Kenneth Bianchi: The Hillside Strangler

Follow in the footsteps of the LAPD as they discover that a trail of 10 strangled bodies in the Los Angeles hillsides was not the work of a serial killer, but that of two murderers out on a killing spree.

Kenneth Alessio Bianchi was born in Rochester, New York on 22 May 1951, to an alcoholic prostitute mother, who gave him up for adoption at birth. He was adopted by Frances Bianchi when he was three months old.

Bianchi showed early signs of the problems that dominated his later life: he was an inveterate liar, subject to violent temper tantrums and a poor scholar, despite above-average intelligence. Showing manipulative skills early on, he was always the instigator of bad behaviour, and his foster mother, Frances, attempted to curb his behaviour by sending him to a private Catholic school. He exhibited some flair at artistic writing, but the strict religious regime seems to have coloured his expectations of women, and he would spend his life continually disappointed that most women he met failed to meet his rigorous standards of Catholic purity. Finding out the truth about his abandonment by his birth mother can only have added to his distorted view of women in general.

Following the death of his foster father, when he was 13, Frances was forced to go to work to support them, and he returned to the public school system, where he was an unexceptional student. Following graduation, he was married in 1971, but immaturity on the part of both partners resulted in its annulment 8 months later.

Bianchi had harboured a desire to be a police officer since childhood, and took courses in police science and psychology at a community college to further this goal, but his poor application saw him drop out before graduation. A job application at the local sheriff’s department was rejected, so he took work as a security guard. With a constant eye for the easy route, he stole from his employers, which caused him to move jobs frequently. Finally, aged 26 and thoroughly disillusioned with his life in Rochester, he resolved to relocate to Los Angeles in late 1975.  He moved in with his elder cousin, Angelo Buono, sparking a deadly relationship that set in motion a chain of events that saw the two of them eventually prosecuted as the notorious serial killers who became known in the media as the “Hillside Stranglers”.

Angelo Buono was a brutal, sadistic man, with a dominant personality. He had a history of sexual violence, and made a profound impression on Bianchi, who was 17 years his junior. Bianchi sought a position with the LAPD once in Los Angeles, but was again unsuccessful; when he did find a clerical job he was soon hopelessly over-extended financially.

Bianchi meet Kelli Boyd, in 1976, who became his long-term girlfriend, but she was unhappy with Bianchi’s lack of financial responsibility, and Bianchi took steps to rectify this, again seeking an easy route. He set himself up as a psychological counsellor, but had no professional qualifications; when Boyd discovered this she was furious.

He then turned to cousin Buono, himself financially secure, with his own car upholstery business, who persuaded Bianchi that they could make money by setting up as pimps, with a string of prostitutes, using Bianchi’s charm and Buono’s contacts.