Lethal jab ends life of 'Freeway Killer' executed

Tim Cornwell
Saturday 24 February 1996 00:02 GMT

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A serial killer convicted of murdering and raping 14 boys was executed by lethal injection in San Quentin prison early yesterday. William Bonin, a truck driver, was known as the "Freeway Killer" who terrorised southern California in the late 1970s.

One surviving victim of 49-year-old Bonin joined relatives of others in toasting his death with champagne. "It is justice. Bonin is gone," said David McVicker, as he passed round paper cups in the prison car park. A nightclub disc jockey who was raped by Bonin in 1975 at the age of 14, Mr McVicker was one of the last of the victims to be left alive.

Bonin's victims often were teenagers thumbing a lift, and his preferred method of killing, after sexually abusing and torturing them, was choking with a tourniquet. He was the first Californian to die by lethal injection since the state began providing it as an alternative to the gas chamber, a method of killing denounced by death penalty opponents as barbaric and challenged in a recent law suit. Bonin's execution, the first in California in nearly 13 years, was delayed eight minutes past midnight as technicians worked to put an intravenous drip in his arm.

Bonin, who had been on death row for 14 years, wept as he waited to die. His chest heaved twice before what appeared to be a painless death, witnesses said. First charged with 16 murders, Bonin claimed to have committed 21. His lawyers said the confessions were false.

Consigned to an orphanage at age six, he was sexually abused two years later. In the army he was accused of sexually assaulting two soldiers under his command. During the Vietnam War, he logged more than 700 hours as a helicopter machine-gunner.

Soon after Bonin's return to the US in 1969 he was con- victed of assaulting young boys.

He moved on to murder, and recruited others to kill with him. His victims were aged from 12 to 19, and he dumped their nude bodies along highways. His youngest victim, James McCabe, 12, vanished while waiting for a bus to Disneyland. "I'd still be killing. I couldn't stop killing. It got easier each time," he told a reporter after his arrest.

Prosecutors in Orange County and Los Angeles County vied with each other to try him, and eventually he was sentenced to death by judges in both districts.

At San Quentin, Bonin played bridge with three other serial killers, whose combined victims numbered 48.

In his last statement, Bonin said the death penalty sent the "wrong message". Anyone contemplating breaking the law should first "go to a quiet place and think about it seriously".

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