SAN QUENTIN (KRON) — Convicted serial rapist and killer Lawrence Sigmond Bittaker died Friday at the age of 79.
Bittaker died of natural causes at San Quentin State Prison, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The cause of death will be determined by the Marin County coroner.
Bittaker and his partner in crime Roy Lewis Norris, 71, were known as the “Tool Box Killers.”
Bittaker and Norris kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered five teenage girls in Southern California in a span of five months in 1979.
Their nickname came from the tools like a screwdriver, pliers and an ice pick that they used to torture and kill their victims.
The two were responsible for the June 14, 1979, death of Lucinda Lynn Schaefer, 16; the July 8, 1979, death of Andrea Joy Hall, 18; the Sept. 2, 1979, deaths of Jacqueline Doris Gilliam, 15, and Jacqueline Leah Lamp, 13; and the Oct. 31, 1979, death of Shirley Lynette Ledford, 16.
The bodies of Schaefer and Hall were never recovered.
Norris pleaded guilty to all counts in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty. He cooperated with prosecutors, testified against Bittaker and was sentenced in Los Angeles County on April 28, 1981.
Norris has been in state prison since May 8, 1981, serving 45 years to life and is currently housed at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.
Bittaker was found guilty by a Los Angeles County jury on all 26 counts against him including five counts of murder, five counts of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, rape, oral copulation, sodomy and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to death on March 22, 1981.
He was admitted to California’s death row on March 30, 1981.
Due to various legal challenges and court decisions, California has not executed anyone in years, and earlier this year Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions for as long as he is in office.
According to corrections statistics, 82 condemned California inmates have died from natural causes since 1978, when capital punishment was reinstated after a period in which the state Supreme Court ruled it to be cruel and unusual punishment.
In that span, another 27 inmates have died by suicide, 13 have been executed in California, two have been executed in other states, and 14 have died from other causes. Determinations of the causes of death for four others are pending.
There are now 729 inmates on the state’s death row.
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