True crime: Why did California have tons of serial killers in the 1970s?
The 1970s birthed some of the most notorious & brutal killers in U.S. history, and a great deal of them in sunny California. Nearly a dozen serial killers were active in the golden state during the decade, causing a wave of deaths on the coastline.
True crime fans may wonder what made the 1970s such a productive time for California serial killers. To discover why California was such a great home for these bloodthirsty murderers in the 1970s, one need only look to some of America’s most famous California serial killers.
The Zodiac killer has become deeply ingrained in U.S. true crime history as one of the most infamous California serial killers never captured. He became the subject of many films since his spree in the 70s, from The Exorcist III to David Fincher’s revered Zodiac. He’s even popped up in the news recently as his famous cipher was finally decoded.
The Zodiac has five known victims, but has claimed over thirty in his correspondence with police during his reign of terror. Some of his murders included sneaking up on a couple parked necking (that’s making out) at a lover’s lane stop, and another having a picnic at California’s Lake Berryessa. He was never found.
A lesser-known addition to the slew of California serial killers who made their mark in the 70s was William Bonin, AKA “The Freeway Killer.” The killer targeted young boys hitchhiking across Southern California. He would sexually assault his victims, and savagely beat them to death after performing other bloodchilling tortures.
Bonin was known to have committed at least twenty-one murders in California and is now suspected of over a dozen more. He was captured, tried, and executed at San Quentin in 1996.
Golden State Killer
Of all California serial killers, only one repped the home state in name: The Golden State Killer. The serial rapist & murderer committed over a dozen murders, fifty rapes, and hundreds of other crimes during his height beginning in 1973. He was known by many pseudonyms, such as the “east area rapist,” and was only recently charged over thirty years later in 2018.
Now revealed as Joseph James DeAngelo, the killer was only uncovered due to DNA testing developments beginning in 2001. This provides some important info as to why killers literally got away with murder so easily during the days of disco.
Way back when
The Golden State Killer’s recent capture gives us a great answer to why California serial killers were so prevalent in the 1970s: lack of technology. Forensic technology wasn’t what it is today in the 70s, and only recently was law enforcement able to utilize DNA evidence to connect DeAngelo to his many crimes.
Obsolete technology will always be an answer when it comes to crimes of the past, but one still wonders what about the state made it so easy for these California serial killers. Dated activities and the state’s innate qualities came into play.
The vast majority of victims of these California serial killers met their doom through hitchhiking and other outdoor activities in isolated areas, leaving them vulnerable. Hitchhiking has decreased significantly in the U.S. since the 70s, when it was a prevalent & easy way for killers to abduct victims.
Furthermore, sunny California was the perfect area to find wanderers out and about, as they didn’t need much shelter for protection from the elements. There were hitchers a plenty looking for rides in the hot sun, many of them drifters or sex workers, and police did not have the technology to help find them. In the 70s, California serial killers were shooting fish in a barrel.