William George Bonin: Just an Ordinary Guy
July 27, 2023. A casual dinner party for my tennis friends seemed an unlikely place to begin my true crime series, “The Scariest Thing About Serial Killers.” But that’s how it happened.
All of my guests had left but one – a friend I treasured because after our weekly doubles match, we’d find a shady spot under a tree and put down our rackets. Mary would fluff her sensible short haircut and light a cigarette. I’d take a sip of lukewarm coffee as we enjoyed the quiet space. The topics could range wild and free from books we were reading, the political scene, our goofy dogs, or what our kids were up to.
Oftentimes, I’d be the one to jump-start our conversation. But this morning, she surprised me with a question out of character for this very bright woman who had a graduate degree in Political Science from UCLA
“You know, Jane,” she said as she waved a puff of smoke away from my face, “I’ve always been fascinated by your collaboration with Detective John St. John. What’s always intrigued me is the idea of a doctor’s wife investigating abandoned crime scenes and hanging out at the morgue with a decorated detective. You wrote for thirteen years and finally have a manuscript!
I let her words sink in. Cigarette smoke swirled above us. The big dream had finally happened.
“I’m reading a novel where the protagonist is a serial killer,” she said, “And have become so interested in this character I thought about your book. Did you ever figure out what makes a serial killer? Was Bonin a born psychopath? What influenced him? Family? Society? Genetics?”
I said the best research book was “Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence,” by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley. Her questions came so fast and so smart I decided it was time to look beyond the psychology of a serial killer and into the why. What better place to start my quest than Bill Bonin’s diary? His 250 pages of tiny scrawl were close to impossible to read until I dug out my magnifying glass. The words came to life on the pages.
Who was this man who became one of America’s notorious serial killers in the years 79/80?
In 1977, Bonin was arrested for sexually assaulting young boys, indicted on five counts of kidnapping and four more counts of sexual assault, then imprisoned for raping a 14-year-old hitchhiker and received one to fifteen years. His terrifying journey had begun.
November 21, 1977, Bonin wrote: “Played this morning. Really had fun. Won all three sets (6-3. 6-2. 6-0). Sent a letter today to Jay. Just had him on my mind all morning. I love him very much.” In 1977, this convicted child molester was playing tennis and falling in love. Fact.
November 23, 1977. “Played tennis against Ray and also Ron. Ron talked to Pat for a while about stocks. Some day I want to go into options. I’m not sure, as I seem to be doing fairly well the way I’m going now. I’m going to start watching the puts and calls by IBM and start making some real money if I can get in at the right time. I sent a letter to Merrill Lynch in Hollywood to see what they would charge me for the commissions on the stocks I bought through Hollywood.”
Two days later, Bonin wrote he’d expanded his interests from tennis to investing. What about the boys he molested? What about the fourteen-year-old kid he raped?
What about the twelve young men he was convicted of murdering? And others never found?