The Disturbing Story Of Angelo Buono, The ‘Hillside Strangler’ Who Tormented 1970s Los Angeles

Published October 7, 2023
Updated October 9, 2023

Angelo Buono displayed a troubling hatred toward women from a young age — and in 1983, he was sentenced to life in prison for raping, torturing, and killing nine women and girls alongside his cousin Kenneth Bianchi.

Angelo Buono

Los Angeles Public LibraryAngelo Buono after his arrest in 1979.

When Kenneth Bianchi arrived at the Los Angeles home of his cousin Angelo Buono Jr. in 1976, he quickly became enamored with the older man’s hedonistic lifestyle.

The relationship wouldn’t take long to turn deadly.

Within two years of Bianchi’s move from the East Coast, the pair would embark on a terrifying killing spree, murdering at least 10 women and girls between the ages of 12 and 28 over just four months.

The murders struck fear into the heart of the city. However, the two men ceased their activities just a few months after they started. Bianchi moved to Washington, and Buono seemingly would have escaped justice forever if not for the mistakes of his cousin, who began killing again less than a year later — and was quickly caught.

This is the story of Angelo Buono, one of the “Hillside Stranglers.”

Angelo Buono’s Life Turns Violent At A Young Age

Angelo Buono Talking To A Woman

Bettmann/Getty ImagesAngelo Buono talks to a woman in front of his auto upholstery shop in Los Angeles on April 23, 1979.

Angelo Anthony Buono Jr. was born on Oct. 5, 1934, in Rochester, New York. Buono’s parents divorced early in his life, and he was subsequently raised by his mother in Glendale, California, where they moved when he was five years old.

Buono was young when he began showing violent and hateful tendencies. According to Crime Library, Buono bragged about raping girls when he was just 14. Around the same time, he was arrested for grand theft auto and sent to a reformatory school.

As an adult, he was married multiple times, had several children, and was allegedly an incredibly abusive partner.

In January 1976, Kenneth Bianchi, who had been adopted into Angelo Buono’s extended family as an infant, arrived in Los Angeles, escaping from a string of unsuccessful jobs and a failed marriage.

To Bianchi, cousin Angelo Buono’s life must have seemed impressive. The older Buono was a self-fashioned ladies’ man who dressed expensively and bragged about how often he had sex. He even called himself the “Italian Stallion.” Buono soon took Bianchi under his wing.

As Bianchi tried and failed to gain a financial foothold in the city, dropping out of several careers and submitting unsuccessful applications to local police departments, Buono approached him with an idea: Why didn’t the two of them become pimps?

The two cooked up a scheme, planning to abduct some runaways and force them into sex work.

Soon, they found their victims in teenagers Sabra Hannan and Becky Spears. But not long after Bianchi and Buono had kidnapped them and pushed them into the sordid venture, the two girls escaped, again throwing the cousins’ financial future into doubt.

The pair revisited the idea, trying to figure out the ins and outs of the business. The men soon met sex workers Deborah Noble and Yolanda Washington, who agreed to sell them a list of customers.

The list, however, was fake.

Consumed by rage at the trickery, the pair drove to where Washington had mentioned she worked. They kidnapped her, raped her, and killed her. Her body was found naked and bound on the side of a hill on Oct. 18, 1977.

She was the first victim of the mysterious “Hillside Strangler.”

The Vicious Crimes Of The Hillside Stranglers

Hillside Strangler Mugshot

Public Domain/Wikimedia CommonsAngelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi tortured and killed their victims in the auto upholstery shop next to Buono’s Glendale home.

After killing Yolanda Washington, Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi did not take long to strike again. Two weeks later, they kidnapped, raped, and killed 15-year-old Judith Lynn Miller after “arresting” her for sex work.

Over the next month-and-a-half, the men killed seven more times before going silent for two months. They murdered their final victim, Cindy Lee Hudspeth, on Feb. 16, 1978.

Buono and Bianchi would flash police badges, luring women into their Cadillac through trickery or force. They then drove their victims back to Buono’s auto upholstery shop, where they would rape, torture, and then kill them.

Though the media dubbed the mystery killer the “Hillside Strangler,” the men cruelly experimented with various murder methods, such as injecting their victims with chemicals, attempting to electrocute them, and placing one woman’s head into a bag connected to a gas pipe.

After they killed their victims, Buono and Bianchi abandoned their bodies on hillsides across Los Angeles, sometimes sickeningly arranged in taunting poses that further served to heighten the terror across the city.

“I’ve been afraid since these stranglings started,” one woman told the Washington Post amid the killings. “I never used to be afraid before.”

Another woman’s close call with the pair offers chilling insight into the killers’ methods.

As reported by the Lakeland Ledger, in November 1977, Catherine Lorre, the 29-year-old daughter of Hollywood icon Peter Lorre, was stopped by Buono and Bianchi as she was walking down the street. They showed her their badges and asked for identification.

Bianchi would later confess that they saw a picture of her father in her wallet and realized who she was. Seemingly undeterred, he said they still planned to lure Lorre into the car when she told them she had an appointment “just down the block” — sparing her life.

Lorre only learned that her encounter had been with the Hillside Stranglers after Bianchi mentioned it after his arrest.

Not long after they killed their final victim, Bianchi left Los Angeles for Bellingham, Washington, and the trail of the “Hillside Strangler” seemed to go cold.

If all had gone to plan, Angelo Buono may have never been caught for his heinous crimes. But Kenneth Bianchi couldn’t restrain himself in Washington — and he didn’t have his cousin to help this time.

How Angelo Buono And Kenneth Bianchi Finally Faced Justice

Hillside Strangler Angelo Buono In Court

Los Angeles Public LibraryAngelo Buono was convicted of nine murders in November 1983.

Early in 1979, Kenneth Bianchi was arrested for the murders of two local college students. Bianchi had lured the women to his home under the guise of a housesitting job, killed them, and abandoned their bodies in the woods.

It wasn’t long until it became clear to the authorities that Bianchi was also connected to the killings in Los Angeles. Eventually, he confessed and named Buono as his accomplice.

Angelo Buono was arrested on Oct. 22, 1979, just over two years after he and Bianchi began their killing spree.

Even still, according to the Los Angeles Times, Buono was nearly let off the hook. The district attorney decided Bianchi’s testimony, which made up the bulk of the legal case against him, was from an unreliable source. Ronald M. George, the judge presiding over the case, stepped in and reassigned the case, allowing it to go forward.

Ultimately, “Hillside Strangler” Angelo Buono Jr. was convicted of killing Judith Lynn Miller, Elissa Kastin, Jane Evelyn King, Dolores Cepeda, Sonja Johnson, Kristina Weckler, Lauren Rae Wagner, Kimberly Diane Martin, and Cindy Lee Hudspeth.

According to the Los Angeles Times, during sentencing, George told the two killers that he believed that they were “incapable of feeling any remorse.”

Buono was spared the death penalty, instead receiving life imprisonment without parole. He died of a heart attack alone in his cell on Sept. 21, 2002, at the age of 67.

Upon hearing of Buono’s death, the lead prosecutor on the case over 20 years prior said: “Oh, good! God works in mysterious ways. The death penalty has finally been administered by a higher power than the county of Los Angeles.”

After reading about Angelo Buono, one of the Hillside Stranglers, learn about Richard Ramirez, the “Night Stalker” killer who murdered at least 14 people in 1980s California. Then, learn about another Hollywood killer, Harvey Glatman, who photographed his victims before he killed them.

Matt Crabtree
Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Crabtree, Matt. "The Disturbing Story Of Angelo Buono, The ‘Hillside Strangler’ Who Tormented 1970s Los Angeles.", October 7, 2023, Accessed May 22, 2024.