Here are California’s most-haunting serial killers
DNA sleuthing helped crack the case of the Golden State Killer, police say, unveiling a man suspected to be the rapist and murderer whose crimes terrorized communities across California for about 10 years. From 1976 to 1986, the killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, terrorized both Northern and Southern California.
But the Golden State Killer wasn't the only serial killer operating in California — or the West — around that time, or years after. Here is a look at the most infamous serial killers in California, and how they were finally caught.
Lonnie David Franklin Jr.
Also known as: The Grim Sleeper
What he did: He targeted young black women in South Los Angeles. Most of his victims were killed in the Manchester Square neighborhood and most of the women were shot, but one was strangled, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Victims: Believed to have killed as many as 25 victims. He was convicted of 10 murders.
Caught: 2010. He was found via a familial DNA match; DNA at a crime scene was similar to his son's, who had been convicted on a felony weapons charge and had to give a DNA swab. Authorities got Franklin's DNA off a discarded pizza crust.
Kenneth Alessio Bianchi and Angelo Anthony Buono Jr.
Also known as: The Hillside Stranglers
What they did: They were convicted of kidnapping, torturing, raping and killing 10 women. Their moniker came because many of their victims were found dumped on hillsides in the Los Angeles area.
Victims: 10; all women.
Caught: 1979. Bianchi was arrested in 1979 for murdering two women in Washington state; he confessed and agreed to testify against Buono.
Also known as: The Night Stalker
What he did: Ramirez would generally break into Los Angeles-area homes to murder and rape before ransacking the home. He used a variety of weapons.
Caught: 1985. During his highly-publicized spree, Ramirez tried to steal a car in East Los Angeles and was recognized by people in the neighborhood, who beat and detained him until he was arrested.
Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris
Also known as: The Tool Box Killers
Dates: June 1979-October 1979
What they did: The pair, who met at California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, got their moniker because the implements they used to torture and kill their victims were commonly found in a household toolbox. The men murdered their victims and discarded the bodies in the San Gabriel Mountains.Victims: Five victims; all teenage girls.
Caught: 1979. Norris bragged about the murders to an ex-convict he knew, who went to police.
John Floyd Thomas Jr.
Also known as: The Westside Rapist
What he did: He targeted and terrorized primarily elderly white women from Inglewood to Claremont, in the Los Angeles area.
Victims: At least 7, but suspected of between 10 and 15 more murders; all of his victims were women.
Caught: 2009. Thomas gave a DNA sample to authorities in 2008 as part of an effort to assemble an offender database. He was arrested in July 2009 after it matched DNA found at three of the crime scenes.
Chester Dewayne Turner
Also known as: The Southside Slayer
What he did: He targeted women in an area known as the Figueroa Corridor, a section of Figueroa Street between Gage Avenue and 108th Street in South Los Angeles. At that time, the area was known for prostitution, drugs and violence. Many of his victims were raped and strangled.
Victims: About 15 victims; all women.
Caught: 2003, by DNA evidence.
Also known as: Scorecard Killer, Southern California Strangler, Freeway Killer
What he did: Kraft, who lived in Long Beach, raped, tortured and mutilated men in Southern California and Oregon. He got the "Scorecard" moniker from a coded list investigators found that referred to his victims. He's also known as the Freeway Killer because many of his victims' bodies were found near freeways.
Victims: at least 16; all young men.
Caught: 1983. CHP officers pulled him over in Mission Viejo and found a dead man, 25-year-old Terry Lee Gambrel, in the passenger seat.
William George Bonin
Also known as: The Freeway Killer
What he did: Bonin raped, tortured and murdered boys in Los Angeles County and Orange County. He received his moniker because many of his victims' bodies were found along freeways.
Victims: At least 21; all boys and young men. Bonin was convicted of 14 of the murders.
Caught: 1980. Police arrested him while he was raping a 17-year-old runaway from Orange County.
Joseph James DeAngelo (suspected)
Also known as: Golden State Killer, East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, EAR/ONS, Diamond Knot Killer, Visalia Ransacker
What he did: DeAngelo was arrested in April 2018 on suspicion of being the Golden State Killer — a name for the killer also known as the East Area Rapist, the Visalia Ransacker and the Original Night Stalker. The East Area Rapist operated in the Sacramento area and the Bay Area in the late 1970s; the Original Night Stalker raped and murdered victims in Southern California, in cities including Ventura, Dana Point and Irvine, from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.
Victims: 12 murder victims, raped upwards of 45 women.
Caught: 2018. DNA evidence from one of the crime scenes positively matched one of DeAngelo's relatives via a genealogical website, leading authorities to DeAngelo.
Charles Ng and Leonard Lake
What they did: They raped, tortured and murdered their victims at Lake's cabin in Calaveras County.
Victims: Approximately between 11 and 25 victims: men, women and even babies.
Caught: 1985. The men were caught shoplifting in South San Francisco. Investigators then found evidence at the cabin.
Also known as: The Co-Ed Killer, The Co-Ed Butcher
What he did: He primarily targeted and murdered young female hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz area.
Victims: 8 victims; all women, and including his mother.
Caught: 1973. Kemper called police and confessed to the murders.
Also known as: The Yosemite Killer
Dates: February-July 1999
What he did: Stayner was a handyman at the Cedar Lodge motel in El Portal, just outside Yosemite National Park. Three of his victims stayed at the motel.
Victims: 4 victims; all women.
Caught: 1999; he confessed to the murders.
Dates: February-May 1971
What he did: Corona hacked and stabbed farmworkers and buried them along the Feather River near Marysville.
Victims: 25 victims; all farm laborers.
Caught: 1971. A farmer who had contracted with Corona found a shallow grave in a peach orchard in Sutter County. Corona was arrested soon after, and authorities found evidence of the murders at his house.
Notes on other infamous California killers
Charles Manson is typically included as a serial killer for his role in the murders of seven victims, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, in 1969. Manson orchestrated the killings, but did not take part; he directed his followers to murder. Manson and four of his followers were convicted in 1971. Manson died in 2017, while serving a life sentence at California State Prison in Corcoran.
The Zodiac Killer terrorized Northern California from December 1968 through October 1969, attacking seven victims and killing five, though the killer claimed responsibility for more deaths in letters. The killer has never been caught, though there are hopes that the same DNA sleuthing that revealed the Golden State Killer suspect will help catch the Zodiac.
Other well-known serial killers in the West
Also known as: The Green River Killer
What he did: Ridgway targeted and strangled women and girls in the Seattle area; many of whom were on the margins of society. Several victims were dumped in or along the Green River.
Victims: Convicted of 49 murders, but has confessed to 71. All victims were women and girls.
Caught: 2001, via DNA evidence.
What he did: Bundy confessed to murdering women in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, California, Colorado and Florida. He typically would approach his victims in public, either faking an injury or disability or impersonating an authority figure, before kidnapping, assaulting and killing them. Sometimes he would break into a home and beat his victims to death.
Victims: Upwards of 30 victims; all women and girls.
Caught: 1975 — the first time — when he was arrested for evading a police officer and police found handcuffs, a ski mask and pantyhose with eyes cut out, according to Deseret News. He escaped a few times, but was ultimately put in prison and sentenced to death for multiple murders.