One of the hundreds of questions I asked myself and Detective St. John during the course of writing this book was “why”? Why did Bill Bradford (photographer) and Bill Bonin (truck driver) become serial killers? They both had mothers and fathers. They both attended school. They both held down jobs. They both had relationships: Bradford was married four times, and Bonin had a long-standing friendship with Scott Fraser. What went so terribly wrong that between these two men at least thirty victims – that we know of – died brutal deaths.
St. John and I studied psychiatric reports and interviewed Bonin’s best friend and two of Bradford’s wives. I read pages of trial transcripts, John and I interviewed both killer’s trial attorneys, and I interviewed several psychologists whose area of expertise was criminal behavior. What I wanted most of all, was the chance to interview Bonin and Bradford, but that never happened. What I finally did get, were their letters, journals, sketches, and diaries. Bonin’s writing is expansive, rich in detail, explosive when he hints he’s done some terrible things but is still looking for a “new adventure.” Of the two, he’s by far the best writer.
Bradford is different. His handwriting is precise and rigid like he’s trying to make every word match the other. His language is precise, exact, and forceful without one ounce of insight or apology. In the six pages, what concerned him most were items he wanted shipped to his cell. His description of life in prison read like a train schedule: “The doings here day to day are the same seven days a week. Meals consist of two hot meals and a bag lunch. They use hot carts to ensure serving of foods as hot as possible. All foods are good.” It went on and on.
Bradford submitted a list of what he wanted and needed from visitors: “I’d like two books sent, and they must come from a book-store that will mail them and be softcover or paperback form. I’d like an English/Spanish dictionary and one called: “Calligraphic Alphabets” by Baker. It’s a soft cover about 153 pages, 8 ½” by 11″ in size at $5.95, or any other book on calligraphy will do. It can be addressed the same as letters but must be sent from a store with US mail book rates. If you do, please send me the copy of the store receipt, date mailed, cost, and the book sent. Those I can use and do need. Naptime. I’m not sleeping well at night.”
Both Bradford and Bonin wrote they had difficulty sleeping. I wonder why.
Bradford wrote about his possessions: “I have a 13″ color television and a personal AM/FM cassette stereo on order and now am looking for a good electronic typewriter with word correction and memory in the portable size. I’m taking up calligraphy and drafting to pass cell time. Time to call it a night! Been a long day!”
Both Bonin and Bradford planned to write a book. I haven’t seen either on the bestseller list.