The Unusual Decision Made By The 'Freeway Killer' That Resulted In His Capture

Photo of serial killer William Bonin
youtube | Serial Killers Documentaries

News & Politics
Sarah Guy

Everyday decisions can routinely impact your life on a larger scale. While the specific time you leave your home in the morning or the random stranger that you pass on the street one evening may not initially sound any alarm bells, the most minor interaction or experience can throw your trajectory off course in unimaginable ways.

This was the case for William Bonin's young victims. By simply putting their trust in the wrong person at the wrong time, their lives were forever changed.

Early Life

Black and white photo of young William Bonin
youtube | Serial Killers Documentaries

On January 8, 1947, William George Bonin was born in Connecticut. With an alcoholic father and absentee mother, Bonin and his brothers were essentially raised by their grandfather. Unfortunately, this also brought more dysfunction to their lives as he was a convicted child molester.

In 1953, Bonin's mother Alice placed her sons in an orphanage to shield them from their abusive father. However, this protection was short-lived and ill-fated due to the abuse within its walls. Beatings, submissive positioning, and even partial drownings reportedly took place. He would live there until he was nine.

Adolescence Into Adulthood

Photo of serial killer William Bonin looking ahead
youtube | Serial Killers Documentaries

A year after leaving the orphanage, Bonin faced his first arrest after stealing license plates. Shortly after that, he was sent to a juvenile detention center. It has also been said that during his teenage years he began molesting children.

Once he graduated high school, Bonin seemingly tried to transition into living a normal life. In 1965, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and even served during the Vietnam War as an aerial gunner. Despite the outward appearance, this was another period of Bonin's life filled with concerning behavior. While in the military, he assaulted two soldiers under his command. Charges were never filed.

Then, in 1969, he was convicted of sexually assaulting five young boys, which resulted in a five-year prison stint. Shortly after, he found himself behind bars again after raping a 14-year-old boy in 1974. The second conviction landed him in prison for another four years after he pleaded guilty in 1975.

Murders Begin

Black and white photo of 10 of William Bonin's victims
youtube | Serial Killers Documentaries

Following his 1979 release from jail, bodies of young boys began appearing beside roadways and behind buildings. Once they were discovered by police, they began to notice that many of them had been sexually assaulted and strangled with their own t-shirts, but a lack of hard leads did not tie Bonin to the crimes just yet.

Clues Emerge

Police car with flashing lights on top
Shutterstock | 989774

While Bonin certainly had a long string of concerning and violent acts, he surprisingly did not commit his murders alone. Unbeknownst to him at the time, this unusual decision would ultimately lead to his capture. After police located one of his accomplices, William Pugh, he reportedly confessed to witnessing the murders. This resulted in Bonin being placed under surveillance.

Ultimate Capture

Photo of William Bonin's green Ford van
youtube | Serial Killers Documentaries

On June 11, 1980, Bonin offered a ride to a young boy. After he accepted, police caught Bonin sodomizing the child. Once they entered his van, they also located several knives, nylon cord, and newspaper clippings about the then-unidentified criminal known as the "Freeway Killer." Another one of Bonin's accomplices, James Munro, would also be arrested a month later.

Sentencing And Execution

Newspaper article discussing William Bonin's final moments before lethal injection
youtube | Serial Killers Documentaries

Following his arrest, Bonin faced 12 counts of murder. During the trial, two of his former accomplices, Gregory Miley and James Munro, testified against him and graphically described what Bonin had done. After deliberating for six days, the jury found him guilty of ten of the 12 murders. This resulted in a death sentence.

While in prison, he would be convicted of another four, bringing the total to 14. However, he said he was responsible for 21, and police believed there could even be as many as 44 victims. Bonin would go on to spend 14 years on death row before his execution by lethal injection on February 23, 1996. Leading up to his execution, his legal team filed multiple appeals. However, none of them were successful.

Before his death, Bonin shared some final words about the death penalty, saying, "I feel the death penalty is not an answer to the problems at hand. That I feel it sends the wrong message to the youth of the country. Young people act as they see other people acting instead of as people tell them to act. And I would suggest that when a person has a thought of doing anything serious against the law, that before they did, that they should go to a quiet place and think about it seriously."

Fate Of Accomplices

Jail cell with light coming in from the left side of picture
Shutterstock | 225835

As for the men who were present for some of Bonin's murders, two of them died in prison. Vernon Butts hung himself before his trial, and Gregory Miley died due to injuries he received while behind bars. As for James Munro, he was sentenced to 15 years to life for second-degree murder, while William Pugh was given six years for voluntary manslaughter. However, he was released from prison after serving four.

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