Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker was born on September 27, 1940, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He had been abandoned at birth and spent most of his childhood in and of foster homes before being adopted by the Bittakers’. His adoptive father was an aircraft worker, which required him to move often. The family spend time living in Florida and Ohio, before reaching California. Bittaker dropped out of high school when he was seventeen years because of his first run in with the law.
Bittaker’s first arrest occurred when he was seventeen years old. He was charged with hit-and-run, grand theft auto, and evading arrest. He served time in the California Youth Authority facility and was released on parole when he was nineteen. After he was arrested his adoptive family disowned him.
Within days of being paroled, Bittaker was arrested in Louisiana for transporting a stolen car across state lines. The courts sentenced him to serve 18 months in the Federal Reformatory in Oklahoma. Shortly after his incarceration, he was transferred to the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Missouri. Released early, Bittaker made his way back to California, where he was arrested again for robbery. He was sentenced to serve an indeterminate time of no longer than 15 years but served just over two years before being released. Not more than a month after being paroled, Bittaker committed another hit-and-run along with petty theft, to which he was sentenced to 5 years in prison; he was released after 3. Within the year Bittaker was arrested for burglary again. He was sentenced to 6 months to 15 years and was released early yet again.
In 1974 Bittaker was arrested for an assault with intent to commit murder. He had tried to steal a piece of meat from a supermarket. When confronted by a store worker who observed the theft, Bittaker stabbed him in the stomach. He was arrested and send to the Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo. While incarcerated at the California Men’s Colony, he met his future co-murderer, Roy Norris.
Roy Norris was Born on February 2, 1948 and spent his childhood in Colorado. He lived with both of his parents, who married to avoid the social stigma of having a child out of wedlock. His mother had a substance use issues and would stay home during the day while his father worked in a scrapyard. Norris was often removed and placed in foster homes due to inadequate care. Norris claims he often went hungry, without sufficient clothing, and endured sexual abuse.
Norris had attempted to commit suicide when he was sixteen years old. He had been visiting a female relative when he said something sexual in nature to her. Not only did she tell Norris to leave, but she told his father what he had said. Threatened with physical abuse by his father, Norris retreated to the mountains in his father’s a car. In the mountains he injected himself with air trying to cause an air embolism. After his failed suicide attempt, he was picked up by police and brought home. When he returned home his mother him that he was not a wanted baby, and they were getting a divorce. Within a year of this incident, Norris quit school and joined the Navy.
Norris was stationed in San Diego, before being deployed to serve four months in Vietnam. While enlisted in the Navy, Norris committed multiple sexual assaults. He forced his way into a women’s car and raped her. He was arrested and charged with forceable rape and assault with attempt to commit rape; he released on bail. While waiting for his court date, Norris committed another sexual assault. He attempted to ruse his way into a women’s apartment. The woman managed to alert law enforcement, and Norris was arrested and released on bail again. The Navy gave Norris an administrative discharge, citing psychological problems.
While out on bail for his previous charges, Norris committed another violent assault. Norris hit a woman from behind with a rock and continued to hit her and smash her head into the ground. For this crime, Norris was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and was incarcerated in the Atascadero State Hospital, labeled a mentally disordered sex offender.
After serving 5 years, Norris was released on formal probation charges, with prison doctors stating that Norris would no longer be a danger to society. Three months later, Norris attempted to rape a woman who was walking home. He approached her on his motorcycle and asked her if she wanted a ride home. She declined, prompting Norris to get off his motorcycle and approach the women. He told her he was going to rape her, pulled her into nearby bushes, and proceeded to sexually assault her. Norris was later identified and arrested. During his last year of incarceration, Norris met Bittaker while at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.
Bittaker and Norris met in prison and became close friends, discussing their common interests: domination, misogamy, and rape. This led to them conjuring up fantasies about how they would abduct, dominate, rape, and murder females after their release from prison. The pair made plans to reunite once released from prison to carry out these plans.
In November 1978, Bittaker was released from prison and worked as a mechanic. Norris was released from prison two months later. After Norris was released, he was able to secure a job as an electronics technician. Together they purchased a van which they called “Murder Mac.” They prepared a bed, their rape kit, and a cooler for drinks. Before committing any crimes, the two practiced the different ways they could lure women into their van. Many of these women were brought to the mountains to have their pictures taken and then dropped off. While out scouting for locations one day, they spotted an isolated road that was protected with a locked gate. Bittaker broke the lock off and replaced it with his own. They had determined the location where they would carry out their fantasies.
Lucinda Lynn Schaefer
Lucinda Lynn Schaefer was their first victim. On June 24, 1979 Bittaker and Norris’s abducted her after she declined their offers of marijuana and a ride home. She was bound with duct-tape and brought to the isolated road they had previously found in the mountains. They took turns raping her before both attempting and failing to manually strangle her. In the court documents, it is reported that Lucinda asked for time to pray if they were going to kill her. They told her they were not going to and did not allow her to pray before she was murdered. They tried to strangle her using their hands, but were unsuccessful. Using pliers, they tighten a wire coat hanger around her neck until she died. Lucinda’s body was wrapped in plastic and thrown over a canyon.
Andrea Joy Hall
Bittaker and Norris abducted Andrea Joy Hall on July 9, 1979. They brought her to the same isolated mountain road. They had raped her multiple times before Norris left to go get alcohol. While alone, Bittaker took Andrea deeper in the hills, raped her and took photos of her in various positions while nude. He also photographed the moment he informed her he would kill her unless she could come up with a list of reasons that she should be spared. Bittaker did not spare her; he pierced her brain with an icepick through both of her ears. He left the icepick in her head and stomped on the handle until it broke off. Andrea was still alive until Bittaker strangled her before disposing her body in a nearby embankment.
Jacqueline Gilliam & Leah Lamp
On Labor Day of 1979, Bittaker and Norris abducted their next two victims: Jackie Gilliam and Leah Lamp. The teenage girls were sitting at a bus stop when they accepted a ride from the men. The girls had willingly got in the van and were smoking marijuana when they noticed the direction they were driving in; they were not going towards the beach as they had planned. Leah had tried to exit the van but was hit in her head with a bat. The men managed to bound and gag the teenagers and brought them to the mountains. The men recorded themselves raping and torturing the girls over the course of two days. Jackie was killed first; they had stabbed her in both ears with an ice pick and proceeded to strangle her. Norris then hit Leah in the head with a sledgehammer. Still alive, Bittaker strangled her while Norris struck her multiple times with the sledgehammer. They threw both bodies over a cliff.
Shirley Ledford was hitchhiking when she accepted a ride by the duo on October 31, 1979. They had stopped in a secluded area where Bittaker brandished a knife. Recording the ordeal, he started torturing Shirley as Norris drove the van. In the transcript of the audio, the extent of the torture can be seen. Bittaker hits her with a sledgehammer, rapes her, and forces her to say and do things sexual in nature. He continued to torture her by using pliers to inflict pain on her genital and breasts. Before switching places with Norris, he sodomized and rape her with the pliers. When Norris went in the back of the van, he continued to beat her with the sledgehammer while telling her to scream. Norris was unable to penetrate her, because of the damage that had been done to her genitalia. Instead, he forced her to fellate him. They killed her by wrapping a metal coat wire around her neck. Shirley’s body was found sprawled out on a lawn in a suburban neighborhood.
Bittaker: (Slapping Shirley) Say something girl, huh? Huh?
Ledford: What do you want me to say?
Bittaker: Huh, huh? Say something, girl! Don’t you hit me? Huh, huh?
Bittaker: Say something girl. Huh?
Ledford: Ouch! (Shirley begins to scream)
Bittaker: Say something! C’mon! You can scream louder than that, can’t you? Huh? What’s the matter, don’t you like to scream? (Slapping sounds can be heard).
Ledford: (Screams) Oh no!
Bittaker: What’s the matter, huh? You want to try again?
Ledford: (Screams) Oh no! Don’t touch me! No!
Bittaker: Huh? You want to try again?
Ledford: On no, don’t touch me! No don’t touch me. No! No! No! No! No!
Bittaker: Want to try again?
Ledford: No, no, no, no, no, no, no!
At this point, Shirley begins to cry profusely. She begs Bittaker to stop hitting her, saying again, “No, don’t touch me!” Given what Bittaker next says, it is likely Shirley curls into a ball and turns away from him as she weeps.
Bittaker: Roll over girl.
Ledford: No don’t touch me!
Bittaker: Roll over!
Ledford: (Pleading tone in voice) Don’t touch me.
Bittaker: (Slapping Shirley) Start getting to work, girl!
Ledford: Don’t touch me!
Bittaker: Start getting to work girl!
Ledford: (Crying) Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!
Bittaker: Get to work, girl!
Ledford: Don’t touch me.
Bittaker: Roll over. I’m not asking you; I’m telling you!
Bittaker: Roll over.
Ledford: (Crying sounds can be heard).
Bittaker: C’mon, C’mon, C’mon!
Bittaker: What are you doing? What are you doing?
Bittaker: What are you doing?
Ledford: I’m not doing anything; I’m trying to do what you wanted me to do.
Bittaker: What did I want you to do?
Ledford: Suck on it.
Bittaker: Suck on what?
Bittaker: What’s this?
Ledford: Your dick.
Bittaker: Yeah? Say it.
Ledford: Your dick.
Bittaker: You’re sucking on my dick?
Ledford: That’s what you wanted me to do?
Bittaker: Is that what you’re doing?
Ledford: Yes, I was.
Bittaker: Tell me.
Bittaker: Tell me what are you doing?
Ledford: I’m sucking on your dick.
Bittaker: Do you want to do it?
Ledford: You want me to?
Bittaker: You want to, girl? Do you want to suck my dick baby? Huh, huh, hey? Start answering me! (Beating sounds can be heard).
Bittaker: Tell me.
Bittaker: Beg me.
Bittaker: What, hey what do you want girl?
Ledford: I want to suck on your dick.
Bittaker: You don’t sound like you really mean it. (Slapping sounds)
Ledford: I do.
Bittaker: (Laughing) Suck on it then! C’mon start sucking on it. No matter what you can do, squeeze hard you understand and if it hurts any time you want to scream, go ahead and scream.
Ledford: Oh no! (Screams)
Bittaker: Scream, baby! Go ahead and scream! Scream, baby!
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. 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, 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.
Ledford: My God! Please stop it! (Screams)
Bittaker: Is the recorder going?
Bittaker: Scream baby! Scream some, baby.
Ledford: I can’t!
Bittaker: Scream some more baby. Come baby. Come on. Nobody is going to hurt you. Turn over and talk to me nice. Love me. You want nothing more in the world than to make me cum. Huh?
Ledford: (Still crying, says something unintelligible which ends with her saying “that’s right.”)
Bittaker: Say it again baby. What do you want huh? What do you want?
Ledford: Your cock.
Bittaker: Where do you want it baby, huh?
Ledford: I want to hold it and squeeze it.
Ledford: It feels good, cause you like it and I like it.
Bittaker: You want me to cum baby.
Ledford: Oh yeah.
Bittaker: You want me to cum, yeah? Want me to come, tell me baby. (Beating and slapping sounds)
Bittaker: Tell me!
Ledford: Oh yeah.
Bittaker: Hey girl, you want me to put a pair of pliers up your cunt?
Bittaker: You want to make me cum huh? You want to make me cum huh?
Bittaker: Huh? Want to make me cum girl, huh?
Ledford: Oh yes (Scream)
Bittaker: Yes what?
Ledford: I want you to cum. Cum. (Scream). Come on.
Shirley Ledford then screams in agony as Bittaker inserts the pliers inside her vagina and twists them, tearing her.
Bittaker: Stop screaming at me, come on talk to me!
Ledford: Cum, cum, cum. Please cum, cum, cum, cum.
Bittaker: Where do you want me to cum, baby?
Ledford: I want you to cum.
Bittaker: Where do you want me to cum?
Ledford: I want you to cum.
Bittaker: Where do you want me to cum?
Ledford: Your cock. I want you to cum.
Bittaker: Cum where?
Bittaker: Cum where? Where do you want me to cum?
Ledford: In me.
Ledford: All over. All over.
Ledford: (Scream). No, no, no, no, no, no. (Scream)
Bittaker: Is the recorder going?
Bittaker: Is the recorder going?
Norris: (Emphasis) Yeah!
Ledford: Oh no, no, no! Oh no! (Sobbing sounds)
A sharp, shrill scream, followed by wailing sounds follow. It is believed to be at this point when Bittaker, having already sodomized Shirley, inserted the pliers into her rectum and twisted them, tearing her. Banging sounds can again be heard as Shirley came into contact with the walls and inner contents of the van as she again writhed and flailed.
Ledford: (Screaming). No! No! No! Oh, oh! (Screaming)
At this point, Norris traded places with Bittaker as Shirley lay crying and moaning in the back of the van. Three of the four victims previously killed had all been vaginally raped by Norris, but as Bittaker had viciously torn Shirley’s genitals and rectum with his pliers, causing her to bleed, Norris did not vaginally or anally rape her. Instead, Norris forced the already agonized girl to fellate him, then switched on the tape recorder himself:
Norris: Make noise there, girl. Go ahead and scream or I’ll make you scream!
Ledford: (Pleading tone) I’ll scream if you stop hitting me.
Norris: (Enthusiastic tone in voice) Oh yeah?
Norris: Keep it up girl!
Norris: ‘Till I say stop!
Unintelligible sounds are heard, interspersed with sounds of Shirley Ledford crying and moaning.
Sounds of Norris extracting the sledgehammer from the tool box can then be heard as Shirley, seeing him do this, again begins crying and shouts, “Oh no! No! Oh!” She then screams in fear, again shouts “Oh, no, no!” before again screaming.
Norris strikes Shirley on the elbow.
Ledford: You broke it!
Norris: I barely hit it.
Ledford: (Pleading and sobbing) Don’t hit me again!
Norris: Oh yeah?
Norris can be heard lifting the sledgehammer from either the floor of the van or, possibly, the wooden frame of the bed the two had constructed in the rear of the van.
Ledford: (Screaming) No! No! No! No! No! (Bludgeoning sounds can be heard, interspersed with repeated high-pitched screams)
Ledford: No! No! No! No! No! (Scream) Oh no! No! No! No!
Shirley is struck 25 times in succession on the left elbow by Norris, who repeatedly fractures her left elbow. Each time the hammer strikes her, a piercing scream can be heard. At one point, she may have tried to say something, but her voice had become an unintelligible mass of pain.
Norris: How’s that?
Bittaker: (Driving) What’s going on?
Norris: I was just beating on her elbows with this hammer.
Ledford: Oh! (Screams as Norris again repeatedly strikes her elbow with the hammer).
Norris: What are you sniveling about?
Ledford: (Scream). No! Oh. Owww! I, (Repeated screams).
The tape recorder is then switched off before Norris strangles Shirley. The last words Shirley Lynette Ledford spoke at the end of her short life were, “Do it. Just kill me!”
The men had attempted to abduct Jan Malin on September 27, 1979 but failed. Jan was closing her garage door when the assailants had approached her. Bittaker had sprayed her with mace, while Norris attempted to get her into their van. Jan had started screaming, alerting neighbors who started to come out of their houses. Giving up, Norris drove away, while Bittaker took off on foot. Robin Robeck was another survivor of the men. She had been kidnapped, raped, and released. Robing had gone to the police, but she had not been able to identify her attackers.
Norris had started talking about the crimes he had committed with former prison mates, who had informed police about what he was told. Not having any other leads, the police had turned to Robin, with a hunch it may be related. Robin was able to identify both Bittaker and Norris out of a police photo lineup. With this information, police arrested him on the suspected rape charges, as well as a parole violation of marijuana. Once arrested and confronted with the information the police had about the murders, Norris confessed, putting the blame on Bittaker. Once Bittaker was arrested, he followed suit and shifted the blame to Norris. Both were arrested for robbery, kidnapping, forcible rape, sex perversion, criminal conspiracy, and five counts of murder.
Trial and Sentencing
Norris managed to make a deal with the prosecution to stay off death row. In return for his testimony against Bittaker and assistance in locating the bodies. Lucinda’s and Andrea’s remains were never located. The skeletonized remains of both Jackie and Leah were found; the icepick was still in Jackie’s skull. Norris received life in prison with the possibility of parole for his cooperation. Norris was sent to the California Medical Facility to serve his life sentence. He was denied parole in 2009 and again in 2019. Norris died of natural causes on February 24, 2020.
Bittaker, who denied all charges, had a trial and was found guilty on twenty-six charges of rape, torture, kidnapping, and murder. He was sentenced to death and was placed on death row at San Quentin State Correctional Facility. Bittaker died of natural causes on December 13, 2019.