In the summer of 1979, Southern California beach towns with names like Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan were synonymous with laid back surf culture, good times and pretty teenage girls. These towns were considered safe—as was hitchhiking to and from their beaches—which made them the perfect hunting grounds for Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, soon dubbed “The Toolbox Killers” by a sensational press.
Cruising for victims in Bittaker’s van, the duo raped, tortured and killed no fewer than five girls ranging in ages from 13 to 19. They often held their victims for days before murdering them and dumping their bodies down steep hillsides in the San Gabriel Mountains. Bittaker and Norris’ plan was to kill a girl from each teen year, and they would have been successful, if they had stayed loyal to each other. But psychopaths don’t make trustworthy friends.
This two-hour documentary uses never-before-released audio recordings from San Quentin’s death row in which Bittaker admits to his role in the murders for the first time. Speaking to amateur investigator, Laura Brand, Bittaker recounts the crimes and explains his motivations, providing unique insight into the mind of a man considered to be America’s most sadistic serial killer. Using unconventional tactics, Brand developed a close relationship with Bittaker, who had an IQ of 138. In their conversations, Bittaker claims he has developed remorse and transcended his sociopathy, even providing Laura with the supposed locations of several still-missing bodies. But how much of what Bittaker tells Laura is true, and how much is the manipulations of a psychopath? The murders, like the infamous audio recordings Bittaker and Norris made of their crimes, continue to haunt those who investigated the case. Using Bittaker’s own words, interviews with Laura Brand, prosecutors, journalists, and the victims’ families and friends, we learn of the destruction caused by the killers, the investigation that caught them and the shocking trial that brought them to justice.