O.C. Judge Sets Feb. 23 Execution Date for ‘Freeway Killer’


An Orange County judge set a Feb. 23 execution date for William George Bonin Monday, saying “time is starting to run out” for Southern California’s notorious “Freeway Killer.”

“Mr. Bonin will have to pay the price society has demanded of him for the crimes he has committed,” Presiding Superior Court Judge Theodore E. Millard said.

Bonin, 49, is on death row for kidnapping, raping and murdering four boys in Orange County during a killing spree in 1979 and 1980.


A Los Angeles County judge ordered the same execution date for Bonin last week for convictions there stemming from the slayings of 10 teenage boys.

The chances are “very good” the execution will go forward as scheduled, possibly the first in the state to be performed by lethal injection, said Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen. Esteban Hernandez. Bonin would be the first Orange County killer executed in more than three decades, a prosecutor said.

“He should be preparing himself for Feb. 23,” Hernandez said.

But Bonin’s defense attorneys said Monday they are exploring a number of options that could put off the date, such as asking the governor for clemency and filing new legal motions contending Bonin never received a fair trial.

Deputy State Public Defender James R. Ramos said the execution date, however, “might stand.”

A truck driver from Downey, Bonin prowled the area in a van and picked up teenage boys. Testimony showed he raped them, strangled them and dumped their bodies along freeways.

On Jan. 6, 1982, a jury in Los Angeles convicted Bonin of 10 murders and decided he should die for the crimes. A year after his first conviction, Bonin was tried separately in Orange County and sentenced to death for killing four more boys: Dennis Frank Fox, 17, Russell Rugh, 15, Glenn Barker, 14, and Lawrence Sharp, 17.


His lawyers appealed through the state courts but, in 1988 and 1989 rulings, the California Supreme Court upheld the convictions and death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month dismissed Bonin’s latest appeal, clearing the way for his execution, state officials said.

Bonin’s lawyers have argued he should have a new sentencing hearing so jurors could be told more about his childhood, including assertions that he suffered “pervasive physical, sexual and emotional abuse” that helps explain his murderous behavior.

In signing the execution warrant Monday, Millard rejected arguments from defense attorneys that the state had jumped the gun in setting Monday’s hearing earlier this month before procedural roadblocks had been formally lifted. The defense sought to delay the hearing.

“We’re just saying let’s do it right,” Ramos said, indicating he would attempt to raise the issue before another court.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan Brown, who prosecuted the Orange County murders, called the defense arguments a “thinly veiled” attempt to buy Bonin “10 more days.”

Outside the courtroom, Brown said he believes that the defense has exhausted any legitimate appeals Bonin might have over the years, and that there’s a “significant chance” that Feb. 23 is “the date that Bonin is going to meet his maker.”


He said he talked Monday with the mother of the 15-year-old boy killed in Orange County, and she has been waiting 15 years and 9 months for the execution day to come.

“I don’t think you can say it’s a happy day for anyone because it’s a culmination of just tons and tons of tragedy,” Brown said. “But it’s something that has to occur in order for these living victims to have closure, and it’s something that has to occur just so Bonin can pay for what he did.”