Serial murders peaked in the United States during the 1980s, and sunny Los Angeles became the primary hunting ground for a string of psychopaths. Of the 2,670 total serial murders that took place that decade, roughly one-fifth took place in California, according to 24/7 Wall St.
“At the time we were considered the homicide capital of the world, or the United States at least,” Mike Stallcup, a retired detective who worked in the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division, said in an episode of Vanity Fair Confidential called “Murder on the Sunset Strip.”
“I believe we had close to 1,200 homicides within the city of Los Angeles. We were running hard at that time — fast and furious,” Stallcup continued.
Below are a few of the most notorious.
Douglas Clark and Carol Bundy — “The Sunset Strip Killers“Between June and September 1980, Doug Clark, 31, and Carol Bundy, 37, raped and murdered six female victims, most of whom were young runaways or prostitutes.
Bundy also killed and decapitated her ex-boyfriend.
Clark wanted to fulfill his fantasy of killing a woman during sex.
His first victims were Gina Narano and Cynthia Chandler, whom he picked up on the Sunset Strip and ordered to perform fellatio on him before shooting them both in the head and taking them to a garage to rape their dead bodies.
He dumped their bodies near the Ventura Freeway. At one point, Bundy called the police, but refused to give her name.
Clark went on to murder more victims, and took one victim’s head back home and stored it in the fridge — and Bundy, upon seeing the grisly trophy put make-up on it before Clark used it to commit necrophilia.
In August 1980, Bundy lured Jack Murray, her ex-boyfriend, into a van and killed and decapitated him.
Writer Mark MacNamara, who interviewed Bundy for an article he wrote in Vanity Fair, said that he believes Murray may have been involved in the killings as well, and it haunts him that he will never know the full story.
Clark was sentenced to death in 1983. Bundy received a life sentence, and died in prison in 2003.
Randy Kraft — “The Scorecard Killer“Kraft committed the rape, torture, mutilation, and murder of a minimum of 16 young men in a series of killings spanning between 1972 and 1983, and the majority of the killings took place in California.
Kraft, who was convicted in 1989 of murdering 16 victims, is also believed to have committed the rape and murder of up to 51 additional boys and young men.
Kraft became known as the “Scorecard Killer,” because upon his arrest, investigators discovered a coded list depicting cryptic references to his victims.Richard Ramirez — “The Night Stalker“
Ramirez went on a months-long rampage of sexual assault and murder that generated widespread fear throughout Southern California.
His modus operandi was to enter homes in the early morning hours through open windows or doors.
He killed 13 people in a variety of ways: Some were found strangled, others had their throats slashed, but most had been fatally shot.
Spray-painted pentagrams — a distinctive Satanist symbol — were also found on the walls of some victims’ homes.
“The Golden State Killer”
Police have been searching for the “Golden State Killer,” also known as the “Original Night Stalker,” for over 40 years. Police attempted to change the nickname so that the public did not confuse the case with Night Stalker Richard Ramirez.
Authorities say that he committed 12 murders, about 45 rapes, and dozens of home break-ins from 1976 to 1986.
Investigators have also linked him to the 1986 rape of an 18-year-old in Irvine, as well as rape, murder, and attempted murder cases from 1979 through 1981 in Goleta, Ventura, Laguna Niguel, and Irvine.
The FBI continues to search for information, and have offered a reward of $50,000 for help in finding him.
William George Bonin — “The Freeway Killer“
Bonin raped, tortured, and murdered a minimum of 21 boys and young men in a series of killings in 1979 and 1980 in southern California — and authorities believe that he may have committed 15 more.
Bonin became known as the “Freeway Killer” due to the fact that the majority of his victims’ bodies were discovered alongside numerous freeways in southern California. He shares this nickname with Randy Kraft and Patrick Kearney, an unrelated serial killer who murdered over 40 victims during the 1970s.
Described by the prosecutor at his first trial as “the most arch-evil person who ever existed,” Bonin was convicted of 14 of the murders. He spent 14 years on death row and was executed at San Quentin in 1996.
Phillip Carl Jablonski
Jablonski was convicted of murdering five women — including his first wife, his second wife, and her mother — between 1978 and ’91 in California and Utah.
Jablonski met his second wife Carol Spadoni after she answered a newspaper ad he placed while Jablonski was serving time for having murdered his first wife, Melinda Kimball, in Palm Springs, California, in 1978.
On April 22, 1991, Jablonski murdered Fathyma Vann, 38, in Indio, California. Fathyma was found shot in the head and sexually assaulted in the desert with the words “I Love Jesus” carved in her back.
Her body had been subjected to other mutilations including the cutting off of her ears and removal of her eyes.
The following day, April 23, 1991, Spadoni and her mother, Eva Peterson, 72, were found murdered at their home in Burlingame, California.
Jablonski was also charged with the robbery and subsequent murder of Margie Rogers, 58, in Grand County, Utah, on April 27, 1991.
He was captured the next day and eventually sentenced to death.Angelo Buono, Jr., and Kenneth Bianchi, “The Hillside Stranglers“Angelo Anthony Buono, Jr., and his cousin Kenneth Bianchi had the city of Los Angeles terrified during their murder spree.They were convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing, and killing 10 women between October 1977 and February 1978. Buono, an auto upholsterer, and Bianchi started killing after a discussion about how the prostitutes that Buono often brought home would hardly be missed by anyone if they disappeared.
Over the next few months, the men developed a pattern: They drove their victims back to Buono’s house where they were sexually assaulted, tortured, and strangled to death. The duo then dumped the bodies in lascivious positions on hillsides in the Los Angeles area, and the press dubbed them the “Hillside Strangler” because, at the time, authorities believed that they were looking for a single killer.
The killings stopped suddenly in February 1978. The men were arrested in 1979, and Bianci received six life sentences, while Buono got life without the possibility of parole. Buono died in prison, and Bianchi is still behind bars.
Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., — “The Grim Sleeper”Lonnie Franklin, Jr., started his killing spree in South Los Angeles in the summer of 1985 and continued until 1988, when a woman who was raped and shot lived to describe her attacker as a black man in his early 20s with a pockmarked face.Another body was found in Inglewood in March 2002, and the 13-year delay in between the deaths led to his description as “The Grim Sleeper.”
On July 7, 2010, Los Angeles police arrested Franklin, and in 2016 he was found guilty on 10 counts of murder in the killings of nine women and a 15-year-old girl.
Jurors later recommended Franklin should be put to death, and investigators believe that there may be more victims out there.
Main photo: View over Los Angeles [Vanity Fair Confidential/Investigation Discovery (screenshot)]