California Serial Killers: 7 Notorious Golden State Psychos


Photo courtesy of

California has a lot to offer. From the hills of Hollywood to the think tanks of Silicon Valley. From the beaches, up over the mountains and into the deserts. The Golden State provides an endless bounty of opportunities for adventure and natural beauty.

Known for its progressive and free-spirited attitude, the Golden State has enchanted those who are in search of a new life. The problem is – not everyone has sweet dreams of surf and sun. Rather, there are some nefarious characters lurking in the shadows and preying on the innocent.

Here are seven of California’s most horrendous killers.

Lonnie Franklin Jr.  (the ‘Grim Sleeper’)

From 1985 through 1988, the women of South Los Angeles were living a nightmare. And that nightmare was Lonnie Franklin, Jr. Over the course of  three years, nine women were raped and murdered. Then suddenly, the murders stopped.

That is – until 2002 when the body of a teenage girl was discovered in the adjacent city of Inglewood. This killing ‘hiatus’ led to Franklin’s nickname, the Grim Sleeper. Another eight years passed, and justice was finally served. In 2010, Franklin was arrested in his South LA home, and was eventually sentenced to death on 10 counts of murder.

Michael Hughes

Home to Sony Pictures, Culver City is a thriving entertainment industry neighborhood. This area experienced its own horror movie in the 1990s when Michael Hughes was on his killing spree. In 1998, Hughes was convicted of killing four women. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

But, the story does not end there. Ten years after his conviction – through a DNA ‘cold hit’ authorities charged Hughes with four additional murders. He was eventually convicted for three of those deaths. In total – Hughes was convicted for killing seven women.

In 2012, Hughes received a death sentence.

Richard Ramirez (the ‘Night Stalker’)

Throughout the mid-1980s, Southern California residents were terrorized by who the media dubbed – the Night Stalker. The killer, Richard Ramirez, was a rapist and Satanist, who would enter people’s homes in the early morning hours. Ramirez’s murder rampage claimed 13 lives.

The Night Stalker would either strangle, shoot or slash the throat of  his victims. Pentagrams were also spray painted on the walls of some of the homes of the victims. Ramirez was sentenced to death in 1989, and died of natural causes in 2013 while still on death row.


Photo courtesy of  Note: Try staring at his eyes for longer than 30 seconds.

Charles Manson

One of the most infamous killers of all-time, Charles Manson had curated a cult of loyal followers, who carried out brutal murders on his behalf. Over the course of two nights in August of 1969, he and his followers were responsible for the brutal murder of seven people.

Both sets of murders involved home invasions of affluent and well-known people. The first group of murders included the gruesome killing of Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of famed director Roman Polanski. On the following night, wealthy supermarket executive Leno LaBiance and his wife, Rosemary, were brutally slain.

Manson continues to serve a life sentence, and has been denied parole on a repeated basis.

William G. Bonin

Suspected of 35 murders, the so-called “Freeway Killer” was once described by a prosecutor as the most evil person who had ever existed. In the span of less than two years (1979-1980), William G. Bonin raped, tortured and killed 21 boys and young men. Another 14 murders are attributed to Bonin, but he was never convicted for those additional slayings.

A former Southern California truck driver, Bonin earned the moniker Freeway Killer because many of his victims’ bodies were found alongside various California freeways.

Bonin was executed in 1996, and earned the dubious distinction of being the first person in California to be killed by lethal injection.

Marcus Wesson

In March 2004, nine bodies were discovered in a Fresno, California home – a scene which was described by police as a “House of Horrors.”

In a back room of the home, the killer – Marcus Wesson – stacked the dead bodies from youngest to oldest. If that’s not disturbing enough, all of the victims were his children, and the ages ranged from 1 to 25.

Known as Fresno’s worst mass murderer, Wesson was charged, convicted and sentenced to death for killing nine of his children.

Charles Ng

In 1985 – scattered across the property of a rustic cabin situated in the picturesque Sierra Nevada foothills – police discovered over 40 pounds of charred human remains.

The killers, Charles Ng and Leonard Lake, are suspected of slaying 19 people. Despite evidence of nearly 20 murders, Ng was only charged and convicted with the death of 11 victims – two infants, three women and six men. Ng’s accomplice, Lake, was never convicted, as he committed suicide shortly after his arrest.

In 1999, Ng was sentenced to death, and is currently on death row awaiting his execution.


The existence of these psychotic killers is a cautionary tale which shows us that we must always be vigilant and aware of our surroundings. We never know what monster is hiding in the shadows.

How about where you live – have there been any killers who belong on a similar, infamous list?


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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