SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Freeway Killer William Bonin, already facing the gas chamber for a string of 10 homosexual-torture killings in Los Angeles, was convicted today of four similar murders in neighboring Orange County.
A Superior Court jury reached its verdict Monday after three days of deliberations, but delayed announcing the findings until today. The panel found Bonin guilty of four counts of murder and three counts of robbery.
The panel was hung on one robbery count and Superior Court Judge Kenneth Lae instructed jurors to resume deliberations on the matter.
As the verdicts were read in the courtroom, some of the mothers of Bonin's victims lowered their heads and cried.
Bonin, 36, was sentenced to die in the gas chamber after he was convicted last year by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in the sex-torture killings of 10 teenage boys and young men. He was taken off Death Row at San Quentin for the Orange County trial.
The former Downey, Calif., truck driver was originally linked by police to the homosexual torture slayings of about 40 boys and young men in five Southern California counties between 1972-80. Authorities now say many of those cases will never be solved.
In Orange County, Bonin was convicted of murdering Lawrence Sharp, 17, in November 1979; Glenn Barker, 14, of Huntington Beach, and Russell Rugh, 15, of Garden Brove, both in March 1980; and Frank Fox, 17, of Bellflower, in May, 1980.
Prosecutor Bryan Brown said all four victims, like most of those in the earlier trial, were picked up while hitchhiking, ordered to strip in the back of Bonin's van and then were tortured and strangled with a cord.
During the trial, Bonin's attorney, William Charvet, insisted that similarities in the slayings did not prove his client was guilty. He said Bonin was charged in Orange County only because 'the district attorney had four murders and didn't have anyone to connect the murderer to the victims.'
Earlier Monday, the jury asked to have testimony read to them from Sgt. Robert Harris and officer Ted Banis, both Los Angeles policemen who had been engaged in early surveillance of Bonin.