A serial killer convicted in the rape and torture murders of five teenage girls in Los Angeles County 40 years ago has died in custody at San Quentin State Prison, according to prison officials.
Lawrence Sigmond Bittaker, 79, died at 4 p.m. Friday of natural causes, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a news release Monday.
He was convicted in Los Angeles County of 26 charges, including five counts of murder, five counts of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, rape, oral copulation, sodomy and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to death in March 1981.
Bittaker and his partner, Roy Lewis Norris, were known as the “Tool Box Killers.” Together, they were responsible for the 1979 murders of Lucinda Lynn Schaefer, 16; Andrea Joy Hall, 18; Jacqueline Doris Gilliam, 15; Jacqueline Leah Lamp, 13; and Shirley Lynette Ledford, 16. Prosecutors said the two lured young hitchhikers into a van and then attacked them with a sledgehammer, ice pick, vice grips and other weapons.
Norris, 71, avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to all charges and testifying against Bittaker, according to prison officials. He was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison in April 1981.
Marin County coroner’s officials will conduct an autopsy to determine Bittaker’s specific cause of death.