The Toolbox Killers

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Trigger Warning, Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker transcripts below. They are absolutely brutal, discretion is advised.

Roy

These killers operated in Southern California, and they are responsible for the rape and torture murders of at least five teenage girls during a five month long crime spree in 1979. Three more young ladies were abducted, at least one of whom were sexually assaulted, but these three did manage to survive. The men picked up dozens of hitchhikers long before they ever harmed anyone, this was simply practice for the pair; they found that most girls would get in the van if offered marijuana. The killers acquired the nickname of “The Toolbox Killers” because of their choice of weapons, they used ordinary tools as torture devices. The pair liked to document their crimes with audio recordings and Polaroid photos; they were known to drive around town while listening to their recorded torture sessions, this allowed them to relive their crimes over and over again.

Laurence

On Halloween of 1979, at approximately 10:30 at night, Roy Norris & Lawrence Bittaker picked up their final victim. 16 year old Shirley Lynette Ledford was just trying to make it home after work, her only mistake was stepping into a serial killer’s van. The men drove her out to a quiet street, and slammed on the brakes. This threw their now – victim into the back of the van, which was exactly where they’d wanted her. They fought Shirley, stripped her naked, and tied her up. It was at this point that they turned on the audio recorder.

The five known murder victims

You can hear the men beating Shirley, and her horrific screams. She begged for mercy while her captors used pliers on her most tender areas. Shirley was beaten with a hammer, over and over again, and then the serial killers used a wire coat hanger on her. They wrapped the hanger around her neck, and tightened it with the pliers – they twisted and twisted until their victim was dead. The men thought it would be funny to dump the young woman’s body in someone’s yard to be discovered in the morning, so that’s what they did. She was discovered, like so many serial killer victims, by an early morning jogger.

Inside the murder van

These are the transcripts from that recording:

Lawrence: Say something girl, huh? Huh?
Shirley: What do you want me to say?
Lawrence: Huh, huh? Say something, girl! Don’t you hit me? Huh, huh?
Lawrence: Say something girl. Huh?
Shirley: Ouch!
Lawrence: Say something! C’mon! You can scream louder than that, can’t you? Huh? What’s the matter, don’t you like to scream?
Shirley: Oh no!
Laurence: What’s the matter, huh? You want to try again?
Shirley: Oh no! Don’t touch me! No!
Lawrence: Huh? You want to try again?
Shirley: On no, don’t touch me! No don’t touch me. No no no no no!
Lawrence: Want to try again?
Shirley: No, no, no, no, no, no, no! No, don’t touch me!
Lawrence: Roll over girl.
Shirley: No don’t touch me!
Lawrence: Roll over!
Shirley: Don’t touch me.
Lawrence: Start getting to work, girl!
Shirley: Don’t touch me!
Lawrence: Start getting to work girl!
Shirley: Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!
Lawrence: Get to work, girl!
Shirley: Don’t touch me.
Lawrence: Roll over. I’m not asking you; I’m telling you!
Lawrence: Roll over. C’mon, C’mon, C’mon!
Lawrence: What are you dong? What are you doing?
Shirley: Huh?
Lawrence: What are you doing?
Shirley: I’m not doing anything. I’m trying to do what you wanted me to do.
Lawrence: What did I want you to do?
Shirley: Suck on it.
Lawrence: Suck on what?
Shirley: This.
Lawrence: What’s this?
Shirley: Your d*ck.
Lawrence: Yeah? Say it.
Shirley: Your d*ck.
Lawrence: You’re sucking on my d*ck?
Shirley: That’s what you wanted me to do?
Lawrence: Is that what you’re doing?
Shirley: Yes, I was.
Lawrence: Tell me.
Shirley: Yes.
Lawrence: Tell me what are you doing?
Shirley: I’m sucking on your d*ck.
Lawrence: Do you want to do it?
Shirley: You want me to?
Lawrence: You want to, girl? Do you want to suck my d*ck baby? Huh, huh, hey? Start answering me!
Shirley: Yes.
Lawrence: Tell me.
Shirley: Yes.
Lawrence: Beg me.
Shirley: Yes.
Lawrence: What, hey what do you want girl?
Shirley: I want to suck on your d*ck.
Lawrence: You don’t sound like you really mean it.
Shirley: I do.
Lawrence: (Laughing) suck on it then! C’mon start sucking on it. No matter what you can do, squeeze hard you understand and if it hurts any time you want to scream, go ahead and scream.
Shirley: Oh no!
Lawrence: Scream, baby! Go ahead and scream! Scream, baby!
Torturing can be heard, a lot of torture
Shirley: My God! Please stop it!
Lawrence: Is the recorder going?
Roy: Yeah!
Laurence: Scream baby! Scream some, baby. Shirley: I can’t!
Lawrence: Scream some more baby. Come baby. Come on. Nobody is going to hurt you. Turn over and talk to me nice. Love me. You want nothing more in the world than to make me c*m. Huh?
Lawrence: Say it again baby. What do you want huh? What do you want?
Shirley: Your c*ck.
Lawrence: Where do you want it baby, huh?
Shirley: I want to hold it and squeeze it.
Lawrence: Why?
Shirley: It feels good, cause you like it and I like it.
Lawrence: You want me to c*m baby.
Shirley: Oh yeah.
Lawrence: You want me to c*m, yeah? Want me to come, tell me baby.
Shirley: Yeah.
Lawrence: Tell me!
Shirley: Yeah.
Lawrence: Huh?
Shirley: Oh yeah.
Lawrence: Hey girl, you want me to put a pair of pliers up your c*nt?
Shirley: What?
Lawrence: You want to make me c*m huh? You want to make me c*m huh?
Lawrence: Huh? Want to make me c*m girl, huh?
Shirley: Oh yes
Lawrence: Yes what?
Shirley: I want you to c*m. C*m. Come on.
At this point pliers are being used on Shirley’s privates, she is screaming
Lawrence: Stop screaming at me, come on talk to me!
Shirley: C*m, c*m, c*m. Please c*m, c*m, c*m, c*m.
Lawrence: Where do you want me to c*m, baby?
Shirley: I want you to c*m.
Lawrence: Where do you want me to c*m?
Shirley: I want you to c*m.
Lawrence: Where do you want me to c*m?
Shirley: Your c*ck. I want you to c*m.
Lawrence: C*m where?
Shirley: C*m.
Lawrence: C*m where? Where do you want me to c*m?
Shirley: In me.
Lawrence: Where?
Shirley: C*m.
Lawrence: Where?
Shirley: All over. All over. Screaming
Shirley: No, no, no, no, no, no.
Lawrence: Is the recorder going?
Roy: What?
Lawrence: Is the recorder going?
Roy: Yeah!
Shirley: Oh no, no, no! Oh no! Sobbing, sounds of torture
Shirley: No! No! No! Oh, oh! Screaming, torture sounds
Roy: Make noise there, girl. Go ahead and scream or I’ll make you scream!
Shirley: I’ll scream if you stop hitting me!
Roy: Oh yeah? Keep it up girl!
Screams
Roy: More!
Screaming
Roy: ‘Till I say stop!
More torture sounds
Shirley: Oh, no, no!
Shirley: You broke it!
Roy: I barely hit it.
Shirley: Don’t hit me again!
Roy: Oh yeah?
Sounds of girl being beaten with sledgehammer
Shirley: No! No! No! No! No! Screams
Shirley: No! No! No! No! No! Oh no! No! No! No!
You can hear Shirley being beaten 25 times. She’s screaming
Roy: How’s that?
Lawrence: What’s going on?
Roy: I was just beating on her elbows with the hammer.
Lawrence: Ah!
Shirley: Oh!
Roy: What are you sniveling about?
Shirley: No! Oh. Owww!

In November of 1979 Roy met up with an old buddy from prison. He thought this man would be cool with what he and Laurence had been doing, and he admitted to his crimes. Roy was wrong about this man, Joseph Jackson ran straight to the police. The details Joseph recounted to authorities matched unsolved sexual assault and murder cases; Robin Robeck, who had survived being sexually assaulted by the pair, was able to pick Roy and Laurence out of a lineup. At this point investigators began to carefully watch the killers, and on November 20th Roy was arrested.

Lawrence testified at trial

Police were able to locate the murder weapons, audio recordings, and some personal items such as jewelry which had belonged to the victims. There were also hundreds of Polaroid photos discovered amongst the killer’s belongings, these were pictures of young girls; nearly 20 of the young women in these photos had been reported missing, and very well could’ve been victims. During interrogation Roy eventually admitted to having committed these atrocities, though he claimed that his partner in crime was more to blame – of course. He also admitted that the acid discovered inside his hotel room was to be used on their next victim.

Roy

Laurence Bittaker was tried with rape, sodomy, the kidnapping of 29 young women, among other things. This trial would have been a truly horrendous thing to witness, with all of the details of torture, the audio, and the photos. It must’ve been horrible for jurors to sit and listen to details of these girls being stabbed through the temple with an ice pick before they were strangled to death with those coat hangers. It also came to light that some of these girls did not die quickly, two of them were kept alive for longer than a day. When the audio recordings of the murders was played, the courtroom was in a state of shock. Some people cried, others had to leave the room, at least one vomited; all the while the killer sat there reliving his crime one more time with a big fat smile upon his face.

The jury sent Lawrence Bittaker to death row for what he’d done. Roy Norris plead guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to 45 years to life; he was first eligible for parole in 2010. Neither man ever showed any real remorse for what they had done, and Laurence even seemed to take pride in his actions – he often signed his letters from prison as “Pliers Bittaker”. Both of these killers have passed away within this past year, just two months apart; Laurence in December of 2019, and Roy in February of 2020. It seems they both passed from natural causes.

Photo from Murderpedia; most of the photos I’ve added here are from Murderpedia. Great site.

The below video includes the court’s reaction to the tape being played, you can hear the victim’s screams. So, please proceed with caution.

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