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BONIN EXECUTED\Serial killer dies in state's 1st lethal injection.

Byline: Dennis McCarthy and Mark Katches Daily News Staff Writers

William George Bonin, the Freeway Killer who murdered at least 14 young men and boys in a killing spree across Southern California more than 15 years ago, was executed early today by lethal injection.

With the parents of some of his victims watching, Bonin was strapped to a table in San Quentin's former gas chamber and injected with a deadly mixture of drugs that put him to sleep, paralyzed his muscles and then stopped his heart.

He was pronounced dead by prison officials at 12:13 a.m., about four minutes after Warden Arthur Calderon gave the order to begin the flow of lethal drugs into his body.

It was the third execution in California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the 505th in state history - and the first by lethal injection. It came after both the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected final appeals that would have stopped the execution. Gov. Pete Wilson on Tuesday denied clemency.

Bonin, 49, was convicted in 1982 of brutally murdering 14 boys and young men in Los Angeles and Orange counties and dumping their bodies alongside freeways, roads and alleys. He was suspected of as many as 44 murders.

As advocates for and against the death penalty demonstrated Thursday outside the prison gates, Bonin spent the day drinking coffee, reading mail, listening to music and visiting with five "close friends" from the outside.

Those friends, who were not identified, were invited by Bonin to witness the execution.

In an interview broadcast earlier in the day by a local radio station, he said he had "made peace" with the fact he was about to die.

"As far as how I'm going to feel at that very moment, I can't answer that question," he said. "I don't know. I don't think any of us would know until we're there."

Expressing no remorse for his crimes, he said there was nothing he could say to the victims' families.

"I don't think anybody in a situation such as I'm in - whether guilty or innocent - no matter what they said would help in any way. I really don't," he said, adding that his death would not ease their pain.

"They feel that my death will bring closure," he said. "But that's not the case. They're going to find out."

Confined to their cells as San Quentin prison went into a routine execution day lockdown, the prison's 5,780 inmates, including 429 on Death Row, were quiet as the execution hour approached.

"There appears to be an air of quiet acceptance about the execution," said Lt. Joy Macfarlane, a prison spokeswoman.

At 6 p.m., Bonin was moved to a special death watch cell a few steps away from the pale-green gas chamber.

There he ate his last meal, which included two large sausage and pepperoni pizzas, three pints of coffee-flavored ice cream and three six-packs of Coke. He also watched "Jeopardy" on television, prison officials said.

Shortly before midnight, Bonin was escorted through a large oval door into the octagonal vacuum chamber, which was converted for lethal injection executions after a federal court judge banned gassing as unconstitutionally cruel.

Bonin chose not to invite any of his relatives, but he asked for the company of the prison chaplain with whom the condemned man had a long relationship.

His family made no arrangements to claim the body, according to prison officials, who said the condemned man's remains would be cremated and dumped three miles out at sea.

Among the 50 witnesses who viewed the execution from a room next to the chamber were the five friends invited by Bonin.

Also witnessing the execution were several relatives of Bonin's victims - and one victim himself, 35-year-old David McVicker, who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted at gunpoint by Bonin in 1975.

McVicker said he planned to bring a magnum of champagne to share with other victims' families at the moment Bonin was pronounced dead.

"We're not partying, we're turning the page," he said Thursday afternoon.

"Every night I dream of the rape, every second of it," McVicker said. "After tonight, it's over. After tonight, I'll no longer be a victim. I'll be a victims' advocate."

Other witnesses included Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Sterling Norris, who prosecuted Bonin, a dozen citizen witnesses invited by the warden, and 17 media witnesses.

Bonin's vicious crime spree began shortly after he was paroled from prison in 1978 after serving three years for sexually assaulting at gunpoint McVicker, who was then 14.

After his arrest in that case, he reportedly told a police officer he would never again leave a victim alive.

In the summer of 1979, bodies of young boys began turning up dumped along Southern California freeways.

Police suspected Bonin of killing as many as 44 young men after brutally assaulting them.

Gruesome trial testimony depicted Bonin as a cold-blooded killer who coaxed the boys into a van and then sexually assaulted, tortured and strangled them. One victim was stabbed 70 times. Another was forced to drink acid before an icepick was shoved into his right ear and he was strangled.

Bonin, a former truck driver, was convicted in January 1982 of murders in Los Angeles County, and sentenced to death two months later. A separate jury in Orange County convicted him of four more murders and returned its death penalty verdict in 1983.

Two of his accomplices, James Munro and Gregory Miley, testified against him in exchange for lighter sentences. Another hanged himself before trial.

Defense attorneys portrayed Bonin as the product of a vicious upbringing.

Born into a household of violence and neglect, the young Bonin often was left in the care of his grandfather - a man who lawyers said sexually abused Bonin's mother, until she was an adult.

He was put in an orphanage at age 6, a place others would later describe as a "living hell."

The radio interview broadcast Thursday was the first Bonin had granted since the early 1980s. In it, he recalled serving in Vietnam in the late 1960s: "You learn that life is cheap over there," he said.

Asked if there was anything he regretted not having done, he sounded absurdly numb to his circumstances.

Pausing for several seconds, he answered: "Well, probably I went in the service too soon because I was peaking in my bowling career," he said. "I was carrying like a 186 to a 190 average.

"This is without instruction," he stressed. "So I regret that I didn't get to go out and get the instruction, and pursue that. Because I've always had a love for bowling."

After the Los Angeles County verdicts, Bonin's attorneys immediately began a series of appeals, which have been winding through the state and federal court systems for the last 14 years.

In all, more than two dozen motions and writs were filed on his behalf - continuing right up to the final appeals that were rejected in the hours before his death.

Death penalty proponents said the long delay between Bonin's conviction and execution underscored the need to reform the appellate process.

"The whole process has consumed more time, more years, than he allowed his young victims to live," Gov. Wilson said.

"Justice delayed is justice denied to the victims and their grieving loved ones, and to a society which is entitled to be protected by the law, rather than put at risk by its excess leniency to the perpetrator," Wilson said.

The execution by lethal injection marks a turning point in California's use of capital punishment.

In 1992, after the Robert Alton Harris execution triggered an American Civil Liberties Union suit claiming that death in the gas chamber was unduly harsh - and therefore unconstitutionally cruel - Wilson signed legislation that allowed for executions by either lethal gas or lethal injection.

In 1994, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel agreed that death by gas constituted cruel and unusual punishment - effectively banning use of the gas chamber.

This week, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed Patel's ruling, citing the "extreme pain" inflicted on those executed in the gas chamber and "the substantial risk that inmates will suffer this extreme pain for several minutes."

It is the highest court in the nation to hold that a form of execution is unconstitutional - in effect a form of torture.

THE FREEWAY KILLER'S VICTIMS

William George Bonin's reign of terror from 1979 and 1980 left Southern California in fear's grip until his arrest. Here is a list of the 14 boys and young men Bonin was convicted of killing.

Marcus Grabs, 17. Bonin picked up the German student and asked him if he wanted to have sex. Grabs' body was discovered near Calabasas on Aug. 6, 1979. He had been stabbed about 70 times.

Glenn Barker, 13, of Huntington Beach. His body was found along with another corpse in the Cleveland National Forest on March 23, 1980. Picked up hitchhiking. Investigators found cigarette burns on his neck.

Dennis Frank Fox, 17, of Long Beach. His body was found Dec. 2, 1979, on the Ortega Highway near San Juan Capistrano. He had been strangled and sexually mutilated.

Ronald Gatlin, 18, of Van Nuys. His strangled, bloody, bruised body was found March 15, 1980, in Duarte. He was last seen alive the night before, when he stopped by the North Hollywood home of an acquaintance to repay a $12 loan.

Donald Hyden, 15, of Los Angeles. His body was found in a trash bin near the Ventura Freeway in Agoura on Aug. 27, 1979. He had apparently been tied up before he was strangled.

Darin Kendrick, 19, of Cypress. The supermarket boxboy's body was found n May 1980 in the driveway of an industrial complex in Carson. He had been sodomized and strangled. An icepick had been driven 3-1/2 inches into his head.

James McCabe, 12, of Garden Grove. Bonin's youngest known victim was abducted in Huntington Beach as he waited to catch a bus to Disneyland. After raping the boy, Bonin reportedly forced him to sleep in his arms before killing him. His body was found Feb. 16, 1980, in Walnut.

Charles Miranda, 15, of Bell Gardens. Bonin picked him up on a Hollywood street, then robbed, sodomized, tortured and strangled him. His body was found in a downtown Los Angeles alley in February 1980.

David Murillo, 17, of La Mirada. He had left his home on a bicycle on Sept. 9, 1979 and was found dead three days later in Ventura. He showed signs of having been strangled and sodomized and had a skull fracture.

Russell Dwayne Rugh, 15, of Garden Grove, abducted March 22, 1980. A Westminster High School student whose body, along with that of Barker, was found in the Cleveland National Forest.

Lawrence Sharp, 17, of Long Beach. He was killed in March 1980 and dumped behind a gas station in Westminster. He was sodimized, beaten in the face and strangled.

Harry Todd Turner, 15, of Lancaster. The runaway's body, nude and strangled, was found in an alley near downtown Los Angeles on March 25, 1980. Turner had been beaten and sodomized.

Stephen Jay Wells, 18, of Downey. The hitchhiker was tied up, beaten and choked with his own T-shirt wrapped around his neck on June 3, 1980. An accomplice said Bonin drove around with the corpse for hours, even stopping at a McDonald's to buy dinner with $10 from Wells' wallet.

Steven Wood, 16, of Downey. His body was found in a Long Beach alley. He had been beaten before being stangled to death.

Source: Daily News staff, wire reports

CAPTION(S):

PHOTO[ordinal indicator, masculine]CHART

(1 -- color) Sandra Miller, whose son was killed by William Bonin, and David McVicker, who survived an attack by Bonin, carry a poster of Bonin at a news conference Thursday. (2) Death penalty protesters arrive at San Quentin prison after a 25-mile march across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. (3) Marla Teixeira, left, and Esperanza Valencis, both of Richmond, Calif., communicate their sentiments about Bonin's execution. Associated Press (4 -- color) William Bonin Expressed no remorse (5 -- 15) The Freeway Killer's Victims (5) Marcus Grabs (6) Glenn Barker (7) Steven Wood (8) Ronald Gatlin (9) Donald Hyden (10) Darin Kendrick (11) David Murillo (12) Russell Dwayne Rugh (13) Lawrence Sharp (14) Harry Todd Turner (15) Stephen Jay Wells The Freeway Killer's Victims (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 23, 1996
Words:2086
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