TORRANCE, Calif. -- Convicted mass murderer Lawrence Bittaker was formally sentenced Tuesday to die in San Quentin's gas chamber for raping, torturing and strangling five teen-age girls.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Federicks sentenced the 40-year-old Burbank machinist following a month-long trial punctuated by often terrifying testimony describing the grisly 1979 murders.
A seven-woman, five-man jury convicted Bittaker Feb. 17 of five counts of murder with 'special circumstances' for the slayings of Lucinda Schaeffer, 16, Jackie Gilliam, 15, Jaqueline Leah Lamp, 13, Shirley Lynette Ledford, 16, and Andrea Hall, 18.
A week later the same jurors recommended Bittaker be executed, rejecting the only other sentence to them for murder with special circumstances -- life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The prosecution's chief witness during the trial was Roy Norris, 33, an accomplice in the slayings who pleaded guilty in return for a government promise that he would not be sentenced to death.
Norris is scheduled to be sentenced April 24.
All five victims were picked up by Bittaker and Norris and driven across town to the foothils of the San Gabriel Valley, where they were tortured and sexually assaulted before being strangled with wire coat hangar that were twisted around their necks.
Four of the victims were picked up while hitchhiking in suburban areas and the fifth was yanked off the street by the pair and forced into the back of Bittaker's van, which'he dubbed 'Murder Mac.'
During the trial Norris said he actually killed one of the girls and blamed Bittaker for the other four slayings. Bittaker claimed Norris had killed all the girls.
Bittaker's trial gained notice not only because of the brutality of the crimes, but because it was the first felony trial in California history to be recorded by television and still cameras and tape recorders over defense objections.