|Birth Day:||January 8, 1947|
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He earned a Good Conduct Medal while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam.
William Bonin was born in Willimantic, Connecticut, on January 8, 1947, the second of three brothers born to Robert and Alice Bonin. Bonin's parents were alcoholics, and his father was a compulsive gambler who was physically abusive towards his wife and children. Bonin and his brothers were severely neglected as children, and were often fed and clothed by sympathetic neighbors. In addition, the brothers were often placed in the care of their grandfather, a convicted child molester who had molested Bonin's mother when she had been a child and adolescent, and who is known to have sexually abused his three grandsons.
In 1953, Bonin's mother placed her sons in an orphanage in an effort to protect her children from their father's physical violence. This orphanage was known to severely discipline the children it housed for minor and major breaches of conduct, with the punishments administered including severe beatings, enduring various stress positions, and partial drowning in sinks filled with water. Although Bonin later freely discussed many aspects of his childhood and adolescence, he refused to discuss his memories of the orphanage beyond divulging that he consented to sexual advances from older males only if his abuser would first tie his (Bonin's) hands behind his back. He was to remain at the orphanage until the age of nine, when he returned to live with his parents in the town of Mansfield.
At the age of 10, Bonin was arrested for stealing vehicle license plates and was placed in a juvenile detention center for various minor crimes. While housed at this juvenile detention center, he was repeatedly physically and sexually abused by several people, including his adult counselor. Four years later, in 1961, facing the prospect of the foreclosure of their home, Bonin's parents opted to relocate to California. The Bonin family settled in a modest home on Angell Street in the city of Downey; shortly thereafter, Bonin's father died from cirrhosis of the liver.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1965, Bonin became engaged to marry; this engagement had largely been at the behest of his mother, who believed the prospect of marriage would quell her son's evident homosexuality. The same year of his graduation, Bonin joined the U.S. Air Force. He later served five months of active duty in the Vietnam War as an aerial gunner, logging over 700 hours of combat and patrol time. Bonin was to later claim his experiences in Vietnam had instilled a belief within him that human life is overvalued.
Bonin served three years in the U.S. Air Force before he received an honorable discharge in October 1968. Upon his discharge, Bonin returned to Downey to live with his mother. Shortly thereafter, he married his fiancée; the couple soon divorced.
On November 17, 1968, at age 21, Bonin committed a sexual assault on a youth. He was to commit three further sexual assaults upon boys and youths over the following four months. The victims of these four assaults were aged between 12 and 18 and in each instance, he bound or otherwise restrained his victim before forcibly engaging in sodomy, oral copulation, and methods of torture which included bludgeoning and the squeezing of his victims' testicles.
In early 1969, Bonin was arrested as he attempted to restrain a 16-year-old youth whom he had lured into his vehicle; he was indicted on five counts of kidnapping, four counts of sodomy, one count of oral copulation, and one count of child molestation against the five youths he had abducted and assaulted or—in the case of the final youth he had abducted—attempted to assault since the previous November. Bonin pleaded guilty to molestation and forced oral copulation and was sentenced to the Atascadero State Hospital as a mentally disordered sexual offender considered amenable to treatment in January 1971.
Two years after his arrival at the Atascadero State Hospital, Bonin was sent to prison, declared unsuitable for further treatment—largely due to his repeatedly engaging in forceful sexual activity with male inmates. On June 11, 1974, he was released from prison after doctors concluded he was "no longer a danger to the health and safety of others."
On September 8, 1974, Bonin encountered a 14-year-old named David Allen McVicker hitchhiking in Garden Grove. McVicker accepted Bonin's offer to drive him to his parents' home in Huntington Beach. Shortly after McVicker had entered Bonin's vehicle, he was taken aback by Bonin asking him if he was gay. When McVicker asked Bonin to stop his car, Bonin produced a gun and drove the youth to a deserted field, where he ordered McVicker to undress, then beat and raped him. After beating and assaulting McVicker, Bonin began to strangle the youth with his own T-shirt, then immediately became apologetic when McVicker began screaming. He then drove McVicker home before casually stating, "We'll meet again."
Bonin pleaded guilty to these charges, and on December 31, 1975, he was sentenced to serve between one and 15 years' imprisonment, to be served at the California Men's Facility in San Luis Obispo. He was released from detention on October 11, 1978, albeit with 18 months' supervised probation.
On July 1, 1977, Patrick Kearney, the prime suspect in a series of killings of young men known as the "Trash Bag Murders", voluntarily surrendered to Riverside Police. Prior to his surrender, Kearney had been a fugitive for two months, following his being forensically linked to the murder of a 17-year-old named John LaMay—a confirmed victim of the Trash Bag Murderer. Kearney subsequently confessed to the murders of 28 boys and young men; many of whose bodies he had discarded alongside freeways in southern California. In contrast to Bonin, Kearney extensively dismembered the majority of his victims' bodies, before typically discarding their remains in trash bags. Although primarily known as the Trash Bag Murderer, Kearney is also known as the Freeway Killer.
Two months after the murder of Lundgren, on August 4, 1979, Bonin and Butts abducted a 17-year-old named Mark Shelton shortly after the youth left his Westminster home to walk to a movie theater near Beach Boulevard. Screams were heard from the vicinity of the Shelton household by neighbors, leaving a strong possibility Shelton was abducted by force. The youth was violated with foreign objects including a pool cue, causing his body to enter a state of shock which proved fatal. His body was then discarded in San Bernardino County.
On January 1, 1980, Bonin brutalized and strangled a 16-year-old Ontario youth named Michael Francis McDonald; his fully clothed body was found alongside Highway 71 in western San Bernardino County two days after his murder, although his body was not identified until March 24.
One Friday evening in March, 1980, Bonin offered a 17-year-old named William Ray Pugh a ride home as the pair left Fraser's residence. Within minutes of accepting the ride, Bonin asked Pugh whether he would like to engage in sex with him. Pugh later stated he panicked and stuttered upon hearing this question and, after sitting in silence for several minutes, attempted to leave the vehicle once Bonin had slowed the van at a stoplight. In response, Bonin wordlessly leaned across and grabbed Pugh by the collar, dragging him back into the passenger seat. According to Pugh, Bonin then confided in him that he enjoyed abducting young male hitchhikers on Friday and Saturday nights, whom he then restrained and abused before strangling them to death with their own T-shirts. In a matter-of-fact tone, Bonin then informed Pugh: "If you want to kill somebody, you should make a plan and find a place to dump the body before you even pick a victim." Bonin then informed Pugh he had not chosen to refrain from assaulting and killing him out of sentiment; he'd been spared because the pair had been seen leaving Fraser's party together. Pugh was driven to his home without being assaulted.
Nine days after the murder of King, Bonin invited an 18-year-old homeless drifter named James Michael Munro to move into the apartment he shared with his mother. Munro had been evicted from his family's home in his native Michigan in early 1980 and had been living rough on the streets of Hollywood for several weeks. As such, Munro readily accepted Bonin's accommodation offer. As had earlier been the case with Miley, Munro—a bisexual who preferred sexual relations with females—also began a consensual sexual relationship with Bonin. He also accepted a subsequent offer of employment at the Montebello delivery firm where Bonin worked. Munro later described his initial impression of Bonin as being "a good guy; really normal", although on the evening of June 1, Bonin abruptly informed Munro he wanted the two of them to abduct, rape, and kill a teenage hitchhiker.
By early 1980, the murders committed by the Freeway Killer were receiving considerable media attention, and a reward totaling $50,000 for information leading to the conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators had been offered by leading gay rights activists. Bonin avidly collected newspaper clippings documenting his own manhunt.
By May 1980, Pugh had been arrested for auto theft, and was housed at the Los Padrinos Juvenile Courthouse. On May 29, Pugh overheard the details of the ongoing murders on a local radio broadcast and confided to a counselor his recognition of the perpetrator's modus operandi as being that described to him by Bonin two months previous. This counselor reported Pugh's suspicions to the police, who in turn relayed the information to an LAPD homicide sergeant named John St. John. Upon hearing the confidential tip from the counselor, St. John conducted an extensive interview with Pugh. Although Pugh withheld the fact that he had actually accompanied Bonin on one of his murders, the information he provided led St. John to deduce that Bonin may have indeed been the Freeway Killer. (McVicker had also contacted authorities by this time to report his suspicions that Bonin may be the perpetrator. His suspicions were not dismissed, but regarded as one of many public tips to be investigated.)
After nine days of surveillance, on June 11, 1980, police observed Bonin driving in a seemingly random manner throughout Hollywood, unsuccessfully attempting to lure five separate teenage boys into his van, before succeeding in luring a youth into his vehicle. The police followed Bonin until his van parked in a desolate parking lot close to the Hollywood Freeway, then discreetly approached the vehicle. Upon hearing muffled screams and banging sounds emanating from inside the van, these plainclothes officers forced their way into the vehicle; discovering Bonin in the act of raping a 17-year-old Orange County runaway named Harold Eugene Tate, whom he had handcuffed and bound.
Butts was brought before Orange County Municipal Court Judge Richard Orozco on November 14, 1980. On this date, he was formally charged with participating in three further murders committed in this county. His trial was scheduled for July 27, 1981.
Bonin was cleared of the sodomy and murder of King because he had led police to the body of the victim in December 1980, with the agreement that his leading police to the body could not be used against him in court, and therefore the prosecutors had discussed King's disappearance at the trial, but not the discovery of his body; he was cleared of the charges of mayhem and murder against Lundgren because, according to López, he had strenuously denied committing this particular killing in the interviews he had granted to him.
On July 31, Munro was arrested in his hometown of Port Huron, Michigan; he was extradited to California, charged with the murder of Wells. Munro pleaded innocent to all charges against him on August 14. On August 22, Miley—by this stage 19 years old—was arrested in Texas and subsequently charged by California authorities with the murders of Miranda and Macabe. Miley was arrested after having confessed to his culpability in these February 3 murders in a recorded phone conversation with a friend (thus substantiating Bonin's earlier confession). He initially pleaded innocent to two charges of first-degree murder on December 18, but pleaded guilty at two separate pretrial hearings in May 1981.
At a preliminary hearing held in Los Angeles County before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Julius Leetham on January 2, 1981, Bonin formally pleaded his innocence to 14 first-degree murder charges and numerous counts of sodomy, robbery and mayhem. In 11 of these indictments, a felony-murder-robbery special circumstance was also alleged. He was ordered to return to court on January 7 for pretrial motions and the formal setting of a trial date (which was eventually set for October 19). On the same date (January 2), Butts was arraigned on five counts of murder, in addition to three counts of robbery. The date of Butts' formal plea was delayed by Judge Leetham until January 7.
Bonin was brought to trial in Los Angeles County, charged with the murder of 12 of his victims whose bodies had been found within this constituency, on October 19, 1981. He was tried before Superior Court Judge William Keene. The trial commenced on November 5, 1981.
Butts, who was accused of accompanying or otherwise assisting Bonin on at least nine of the murders, hanged himself while awaiting trial on January 11, 1981. He left no suicide note. At the time of his death, he had been scheduled to be tried on July 27 for six of the murders he had accompanied Bonin upon. Correspondence found within his cell indicated Butts had been greatly distressed at the impending release of a transcript of evidence he had given behind closed doors at his preliminary hearing days prior, and the effect it would have on his friends and relatives.
Munro was sentenced to a term of 15 years to life for the second degree murder of Wells on April 6, 1981. Munro has repeatedly appealed his sentence, claiming that he had not known Bonin had been the Freeway Killer until after Wells' murder, and that he had been tricked into accepting a plea bargain whereby he pleaded guilty to this second degree murder charge. He has also written to successive governors, requesting he be executed rather than spend the remainder of his life behind bars for what he claims is "a crime I didn't commit". (In the days following the murder of Wells and prior to Bonin's arrest, Munro boasted to several people of his belief the Freeway Killer would never be caught.)
Prior to this second trial, Bonin was temporarily removed from death row and held in solitary confinement, where he remained until the conclusion of the trial. While incarcerated in this capacity, Charvet attempted to secure a change of venue, citing the extensive pretrial publicity surrounding the case minimizing the chances of securing an untainted jury within this jurisdiction; however, this motion was refused by Judge Lae, who ruled in November 1982 that there had only been minimal publicity surrounding the Freeway Killer case in Orange County following Bonin's earlier convictions.
Miley was sentenced to a term of 25 years to life by Superior Court Judge Bonnie Lee Smith on February 5, 1982. This sentence was for the first-degree murder of Miranda, and Miley was informed he would need to serve a minimum of 16 years and eight months before he would be considered for parole. He was later sentenced to a consecutive term of 25 years to life by an Orange County court judge for the abduction and murder of Macabe. Initially incarcerated at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran in Corcoran, California, Miley was later transferred to Mule Creek State Prison.
Pugh was sentenced to six years in prison for voluntary manslaughter in the case of Turner on May 17, 1982. Pugh had initially been charged with the first-degree murder of Turner, in addition to companion charges of robbery and sodomy; however, after five days of deliberation, the jury found Pugh guilty of the reduced charge of manslaughter, and innocent of robbery and sodomy.
Bonin was brought to trial in neighboring Orange County, charged with the robbery and murder of four further victims who had been found murdered within this jurisdiction between November 1979 and May 1980, on March 21, 1983. He was tried before Superior Court Judge Kenneth Lae.
Following less than three hours of deliberations, the jury announced on August 2, 1983, that they had found Bonin guilty of each of the four murders, in addition to three counts of robbery. After three days of deliberations as to the actual penalty to be imposed upon Bonin, the jury announced on August 22 their recommendations that he be sentenced to death on each count. Judge Lae postponed formal sentencing until August 26. On this date, Bonin received four further death sentences, with Lae describing Bonin as sadistic and guilty of "monstrous criminal conduct".
Pugh served less than four years of his sentence, and was released from prison in late 1985.
Each successive appeal proved unsuccessful, with the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to overturn the death penalty convictions for the murders in which Bonin had been tried in August 1988 and January 1989.
Despite upholding Bonin's convictions, the Supreme Court poured scorn upon the judge at Bonin's Los Angeles County trial, William Keene, for failing to fully heed a warning given by the prosecution prior to trial that Munro had discussed the possibility of agreeing to legal representation by Charvet prior to his appearance at trial. Despite admonishing Charvet for a potential conflict of interest, Judge Keene had permitted him to act as Bonin's defense attorney at his first trial. In spite of this fact, the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that Charvet had effectively cross-examined Munro at trial, and that Keene's actions, though ruled as "inexplicable", had not effectively harmed Bonin's legal defense. Further merit was given to Bonin's contention that his defense should have been allowed to stipulate the testimony of the parents of his victims being allowed to identify photographs of their sons in both life and death at his trials. Despite this ruling, this finding was also deemed not to have affected the overall verdict.
The method of Bonin's execution was superseded with lethal injection by the state of California in 1992, following the execution of Robert Alton Harris, the first inmate California had executed since 1967. Harris had exhibited evident symptoms of discomfort for up to four minutes throughout his 15-minute execution in the gas chamber. These symptoms had included convulsions. As such, the state of California opted to use lethal injection as an alternate method of execution to the gas chamber, branding the gas chamber a "cruel and unusual" method of execution.
A final submission to the United States Court of Appeals was submitted in October 1994, with Bonin contending such issues as his being denied the effective assistance of counsel at his trials, that he had been denied due process at his Los Angeles trial due to the judge's refusing to suppress the testimony of Munro and Miley, and that the judge at his Orange County trial had denied his counsel's motion for a change of venue upon the basis that pretrial publicity had effectively minimized any chance of obtaining an unbiased jury within the county. This final appeal was rejected on June 28, 1995, with the appellate judges stating they had found no evidence of legal misconduct, and that no evidence existed that the 13 jurors who served upon Bonin's Orange County trial who had admitted to minimal, indirect pretrial exposure to the Freeway Killer case had, as a result of this pretrial publicity, been incapable of judging Bonin with impartiality. As such, the appellate judges declared their satisfaction with the validity of Bonin's convictions.
On February 20, 1996, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a plea for clemency submitted by Bonin's attorneys on the grounds of inadequate legal representation at both his trials. Scarcely one hour prior to his scheduled execution, the Supreme Court refused to hear Bonin's final plea to overturn his death sentence, with the convened panel in almost unanimous agreement that Bonin's own attorneys had not failed to give their client adequate legal representation by not earlier discovering their submitted claims to have discovered evidence attesting to Bonin's innocence. Furthermore, these appellate judges ruled that Bonin's attorneys should not have waited until the last minute to submit arguments to overturn or postpone the impending death sentence of their client. These convened judges also rejected Bonin's final claim that he had a right to choose between the gas chamber or lethal injection as his actual method of execution.
Bonin was executed by lethal injection inside the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison on February 23, 1996. He was the first person to be executed by lethal injection in the history of California, and his execution occurred 14 years after his first death sentence had been imposed.
In the years following Bonin's execution, McVicker has actively campaigned to ensure that his two living accomplices, who were imprisoned for first- and second degree murder convictions, are not set free. In one interview granted in 2011, McVicker stated the primary reason he had been inspired to campaign to ensure Munro and Miley are never released were the words one of the victims' mothers had spoken to him on after he had testified at Bonin's first trial: "You've got to speak for my kid."
On May 25, 2016, Miley died of injuries he had sustained two days previously, when he had been attacked by another inmate in an exercise yard at Mule Creek State Prison. Initially, he was evaluated at the prison medical facility, before returning to his cell; he was later airlifted to hospital after falling into unconsciousness two hours after the attack.
At the time of his death, Miley's next scheduled parole hearing was to be held in 2019. He had most recently been eligible for parole in October 2014, after previously agreeing to a three-year continuance of his most recent request for parole. This subsequent suitability hearing was held on October 29, 2014; the decision made at this hearing was to deny parole.
As a child, he was often cared for by his grandfather, a convicted child molester.
Currently, William Bonin is 75 years, 10 months and 22 days old. William Bonin will celebrate 76th birthday on a Sunday 8th of January 2023. Below we countdown to William Bonin upcoming birthday.