Beginning in 1979, William George Bonin was ultimately responsible for the robbery, rape, torture, and murder of some twenty-one teenage boys. Christened "The Freeway Killer" for his propensity to drop the bodies of his victims along the highway systems of southern California, Bonin did a fairly successful job of whipping Los Angeles parents and civic officials into an absolute panic, prompting a 6:00 pm curfew and the cancellation of the 1980 Olympics in the city. Not exactly something you would expect from a Vietnam veteran declared mentally unfit for work, but it's a mad, mad world, after all.
Mr. Bonin encountered his first serious form of interference with his favorite hobbies in 1969, when he was convicted on multiple counts of kidnapping, sodomy, child molestation and forcible oral copulation, accounting for charges from four separate attacks that took place between November 1968 and January 1969. Bonin was given a tentative diagnosis as being afflicted with a mental disorder and committed to Atascadero State Hospital. This rash decision was rectified, albeit slowly, by May 1974, when he was released on the recommendation of psychiatrists who found him "no longer dangerous." He fulfilled their highest expectations for a solid two years, until he was convicted of kidnapping and raping a fourteen-year old boy, whereupon he was sent back to prison. But by 1978 he was again considered "rehabilitated" by state authorities and paroled back into society. Seven months later, he chalked up his first homicide: that of fourteen-year old Thomas Lundgren.
The preferred modus operandi for Bonin was really quite simple. Behind the wheel of his van, he would locate a young male teenage hitchhiker on the side of the road who caught his fancy, entice him to come inside, convince him to perform sexual acts for money, and then sodomize / torture him until he stopped breathing. He strangled most of his victims, but wasn't above stabbing them to death with knives or ice picks should the occasion call for it.
Bonin's dirty little secret came to an end, however, thanks to a tip from a boy, shall we say, "acquaintence" who noted the unusual quantity of newspaper clippings related to the "Freeway Killer" stuffed in Bonin's glove compartment. Police immediately started round the clock surveillance and hit paydirt on the night of 11 June 1980, where he was caught in the act of sodomizing a youngster in his van. Bingo! He was also booked on suspicion of various murder charges, and held in police custody in lieu of $250,000 bond. Thanks to the confessions of accomplices of his who were also picked up, Bonin was convicted of fourteen murders in two separate trials in Los Angeles, California, and sentenced to death in January of 1982.
Bonin was the first person executed by means of lethal injection in the state of California, on the night of 23 February, 1996. His last meal included two pepperoni and sausage pizzas, three servings of coffee ice cream, and fifteen cans of Coca-Cola. He spent his time waiting to make his big exit by watching "Jeopardy" in his prison cell.
In an ironic postscript, it was discovered shortly after his death that the Social Security Administration had continued to send disability checks in his name after his multiple convictions until the date of his death. Amounting to just under eighty thousand dollars, his mother simply collected the check each month (it was mailed to her house, William's last known address) and used it to pay off her mortgage. Shortly after the error was discovered by the media, the family quickly agreed to repay the amount, while the story helped agitate a nationwide effort to get convicts off welfare rolls.