The Tool Box Killers

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The Tool Box Killers were two American men, Roy Lewis Norris and Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker. The two serial killers were labelled the Tool Box Killers based on their style of murder. They used items from a typical household tool box to torture and murder their victims. Ice picks, screw drivers, and sledgehammers were  among the many items used. Their killing spree began in Southern California in 1979 and only spanned over five months. 

Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker
On September 27th, 1940 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker was born to a couple who had chosen not to have children. He was then placed in an orphanage and later adopted by Mr. and Mrs. George Bittaker. 

From the time he was an infant throughout his childhood, he was moved all over the country as his adoptive father was employed in the aviation industry. Most of his childhood was uneventful other than constantly moving homes, until he turned 12. At just 12 years old, he was arrested for shoplifting and over the next several years, he was continuously arrested for theft. 

While Bittacker was considered to be quite intelligent, he found high school to be boring and tedious, driving him to drop out of school all together. Within one year of dropping out, he was arrested for a different type of theft… car theft. In addition to the car theft, hit and run and evading arrest were among his charges. At the time of his arrest, he was a minor so he was sentenced to serve his time in the California Youth Authority until he turned 18. 

Due to his crimes, his adoptive parents no longer wanted him in their lives and moved to another state. Bittaker never saw his adoptive parents again. 

Though his parents disowned him, he never missed a beat, within days of his release from California Youth Authority, he was arrested while crossing state lines in a stolen vehicle. August 1959, he was sentenced for this crime and would go on to serve 18 months in Oklahoma State Reformatory, though sometime within his sentence, he was transferred to Springfield, Missouri to a medical center for federal prisoners where he served the rest of his sentence. One year later, in 1960, he was released from prison and dived head first back into his life of crime. By May of 1961, he was arrested for robbery in Los Angeles, California and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

During this imprisonment a psychiatrist stated Bittaker had concealed hostility and was described as being very manipulative. Once his two year sentence had been served, he was released but for only a short time before being arrested again on a parole violation in October 1964.

During this incarceration, he was examined by two psychiatrists. Both determined him to be a borderline psychopath who was extremely manipulative and did not acknowledge any consequences of his actions. 

He often blamed his issues on lack of love and affection from his adoptive parents. 

After explaining that he felt self-important when committing crimes he was prescribed antipsychotic medication and released one year later. Though once again he was arrested again, in July of 1967 for car theft and leaving the scene of a car accident. Sentenced to five years in prison, but was released early in April of 1970. 

By March of 1971, arrested again for parole violations, he was now facing 6 months to 15 years, but only served 3 years and was released. 

Released in 1974 it wasn’t long before he was arrested again. Though, this time it was for assault with an attempt to commit murder. Bittaker had stabbed a supermarket employee. Caught stealing steak an employee approached him outside the store and was stabbed in the chest, just slightly missing the young man’s heart. 

His victim Gary Louie survived and Bittaker was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. He served this sentence in San Luis Obispo at the California Men’s Colony. 

Roy Lewis Norris
Roy Lewis Norris was born to parents who married because they conceived him out of wedlock. Roy’s father worked in a scrap yard and his mother was a housewife who was heavily addicted to drugs. Throughout his childhood and teen years, Roy was removed from his Colorado home and placed in foster care multiple times. Roy had troubles in his actual home and foster homes, sexual abuse and neglect in the foster homes, being denied food or clothing. 

At 16, Norris lived with his birth parents and was accused by a female relative of speaking sexually to her. His father threatened a beating and Norris stole the family car driving into the Rocky mountains to commit suicide. He was picked up and labelled a runaway only to be returned to his parents home. At this time, Norris’s parents stated both their children were mistakes and unwanted and they planned to divorce as they only married to avoid the shame of conceiving a child out of wedlock.

Norris dropped out of school to join the U.S. Navy. Stationed in the San Diego area till 1969 when he was deployed to Vietnam. He never participated in active combat and only had a four month tour before he was honorably discharged. 

Norris was arrested in November of 1969 and charged with assault and attempt to commit rape.  Attempting to force entry into a woman’s car to rape her and the second incident occurred in February 1970, deceiving a woman to enter her home and ultimately breaking in with intent to attack her. The attack was unsuccessful as the woman called the police. 

Military psychologists reviewed Norris and diagnosed him as having a severe schizoid personality. The Navy gave him an administrative discharge. 

May 1970, while on bail, he stalked and attacked a San Diego State University student. Bashing a rock into the back of her head till she fell to the ground while on the ground he began bashing her head into the sidewalk. For this crime he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to five years imprisonment, but not in prison, instead he was sent to the Atascadero State Hospital. Doctors determined he was a mentally disordered sex offender.

Serving five years, he was released in 1975 and given five years of probation. Doctors felt he was no longer a danger to others in society. Though the doctors couldn’t have been more wrong… within 3 months of his release from the state hospital, he approached a 27 yr old woman in Redondo Beach, he offered her a ride, she declined causing him to twist her own scarf around her neck. He informed her he was going to rape her and dragged her into some bushes. It took some time before authorities caught him for arrest. About a month after the incident the victim saw Norris’s motorcycle and alerted the authorities. He was arrested, charged with rape and sent to the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

Bittaker and Norris met while in the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo in 1977. They became friends one year after Norris had arrived. Bittaker looked up to Norris and highly respected the criminal connections Norris had. The two constructed jewelry together and during several incidents Bittaker came to Norris’s defense when inmates tried to attack him.

The two had many things in common including their appetite for sexual violence and hatred of women. The two shared their desires, Norris told Bittaker that he loved seeing terrified younger women. Norris would brag that he had raped a long list of women. Bittaker had no noted rapes or sex offenses prior to knowing Norris. Often times when the two were alone they create plans to find teenage girls to murder, torture and rape, they vowed to murder women of each age from 13 – 19 years old. 

Bittaker was released first on October 15th, 1978. The two vowed to reunite once both were released. Bittaker busied himself by finding a job as a skilled machinist allowing him to earn $1000 a week to support himself. He had very few friends, but some acquaintances in his neighborhood. During this time alone, it is said that Bittaker donated money to the Salvation Army as well as purchased large amounts of fast food for the homeless in the area. Local teens idolized Bittaker as he always had weed and his temporary home was in the Burbank motel. 

Three months into Bittaker’s new life, Norris was released, January 15th, 1979. Norris moved in with his mother in Redondo Beach and became employed as an electrician in the city of Compton. Bittaker sent a letter to Norris and the two reunited in February of 1979 at a hotel, to make plans to find their first rape victim. 

The first piece of the plan was to obtain a vehicle to accommodate them in a kidnapping situation. The pair found and Bittaker purchased a windowless, 1977 Silver GMC van in February 1979. The large side sliding door was perfect for forcing unsuspecting victims into the van. The two named the van, the “Murder Mac”. The two installed a bed in the back of the van along with tools, a few of their clothes and an ice chest. 

Their murder spree began in February 1979, picking up well over 20 female hitchhikers which they did not assault, they simply practiced on these women. During these practice runs, the two found the perfect secluded road, located deep in the San Gabriel Mountains. The road was an old fire road and they claimed it, literally, Bittaker broke the lock off the gate and placed his own.

Lucinda Lynn Schaefer
Their first victim was abducted in Torrance, California. She was last seen at a Presbyterian Church in Redondo Beach, California, heading back to her grandmother’s house after a Christian youth meeting. Around 11 am that morning they drove around the beach drinking beer, smoking marijuana, chatting and flirting with different women. Later in the evening, they noticed Schaefer walking down a street around 7:45 pm.

Many attempts to get the blonde into the van failed. They offered her a ride home, some marijuana but she refused. The two drove a little further down the road and pulled over. Norris got out of the van, opened the sliding side door and leaned inside… As Schaefer passed by Norris dragged her into the van. Once in the van Bittacker turned the music up loud while Norris bound and gagged her. The two drove to the fire road they had claimed in the San Gabriel Mountains. It is said during the ordeal, Shaefer was silent and kept her composure.

Norris raped her first, telling Bittaker to go for a walk and stay gone for an hour. In one hour, Bittaker came back and raped the girl while Norris walked away. After her rape, she asked if she would be killed and would she be allowed to pray if killed. The two argued whether they should kill her or release her. Years later when arrested for all murders, each pointed the finger at the other, stating the other one suggested murdering her. Lucinda Lynn Schaefer was strangled by Norris but he stated he couldn’t take the look in her eyes and vomited outside the van. Bittaker continued to strangle her till she convulsed, he then placed a wire hanger around her neck and twisted with vise-grip pliers until she was dead. She was denied her prayer request before death.

They wrapped her body inside of a shower curtain and threw her into a steep canyon. Bittaker claimed animals would eat her and leave no evidence behind.

When the young woman was noticed missing, many searched for her. No clues were found except one of her shoes alongside the road she was abducted from. 

Andrea Joy Hall
Two weeks after murdering Lucinda Lynn Schaefer, the two came across Andrea Joy Hall. On July 8th, 1979, she was hitchhiking along the Pacific Coast Highway. They slowed the van to offer her a ride, but another vehicle beat them to it and she got into the other vehicle. They followed the car she took a ride in all the way to Redondo Beach.

Once approaching her again, Norris hid in the back while Bittaker asked her in for a cold drink. When she climbed in for the cold drink Norris attacked her, but she fought hard. Norris was only able to subdue her by twisting her arm and holding it behind her back. She was then gagged and her wrists and ankles were taped.

Once again, they drove the San Gabriel Mountains, each took a turn raping her twice. Norris believed at one point he saw headlights coming towards them. Bittaker placed his hand over her mouth, dragging her into some bushes, while Norris took the van in search of the vehicle he thought he’d seen. This close call caused the pair to drive farther into the mountains where Bittaker then forced her to walk up a hill naked and perform oral sex on him. Polaroid pictures were also taken of Hall.

Driving to a third location, Bittaker took Hall up a hill and Norris drove nearby to get alcohol. When Norris returned Andrea Joy Hall was dead. Bittaker took Polaroids of her expressions when he asked her to “give him as many reasons as she could as to why she should be allowed to live”. He thrusted an ice pick into her ear and brain, then shoved the ice pick into her other ear. He stomped on it till the handle completely broke. He strangled her lifeless body then threw it off a cliff. 

Jackie Doris Gilliam & Jacqueline Leah Lamp
The two did not strike right away after murdering Andrea Hall, it wasn’t until September 3rd 1979 that they would strike again. The two killers noticed two young women at a bus stop near Hermosa Beach.

15 year old Jackie Doris Gilliam and 13 year old Jacqueline Leah Lamp were offered a ride in the killer’s van, the girls accepted the offer and climbed into the van.  Once both girls were in the van, Norris offered them marijuana, once again, they accepted the offer. 

At one point the girls realized they were no longer on the Pacific Coast Highway but were now heading towards the San Gabriel Mountains. This created some panic from inside the van with both girls protesting the route. The men made excuses and tried talking it away when Lamp tried opening the van’s sliding door. Norris hit the teen in the back of her head a bag of lead weights. While Lamp was unconscious, he subdued Gilliam and bound and gagged her. Once Lamp was conscious she once again tried to leave the van but Norris twisting her arm behind her back and dragging her to the back of the van. Bittaker stopped the van at this point to assist Norris by punching Gilliam in her face and helping to bound and gag the teens.

For two days, the two girls were kept bound and gagged in the San Gabriel Mountains. Repeatedly raped and physically abused and forced to lay next to their attackers during periods of sleep. Though, one of the men always stayed awake while the other slept to keep watch for any one discovering them. 

Bittaker took Lamp up a hill and took photos of her and Norris also took pictures of himself and Gilliam, not all nude, but some clothed photos as well. Bittaker forced Gilliam to pretend to be his cousin while he raped her and recorded his first three times he raped her. In the recording he told her to express her pain, though no one has actually found this recording, he claimed to have buried it in a cemetery.

Gilliam was tortured, stabbed with an ice pick in her breasts and a pair of vice grip pliers were used to tear off a piece of her nipple. 

Both young women were murdered after those two long days in captivity. Gilliam was murdered first, stabbed in her ears with an ice pick then strangled till she died. Lamp was hit in her head with a sledgehammer by Norris and strangled her until she died, though, she opened her eyes once more and Norris repeatedly hit her head with a sledgehammer while Bittaker continued to strangle her. Both bodies were thrown into an embankment.

Shirley Lynette Ledford
A little over a month after their 2 day stay in the San Gabriel Mountains with their last victims, the two killers struck again. On October 31st, 1979, the two came across Shirley Lynette Ledford. The 16 year old was hitchhiking home from a Halloween party, standing outside a gas station. She was offered a ride and accepted because she recognized Bittaker. Ledford was a part time waitress at a restaurant that Bittaker frequently visited.

As usual, once in the van she was offered some marijuana which she refused. Bittaker, who was driving, took them to a nearby quiet street. Norris pulled a knife on her and bound and gagged her with construction tape.

The two men traded places and Norris began to drive while Bittaker remained in the back of the van Ledford to torture her. Removing the tape from her mouth and legs, he mocked the young woman, slapped her and beat her with his fists, while shouting, “say something” to her. As Ledford would scream, he told her to scream louder or taunt her and ask her if she didn’t like to scream.

Ledford pleaded with Bittaker to not touch her but he told her to scream as loud as she wanted and then began hitting her with a hammer and beating her breasts with his fists. Using pliers to torture her, rape and sodomize her repeatedly. A tape recorder had been recording her screams and suffering. During the recording you can hear Ledford beg for the torture to stop and sounds of tools being taken from their tool box.

Once Norris made his way to the back of the van while Bittaker drove, he also used the recorder to record the torture. Norris told the victim to scream or he would make her scream and she begged him to stop hitting her in exchange for her screams. Norris pulled a sledgehammer out and hit her in the left elbow. With a broken elbow, she begged him not to hit her again, but he proceeded to hit her 25 times consecutively and then asking her what are you sniveling about.

Ledford was tortured, beaten and raped for about two hours before being murdered by Norris. He used a wire coat hanger to strangle her to death. Bittaker chose to dispose of the body on the lawn of a home in Sunland. The home was chosen at random and her body left in the ivy in the front yard. The next morning a jogger found the body and called authorities. Her body was subject to an autopsy and was determined she was raped causing her genitalia to be ripped open, had extreme injuries from blunt force trauma all throughout her body and she died of strangulation. Bittaker had inserted pliers inside of her body, causing her genitalia and rectum to be torn.

Several weeks after murdering Shirley Ledford, Norris met up with an old prison buddy. In November of 1979, Norris confided to Joseph Jackson, a former inmate at the California Men’s Colony. He explained that he and Bittaker had abducted, raped and tortured at least 5 women. In detail he discussed their most recent murder,  Shirley Ledford. Norris also stated that there were three other women that they abducted or attempted to. In one incident, he claimed they raped a young and released her.

Joseph Jackson immediately consulted his attorney after hearing this information. His attorney advised him to take this information to the Los Angeles Police Department. LAPD, shared this information with the Redondo Beach Police, who in turn, assigned a detective to investigate. 

Detective Paul Bynum was assigned to investigate the information received. The confession to Jackson, placed the attacks between the months of June through October. The detective did find that the information matched many missing persons reports that had come in over the last 5 months and the incident Norris described of a young woman being raped by two men matched an incident reported September 30th of that year. Robin Robeck was maced, dragged into the van, raped, but was released after the incident. Police had no leads on this case until now. Robin Robeck was shown multiple mug shots and she identified Bittaker and Norris.

Authorities conducted surveillance of Norris for several days and were able to witness him selling marijuana, which was a parole violation. On November 20th, 1979, Roy Norris was arrested by the Hermosa Beach police. Several hours later, Bittaker was arrested for the rape of Robin Robeck at the Burbank motel.

Robeck identified her attackers in mug shots, but struggled to identify them in a police lineup. Police were able to keep the two in custody on parole violations, Norris dealing marijuana and Bittaker being in possession of drugs at the time of his arrest at the motel.

Bittakers motel room was searched and authorities found Polaroids of the victims Andrea Hall and Jackie Gilliam, both were active missing person cases. Seven bottles of acidic material was also found in Bittakers motel room.  Inside the van, a sledgehammer, jar of Vaseline, a  bag filled with lead weights, two necklaces, a book about police radio frequencies and a tape recording of a victim were found.

Shirley Ledford’s mother identified her only daughter’s voice on the recording and the men’s voices on the recording belonged to Bittaker and Norris.

Searching Norris’s apartment, police found Shirley Ledford’s bracelet and found nearly 500 Polaroids of unsuspecting young women they had taken at local beaches and Burbank High School. 

By November 30th of 1979, a preliminary hearing was held for the September 30th rape of Robin Robeck. Norris attended and was visibly stressed, waiving his Miranda rights before being questioned by Deputy District Attorney and a Detective. He was questioned regarding the rape, but later questioned about the information he had provided to prison mate, Joseph Jackson as well as about the evidence they found in his and Bittakers homes.

Norris denied having any involvement in any of these offenses, but persistent investigators confronted Norris with specific evidence and he cracked. Norris began to finally confess. However, he made sure that Bittaker appeared to be the aggressor and much more culpable than he in these murders and rapes.

Norris shared with investigators that he and Bittaker just drove around the Pacific Coast Highway
Offered rides to attractive young girls, offering them marijuana to get them in the van. Norris offered the graphic details of the murders, sharing how they used the ice pick and on whom they used the sledgehammer, even discussing their location in the San Gabriel Mountains. In his confession, he would state that he bludgeoned her with a sledgehammer but Bittaker strangled her to death. Norris even explained the acid found in Bittakers motel room, stating it was to be used on the next victim. 

Authorities had no doubt that they had the right individuals, Norris provided details that only the perpetrator would have. He knew that their first victim Lucinda Schaefer had lost a shoe when being dragged into the van. He knew Shirley Ledford was Hispanic and Bittaker had asked Shirley to date him prior to her abduction.

Of the hundreds of Polaroid photos authorities worked hard to locate the women in the photos. 60 of the women had been located safe, though 19 of them had been reported missing. There was no evidence the two men had anything to do with the 19 missing women in the Polaroids.

It is believed there may have been one more victim as they found a Polaroid of a woman being tortured, but it was not any of the victims they previously knew of. In a search of the San Gabriel Mountains, only the bodies of Lamp and Gilliam were found. When found, an ice pick was still lodged in the skull of Gilliam and Lamps skull showed evidence of the sledgehammer.

The two men were formally charged with the murders of five girls in February of 1980. Bittaker was denied bail and Norris’s bail was set to $10,000. Norris would testify against Bittaker in exchange for a plea bargain that saved him from the death penalty. Norris pleaded guilty to four counts of first degree murder with one count of second degree murder, two counts of rape, and one count of robbery, on March 18th, 1980. May 7th, 1980,Roy Norris was sentenced to 45 years to life with eligibility to parole in 2010.

Bittaker’s arraignment occurred on April 24th, 1980, he was facing 29 charges of kidnapping, sodomy, rape as well as murder with additional charge of posession of a firearm and criminal conspiracy.  The criminal conspiracy charge came from Bittaker contacting former inmates and asking them to murder Robin Robeck. He wanted to stop her from testifying. Robin Robeck’s rape was dropped later, citing not enough physical evidence.  When it came time for Bittaker to state his plea, he remained silent, he answered no questions and the judge entered a guilty plea as a result of his silence. On March 24th, 1981, Bittaker was sentenced to death or life imprisonment if the death penalty was reversed, but the Judge imposed another sentence, which consisted of 199 years and 4 months in prison, which was effective immediately.

While in prison, Bittaker filed over 40 lawsuits, all a waste of court time, suing over a broken cookie or his sandwich was crushed and citing this as cruel and unusual punishment. A judge later declared he was not allowed to file any lawsuits without the permission of an attorney or a judge. Bittaker died in prison at the age of 79 from natural causes in San Quentin State Prison.

Norris spent his time incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. He died at the age of 72, of natural causes, February 24, 2020.

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4 thoughts on “The Tool Box Killers

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