Angelo Buono Jr., 67, the "Hillside Strangler" who terrorized Los Angeles in the 1970s with a series of killings that left nine women dead in roadside patches of weeds, died Sept. 21 alone in his cell in the California State Prison at Calipatria, where he was serving a life sentence.
The cause of his death was not immediately known, but a prison spokesman said that Buono had a heart ailment and that there were no signs of trauma.
For more than two years, Buono and his cousin Kenneth Bianchi roamed the streets of northeast Los Angeles and Glendale, sometimes flashing fake badges to lure their victims, leaving their nude bodies in grotesque poses to taunt frustrated police.
"When the crimes were going on and on and were unsolved, there was a real feeling of terror -- nude, strangled women showing up dead on various hillsides," said California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge presided over the two-year trial that ended in 1983.
Like the Charles Manson murders a decade earlier and the Night Stalker killings in the next decade, the specter of the Hillside Strangler traumatized women throughout the city. The killers had handcuffed their victims. They injected them with caustic fluids. A plastic bag was put over one woman's head. All had been sexually assaulted.
"Young women were absolutely terrified to go out after dark," said Robert Philibosian, who at the time was a top prosecutor in the state attorney general's office, which assumed control of the case.
While a police task force of 160-plus chased hundreds of leads and while countless bits of information were fed into a computer, the case was cracked when Bianchi implicated his cousin.
Bianchi had been arrested in Washington state in connection with a rape and strangulation case there. He eventually pleaded guilty to five of the murders in California and is imprisoned for life.
The victims, who ranged in age from 12 to 28, represented a cross-section of Los Angeles: two schoolgirls, a prostitute, a college student, an aspiring actress, a dancer and a waitress.
Buono was convicted of killing Judith Lynn Miller, Elissa Kastin, Jane Evelyn King, Dolores Cepeda, Sonja Johnson, Kristina Weckler, Lauren Rae Wagner, Kimberly Diane Martin and Cindy Lee Hudspeth.
When told of Buono's death, Philibosian responded: "Oh, good! God works in mysterious ways. The death penalty has finally been administered by a higher power than the county of Los Angeles."
The case spawned a television movie, a book and several documentaries, in part because of its sensational aspects. Buono would clean up the bodies before posing them at prominent sites, including the hills near the Los Angeles Police Academy.
One victim was carefully laid out on a hillside near downtown Los Angeles, her legs forming a "V" that framed City Hall and Parker Center, the LAPD's headquarters.
The trial included testimony from 392 witnesses and 1,807 exhibits, and its transcript ran almost 56,000 pages. The jury decided not to recommend the death penalty.
At the sentencing, George said to Bianchi and Buono that he wished he could send them to the gas chamber instead of to prison for the rest of their lives.
"I believe the two of you are incapable of feeling any remorse," he said in 1984.