Thank you for joining us for the inaugural episode of We Saw The Devil, a podcast where we discuss lesser known cases of true crime and the murderers who perpetrate them. For our first episode, we'll examine the short yet horrific killing spree of Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, also known as The Toolbox Killers.
We Saw the Devil will release episodes every Friday morning. This episode in particular will be posted to both AllHorror's feed and its own, and you can find it on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher Radio and all platforms on which you listen to podcasts. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter, @WeSawtheDevil A website is coming soon. Until then, visit www.all-horror.com for updates.
Sunday, June 24, 1979, was a warm night in Redondo Beach, California when Lucinda "Cindy" Schaefer left a fellowship meeting at a local Presbyterian Church. At approximately 7:46 p.m. she passed two men standing by a silver windowless van who offered her beer and marijuana. She declined their offer and kept walking. The men got back into the van and drove away.Unbeknownst to her, the men drove further down the road and parked, waiting for her. She was two blocks from her grandmother's house when she passed the van a second time. A man reached out from the van's sliding door, grabbed her, and pulled her into the van. The radio's volume was cranked to full blast as the van pulled away from the curb and drove off towards the San Gabriel Mountains.
Cindy was never seen again.
Two weeks later, on July 8th, 18-year-old Andrea Joy Hall was hitchhiking along the Pacific Coast Highway when a silver van slowed to offer her a lift. At the exact same moment, another vehicle, a car, pulled over as well. Given the choice, Andrea accepted the ride from the car. It drove her to her destination, Redondo Beach. But after leaving the first vehicle, the van pulled up alongside her. It had followed them on their route. The man driving the van, who seemed to be the only occupant, commented on the heat and offered her a drink from a cooler in the back. Moments later, the van left the area, once again heading for the nearby mountains.Andrea's body was never found.
On September 3, 1979, two girls sat at a bus stop near Hermosa Beach. The girls, thirteen year old Jacqueline Leah Lamp and fifteen year old Jackie Doris Gilliam, heading to the beach. A silver van turned in at the bus stop and the two men inside offered the girls a ride and marijuana. The girls accepted, climbing into the van. Their desiccated bodies were found at the bottom of a canyon beside a dry river bed on February 9th, 1980. Animals had scattered the remains over hundreds of feet. Despite nature's intervention, their bodies still bore signs of manmade abuse. Leah Lamp's skull had multiple indentations from hammer blows. Jackie Gilliam's skull had an ice pick lodged in it.
On September 30, two men in a van attempted to abduct Jan Mailin but she fought her would be abductors and was able to escape. Later that same day, Robin Robeck was sprayed in the face with mace before being dragged into a van and raped by two men though they later released her. She reported the rape and abduction to police but they were unable to find the perpetrators.On October 31, a sixteen year old girl named Shirley Lynette Ledford stood outside of a gas station, attempting to hitchhike home from a Halloween party. A van, with two men inside, pulled up beside her.. She recognized one of the men as a regular from the restaurant she worked at and accepted their offer of a ride home. The next morning, her naked, tortured, discarded body was found in the ivy in front of a house in a suburban neighborhood. She had been sexually assaulted, received extensive blunt force trauma to her face, head, breasts, and left elbow. Her genitalia and rectum were both torn and her right hand had been slashed.
One month later, a parolee named Joseph Jackson and his attorney met with the Redondo Police Department. Jackson had recently become reacquainted with a man he had been incarcerated with at the California Men's Colony. At first the man, another friend, and Jackson would hang out at the beach and take pictures of the teen girls who congregated there. Eventually, the man told Jackson of his exploits with his other friend, which included the murders of five young women. He also mentioned macing a woman in the face before abducting and raping her. Fearing for his own thirteen and seventeen year old daughters, Jackson contacted his attorney. Detective Paul Bynum was assigned to investigate Jackson's story. He sent an investigator to Oregon to visit Robin Robeck. Without hesitation, she picked Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris from a photo lineup.
Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 1940 and was put up for adoption as an infant. He was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. George Bittaker. George's job of working at aircraft factories took the family throughout the US during his childhood, and Lawrence lived in 4 different states before they finally settled in California.
His first brush with crime was shoplifting at the age of 12. The next four years saw his criminal record grow with more arrests for theft and burglary. In 1957, while he and his family were living in California, he dropped out of high school. At the age of 17, he was arrested for auto theft, evading arrest, and leaving the scene of a hit and run. He was remanded to the California Youth Authority where he remained until he turned 18. When he was released, he found out that his adoptive parents had disowned him and moved to another state.
Roy Lewis Norris was born in Greeley, Colorado, on February 5, 1948. Though he occasionally lived with his parents, he was in and out of foster homes throughout his youth. He claimed, probably truthfully, that he was abused both physically and sexually, while in foster care. When he was 16, and back at home with his birth parents, he visited a female relative. During the visit, he began to talk to her in a sexually suggestive/aggressive way. She insisted he leave and told his dad who in turn threatened to beat him. He then stole his father's car and attempted suicide by injecting air into an artery in his arm. Police picked him up as a runaway and returned him to his parents. These winners told him that he and his sister were never wanted and that they (the parents) planned to divorce when his sister was older. Roy dropped out of high school and joined the Navy. After that he was shipped off to Vietnam. Though he never saw active combat, he did experiment with heroin and pot.
So, how did they meet?
Larry got paroled from the California Youth Authority, and within days, he's arrested for transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines. From there, he's in and out of prison...Oklahoma, Missouri, and California. While in these various prisons he's diagnosed with a genius IQ but also with being highly manipulative and having considerable concealed hostility. Another psychiatrist classified him as a borderline psychopath. He is a "highly manipulative individual unable to acknowledge the consequences of his actions" So they prescribed him anti-psychotic medication and released him. He was arrested a month later. Then paroled. Then arrested. Then paroled. Then arrested. And again. And so on. Seriously. This is 1958-1974. Just in and out within months.
In 1974, he's released from prison. Within a year, he's arrested for assault with attempt to commit murder. A supermarket employee, Gary Louie, watched him steal a steak (we know he has a history of shoplifting). Gary followed him out to the parking lot and politely asked if Larry forgot to pay. Larry, being the calm, cool headed person he is, promptly stabbed Gary in the chest, barely missing his heart. He made a run for it but was brought down by two other supermarket staff. Gary survived so Larry was convicted of the lesser charge of assault with a deadly weapon and sent to California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo.
Now let's catch up to Roy Norris.. In November 1969, Roy was arrested for his first known sexual offense, he tried to force his way into a woman's car. Three months later, he tried to talk his way into a woman's home when she was alone. When she refused, he tried to break down her door. She was able to call the police who arrested him before he could hurt her in any way. Less than three months after that (three is a magic number with Roy, it seems) Roy was diagnosed with a severe schizoid personality and given an administrative discharge from the Navy.
While on bail from trying to break into the woman's home, he attacks a female student at San Diego State University, on the campus grounds. He repeatedly struck her on the back of the head with a rock until she fell to her knees, then he knelt on her lower back and slammed her head against the sidewalk. He was only given five years imprisonment at a state hospital though he was classified as a sex offender.
It's now 1975. Roy Norris has been released from the Atascadero State Hospital. Doctors have declared him "no further danger to others." Three months later (do we see a trend here?) He approached a woman walking home from a restaurant in Redondo Beach and offered her a ride on his motorcycle. She declined so he grabbed her scarf and twisted it around her neck, telling her of his plans to rape her before dragging her into some nearby bushes. Terrified for her life, she didn't resist him. "No further danger to others" The rape was reported to police but it wasn't until the victim saw his motorcycle later and was able to give the license plate to the police that they were able to arrest him. He was tried and sentenced to the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo. It was here that his paths interwines with Lawrence Bittaker. They bonded over jewelry making though Larry saved Roy from being attacked by fellow inmates at least twice, according to Roy. They further cemented their bond over their interest in sexual violence and hatred of women. They developed a shared fantasy of abducting, assaulting, and murdering teenaged girls once they were released from prison.
October 15, 1978, Lawrence Bittaker was released from the California Men's Colony; He found work in Los Angeles as a skilled machinist. It was a good job with a good paycheck. He was popular and known to be charitable.
Three months (THREE MONTHS) after Larry's release, Roy was released from the California Men's Colony. He moved into his mother's home in Redondo Beach and got a job as an electrician. In February of 1979, the two met up in person and agreed to make their prison fantasy a reality.
Norris and Bittaker immediately bought a 1977 Silver GMC cargo van which they nicknamed "The Murder Mac." It had no side or rear windows, and a very large sliding door on the passenger side. For the next four months, they did trial runs where they picked up over 20 hitchhikers, honing their approach. They would talk to girls at the beach and take their pictures. They would pick up hitchhikers and actually take them to their destinations, working on the fluidity of small talk and surface conversations. They also found a secluded area to take their victims: a fire road in the San Gabriel Mountains. Larry broke the locked gate and replaced it with his own lock.
They were ready to kill.
June 24, 1979. The men had no set routine and no particular victim in mind. After they had finished putting a bed in the back of the van, they hid tools, clothes, and a cooler full of beer and soft drinks beneath it. They headed to the beach and hung out for the day.
Nearing 8 p.m., Roy spotted Cindy Schaefer walking down a side street. After she initially turned them down and headed on to grandma's house, they drove further up the road and waited for her. Roy opened the sliding side door and leaned back into it so he wouldn't be visible. When she passed, Roy pulled her in and slammed the door. Her mouth was duct-taped and her feet were bound. The radio volume was used to cover any noise. They drove to the fire road in the mountains. The men took turns raping her. She asked if they were going to kill her and Roy said "no." She must have realized they were lying because she asked for time to pray first. Larry tried to strangle her but claims he couldn't finish. While Roy took over, Larry went to the front of the van and threw up. He had to pick his false teeth up out of his vomit. Roy tried to finish the job but Cindy began to convulse so he wrapped a wire coat hanger around her neck and twisted it with pliers until she stopped moving. She never had a chance to pray. They wrapped her in a shower curtain and threw her down a canyon.
Two weeks later, when Andrea Hall chose to accept a ride from a small passenger car, it should have saved her life. Instead, Bittaker and Norris followed the car that picked her up. Roy hid in the back of the van, under the bed, to make her think Larry was on his own. When she accepted his offer of a cold drink, and went in the back to get it, Roy jumped out from under the bed. Though she fought him, he was able to bound and gag her. They drove her farther up into the San Gabriel Mountains than Cindy Schaefer. She was repeatedly raped and forced to pose for polaroid photos. She was killed when Lawrence Bittaker drove with an icepick through both of her ears and strangled her. Like Schaefer, Andrea Hall's body was dumped off of a cliff.
On September 3, Bittaker and Norris picked Jackie Gilliam and Leah Lamp up at a bus stop bench under the pretense of taking them to the beach, saving them the bus ride. Once inside the van, the girls realized that they were being taken somewhere else and protested. Leah tried to open the sliding door so Roy hit her on the back of the head with a bag of lead weights, causing her to lose consciousness. He then bound and gagged Jackie. Leah regained consciousness and tried to escape again at which point she was bound and gagged also.
At the San Gabriel Mountains, the girls were held captive for almost two days, Jackie was repeated raped and tortured, occasionally being forced to pose for photos. Over the course of the two days, Roy began to like Jackie. He promised to buy her things and give her money after "all of this was over." Though once he realized that Bittaker was set on killing her, he asked him to do it quickly. Bittaker replied, "Why? They only die once?" She was stabbed in the chest with an ice pick and her nipples were removed with pliers. Larry taped the torture, telling the girls to, "feel free to express your pain." The tape has never been found. He claims he buried it in a nearby cemetery. After two days of rape and torture, Jackie Gilliam was stabbed in both ears with an ice pick then strangled to death.
Leah, who had been drugged with sleeping pills, was forced out of the van. Roy hit her with a sledgehammer. He thought she was dead but when she opened her eyes, he continued to hit her while Larry strangled her. Both bodies were thrown over an embankment.
Halloween, 1979. 16-year-old Shirley Lynette Ledford was walking home from her job as a waitress. She likely recognized Lawrence, as he was a regular at the restaurant at which she worked. Shirley got into the van, which was then driven to a secluded side street. Within minutes, Roy drew a knife and put the frightened teenager into the back of the van, wrestling her to the floor before stripping her clothes and binding her hands behind her back. Lawrence slammed on the brakes, bringing the van to a stop, before trading places with Norris. Norris continued the drive. Instead of waiting for their arrival in the San Gabriel Mountains to begin their torture, Bittaker immediately turned on the tape recorder.
The recording of Shirley Ledford's torture and murder is perhaps the most well-known piece of evidence in this case. Whereas the transcript of the full audio tape is available, the audio recording itself has been made unavailable to the public, and with good reason. 17 minutes of it were played in the courtroom, leading to those in the courtroom walking out in sobs and tears. I have posted the video of NBC News' reporting of this on our website, along with the transcript of the tape itself. See the show notes or go to www.all-horror.com for the links.In the back of the van, Shirley Ledford was slapped and mocked. Beaten because she wouldn't scream, then beaten until she screamed louder. She cried and pleaded as she was beaten with fists about her face and breasts.
Directly from the transcript:"At this point, after Bittaker had forced Shirley to fellate him, repeated sounds of an administered beating, interspersed with loud screams can be heard as Bittaker savagely beat Shirley about the breasts and, to a lesser degree, head. Bittaker then extracted his pliers from the tool box. Shirley then emits several high-pitched, prolonged screams and cries of agony as Bittaker alternately squeezes and twists her labia, clitoris, nipples and breasts with the pliers. Bittaker then returns the pliers to the tool box. Banging sounds can also be heard throughout, which are believed to have been made as Shirley came into contact with the walls and inner contents of the van as she writhed and flailed."
Norris then switches places with Bittaker. He taunts Shirley before taking a sledgehammer and bringing it down on her elbow, shattering it. She screams, "Oh! God no. Please no. No no" over and over,, begging him not to hit her again, but her cries went unacknowledged. He struck her elbow with the sledgehammer 25 more times. Roy then asks her what she was sniveling about. Shirley Ledford replies, "Please, just do it. Kill me!"
After two hours of torture, rape and abuse, Roy strangled Lynette with a wire coat hanger tightened with pliers. It had been tightened to the size of a silver dollar. Larry decided to pose and leave the body on a suburban lawn because he wanted to see the reaction from the press. A jogger found the body in a bed of ivy the next morning.
The autopsy revealed extensive blunt-force trauma to Shirley Ledford's head, face, both breasts and left elbow. She had puncture wounds on her hands. Both her genitalia and rectum were torn by Bittaker raping her with the pliers. At the trial, Bittaker claimed that the tape recording was just a recording of a rough threesome.
After Robin Robeck picked the men out from a photo line-up, police put the men under surveillance. They were able to arrest Roy Norris for dealing marijuana. They picked up Lawrence Bittaker for the rape of Robin Robeck.
They were able to hold both men without bail for parole violations because both men were in possession of drugs at the time of their arrests.
At Bittaker's motel, they found polaroids of Andrea Hall and Jackie Gilliam. In the van, a sledgehammer, a plastic bag filled with lead weights, a book detailing how to locate police radio frequencies, a jar of Vaseline, two necklaces (later confirmed as belonging to two of the victims), and a tape recording of Lynette Ledford being tortured and murdered were found.Seven bottles of acid were also found in Bittaker's motel which he planned to use on their next teenage victim.
Inside Roy's apartment, police discovered Lynette's bracelet. Between both homes combined were almost 500 photographs of teen girls and young women, mostly taken at the beach and without their knowledge or consent.
When confronted with evidence, Roy Norris cracked. He admitted everything, taking a plea and portraying Bittaker more culpable in the crimes. He described the crimes in great detail but with little emotion and no remorse.
The bottles of acid found at Bittaker's motel, Norris stated, were intended for use upon the next victim they abducted, and the acts of torture and humiliation had been committed against their victims "for fun." Police were able to locate 60 of the young women in the polaroids and found them completely unharmed. Though 19 the young women were reported missing. Whether they are victims of Bittaker and Norris, no one knows. However, one young woman in the pictures taken from the men was] posed in similar ways as Jackie Gilliam which worries investigators that there is at least one other victim that they don't know about.
To escape the death penalty, Roy Norris took investigators to the San Gabriel Mountains to search for the victims' remains. Cindy Schaefer and Andrea Hall were never found. Jackie and Leah were found, still bearing the marks of their murders.
In February 1980, Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker were formally charged with the murders of the five girls.
Before his sentencing on May 7th, Roy Norris met with a probation officer who later testified that Norris claimed Bittaker was the one who did the actual torture but he never exhibited any remorse or compassion about the brutal acts committed towards the victims" and "the defendant appears compulsive in his need to inflict pain and torture upon women." The probation officer then suggested that Roy could be regarded as an extreme sociopath beyond rehabilitation.
On May 7, 1980, Roy Norris was sentenced to 45 years to life imprisonment. He was first eligible for parole in 2010 but didn't show up for his hearing so automatically was rejected until this year. Luckily it was denied this year and he won't be eligible again until 2029 and hopefully he'll be rotting in potter's field by then.
Back to our friend Larry.
On April 24, 1980, Lawrence Bittaker was arraigned on a total of 29 charges of kidnapping, rape, sodomy, and murder in addition to various charges of criminal conspiracy and possession of a firearm. He was also charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. Remember Robin Robeck, the lady they maced and raped? The one who identified them and got this whole ball rolling? In December 1979 our buddy Larry unsuccessfully attempted to persuade two inmates who were soon to be released to murder Robin Robeck in order to prevent her from testifying against him at his upcoming trial. Which is ironic because the charges for the rape of Robin Robeck would later be dropped from lack of physical evidence as well as Robeck's failing to identify her attackers in a physical lineup.
The star witness to appear for the prosecution at the trial of Lawrence Bittaker was none other than Roy Norris who told of how they became jail bird buddies and came up with their van plan. Apparently, Roy had tried to kidnap a woman on his own but it didn't work out so they agreed to do it together in the future. He then went through the abduction and murders, as well as the rape of Robin Robeck (so why were the charges dropped if he could corroborate?), the attempted abduction of Jan Mailin, and the attempted abduction of an unidentified young woman on a different date.
But Roy wasn't the only witness. Bittaker didn't seem to be able to keep his business to himself. Several witnesses testified that Larry showed them pictures of the victims. He showed a 17 year old girl showed a photo of Jackie Gilliam and said "The girls I get won't talk any more." His cellmate was able to describe Jackie Gilliam and Lynette Ledford's tortures in detail because he bragged about it.
When the prosecution played the tape of Lynette's torture, which sent numerous people running from the courtroom and causing the prosecutor to break down in tears, Larry sat there smiling through the whole thing.
The defense then proposed that Roy was the actual perpetrator and Larry only found out about the murders shortly before his arrest. That they had had threesomes with the girls but he had no idea that Roy had gone on to murder them. The photos the police had found were paid for and consensual. And that Lynette had agreed to scream for the tape "theatrically" for fun and he later left her alone, and alive, with Roy.
I personally can't believe it took the jury three days to find him guilty. Though, to their credit, it only took them 90 minutes to give him the death penalty. Of course, Bittaker appealed his conviction and sentencing. The appeals were dismissed as any errors were minor and didn't affect the overall verdict.
In December 1987, Detective Paul Bynum committed suicide. The murders committed by Bittaker and Norris were referenced in his suicide note. To this day, the FBI uses the tape of Shirley Ledford's torture and murder to desensitize agents. John Douglas, the man used as the basis for the Jack Crawford character in Silence of the Lambs, played the tape for actor Scott Glenn, changing his mind in regards to the death penalty.
Norris and Bittaker are both currently sitting on death row in San Quentin Prison. Bittaker has outlived half the jurors, the judge, the lead detective on the case. He currently receives a lot of mail from serial killer enthusiasts, and it so remorseful that he signs his mail "Pliers Bittaker."
Norris was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He admitted to five murders in total before he stopped talking.
In total, police identified 19 missing girls in the over 500 polaroids that were recovered. This podcast only covered 5 of the pair's murders.