Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Buono and Bianchi, the Hillside Stranglers

A Rocky Past

Kenneth Alessio Bianchi was born May 22, 1951 in Rochester, New York. His biological mother was an alcoholic prostitute who gave him up at birth. Three months later, Frances Bianchi and her husband, a worker in the American Brake-Shoe foundry, adopted him.

Darcy O'Brien describes him as a born loser: "Kenny appears to have arisen from the cradle dissembling. By the time he could talk, Frances knew she was coping with a compulsive liar, and his childhood unfolded as one of idleness and goldbricking. When he was five and a half, Frances became worried by his frequent lapses into trancelike states of daydreaming; she consulted a physician. The doctor, hearing that little Kenny's eyeballs would roll back into his head during these trances, reached a diagnosis of petit mal seizures. But they were nothing to worry about. He would grow out of them."

Despite his IQ of 116 and artistic and verbal gifts, he was a chronic underachiever and his grades were erratic. He was prone to temper tantrums and was quick to anger. Frances took him to a psychologist, who decided that Kenny was overly dependent upon his mother.

With significant financial sacrifice, she sent him to a Catholic elementary school where he did well in creative writing. Mr. Bianchi died of a heart attack when Kenny was 13 and Frances had to go to work to support the two of them. Kenny went to a public high school where he was polite and neat, avoiding all of the social turmoil that caught up so many young people in the late 1960s.

"Bianchi set high standards for his women, which they repeatedly failed to meet. His Catholic education served him here in a twisted way. He was able to confuse ordinary women with the Virgin and could be moved to bitter disappointment, even anger and fury, at their human frailties. Denying female sexuality even as he was attracted to it, he objected to V-neck sweaters and tight jeans and asked absolute fidelity in return for outwardly absolute devotion. Yet he always dated several girls at once and did not require of himself comparable standards of purity." (O'Brien)

He married a young woman his age when he graduated from high school in 1971, but neither of them was mature enough to make the marriage last. Eight months into the marriage, she packed up all of their goods, left him and filed for an annulment. Kenny was crushed. He felt betrayed and used.

When he got over the pain, he started going to a community college to take courses in police science and psychology, but did not do particularly well and finally dropped out. He was rejected when he applied for a job in the sheriff's department. He drifted into a job as a security guard, which allowed him to steal things, which he then gave to his girlfriends. The stealing caused him to change jobs a number of times and he realized that he wasn't going anywhere in Rochester.

Kenny left Rochester in late 1975 when he was 26 and went to live in Los Angeles. He started out living with his older cousin, Angelo Buono. At first he was seduced by the uninhibited California culture where sex and drugs were freely available. Eventually, he got tired of that and started to settle down.

His first love was police work, but there were no openings available in the Los Angles Police Department and the Glendale Police Department turned him down. Eventually, he got a job working for a title company and used his first paycheck to get an apartment at 809 East Garfield Avenue in Glendale and a 1972 Cadillac sedan, overextending himself financially in the process. Kenny was never strong on financial responsibility.

There were a number of young women who lived in his apartment building. One of them, Kristina Weckler, tried to ignore his advances, but others were more receptive. He moved in with Kelli Boyd, a woman he had met at work. In May of 1977, she told him she was expecting his child.

He wanted to marry Kelli, but she was not sure that she wanted to accept the offer. While Kenny was very kind to her, he had some serious faults. He was very jealous, immature and he lied. Kenny lost his job over some pot that was found in his desk, but he was able to get another similar job in downtown L.A. He and Kelli moved to an apartment at 1950 Tamarind Avenue in Hollywood.

As a sideline, Kenny had set himself up as a psychologist with a phony degree and set of credentials that he had fraudulently obtained. He rented some office space from an unsuspecting legitimate psychologist. Fortunately, very few people came to see him for help. When Kelli found out about the counseling service, she was angry.

During October and December of 1977, the city of Los Angeles was panicked by news of the Hillside Strangler, but this had little effect on the relationship of Kelli and Kenny. When Kenny started coughing and having difficulty breathing, Kelli insisted that he go to a doctor. He told her that he had lung cancer and was going to have to take radiation and chemotherapy to save his life. It was a lie.

Kelli was traumatized by the news, but did her best to keep his spirits up. Kenny started to miss work because he claimed that the therapy was making him ill. One day when he was home sick from work, detectives came to question him about one of the Strangler murders that may have taken place in his apartment building. The detectives were favorably impressed with Bianchi and did not consider him a suspect.

Ken asked to participate in LAPD's ride-along program, which let civilians go along in patrol cars as a kind of community education program. Ken did nothing but talk about the Strangler murders.

The relationship between Kenny and Kelli became tense. She would often go to stay with her brother, but would always go back to Kenny. In February, their son Sean was born. For awhile, things were better between them, but the old problems surfaced once again.

Ted Schwartz in The Hillside Strangler summarizes how Kelli viewed the difficulties: "Ken was irresponsible about work and about money. He would goof off, going over to play cards with Angelo after calling in sick. He owned a used Cadillac, then couldn't make the payments. She had hoped that the baby would cause him to have a sense of purpose, to encourage him to change his ways, but it didn't.

Kelli went back home to Bellingham to start over. Her parents and old friends were there to help. Ken was devastated by the decision. Once again, his woman abandoned him. Once she was gone, he wrote to her constantly. Finally, she agreed to give him another chance and he drove to Bellingham in May of 1978.


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