LOS ANGELES -- Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris joined in an 'unholy conspiracy' to commit the torture and sex slayings of five teen-age girls they picked up while hitchhiking, the prosecutor told jurors Monday at Bittacker's murder trial.
While jurors and other courtroom observers gasped in horror, prosecutor Stephen Kay described the grisly killings in detail in his opening statements. He pinned up large pictures of each young victim as he described how they were raped, tortured with ice picks and pliers and strangled.
Norris, 32, has confessed his role in the slayings and is expected to be the star witness against Bittaker, 40, a former machinist facing charges of murder, rape and kidnapping.
While Norris received a life prison sentence in a plea bargain, Bittaker will be eligible for the death penalty if convicted of the slayings.
Kay, who told the jury that Bittaker was 'an extremely violent, very brilliant man,' said all five victims were picked up while hitchhiking and tortured before they were killed and their bodies dumped in remote mountain areas. Most of the girls were raped repeatedly.
He said some of the victims were photographed while being tortured and raped. Authorities earlier released a tape recording identified as the voice of one of the victims screaming and begging for her life.
Kay said Bittaker tortured but did not rape one of the victims, telling her, 'Well, you wanted to stay a virgin. You'll die a virgin.'
Victims of the slayings, all killed in 1979, were Lucinda Schaefer, 16, of Torrance; Jackie Gilliam, 15, and Jacqueline Leah Lamp, 13, both of Redondo Beach; and Shirley Lynette Ledford, 16, and Andrea Hall, 18, both of Los Angeles.
Bittaker's attorney, Albert Garber, said he would try to convince the jury that Norris, not his client, actually committed the murders. He reminded the jurors that they could not consider the opening statement as evidence.