How Many Victims Did 'Freeway Killer' William Bonin Really Have?

The fear of being lured or forced into a vehicle by a stranger is a nightmare scenario that the parents of many young boys and girls embed into the minds of their offspring. What might be statistically considered an anomaly today was certainly a horrifying reality in southern California in the 1970s. Three separate "Freeway Killers" were roaming the streets, kidnapping and murdering youth. The three serial killers, Patrick Kearney, Randy Kraft, and William Bonin, terrorized communities for nearly a decade. While none of the three were linked together, they amassed a possible death toll of over 130 victims between them (via Oxygen). 

Though all three were ruthless killers, Bonin had an M.O. that stood out from his contemporaries. Most serial killers work alone, but Bonin was aided in his crimes by four separate accomplices. While it could be argued that Bonin was the mastermind behind the murders in which he was later convicted, the courts found that Vernon Butts, Gregory Miley, James Munro, and William Pugh were all complicit in the kidnappings, rapes, and murders that Bonin involved them in (via Military History). 

The abductions begin

The "Freeway Killer" William Bonin was convicted in two separate trials of murdering 14 young men and boys and given a death sentence for each one of his victims. This murder spree took place over 10 months and could have continued had it not been for the surveillance and effective detective work of police.

Seventeen-year-old Marcus Grabs was abducted on August 5, 1979. Bonin stabbed the German exchange student to death after picking him up while Grabs was hitchhiking. Grabs was found with a cord around his neck and 77 stab wounds (via Murderpedia). 

Donald Hyden was murdered by Bonin on August 27. The 15-year-old's raped and strangled body was discovered in a dumpster. Only two weeks later, on September 9, 17-year-old David Murillo was abducted while walking to a movie theater. His naked body was found three days later. Murillo had been raped and strangled to death.

Dennis Frank Fox was Bonin's next victim. He was strangled to death on December 2, 1979. He would be Bonin's last known victim of that year (via Military History). 

Bonin took two victims in a single day — twice

On February 3, 1980, William Bonin and accomplice Gregory Miley abducted two teenagers. The first, Charles Miranda, was picked up and solicited for sex by Bonin. After he was strangled to death by Bonin, his killer reportedly remarked to Miley, "I'm horny again. I need another" (via UPI). The pair dumped Miranda's body in an alley and set their sights on another. They found 12-year-old James McCabe waiting for a bus bound for Disneyland. After forcing him into Bonin's van, Bonin and Miley strangled the young boy to death.

Six weeks later, on March 14, Ronald Gatlin was lured into Bonin's van, where he met his fate. Bonin beat him into submission before strangling him to death. Three other teens were killed by Bonin that month, including Harry Todd Turner, who was only 14. Bonin again killed two teens in one day on March 22, when he ended the lives of 15-year-old Russell Rugh and 14-year-old Glenn Barker (via Murderpedia). 

In April, Bonin used a T-shirt to strangle 16-year-old Steven Wood on the 10. Darin Lee Kendrick was stabbed to death with an ice pick on April 29.

Lawrence Sharp and Steven Jay Wells were the final two known victims of Bonin. Each was found off L.A. freeways after being raped and strangled to death.

Suspected in 44 different murders

The murders that Bonin was convicted of might not be an entirely accurate portrayal of his total death count. Convicted of killing 14, Bonin confessed to upward of 21 different murders. According to the San Francisco Gate, he was suspected in a total of 44.

The official death count of 14 will probably have to stand. While thought to be behind the murders of many more, Bonin never offered any additional confessions. He was put to death on February 23, 1996. Bonin was the first inmate to be executed in the state of California by lethal injection. Gov. Pete Wilson noted the horrendous nature of Bonin's crimes and stated that Bonin was "a poster child for capital punishment."

All That's Interesting tells us that of Bonin's four accomplices, two have met ill-fated ends. Butts hung himself in a jail cell while awaiting trial for murder, and Gregory Miley was beaten to death in prison. Munro is still incarcerated for second-degree murder charges, while William Pugh went free after serving four years for a single voluntary manslaughter charge.