A habitual sex offender, William Bonin was twice jailed for his crimes. In 1969 he was convicted of sodomy, kidnapping, and child molestation stemming from a series of attacks on boys and in 1976 for kidnapping and raping another young boy. When he was paroled for the latter offense in 1978, Bonin did not emerge reformed, he emerged a killer.
By the end of 1979 Bonin was claiming young men and boys in rapid fashion, picking them up along Los Angeles area roadsides in his van, then sexually assaulting, torturing, and usually strangling them. He also enlisted accomplices in most of the attacks, usually a man named Vernon Butts, who would later claim that Bonin had a hypnotic hold over him that forced him to participate in the crimes. Regardless, the death toll was skyrocketing, in part because fellow Serial Killer Randy Kraft was also working the same general area at the time. By the time Bonin killed Stephen Wells on June 2, 1980, the total victims between the two had reached the forties.
Police were closing in on Bonin and company though. A man that somehow could tie Bonin to the murders came forth and a statement Bonin made to the boy he was jailed for raping in 1976, that he "loved picking up hitchhikers and strangling them", caused police to put a tail on the sex offender. They soon caught him in the act of raping a boy in the rear of his van and arrested him for sodomy while they worked to link him with the killing. Everything soon fell together as Bonin confessed to the killings, later recanting of course, and Butts admitted involvement in several instances. Two 19-year-olds, James Munro and Gregory Miley were also apprehended and admitted assisting Bonin in some of the later attacks after Butts had had enough and skipped town. All three would later testify against Bonin at trial.
Bonin was eventually convicted in 1982 of 10 counts of murder (though he later finally admitted to 21 total kills), sentenced to death in this murderous soap opera, and executed on February 23, 1996. Butts hanged himself in his cell after repeated previous attempts to end his life had failed.