The Story of the Hillside Stranglers, the Serial Killer Duo

In the 1970s and 1980s, Los Angeles was home to over 20 serial killers operating within just miles of each other. This left the city gripped in fear as the nicknames that the media sensationalized became recognized by everyone.

One of the most famous nicknames was “The Hillside Strangler,” known for strangling his victims and leaving them on hills around the city. By the time the case was resolved, however, it was proven that there were two stranglers: Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono.

Cousins, Angelo Buono (left), and Kenneth Bianchi (right) – The Hillside Stranglers. From WickedHorror

Kenneth Bianchi

Kenneth Bianchi was born in Rochester, New York in 1951 to a 17-year-old sex worker, who gave him up for adoption shortly after his birth. He was adopted by Nicholas and Frances Bianchi a few months later.

According to his parents, Bianchi was troubled from an early age. As a young child, he was diagnosed with absence seizures, where he would slip out of consciousness and his eyes would roll back in his head.

Paired with an involuntary urination issue, Bianchi was subject to torment from his peers for being different. He demonstrated fits of anger and lying even as a young child, with his mother saying he would lie since he began to speak.

Despite having above-average intelligence, Bianchi failed to succeed in school. He was later diagnosed with passive-aggressive personality disorder. This personality disorder is no longer used by psychiatrists but was marked by resistance to performing adequately under any circumstance.

His relationship with his mother was tenuous at best and when his father passed away in 1963 his behavior worsened. 

Despite his deviant behavior, Bianchi decided he wanted to be a police officer but left community college after one semester. His interest in law enforcement would continue to follow him throughout his life, and would in fact contribute to his eventual incarceration.

During this time, it is suspected that Bianchi was also responsible for the Alphabet Murders in Rochester. This suspicion was due to his proximity to the deaths and the similar modem operandi as Bianchi would later demonstrate in the Hillside Strangler cases. 

Angelo Buono

In 1976 he moved to Los Angeles to stay with his cousin, Angelo Buono. Less is known about Angelo Buono’s upbringing.

He was also born in Rochester, New York. By the time Bianchi met up with him in Los Angeles, Buono had accumulated a long criminal record.

He managed to convince Bianchi to act as a pimp with him. He had two young women that he basically held prisoner and lent out to those who would pay.

After a few months, the two women finally sought to escape, even gaining help from a prominent Los Angeles lawyer. Once the pair lost the two women they pimped out, they were forced to find new women for their sick source of income and began searching the city to find new sex workers.

The Hillside Strangler

In a twist of irony, the two men impersonated police officers to learn about other sex workers. They eventually found a replacement for the two young women who had escaped.

As they sought out new customers, they learned from a sex worker named Deborah Noble that there was a list of men who frequently paid for their services floating around. Noble and her friend, another sex worker Yolanda Washington, sold the list to Buono and Bianchi.

But within a few weeks, the men learned that the list was a dud. They sought to get revenge on the women who had lied to them.

While they could not find Deborah, Yolanda had unfortunately shared with them the stretch of Sunset Boulevard where she usually worked. Yolanda would become the first victim of the murderous pair.

They abducted her, sexually assaulted her, and then strangled her with rope. Her body was then found on a hillside by the Ventura Freeway, with faint markings from the rope still visible on her neck, wrists, and ankles. 

The two men went on to kill nearly a dozen other women in the Los Angeles area. They typically used the cover of police officers who needed to take in their victims for questioning.

They would then torture and sexually abuse their victims before killing them, cleaning up the evidence, and dumping their bodies.  Their first two victims were sex workers, which led the police to not pursue the investigation fully.

They deemed their deaths an occupational hazard and did not think much of it despite the clear connection between the two. It was not until they began killing dancers and actresses that the police realized the victim demographic was just young women, not sex workers. 

Avoiding the Law

Buono and Bianchi easily got away with the killings for a time due to their police cover. But Bianchi’s interest in law enforcement soon became a liability.

He would ride around with members of the Los Angeles Police Department to see what their job was like, even discussing the murders with them. Over time they began to grow suspicious and ask Bianchi about the murders.

Even his own friends and girlfriend began to notice odd connections. When Bianchi told Buono about the police’s questions, he threatened Bianchi and told him to get out of town. 

Bianchi then fled Los Angeles to live with Kelli Boyd in Bellingham, Washington. The couple had recently had a child together. Boyd’s move to Washington coincided well with the collapse of Bianchi’s partnership with his cousin and the increasing pressure from police about the Hillside Strangler murders.

For unknown reasons, Bianchi told Boyd that he was dying from cancer. This was something that she worried about constantly for years until she learned that it was a lie from a news article while Bianchi was in prison. 

After moving, Bianchi once again turned towards law enforcement for a career. He got a job as a security guard in the Whatcom Sheriff’s Office Reserve.

He was detailed to watch a house whose owners were in Europe for a period and whose burglar alarm was broken. During this time he convinced two college students from the local Western Washington University to come to the house. He murdered both of them by strangulation.

Without Buono with him to cover his tracks, Bianchi left a clear path for police to follow as he disposed of the bodies in the woods. Police picked up Bianchi and were easily able to tie him to the victims in Los Angeles due to his California license and a similar modem operandi as the Hillside Strangler cases. 

Bianchi on October 20, 1979, in the L.A. County Jail

The Hillside Stranglers on Trial

Bianchi went to trial for the Hillside Strangler killings as the sole perpetrator at first. Police were unaware of Buono’s involvement.

As an early defense, Bianchi attempted to plead insanity and claimed he had multiple personalities. Investigators believe Bianchi had seen the newly released film Sibyl which depicted a woman suffering from multiple personalities and believed that would be easy to simulate.

He began to describe to the prosecutors that his alternate personality, Steve, was responsible for the murders. The psychiatrist on hand noticed that Steve used “he” rather than “I” when he was talking about himself.

After bringing in two more psychiatrists, Dr. Martin Orne was able to trick Bianchi by telling him that people with multiple personalities usually had at least three. In the next session, Bianchi produced three new personalities and eventually came clean.

The name Steven Walker that Bianchi used for his alternate personality actually came from someone whose identity he attempted to steal during his foray into practicing psychology. His knowledge of the disorder came from the plethora of books he had while trying to learn for his fake practice. 

Mugshot of Angelo Buono

Bianchi Gives Up Buono

To avoid capital punishment, Bianchi gave up Buono as his partner in the killings. While he tried to remain as contradictory and unhelpful as possible, he still gave law enforcement enough information to arrest Buono.

Buono’s case would turn into the longest and most expensive case in California history to that point because of Bianchi’s meddling. The original case was built so strongly on Bianchi, that his contradictory testimony made it nearly impossible to successfully indict

Then, the trial was moved to a new judge who refused to allow Buono to walk, sentencing him to life in prison. He passed away in 2002 from a heart attack. 

In 1980, he began a relationship with Veronica Compton, a woman who conspired with Bianchi to prove his innocence. She testified in his trial and even attempted to strangle another woman in a motel to make it seem like the Hillside Strangler was still on the loose.

She was arrested and served jail time until 2003. Bianchi was sentenced to six total life sentences, with a chance for parole, although all of his parole requests have been denied. His next chance for parole will be in 2025. 


“Kenneth Bianchi.” RocWiki, 2023. Editors. “Kenneth Bianchi.”, October 3, 2023.

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