Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Patrick W. Kearney: The Trash Bag Murderers

A Murderous Time

Kenneth Bianchi
Kenneth Bianchi

Patrick Kearney wasn't the only one killing young people in southern California during this time. The Hillside Stranglers, Angelo Buono and his equally psychopathic cousin, Kenneth Bianchi, were plying their trade in the same area at the same time, abducting young girls, torturing them, strangling them, and dumping their bodies wherever convenient. The famed and still-unidentified Zodiac Killer was on the loose, taunting police and reigning terror with his random murders. The Zebra Killers were randomly hacking people to death with machetes in San Francisco, and closer to home, Randy Kraft was proving to be one of the all-time most demented killers of gays, with his incomprehensible sadistic torture methods. William Bonin, with his sidekick Vernon Butts, was also committing horribly grisly murders on young gay men and discarding the remains alongside the freeways.

Angelo Buono
Angelo Buono

No wonder the police were confused. They didn't know how many serial killers they had, and they didn't know how many of them were copycat murders.

But as the body count rose, they noticed some marked differences in the modus operandi. One murderer, later to be identified as Randy Kraft, routinely picked up hitchhikers, gays, Marines, or whoever caught his fancy. He then drugged them, tortured them for hours and ended up by castrating them and shoving whatever was handy — broom handle, tree branch, pole, the victim's own genitals or underwear — into their rectums. He usually did this while the victim was still alive and screaming.

William Bonin strangled his victims with rope, cord, or the victim's T-shirt, before raping the corpses and throwing the bodies to the side of the road.

But one killer stood out from the others by carefully dismembering his victims, cleaning them up, and tidily bagging them. The press called these the "trash bag murders." The homicide cops called them the "fag in a bag" murders.


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