The Messed Up Truth About The Toolbox Killers

The police originally thought they were looking for just one murderer. Five teenage girls had been raped and murdered. It turned out that authorities were actually dealing with two serial killers in the Los Angeles area, and the killers' MO was gut-wrenching.

According to Mirror, Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris made audio recordings of the moments they raped and killed the women they abducted in their windowless van. FBI profiler John Douglas — who interviewed Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and David Berkowitz (aka Son of Sam), and provided insight to the producers of Silence of the Lambs – said that of all the sadistic cases he worked during his career, the crimes of the Toolbox Killers haunted him the most.

"They made audio tapes of the torture," he said. "They would kick back, open a Guinness, and play it over again. You could hear the screams. It was nauseating, I could only listen to a few seconds." Douglas even sent the tapes to Scott Glenn, who played a character inspired by the profiler for the Hannibal Lecter movies, to give the actor a glimpse into the brutal reality of his work. "He was in tears, he was so emotional. Until then he said he was against the death penalty, but that changed it," Douglas said.

How the toolbox killers got caught

According to the Criminal Minds Fandom wiki, the media had dubbed the suspected murderer "The Toolbox Killer," due to the use of a toolbox to store the torture devices. That name would soon be made plural. Norris sealed his and Bittaker's fates when he bragged about their exploits to a friend from prison, Jimmy Dalton. At first, Dalton thought Norris had been joking, but when a body was found that matched the description of what Norris said they'd done, Dalton told his lawyer, who told the police. They arrested Norris for possession of marijuana, then got Bittaker on charges of abduction and rape. Norris ended up working out a plea deal in which he pinned the brunt of the guilt on Bittaker, who was given the death penalty. As part of his deal, Norris was given 45-years-to-life in prison.

Despite the plea deal, the audio recordings revealed that Norris had taken part in the rapes and murders just as much as Bittaker had. Norris said that horror films cannot compare to the screams on the tapes, "because an actress can't produce some sounds that convince us that something vile and heinous is happening."

According to The Mercury News, Lawrence Bittaker died of natural causes while still on death row at San Quentin State Prison in 2019. He was 79 years old. Having never been granted parole, Roy Norris died while incarcerated two months later, also of natural causes.