1979 mugshot of Kenneth Bianchi.
|Birth name:||Kenneth Alessio Bianchi|
|Also known as:||The Hillside Strangler|
|Born:||May 22, 1951
Rochester, New York
|Number of victims:||12|
|Span of killings:||October 16, 1977 – January 11, 1979|
|State(s):||California and Washington|
|Date apprehended:||January 12, 1979|
Kenneth Alessio Bianchi (born May 22, 1951) is an American serial killer. Bianchi and his cousin Angelo Buono, Jr., together are known as the Hillside Stranglers. He is serving a term of life imprisonment in Washington. Bianchi is also a suspect in the Alphabet murders, three unsolved murders in his home city of Rochester.
Bianchi was born in Rochester, New York to a prostitute who gave him up for adoption two weeks after he was born. He was adopted at three months by Frances Scioliono and her husband Nicholas Bianchi in Rochester.
Bianchi was deeply troubled from a young age, and his adoptive mother described him as being "a compulsive liar who had risen from the cradle dissembling." He often worried Frances with his penchant for trance-like daydreams. Despite having above-average intelligence, he was an underachiever who was quick to lose his temper. He was diagnosed with petit mal seizures when he was five years old and passive-aggressive disorder when he was 10. After Nicholas' death from pneumonia in 1964, Frances had to work while her son attended high school.
Shortly after Bianchi graduated from Gates-Chili High School in 1971, he married his high school sweetheart; the union ended after eight months. Supposedly, she left him without an explanation. As an adult, he dropped out of college after one semester, and drifted through a series of menial jobs, finally ending up as a security guard at a jewelry store. This gave him a great opportunity to steal valuables, which he often gave to girlfriends or prostitutes to buy their loyalty. Because of many petty thefts, Bianchi was constantly on the move.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1977, and started spending time with his older cousin Angelo Buono, who was impressed with Bianchi's fancy clothes, jewelry, and stories of getting any women he wanted and "putting them in their place". Before long, they worked together as pimps, and, by late 1977, had escalated to murder. They had raped and murdered 10 women by the time they were arrested in early 1979.
Bianchi and Buono would usually cruise around Los Angeles in Buono's car and use fake badges to persuade girls that they were undercover cops. Their victims were women and girls aged 12 to 28 from various walks of life. They would then order the girls into Buono's unmarked police car and drive them home to torture and murder them.
Both men would sexually abuse their victims before strangling them. They experimented with other methods of killing, such as lethal injection, electric shock, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even while committing the murders, Bianchi applied for a job with the Los Angeles Police Department and had even been taken for several rides with police officers while they were searching for the Hillside Strangler.
One night, shortly after they botched their would-be eleventh murder, Bianchi revealed to Buono he had attended LAPD police ride alongs, and that he was currently being questioned about the strangler case. After hearing this, Buono erupted in a fit of rage. An argument ensued at one point during which Buono threatened to kill Bianchi if he did not flee to Bellingham, Washington. In May 1978 he did flee to Bellingham, joining his girlfriend and son currently living there.
On January 11, 1979, Bianchi lured two female students into a house he was guarding. The women were 22-year-old Karen Mandic and 27-year-old Diane Wilder, and were students at Western Washington University. He forced the first student down the stairs in front of him and then strangled her. He murdered the second young girl in a similar fashion. Without help from his partner, he left many clues and police apprehended him the next day. A California driver's license and a routine background check linked him to the addresses of two Hillside Strangler victims.
At his trial, Bianchi pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that another personality, one "Steve Walker", had committed the crimes. Bianchi even convinced a few expert psychiatrists that he indeed suffered from multiple personality disorder, but investigators brought in their own psychiatrists, mainly the psychiatrist Martin Orne. When Orne mentioned to Bianchi that in genuine cases of the disorder, there tend to be three or more personalities, Bianchi promptly created another alias, "Billy". Eventually, investigators discovered that the very name "Steven Walker" came from a student whose identity Bianchi had previously attempted to steal for the purpose of fraudulently practicing psychology. Police also found a small library of books in Bianchi's home on topics of modern psychology, further indicating his ability to fake the disorder.
Once his claims were subjected to this scrutiny, Bianchi eventually admitted that he had been faking the disorder. To acquire leniency, he agreed to testify against Buono. However, in actually giving his testimony, Bianchi made every effort to be as uncooperative and self-contradictory as possible, apparently hoping to avoid being the ultimate cause of Buono being convicted. In the end, Bianchi's efforts were unsuccessful, as Buono was in fact convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1980, Bianchi began a relationship with Veronica Compton, a woman he met while in prison. During his trial, she testified for the defense, telling the jury a false, vague tale about the crimes in an attempt to exculpate Bianchi and also admitting to wanting to buy a mortuary with another convicted murderer for the purpose of necrophilia. She was later convicted and imprisoned for attempting to strangle a woman she had lured to a motel in an attempt to have authorities believe that the Hillside Strangler was still on the loose and the wrong man was imprisoned. Bianchi had given her some smuggled semen to use to make it look like a rape/murder committed by the Hillside Strangler.