Southern California’s most infamous killers

The transient killings in December and January hit many close to home — literally. With all of them occurring only miles from Cal State Fullerton, they comprised one of the largest serial killing sprees in Southern California’s recent history.

However, in the 1980s and ‘90s the term “serial killer” entered the public discourse and terrified people nationwide.

Throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, four other men have been charged in the Superior Court of Orange County; all receiving the death penalty. Some were considered by many to be the worst serial killers in history, one who many consider to be worse than Ted Bundy, a serial rapist and who targeted young women in the ‘70s. Bundy confessed before his execution that he had committed over 30 murders.

William G. Bonin (“The Freeway Killer,” 21 confessed murders, 14 convicted murders in 1983, 13 years spent on death row)

Known as the “Freeway Killer,” William Bonin targeted young boys between the ages of 12 and 19 in the 1980s. He was known for sadistically torturing and raping his victims before killing them.

He confessed that he had killed a total of 21 young men and was convicted of 14 murders in 1983.

According to a New York Times article published Feb. 22, 1996, Bonin was born in Connecticut, raised in an abusive family and spent two years living in an orphanage. He moved to California when he was 14 and later served as a truck driver in the Vietnam War. Following his discharge, he began committing a series of sexual assaults. Bonin was convicted for a number of them and spent time in prison and in a mental facility. Soon after his release in 1978, he began a long series of killings that would terrorize parents and children alike.

He preferred to end his victims’ lives by strangling them with their own T-shirt, leaving a large bruise around their neck, marking his handiwork.

According to the victims’ families, who saw Bonin during the trials, he did not show remorse. Instead, he seemed to enjoy the emotional pain that he caused among the family members.

Lavada Gifford, the mother of one of the victims, said in an interview with a San Francisco Chronicle reporter that Bonin had described how much fun he had killing her son Sean “because he was such a screamer.”

Bonin was the third prisoner to be executed in California since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977, and the first man to die by lethal injection since death by gas chamber was found to be a cruel and unusual punishment in 1994.

Charles Ng (Thought to have killed 19, convicted of 11 murders in 1998, took 13 years to bring him to trial in the U.S.)

In a video that was principle to Ng’s conviction in 1999, he said to a victim that he was about to execute, “You can cry and stuff like the rest of them. It wont do you any good. We are pretty cold-hearted.”

In a biography comprised from the information that Ng and his supporters posted on CCADP.org, Ng calls his trial and subsequent conviction, “a travesty and outrage of mistreatment and miscarriage of justice.”

Born in 1960 in Hong Kong, Ng is the only Chinese prisoner on death row at San Quentin State Prison. He was convicted of 11 counts of first degree murder for killings committed throughout the 1980s. He served as an infantryman in the United States Marine Corps and, according to a book published by Don Lasseter on the killings of Ng and his accomplice, Leonard Lake, Ng was dishonorably discharged when he was caught stealing machine guns and heavy weaponry.

Ng and his partner are suspected of murdering up to 25 victims at Lake’s ranch in Calaveras County, which lies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. According to an article in The Scotsman, when police raided the ranch they found 45 pounds of burned bone fragments, jewelry and clothing thought to belong to the victims, a dead body in a sleeping bag, a videotape of two women being tortured and a six-by-three-foot cinder block bunker with a two-way mirror looking in.

Ng was taken into custody in 1985 in Calgary, Canada, starting a 13-year ordeal that would keep Ng out of California courts until 1998. In order to avoid extradition to the U.S., Ng used the threat of the death penalty to delay his U.S. trial by six years until Canada’s highest court finally ordered the extradition. Also being charged in Canada, Ng sued nine separate court-appointed defense lawyers for malpractice. His case was eventually closed in Canada, eliminating a large amount of evidence that would have been useful in his trial and conviction in Orange County.

Ng currently takes part in activities such as “origami, spirituality, self-study, exercises, writing, reading and drawing.” He is currently looking for a pen pal with whom he can ”build an enduring and meaningful companionship with — someone with whom I can share good times, bad times, life, thoughts, feelings, experiences and passions from this dark hole of humanity,” according to the article.

Alejandro Avila (Convicted of the murder of a 5-year-old girl in 2002, sentenced to death July 22, 2005)

Authorities allege that Alejandro Avila, 27, could have become a serial rapist had they not caught him within three days of the murder of 5-year-old girl, Samantha Runnion.

According to an article in the Sunday Mail, Runnion was abducted while playing with her friend outside her home. Her naked body was found miles away on a trail near Lake Elsinore.
A joint task force of FBI, Los Angeles Police and Orange County Sheriff officers arrested Avila in his apartment complex, which was just miles from his victim’s home. The jury found Avila guilty of kidnapping, sexual assault and special circumstances.

He was sentenced to death in July of 2002 and is currently on death row.

Rodney Alcala (“The Dating Game Killer,” convicted in 2010 for the murder of four women and a 12-year-old girl, currently under indictment for two murders in New York)

With an IQ of 160, equal to Albert Einstein’s, and a personality that a New York investigator described as personable in an interview with a New York Post reporter, Rodney Alcala is considered to be one of the worst serial killers in history.

“This guy is the devil,” the investigator said.

Prosecutor for the Orange County District Attorney Matt Murphy said, “the man took a delight in killing.”

When asked by prosecutors if he had killed more women, Alcala merely smiled.

After Alcala was convicted of five murders, a stash of hundreds of photos found in a Seattle storage facility could link Alcala with dozens of other murders. Investigators suspect that he has been on the hunt for 30 years. He is also in the process of being indicted for the murder of two women in New York.

As a photographer, Alcala would entice his victims with smooth words and offers to take their photos. He would then assault them, rape them and toy with them until he finally killed them. He would strangle his victims until they fell unconscious, wait until they revived and then strangle them again. Sometimes he would do this repeatedly.

He was even a contestant on The Dating Game, and won with his charm and good looks. However, the woman did not go on a date with him, and his appearance on the show is what allowed an Orange County detective to arrest him, according to the New York Post.

He is currently on death row in San Quentin State Prison.

About Anders Howmann

Anders is a senior Print Journalism major at CSUF. He has been working as a staff writer and news editor at the Daily Titan for three semesters. As a staff writer, he covered campus crime, large crimes such as the beating of Kelly Thomas, the arrest of the Orange County serial killer Itzcoatl Ocampo, and ASI politics on campus. When he isn’t in the newsroom, he is usually running through the hills of Fullerton and Brea. When he graduates he hopes to work as a reporter covering the video games and electronics industries.