problems, bedwetting and other problems,” Dave McEachran, a retired Whatcom County prosecutor, told producers.
Bianchi was described as a “hellraiser” in his youth. When he acted out, his mother, who is said to have had psychological issues of her own, shifted him from one school to another, according to “The Hillside Strangler.”
After graduating high school, he tried unsuccessfully to land work in law enforcement. He subsequently moved to Los Angeles where he lived with his cousin, Angelo Buono.
Bianchi’s four-month L.A. murder spree began in October 1977. He and Buono preyed on teenage girls and young women, some of whom were sex workers, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.
They lured their victims by posing as police officers. The apparent power of authority gained the trust of their victims, whose bodies were later dumped on the city hillsides, according to investigators. Some victims were tortured and sexually assaulted before being killed.
From October 1977 to February 1978, the murders continued unabated. “People were dropping like flies,” retired Los Angeles reporter Jim Mitchell told producers. Law enforcement was under intense pressure to solve the case.
Bianchi’s capture — and excuse for killing
In 1979, Kenneth Bianchi, who had left L.A. with his common-law wife and child, became the prime suspect in a double murder in Washington state. He was arrested on January 12 by the Bellingham police for murdering Washington University students Karen L. Mandic and Diane A. Wilder.
During the investigation, investigators linked Bianchi to the “Hillside Stranglings.” Bianchi claimed that he had multiple personality disorder, today known as dissociative identity disorder, and that his other personalities were responsible for these crimes, assertions that were later questioned. It was after his arrest that Bianchi implicated his cousin in the L.A. slayings.
Both men were ultimately sentenced to life in prison for the crimes.
To learn more about the case, including the legal maneuverings and shifts before the trial began, watch Peacock’s “The Hillside Stranglings: Devil In Disguise.” The four-part docuseries premieres on August 2.