20 Most Famous Serial Killers In California You Probably Know

serial killers in California
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Hello buddies! Hope you are doing well. In today’s post, we will discuss the most popular Serial killers in California. California has unfortunately seen its share of notorious serial killers who have committed heinous crimes, instilling fear and terror in the communities they targeted. Richard Ramirez, known as the Night Stalker, and the Zodiac Killer are among the most infamous examples.

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The relentless efforts of law enforcement to capture and bring these serial killers to justice highlight the commitment to ensuring the safety of communities and the importance of resolving these cases for the victims’ families and the public’s peace of mind.

Indeed, the presence of notorious serial killers in a place known for its beauty and vibrancy can be a haunting reminder of the complexities of human nature and the potential for darkness to emerge even in the most unexpected places. These cases remind us of the importance of vigilance, community support, and the dedication of law enforcement and justice systems. Let’s explore the list of the most notorious serial killers in California. Here we go.

1- The Toolbox Killers (Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris)

Serial Killers in California: Toolbox Killers

The Toolbox Killers were one of the most notorious serial killers in California. Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris got the name Toolbox Killers because of the tools they used to assault women. They tricked their victims, girls hitchhiking or walking, and offered them a ride in their van. Once inside, the victims suffered terrible violence, including sexual attacks and torture.

In fact, Bittaker and Norris met in a prison. They both had a disturbing interest in committing violent acts against women. They devised a chilling plan to murder one teenage girl each year once they were released.

2- The Zebra Killers

Zebra Killers

The Zebra Killers operated in San Francisco, California, USA, between October 1973 and April 1974. During this period, they murdered at least 15 White individuals. They got their name from the police code “Zebra” used during the investigation. They were also known as the “Death Angels.” Their crooked purpose was to spark a race war between black and white people.

Almost 80 deadly attacks have taken place in California. These incidents follow a pattern associated with the DEATH ANGEL operations. Police arrested several men for the Zebra murders. Manuel Moore, Larry Green, Jessie Lee Cooks, and J. C. X. Simon were found guilty and punished.

3- Chester Turner

Chester Turner

Turner’s crimes were discovered in the early 2000s due to advancements in DNA technology. This technology linked him to several unsolved murders. He mainly targeted women, especially those involved in sex work or with a drug use history.

Further, he sexually assaulted and killed fourteen women during a time interval in 1987 and 1998. Prosecutors have called him one of the most prolific serial killers in the city’s history. Turner received several death sentences, and He is presently awaiting execution while being held on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

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4- Joseph James DeAngelo/The Golden State Killer

Serial killers in California: The Golden State Killer

The Golden State Killer is a famous serial killer, rapist, and burglar who committed several heinous crimes between 1974 and 1986 in California. He was born Joseph James DeAngelo. In fact, he was a police officer and got fired from his job for shoplifting. He started with break-ins and thefts but then escalated to violent sexual assaults and eventually murder.

DeAngelo was popular for planning his crimes carefully and staying ahead of law enforcement for a long time. He raped more than fifty women, a hundred burglaries, and thirteen killings.

5- The Scorecard Killer

The Scorecard Killer

Randy Steven Kraft aka The Scorecard Killer was a well-known American serial killer who was found guilty of killing 16 young men from 1972 to 1983. His crimes were particularly gruesome, involving terrible acts like torture, disfigurement, and chopping up his victims. Kraft might have been responsible for sexually assaulting and killing as many as fifty-one other young men and boys.

Kraft was executed using lethal injection in 2008. His story is a chilling reminder of the dangers that arise from unrestrained cruelty and wickedness.

6- Juan Corona

 Juan Corona

Juan Corona was a serial killer who killed 25 migrant farm workers in California during the 1970s. Born in Mexico in 1934, Corona came to the United States in the 1950s and worked as a labor contractor. He was arrested in 1971 when the bodies of his victims were found buried on a ranch he owned.

After being convicted of multiple murder charges, Corona was given 25 consecutive life sentences in prison. Juan spent his life term in California State Prison, Corcoran, and passed away in 2019.

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7- The Zodiac Killer

Serial killers in California: The Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer is one of the most prolific serial killers who operated in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He is an unknown serial killer who gained notoriety for teasing law enforcement and the media with puzzling letters, codes, and messages. The case remains one of the most infamous unsolved mysteries in American criminal history.

In fact, it triggered fear and significant media attention. The killer’s ability to avoid capture, along with the cryptic messages, fueled public intrigue and speculation. The serial killer’s identity remains unknown to this day, despite numerous investigations and attempts to solve the case.

8- The Doodler

The Doodler

Another unidentified serial killer on the list is The Doodler. The Doodler is a well-known serial killer who was active in San Francisco in the mid-1970s. The killer targeted gay men and would draw their pictures before engaging in sexual acts with them. He killed people and threw bodies in public areas. His name stems from the killer’s habit of sketching drawings of his intended victims before or during his interactions with them.

Despite having sketches of the suspected killer, the Doodler was never caught, and his true identity remains a mystery. His victims were white males. The way the Doodler operated and targeted a marginalized group has sparked criticism of how the police conducted the investigation.

9- Timothy Joseph McGhee

Timothy Joseph McGhee

Timothy Joseph McGhee also known as “The South Side Slayer,” is an American gang member who committed multiple murders in Los Angeles, California. The Los Angeles Times recognized McGhee as one of the twenty most infamous killers in the history of California in 2019. He gained notoriety for his involvement in numerous killings, many of which were part of a larger feud between rival gangs.

One of the most infamous outbreaks linked to Timothy was the murder of Los Angeles police officer Filbert Cuesta in 1997. McGhee targeted Officer Cuesta due to his affiliation with law enforcement. McGhee is now serving a life without parole sentence at Salinas Valley State Prison. 

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10- Richard Ramirez

Serial killers in California: Richard Ramirez

Richard Ramirez is one of the most famous serial killers who was active between 1984 and 1985 in California. Ramirez’s actions were extremely brutal, involving breaking into homes, sexually assaulting, and sometimes killing his victims. He didn’t follow a clear pattern when choosing victims; they were of different ages and backgrounds.

Moreover, he employed a diverse range of weapons and techniques for his murders, showcasing a disturbing level of brutality. His arsenal included handguns, different types of knives, a machete, a tire iron, and a claw hammer. Ramirez passed away in prison in 2013 while awaiting execution.

11- Kenneth Bianchi

Kenneth Bianchi

Kenneth Bianchi is a famous serial killer who gained notoriety for his involvement in the Hillside Strangler murders, which he carried out alongside his cousin Angelo Buono Jr. in Los Angeles, California. He was also once considered a suspect in the Alphabet murders, a set of three unsolved murders in his hometown of Rochester, New York.

The Hillside Stranglers case serves as a chilling illustration of serial killing, revealing the intricate dynamics between two individuals who formed a lethal alliance.

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12- Lonnie Franklin, Jr./Grim Sleeper

Lonnie Franklin, Jr./Grim Sleeper

Lonnie Franklin, Jr. was a well-known American serial killer who was found guilty of killing ten women from 1985 to 2007. He earned the nickname “Grim Sleeper” because of the extended breaks between his murders. He targeted young African-American women who were engaged in sex work and drug use.

The case remained unsolved for many years due to a lack of leads and resources. However, in 2010, Lonnie Franklin Jr. was arrested after a partial DNA match led investigators to him. On August 10, 2016, the Los Angeles Superior Court sentenced him to death for each of the ten victims. Franklin was discovered deceased in his cell at San Quentin State Prison on March 28, 2020.

13- William Bonin

Serial killers in California: William Bonin

William Bonin was a well-known American serial killer whose reign of terror spanned the 1970s and 1980s. He was found guilty of killing twenty-one young men and boys, with suspicions of even more victims. Bonin became infamous for his extremely cruel and sadistic techniques, involving torture, rape, and mutilation.

In fact, this case serves as a distressing illustration of serial killing, leaving a trail of agony for the families of his victims and the communities affected. Finally, his victims got justice when he was executed by lethal injection on 23 February 1996.

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14- Edmund Kemper

Ed Kemper

Edmund Kemper is one of the brutalist serial killers who operated from 1972 to 1973 in California. Kemper’s troubled upbringing and diagnosis of various mental disorders played a significant role in his later actions. Among his victims were his grandparents, his mother, and multiple young women.

Not only this, but his offenses also extended to acts of necrophilia and severe mutilation. His offenses rose to acts of necrophilia and brutal mutilation. He received eight concurrent life sentences. He is currently serving his term at the California Medical Facility.

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15- Richard Chase/The Vampire Killer

 Richard Chase/The Vampire Killer

Richard Chase was a famous serial killer who murdered six people between 1977 and 1978 in California. He earned the name The Vampire Killer due to his disturbing acts, including drinking his victims’ blood and engaging in gruesome behaviors. Can you believe it? It’s really unbelievable. He was also involved in heinous acts like cannibalism and necrophilia.

Additionally, The Vampire Killer targeted both men and women, often entering unlocked homes and launching violent attacks on the residents. A particularly disturbing aspect of Chase’s crimes was his belief that consuming his victims’ blood would prevent his heart from shrinking.

16- Rodney Alcala

Serial killers in California: Rodney Alcala

Rodney Alcala, also known as the “Dating Game Killer,” was a notorious American serial killer and sexual predator during the 1970s. His wicked acts involved luring women, and even young girls, into dangerous situations where he would sexually assault and murder them. Alcala was also known for his appearance on the television show “The Dating Game” in 1978, where he won a date with a contestant.

Rodney Alcala’s disturbing actions and his ability to blend into society while committing heinous crimes have captured the attention of criminologists and the public. Alcala died in prison on July 24, 2021, at the age of 77.

17- Robert Maury/Tipster Killer

Robert Maury/Tipster Killer

Robert Maury, also known as the Tipster Killer, gained infamy for his brutal crimes. He was an American serial killer and rapist who operated in Shasta County, California, during the years 1985 to 1987. Notably, after each murder, he deliberately contacted a tip line to provide information about where the victims’ bodies could be found, which led to his chilling nickname.

He targeted individuals who had cooperated with law enforcement, luring them to isolated locations before committing his gruesome murders. His reign of terror continued for a significant period until he was eventually captured and faced legal consequences.

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18- Harvey Glatman

Harvey Glatman

Harvey Glatman was one of the famous serial killers who was active during the late 1950s in California. He earned the chilling nicknames “Lonely Hearts Killer” and “Glamour Girl Slayer” due to his strategy of using Lonely Hearts ads to lure victims. Glatman’s spree of violence was cut short when he was arrested in 1958 after one of his intended victims managed to escape and alert the authorities.

Upon apprehension, Glatman confessed to his crimes and led law enforcement to evidence of his murderous acts. Harvey Glatman was indeed found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. Glatman faced execution in the gas chamber in 1959.

19- Dorothea Puente

Dorothea Puente

Dorothea Puente was a notorious American serial killer who operated in Sacramento, California during the 1980s. She gained infamy for her crimes, which involved murdering her elderly tenants and burying their bodies in her backyard. Her method of operation included befriending and caring for her victims, often targeting those who were elderly and had limited social connections.

Furthermore, Dorothea Puente passed away in prison on March 27, 2011, at the age of 82. She died from natural causes while incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.

20- Angelo Buono, Jr.

Serial killers in California: Angelo Buono, Jr.

Angelo Buono, Jr. was an American serial killer who, alongside his cousin Kenneth Bianchi, committed a series of savage murders in Los Angeles, California, during the late 1970s. The pair is known as the “Hillside Stranglers” due to their gruesome tactic of disposing of victims’ bodies in hilly areas around the city.

Angelo Buono received a life sentence without parole and spent the remainder of his life incarcerated at California State Prison, Los Angeles County. He passed away from a heart attack on September 21, 2002, while still in prison.