The serial killing duo of Bittaker and Norris let their fantasies of sexual violence become a reality that they soon lived for, spending all their time driving in their van looking for their next victim.
Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash
The Tool Box killers had met in California Men?s Colony prison in 1977. There the two realized that they shared a common interest in sexual violence. They would start their stalking of prey in February of 1979, building up to their first victim in June, Lucinda Lynn Schaefer.
They cooled off for two weeks when they grabbed Andrea Joy Hall while she was hitchhiking the Pacific Coast Highway.
Next would be Jackie Doris Gilliam and Jacqueline Leah Lamp. The Toy Box Killers would find them sitting on a bus stop bench in Hermosa Beach.
On October 31, 1979, the Tool Box Killers would abduct 16-year-old Shirley Lynette Ledford.
Shirley had been at a Halloween party in the Sunland-Tujunga area of Los Angeles. She had planned on hitchhiking home while standing outside of a gas station two men in a van pulled up. Shirley recognized the one Lawrence Bittaker. He was a regular at the restaurant she worked at as a waitress.
The other man was Roy Norris, he?s who offered her marijuana after she got in the van, but she refused.
Lawrence Bittaker (left) and Roy Norris (right) | WikiMediaCommons
Bittaker was driving and took them to a secluded street. Before Shirley knew what was happening, Norris had pulled a knife and was binding her with construction tape, then shoved a gag in her mouth.
Norris then got behind the wheel and started to drive around the area, while Bittaker began to torture Shirley for over an hour.
First, Bittaker started slapping and mocking Shirley, followed by beating her with his fist. While he was beating her, he kept screaming at her, ?say something.? If she cried in response to the pain, he would yell, ?scream louder.?
?What?s the matter? Don?t you like to scream??
Shirley was crying and begging for Bittaker to stop, ?No, don?t touch me.? Her pleas only got Bittaker more excited, where he continued to order her to scream louder.
He grabbed a hammer and started hitting her, between bouts of punching her breast with his fist.
Bittaker raped and sodomized her repeatedly, and used pliers on her genitals to inflict even more pain.
In the recording that Bittaker and Norris made, you can hear the sound of the tools behind put in and brought out of the toolbox while Shirley begs for it to stop.
And Norris, he said how he could hear the screams as he continued to drive around, waiting for his turn.
Norris goes into the back of the van and starts taunting Shirley to scream again. ?Go ahead and scream, or I?ll make you scream.?
Shirley, desperate for her pain to end, begs, ?I?ll scream if you stop hitting me.? Norris encouraged her to continue until he tells her to stop.
The next sound that can be heard on the recording is Norris grabbing the sledgehammer from the toolbox. Followed by Shirley, ?Oh no!?
He struck her in the elbow. She cries out that he broke her elbow. ?Don?t hit me again.? Then you can hear her yell, ?No!?
Norris then hits her in the elbow 25 times in a row before he asks, ?What are you sniveling about??
It?s been nearly two hours since Shirley was standing in front of that gas station looking for a ride home. And now her torturers seem to be done with her. Norris takes a wire coat hanger and wraps it around her neck, tightening it with pliers.
Norris would say later that Shirley hardly responded to the strangulation, but she did die with her eyes wide open.
Bittaker decided they should dump her body in someone?s yard so that they could enjoy the press?s reaction to their work. They found a house in Sunland and discarded her body in a bed of ivy on the front lawn. A jogger out the next morning would spot her body.
An autopsy would show the violent sexual assaults she suffered, along with the multiple blunt force trauma. Her whole body bore the marks of her attack. She had trauma to the face, head, breast, and her left elbow had multiple fractures. Her genitalia and rectum were torn, she had a puncture wound to her hand, and her one finger had been slashed.
Eventually, the pair would be arrested, and their recordings would be found. Bittaker would take the stance that the tape showed a consensual threesome having fun.
Norris seemed to revel in the reliving of the crimes by listening to the recordings. He had this to say.We?ve all heard women scream in horror films ? still, we know that no-one is really screaming. Why? Simply because an actress can?t produce some sounds that convince us that something vile and heinous is happening. If you ever heard that tape, there is just no possible way that you?d not begin crying and trembling. I doubt you could listen to more than a full sixty seconds of it.
Roy Norris pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, two counts of rape, and one count of robbery on March 18, 1980.
He might have pleaded guilty, but it was just for a reduced sentenced, he felt no remorse. A parole officer who spoke with him said Norris ?never exhibited any remorse or compassion about his brutal acts towards the victims . . . the defendant appears compulsive in his need to inflict pain and torture upon women.? He testified that Norris ?can realistically be regarded as an extreme sociopath, who depraved pattern of behavior is beyond rehabilitation.?
Norris was sentenced to 45 years to life imprisonment and would be first eligible for parole in 2010. He was denied parole.
Lawrence Bittaker went to trial for five counts of first-degree murder, one charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, five charges of kidnapping, nine charges of rape, two charges of forcible oral copulation, one charge of sodomy, and three charges of unlawful possession of a firearm. Bittaker was found guilty on all charges.
After deliberation, he was given the death sentence for the five counts of murder.
Both killers are still locked up in the state of California, and hopefully, for women everywhere, that?s where the two of them will stay.