|“||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|
Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker (September 27, 1940 – December 13, 2019) and Roy Lewis Norris (born February 5, 1948), were two American serial killers and rapists who kidnapped, raped, tortured, and killed five teenage girls in Southern California over a period of five months in 1979.
Described by FBI Special Agent John E. Douglas as the most disturbing individual for whom he has ever created a criminal profile, Bittaker was sentenced to death for five murders on March 24, 1981, but died of natural causes while incarcerated on death row at San Quentin State Prison in December 2019.
Norris accepted a plea bargain whereby he agreed to testify against Bittaker and was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 7, 1980, with possibility of parole after serving 30 years. Norris is currently incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.
Bittaker and Norris became known as the "Tool Box Killers" due to the fact the majority of instruments used to torture and murder their victims, such as pliers, ice picks, and sledgehammers, were items normally stored inside a household toolbox.
Bittaker and Norris hatched a plan to rape and kill local girls. Bittaker bought a 1977 GMC cargo van, which they came to call "Murder Mack", because it had no side windows in the back and a large passenger side sliding door. From February to June 1979, they gave their plan a test run. They drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, stopped at beaches, talked to girls and took their pictures. When the pair was arrested, police found close to 500 pictures among Bittaker's possessions.
On June 24, 1979, they claimed their first victim, 16-year-old Cindy Schaeffer. They picked her up near Redondo Beach, Norris forcing her into the van. He duct taped her mouth and bound her arms and legs. Bittaker drove the van to a fire road on San Gabriel Mountains out of sight of the highway. Both men raped the girl, and then Bittaker wrapped a straightened wire coat hanger around her neck. He tightened the wire with vise-grip pliers, strangling her to death. They wrapped her body in a plastic shower curtain and dumped it in a nearby canyon.
They picked up 18-year-old Andrea Hall hitchhiking on July 8. Norris hid in the back of the van and Bittaker talked her into the van. After she had gotten in Bittaker offered her a drink from a cooler in the back. When she went to the cooler Norris jumped her, bound her arms and legs, and taped her mouth shut. They took her to the fire road and raped her several times. Bittaker dragged her from the van, and Norris left to get beer. When he returned, Hall was gone, and Bittaker was looking at Polaroid pictures of her. He had stabbed her with an ice pick in both ears and strangled her. He threw her body over a cliff.
On September 3, while driving near Hermosa Beach, the pair spotted two girls on a bus stop bench and offered them a ride. Jackie Gilliam, 15, and Leah Lamp, 13, accepted their offer. The girls became suspicious when Bittaker parked the van near a suburban tennis court. Lamp went for the back door and Norris hit her in the head with a bat. A short scuffle broke out, but with Bittaker's help Norris subdued the teens and bound them both. Bittaker then drove them to the fire road. They kept the girls alive for two days, raping and torturing them the whole time with a wire hanger and pliers. They even made an audio recording of the events. Eventually Bittaker stabbed Gilliam in both ears with an ice pick. When she didn't succumb to her injuries, both men took turns strangling her until she died. Bittaker then strangled Lamp while Norris hit her in the head with a sledgehammer seven times. They dumped the bodies over a cliff, the ice pick still in Gilliam's head.
They kidnapped Shirley Sanders on September 30, macing her and forcing her into the van. Both raped her, but she escaped. Police had showed her pictures of the men and she had identified the men as Lawrence and Roy.
They kidnapped 16-year-old Lynette Ledford on October 31, raping her and torturing her, while driving around Los Angeles instead of heading to their usual mountain spot. Bittaker stabbed the young girl several times and also tortured her with the pliers. During her torture, her screams and pleas were tape-recorded as Bittaker repeatedly beat her elbows with a sledgehammer, all the time demanding that she not stop screaming; he eventually strangled her with a wire hanger, using the pliers to twist a cinching loop around her throat. Instead of tossing her body over a cliff, they left it on a random lawn in Hermosa Beach to see the local reaction in the newspaper. The body was found the next day and caused quite a stir, being only days since the arrest of "Hillside Strangler" Angelo Buono.
Norris had been telling prison friend Jimmy Dalton all about the murders. Dalton thought the stories were lies until Ledford's body was found. He talked to his lawyer and they went to the Los Angeles Police Department with information about Norris.
At the trial, both Norris and Bittaker were charged with murder, kidnapping, forcible rape, sexual perversion and criminal conspiracy. Bittaker was convicted of rape, torture, kidnapping, and murder on February 17, 1981 and sentenced to death. As of February 2008, Bittaker is still on death row, where he still receives mail, which he signs using his nickname "Pliers" Bittaker. Norris was also sentenced, but was spared a life sentence or being executed in return for his testimony against Bittaker. Norris was denied parole in 2009, and will be eligible in another ten years.