Parole Board Refuses to Free Bianchi

Times Staff Writer

Convicted Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi told a state parole panel Tuesday that someone who has killed as many people as he has should never be released from prison.

Referring to five brutal murders in Los Angeles County and two in Washington in which he has admitted guilt, Bianchi said: “The crimes are horrendous. I can’t understand how anybody could commit these types of crimes.”

However, through a special telephone hookup from his Washington prison cell, Bianchi told the panel that he does not suffer from serious mental disturbances and that he does not believe he is a danger to others. He said he has become a Christian and that the qualities he most dislikes in himself are his lack of patience and his propensity to tell lies.


Bianchi, 34, who is serving five life sentences for his part in the 1977-78 Hillside Strangler slayings in Southern California, plus a sixth life term for conspiracy, made the remarks to three members of the California Board of Prison Terms during his first parole hearing. He has been in custody since his arrest in 1979.

As expected, the board members decided that Bianchi should not be released from prison.

“We found you would pose an unreasonable risk to the safety of the community at large,” panel chairman Rudolph Castro told Bianchi during a conference call to the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla, where Bianchi is imprisoned.

Castro cited the violent and brutal nature of the crimes of which Bianchi was convicted, a recent psychological evaluation that found that Bianchi continues to have an antisocial personality and Bianchi’s failure to acquire skills in prison that he could put to use on the outside.

The panel said Bianchi cannot again be considered for parole for another three years.

Even if the board members had set a parole date, Bianchi would still face at least 20 more years in prison. Under Washington law, Bianchi cannot be considered for parole from the two life sentences he is serving for the murders in that state until at least December, 2005.

Bianchi pleaded guilty to the five California killings and one count of conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap and rape in October, 1979. He later pleaded guilty to the two Washington killings. He is serving his sentences for all the killings in Washington but is still entitled to California parole hearings.

Under a plea bargain that held out the possibility of parole, Bianchi agreed to testify against his cousin and crime partner, Angelo Buono. Buono, a Glendale upholsterer, was convicted of nine of the Hillside Strangler killings in late 1983, after a two-year trial. Buono was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Bianchi was sent to prison under an indeterminate sentencing law that applied at the time of the Hillside Strangler killings.

Under that law, anyone convicted of first-degree murder with the possibility of parole became eligible for release after seven years. The law has since been changed to require that anyone convicted of first-degree murder serve at least 12 years and six months in prison.

Release Date

Parole hearings are customarily held one year before the earliest possible release date.

Tuesday’s hearing for Bianchi provided a glimpse into the mind of a man who at one time was regarded by authorities as one of the most vicious criminals in California.

During the hearing, Bianchi asserted that anyone is capable of killing.

“Soldiers do it; police officers do it,” Bianchi said in response to a question from Castro. “I think anybody is capable. They don’t necessarily have to have some sort of serious disorder to do so.”

Asked by Castro if he believes that someone who committed the kind of vicious murders of which he was convicted should ever be released from prison, Bianchi replied, “No, I don’t.”

Why would someone commit such crimes? Castro asked.

“I have no idea,” Bianchi said.

In reply to another question, the one-time security guard told the board members that he has some admirable qualities.

‘I Am Loving’

“I am sensitive, you know. I do get into situations that are sad, and I do cry,” Bianchi said. “I am caring and I am loving.”

Now a member of a Seventh-day Adventist Church near the Walla Walla prison, Bianchi said he is about to begin “Christian counseling” but has had no psychiatric therapy since he was sent to serve his time in the Washington prison system in early 1984, after Buono’s conviction.

“I feel like some textbook of psychological disorders,” Bianchi said. “I’ve been labeled with everything under the sun, and I’m just one person.

“I’m not saying nothing is wrong with me, sir. I’m not saying that at all. I don’t believe I am perfectly well. But what is well? I’m not a psychologist.”