Bittaker & Norris | Photographs, Van, Hitchikers

Initially thought to be the work of the Hillside Strangler, the body of Shirley Lynette Ledford was found by two joggers on June 23rd, 1980, in east Los Angeles. It was soon determined that another murderer had been at work that night.

Detectives theorised that Shirley Lynette Ledford had hitchhiked from the gas station after ditching her ride due to a disagreement. The medical examiner found puncture wounds in her ear canal, made by something long and thin. She had been raped and tortured before strangulation ended her life. But the police had little to go on.

Bittaker & Norris True Crime Post

Bittaker & Norris

In 1979 Bittaker & Norris dragged a woman off the street and assaulted her but the victim failed to identify them. Only a short time later another woman reported that two men had tried to drag her into a van but she’d fought hard enough to make them think twice. When the assailant wrote a letter of apology to the woman it led detectives to Bittaker.

Bittaker had a criminal record that included a hit and run, burglary, and driving a stolen car across state lines, which went back to 1961. And after time spent in the prison’s medical centre one psychiatrist said:

…Beneath this complicated picture is a psycho-sexual disturbance that might quite readily make him a great menace to the health and safety of others…

-from a Psychiatrist at the California Youth Authority as reported in International Crime Detective No. 83

When detectives went to Bittaker’s motel home to question him they discovered his extensive photo collection. All of the photos were of teenage girls and the majority seemed to have been taken in the motel room. The girls were recruited and paid in money, drugs or gifts so the photographs were consensual. Bittaker was arrested for the assault on the woman he tried to drag into the van.

Bittaker had spent time in prison with a man named Norris who had been arrested for rape at 21 but the charges were dropped. After a series of arrests and later releases for one reason or another, Norris was eventually arrested and sent to Atascadero State Hospital as a sex offender. Four months after his release in 1975, he was once again arrested for attempted rape and was sentenced to the California Men’s Colony. And when police turned up at his place they found even more photographs and drugs. As they questioned him Norris admitted to driving the van when Bittaker tried to take the woman and he was arrested.

Photographic Evidence

Detectives began looking through the photographs collected from the two men’s houses. They discovered the photographs of a missing girl and went to question Norris. Eventually Norris broke down and told them the whole brutal story.

The missing girl and her friend had been taken to the mountains, assaulted, murdered and thrown to the wolves in the canyons to get rid of the evidence. Norris admitted to five murders and gave the detectives locations and times. Not all of the bodies were recovered.

Detectives continued to investigate and identify the girls in the photographs.

On March 18th, 1980, Norris pled guilty to murder, rape, and robbery. It was part of a deal his attorney had arranged so he would avoid the electric chair. In return, he would be the star witness against Bittaker.

An audio tape of Shirley Lynette Ledford’s final moments, found in Bittaker’s van, would be the most damning evidence at the trial. The recording is now used in FBI training.

Norris was sentenced to 45 years to life.

Bittaker was sentenced to Death, he died on Death Row on December 13, 2019.

Known Victims

  • Lucinda Shaeffer
  • Andrea Hall
  • Jackie Dorris Gilliam and Jaqueline Leah Lamp
  • Shirley Lynette Ledford
True Crime, Debardeleben

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P.P.S. Read about Serial Killers here

Keep an eye out for upcoming thriller release, Bad Habit.

Hired by a victim’s affluent father, a conflicted fixer must make a resurfaced serial killer her prey.