Bizarre secured an exclusive interview Lawrence Bittaker, the man who (in 1979) picked up, raped, tortured and murdered five teenage girls in the back of a specially adapted van christened the ‘Murder Mac’. We met him at the place he has called home since his conviction for the killings in 1981: San Quentin prison’s Death Row. In Part 1 we talked to Bittaker about the murders. Now, we discuss his sexuality, prison life, and his forthcoming execution...
The FBI interviewed you twice to learn about serial killers. What was that experience like?
Yeah, John Douglas [a now-retired FBI profiler]. He thought he was smart. He dressed down for me. He brought another FBI agent, Mary Ellen O’Toole. She was hot. CBS and The FBI were going to produce a show called Criminal Minds, based on my case, that was an hour-long special, primetime. But they weren’t allowed to do it because San Quentin wouldn’t give them the interview time.
What was your problem with Douglas?
Well, the first thing I mentioned was that he dressed down. He wore denim and a jacket. This guy thinks he’s slick. He thought he could
fit in with me. He thought calling a woman a bitch in front of me would get me to like him. He thought he could con me. I wasn’t saying anything. I can’t blame the guy for trying. He was playing little mind games. He used the term ‘bitches’. I don’t refer to females as ‘bitches’.
Are you homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual?
I’m adaptable. Because of my 40 years of incarceration, I have had more sex with men than women. It’s easily accessible in prison. It’s right there. Why not just do it? I used to live with a woman in Hollywood. She was totally beautiful from the waist up. But when she raised her dress, she was a drag queen. She was from El Salvador. It was available, satisfying. She was a professional entertainer.
Did you have a sexual relationship with Roy?
Roy is homophobic. He is bigoted, and he is racist. I wouldn’t talk to him about it. He was not adaptable.
Have you ever been married?
I was married in 1982 while I was here. She was a born-again Christian. She wrote me a letter when I was in LA County jail. That’s how it got started. I called her. She picked up. We started talking. When I got transferred up here, she came to visit me. I asked her to marry me. That was a stupid idea. She was on welfare. She divorced me approximately four years later. She claimed I was impotent. We never had sex.
When did you start getting in trouble with the law?
I was 12 or 13 years old. I started to shoplift. The first time I can remember, I stole a mustard seed in a glass ball on a chain. It was a present for a female acquaintance. It was just a girl I was with.
Was she the first female you had sex with?
No sex. Didn’t know what sex was until I was 15. Had sex with myself. I was 20 when I had my first sexual experience with a female. I was locked up in the federal medical centre in Springfield, Missouri, for car theft. I don’t want to go into the details, people might think I’m crazy.
Are you a serial killer?
They say I am, so I am. I’m a special serial killer.
What’s a special serial killer?
OK. Let’s talk about your health. I see all these meds you carry around. What are your illnesses?
Thyroid problem. Something wrong with my kidney. High blood pressure. I take Norvasc for that. Heart medication. I take seven different medications and inhalers for a breathing problem.
Are any of these conditions potentially fatal?
I had a heart attack on 1 August 2004. A minor one. The hospital here got an IV in my arm, called an ambulance. They couldn’t find a vein. My veins roll around. Because of that, the prison can’t give me lethal injection. I would kill myself first. I don’t want them searching around my arm sticking needles in me.
Do you think about your execution?
Why would I want to think about that? [Leans in and speaks softly so the guards can’t hear] I have it all figured out anyway to commit suicide. Razorblades are sort of messy. I can just black myself out. You just put some pressure on your carotid artery. And if I did that with a wrap of some kind, maybe a belt or cloth, wrap it around my neck, tighten it with a pencil or something. When your brain is not getting any blood, you’re in trouble. I’ll just fall out and never wake up.
Under what circumstances would you kill yourself?
Obviously, if I had some type of medical problem, if I was in a lot of pain, and to avoid a public execution. As bizarre as I am, I can’t imagine coming in here to watch somebody get killed.
When do you plan on killing yourself?
Don’t have any immediate plans of going anywhere. I might change my mind next week.
What do you have to live for?
It’s habit, I guess. Everybody who is living, it’s just habit. I’m not seeing the end yet, but it’s getting closer. Not deciding to die yet.
Are you seeing a psychiatrist?
It’s a psychologist, actually. Her name is Dr Lewis. She’s a prison psychologist. You see, part of the reason I was talking to John Douglas was to contribute something positive out of this whole mess with my case. It didn’t work with the FBI. It couldn’t, because I had all this ongoing litigation. But with the psychologist, although any information I give her is confidential, after I’m gone maybe she can release the information. We haven’t made any plans just yet. Just recently I started with her.
So it sounds like you have some remorse.
Just something positive to come out of this whole mess. It’s just the right thing to do.
How many executions have taken place since you’ve been here and what happens the day an inmate gets executed?
There have been eight or nine executions since I’ve been here. We’re locked down the day of an execution. Everybody is in their cells. Nobody is allowed to leave. The prison diverts staff from normal duties to deal with protesters who are both for and against the death penalty.
What is the mood in the prison?
Nobody cares. Just another day.
Really? So it’s not a big deal?
It’s a big deal to the guy getting executed. Once you get an execution date, which is about 30 days in advance, you get moved to North Segregation Unit, which is the historic Death Row. A week away from your execution, you’re put under 24-hour police watch so you don’t commit suicide. They don’t want you to screw up their programme.
What about your life on Death Row? What is the food like?
It’s terrible. The menu reads nice, but the quality and preparation is just crap.
Where do you go to eat?
You’re fed in your cell, pre-prepared trays from the dining room. Things they can bulk-serve. Everything precooked and prepared somewhere else. Hard candy is served as a sugar substitute. [Scott Peterson, convicted of the murder of his wife and unborn child in 2005, walks past in handcuffs, flanked by two armed guards] Scott ‘Fuck’ Peterson.
Have you met him?
I haven’t seen him much in the prison. He never goes to the yard. He gets a lot of visits from different women. He gets at least three regular visits each week and he gets legal visits. He always has two guards with him at all times. He never has to eat the prison food. He gets care packages of food. I’m classified as a ‘walk-alone’, too, because of the publicity in my case.
What does a ‘walk-alone’ mean?
The other prisoners are like, “We don’t want him on our yard,” because of my crimes and how young the victims were. The victims are kind of marginal. I’m on Yard Four. But I never go.
How do you spend your time?
I spend 23-and-a-half hours a day in my cell. No condemned have cellmates. My cell is 4.5ft by 11ft. I was on the main line, non-condemned, for two-and-a-half years when I first came to
San Quentin in 1961, for stealing cars. Anyway, I spend 16 hours a day lying there in the bed. You’re allowed to get four books a week from the institutional library. You might request a thriller, but get given a science-fiction novel instead.
Sorry to hear that.
A lot of the prisoners working in the library just don’t care. What are you going to do about it, throw them in jail?
You have a sense of humour.
You have to. Twenty-five years on Death Row, you’d better have one. You can’t take it seriously or you’ll go crazy.
What about the boredom? How do you adjust to it?
Boredom? You just adjust or die. If you don’t die, you’ve adjusted. Besides, I have my own TV, 13in colour TV.
Thirteen-inch colour TV? Are you kidding?
Someone on the outside bought me the TV.
It’s a long story. I don’t want to get into it. We can also subscribe to magazines as long as they’re not bomb-making magazines and don’t show nudity.
What’s in your cell?
I got a mattress. I sleep on the floor. I have pictures I’ve drawn of the cell. I have no artistic ability, but they’re not bad. I got a steel bed, but I use it as a table. I can sit there cross-legged on my mattress. There’s a typewriter on a box on the bed. There’s a box of legal documents and on top of it there’s my Zenith TV. I have a GPX radio I don’t use. I have one tape – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, by Iron Butterfly. But I don’t have the equipment to play it.
Have you seen any violence in the prison?
I saw a prisoner get killed by a guard, shot in the head for punching some guy. The guard fired two warning shots and then shot him in the back of the head accidentally. The guard claims he was trying to shoot him in the leg.
How do you get along with the guards?
A lot of them don’t like me because of my case. A few of them say, “Hey Pliers, did you bring your toolbox?” I get along with them as long as they want to get along with me.
Do you get many visitors?
No. There is a couple, a husband and wife, name’s Smith. Christian couple from Fresno. He’s a licensed minister. They initially were involved in the juvenile-offender programme. Around the late 1970s, they shifted their attention to the condemned, and started visiting Death Row prisoners. They visit me infrequently.
What do you talk about with them?
Whatever we want to talk about. I’m not religious. They don’t push religion on me. [Eyes well up with tears] They’re just really good people. See, I’m not an animal. We all got our problems. Look at you. You have big feet. Observant, aren’t I?
Yeah. What are your extracurricular activities?
I’ve gone through four to eight books a week during the time I’ve been here, plus all of the law books. I leafed through the California law books and I find stuff my attorneys didn’t find on criminal cases.
There are collectors of serial-killer memorabilia, and your art is highly prized among them. How did you get started in all this?
I just started making greetings cards that were interesting. One of the first cards had a picture of a convict. And when you pulled a tail at the bottom of the card, his tongue would come out, eyes would change colour, pecker would come out. Next one was a variation of that, a picture of just a regular guy you would see on the street. You would open up his trenchcoat and the guy would have a humungous erection with a string at the end of it with a sign that said “Hi!” It was just something to do at first, but then I decided to make money so I could buy things in prison and wouldn’t have to beg off people on the outside. The prison eventually busted me for unauthorised dealing. Capitalism at work. They gave me all this celebrity. You might as well work it.
Are you friends with other celebrity-types here, like [child-rapist and murderer] Richard Allen Davis?
The prisoners here blame him for the ‘three strikes…’ law [America’s bizarre ‘three strikes and you’re out’ law rules that a citizen faces
a potential 25-years-to-life prison sentence if
they commit three serious crimes, but has seen men convicted of petty crimes such as burglary facing life in jail]. He’s asking for it one way or another. Polly Klaas [Davis’ victim], a young girl. [Sighs] I’ve talked to Davis a couple of times. He’s an old-style convict.
What about the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez?
Ramirez used to be a neighbour of mine. He’s in the hole for flag-waving [Simulates opening a trenchcoat]. He flashed some female employee. They caught him selling his souvenirs to someone who’s dealing them for him on the outside.
Why did Ramirez flash the guard?
I think he’s done it a couple times. He has no control over his sexual impulses. When we were neighbours, we never really talked much at
all. What am I going to talk about with this guy? I once traded my autograph for his.
Do you have any other serial-killer friends in prison?
Randy Kraft. He was in my yard. He would get his hair cut out there. And I would pick it up from the ground and give it to one of my collector friends on the outside, and he would sell it. In return, these guys on the outside would send me smut magazines or stamps. Randy found out I was giving away his hair. He doesn’t talk to me any more.
How did that make you feel, losing a friend?
We used to be friendly. He stopped talking to me around a year ago. I don’t blame him. Maybe he overreacted a little bit. Whatever turns him on.
Any other serial-killer stories?
Randy Kraft, Bill Bonin, Douglas Clark and me, you have a good bodycount there. Some collector had four aces from a deck of cards and wanted us all to sign the cards. But Randy wouldn’t sign, not even for 0. He didn’t like any publicity. Somebody wrote a book about his case. He sued the writer.
How much money did you make selling your wares?
Not very much. Most expensive cards were . Retailer took 40 per cent. Started roughly in 1983 and ended in 98. I was under investigation. Supposedly the authorities got word that a local principal was smuggling in kiddie porn to me. That’s what led to them finding out about my business. They charged me with two things: running a business and circumventing trust procedures, which is kind of like laundering money. At most, I made 0.
Be honest with me. Do you have any remorse for killing those girls?
Yes. Yes. Yes. How many times do I have to tell you? Nobody is going to believe it. I’m not happy I got caught.