When Lawrence Bittaker had multiple heart attacks while incarcerated at San Quentin prison, he told criminologist Laura Brand he felt he’d gotten a taste of what his victims had experienced. Evidence shows, however, that his victims probably experienced much worse torture by his hands in their final days.
Bittaker and his accomplice Roy Norris were known as the “toolbox killers” because of a toolbox Lawrence used to torture their victims. He used things like pliers, vice grips and ice picks to further the horror inflicted on his the teenage girls they raped and murdered in Los Angeles during a five-month spree in 1979.
Their victims were 16-year-old Lucinda “Cindy” Schaefer, 16, 18-year-old Andrea Hall, 15-year-old Jacqueline Gilliam, 13-year-old Jacqueline Leah Lamp, and 16-year-old Shirley Lynette Ledford.
Laura got in touch with Lawrence because she developed a set of questions to ask serial killers in order learn more about them.
Bittaker told her that he didn’t want to do the survey, but she kept writing to him to get him to talk to her because she considered him to be the most sadistic serial killer in U.S. history.
He had always stonewalled FBI agents in the past, claiming to have done no wrong, and pinning the crimes on his partner Roy Norris, who he met in prison. Laura Brand did not give up her quest of getting information from Bittaker, and eventually he opened up to her in unprecedented ways. The result of their conversations is featured in the The Toolbox Killer, currently streaming on Peacock and airing Monday night (10/4) on Oxygen at 9/8c.
Background of a sadistic, sociopathic serial killer
Lawrence Bittaker told Laura Brand, who recorded conversations with him for five years, that if he had had “one good parent” he would not have become the monster he became.
He was born to a teen mom and an abusive father. As he grew up his mother neglected him and his little brother to go out and drink, and eventually the two children were adopted by aunts and uncles in the family. He says these relatives gave him very little love or attention and kept him isolated from other kids. Larry developed an intense rage towards his mother for abandoning him and harbored fantasies of finding her and killing her.
Growing up he did very well in school and tested with a high IQ, but he was most interested in setting fires. His aunt punished him for playing with fire by making him lay down in his bed without his pants off while she would put a burning cigarette all over his body. This type of abuse no doubt became a part of making him who he became.
As a child, he also used pliers to rip out the teeth of his pet rabbits. As a teen, he would set his alarm clock for the middle of the night and get up to prowl around the neighborhood and look in windows. This behavior escalated to him breaking into the houses and moving furniture around to play with their minds.
Cindy Shaefer, the first victim
June 24, 1979 Larry and Roy were driving around the beach smoking weed and taking pictures of girls in bikinis when they found 16-year-old Cindy Shaefer, who had been dropped off for a church meeting in Redondo Beach, California. Shaefer left the church meeting early and was walking to her grandparents’ house when Larry pulled up beside her and asked her if she wanted weed.
Cindy declined, so Roy got out of the van and dragged her inside. He said he had picked her because she was “blonde, pretty, and alone.” He blames Cindy for making “it easy” for him to take her.
He claims that none of the girls fought back much. “It wasn’t an adversarial environment,” he claims. Experts believe that this is his attempt to minimize what he did. He claims that the girls were docile and accepting of what was happening to them.
They both raped her twice each. Cindy then asked to pray if they were going to kill her. Larry Bittaker informed her that “God isn’t here, only devils.” At this point Larry says Roy got second thoughts and wanted to let her go. Larry wouldn’t allow it because she had already seen their faces. After they brutally murdered her, they threw her body in a place with dense shrubs. Her body still hasn’t been found.
After Cindy’s death, Larry says he tried to keep it out of his mind, but he did see an article about the fact that she went missing after church.