A documentary has exposed the truth behind a series of horrific crimes described by an expert on serial killers as “beyond barbaric”.
Lawrence Bittaker was described by FBI Special Agent John E. Douglas as “the most disturbing individual” for whom he has ever created a criminal profile.
Bittaker formed a sick partnership with sex offender Roy Lewis Norris. The pair tortured at least five young women to death in California’s San Gabriel mountains.
The sick duo were nicknamed the Toolbox Killers by the press because they used tools such as screwdrivers, pliers and icepicks to inflict pain on their victims.
Film-maker Laura Brand, who has interviewed dozens of serial killers, said she was stunned by the details of the case.
"I've interviewed over 50 serial killers, but I mean, this case just stopped me dead in my tracks," she told The Independent.
"I had first read about it in college, and I dropped the book out of my hand… I was like, 'Oh my god, are these guys even human?'
"That was my first thought because they’re like putting an ice pick in these innocent girls' ears up in the mountains after they had just abducted them in a van."
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From February to June 1979, Bittaker and Norris picked up over 20 female hitchhikers in what investigators believed were "dry runs" for their murder spree.
On June 24, they killed their first victim, 16-year-old Lucinda Lynn Schaefer. The pair took turns in raping the girl before Bittaker strangled her.
Bittaker wrote that the victim "displayed a magnificent state of self-control and composed acceptance of the conditions of which she had no control. She shed no tears, offered no resistance, and expressed no great concern for her safety… I guess she knew what was coming".
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The pair’s sick murder campaign escalated with the killing of Andrea Joy Hall. After picking her up while she was hitchhiking and drove her to the same isolated location where they murdered Lucinda Schaefer.
Again, they sexually assaulted their victim, forcing her to walk naked alongside the road and then perform oral sex on Bittaker. They took photos of Andrea, which showed an expression of "sheer terror".
A month later the monsters killed two women on the same day. Jacqueline Leah Lamp and Jackie Doris Gilliam were hitching together along California’s Pacific Coast Highway when Bittaker and Norris offered them a ride.
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They assaulted the girls, who were aged just 13 and 15, keeping them captive for two days and subjecting them to horrifying torture.
The following month Bittaker and Norris abducted their final victim, 16-year-old Shirley Lynette Ledford.
Bittaker tormented Ledford, slapping her and taunting her – saying "scream louder".
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A tape recording of Shirley’s horrific ordeal was played in court, bringing lawyers and the jury to tears.
The recording is now used to train FBI agents to resist the trauma the raw reality of torture and murder.
Prosecutor Stephen Kay said that "everybody who has ever heard that tape has had it affect their lives".
He added: "I just picture those girls, how alone they were when they died."
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Ms Brand felt the same way.
"What they were doing to her was beyond barbaric," she said.
"I’ve heard the 30 seconds of the tape… and it’s just her screaming.
"It’s a visceral reaction because you’re hearing a real-life scream. It’s so much different than what you’d hear in a horror movie. You can feel it in your gut when you’re hearing the screams."
She says that in her interviews with Bitterer he revealed that he had been killing for over 20 years.
"There is a very real possibility," that the number of victims could be much higher, she added.
Her research into the crimes might help police find the unrecovered bodies of some of the victims. He "could’ve died and taken this all the to grave with him if I had not gone and spoken with him prior," she says.
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