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Profile: William Bonin

A tendency toward violence that escalated over the years.
  • Full Name – William George Bonin
  • Nickname – The Freeway Killer
  • Born – January 8, 1947
  • Location of Activity – California
  • Years of Activity – August 1979 - June 1980
  • Number of Kills – 21-36
  • Date of Death – February 23, 1996
  • Cause of Death – Lethal Injection

William George Bonin was born in the state of Connecticut, the son of an alcoholic mother and father.  He father was also abusive, beating both his wife and children.  Bonin was often left in the care of his grandfather, who happened to be a convicted child molester.  Sometimes he and his brothers were neglected so much that if not for his neighbors making sure they got fed, they may not have even survived.

His life of crime, as can be expected, started early.  By age 10, he was stealing license plates.  This landed him in a juvenile detention center where he became the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of the older children.  He, in turn, began molesting children once he had entered his teens.  Once he became older, he entered into the military, which proved to be more his element.  He earned commendations and even risked his life to save a fellow soldier during Vietnam.  Still, his sexual aggression continued even there.  He was reported to have raped two of his fellow soldiers at gunpoint.

Once out of the military, he moved to California.  He began to molest and rape young boys, sometimes kidnapping or assaulting them.  His crimes were found out and he was convicted, though he served only four years in prison.  Once out of jail, he was again arrested for sexual assault, serving four more years.  Again, the pattern repeated itself and he was arrested for molestation, though a bureaucratic error allowed him to get off this time.

By this time, Bonin was determined to not return to prison.  Instead of reforming, he decided that killing his victims was the better solution.  In 1979 he began a spree that would last less than a year and claim at least 21 victims.  Most believe the total number of dead to be closer to 35, however.

His victims were all boys and young men, between the ages of 12 and 19.  They were mostly hitchhikers, schoolchildren and male prostitutes.  He would lure or force them into his van, then tying them up and raping them.  Afterwards, he would torture and kill them, sometimes dismembering or mutilating the bodies.  The remains were dumped alongside the highway.  Bonin didn’t do this all alone, however, and at least four others were known to have acted as accomplices in his crimes.

Eventually, Bonin was caught.  He was convicted of 14 murders and sentenced to death.  On February 23rd, 1996, William Bonin was executed by lethal injection, the first person in California to ever be killed in this particular way.  His accomplices managed to avoid the death penalty by testifying against him.