Pavement that had baked in the sun all day shimmered like the gossamer wings of a dragonfly as it lay radiating its heat up into the summer air—what little air could be found, that is. As evening began and shadows lengthened, the stifling heat made the air feel heavy and oppressive. The demand on power plants due to an increase in electric fan and air conditioner usage threatened blackouts. Residents poured out of apartments, rundown houses, and cheap motels in search of some relief from miserable conditions.
If lucky enough to have a little extra money or the ability to hustle some up, the clubs and bars along the Sunset Strip offered parched souls cold drinks, musical beats, and air conditioning. There were plenty of people hustling on the strip in the summer of 1980. Some sold drugs, and some sold their bodies to obtain drugs. There was a certain twisted symbiosis in the lives of those working the strip. They were integral to each other’s survival while at the same time selling death via baggie, bottle, and body.
Keenly aware that their lives were in constant danger of being snuffed out, women still hustled their bodies for the drugs that gave them the fortitude to get out there and do it all over again, night after night. It was a vicious cycle of dirty needles, dirty customers, and dirty bodies. Heroin abuse was waning a bit as the much cheaper drug crack moved into the streets. Crack did not require obtaining a needle or the even tougher task of finding a decent vein, when years of use had left the user tapped out. Plus, it was cheaper. A $20 blowjob would enable a user to buy a couple modest-sized rocks and keep them amped up for 2-3 hours. Crack was thought as being “safer” by drug users since not having to deal with sharing needles meant less likelihood of catching hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.
For the most part, up until the 1980s, STDs were largely made up of curable illnesses. Sex without a rubber might mean you had to get a shot of penicillin in the ass, but STDs were not generally considered deadly until the AIDS epidemic during that decade.
Violent robberies and assaults by people while on crack or in an attempt to score increased dramatically. The drug element was something most working girls understood the dangers of but being stalked by serial killers was not. No year before nor since 1980 has seen more homicides in America.
As record summer temperatures soared and lingered around the triple digits, so did the number of crimes committed. California easily led the nation in crime, particularly in violent crimes against individuals, namely rapes and murders. It was a deadly decade during which the Sunset Strip murders occurred, and at the time it seemed serial killers were crawling all over California.
At least five serial killers were known to be working the Golden State in the 1980s, though there were several more that law enforcement believed were also operating at the time. It would be decades before the series of rapes and murders attributed to the “Golden State Killer” were solved and former cop Joseph DeAngelo was unmasked as the evil villain behind the sadistic attacks.
Richard Ramirez aka the “Night Stalker,” and cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono dubbed the “Hillside Strangler(s),” were among a small number of serial killers identified and charged with crimes committed in California during the late 1970s and 1980s. In fact, when the first two Sunset Strip victims were found, law enforcement initially wondered if they were victims of a “Hillside Strangler” copycat killer. The bodies had been dumped in a similar fashion and in the same general vicinity as some of their victims. Although called the “Hillside Strangler,” the first victims were strangled, but the killers soon became bored with strangulation and progressed to stabbing, shooting, and asphyxiation in dispatching their victims. The first two victims attributed to the “Sunset Strip Killers,” and all future ones, had not been strangled, but instead, were shot and killed by a .22 caliber handgun.
One of the saddest things about the story of the first two victims, to me, is that they have consistently been labeled as prostitutes ever since their death; however, no proof is yet to be found which indicates there is any truth to that. The only person to insinuate that either girl was involved in prostitution was the person convicted of killing them: Doug Clark. Gina Marano—often misspelled as Narano in both news articles and even a few court documents—aged fifteen, and Cynthia Chandler, sixteen, were not just stepsisters—they were best friends.
Although born on opposite coasts of the United States, the sisters had grown so close that perhaps it makes sense that distance did not separate them at the time of their deaths. Gina’s father and Cynthia’s mother had married and moved their respective children to Huntington Beach, California, to live as one big, blended family. Both girls made friends easily and were bright students capable of doing well academically, but like a lot of teens, they seemed to resent what they perceived as restrictions on their freedom imposed by their parents. The girls had a history of running away from home, occasionally ending up in Cynthia’s place of birth: Los Angeles.
“The City of Angels,” as Los Angeles is often called, is a haven for lost souls. Adults and children alike run away to what they envision is a magical land where their dreams will come to fruition, just like the oranges in the nearby citrus groves. While most people arrive in Los Angeles seeking wealth, a great many people, especially young people, arrive seeking something entirely different—excitement. Gina, a beautiful brunette with olive skin, and Cynthia, a lovely blond with a sun-kissed glow, were among those looking for excitement. It was not unusual for males and females alike to hitchhike during the 1970s and even into the 1980s. “Stranger Danger” was a slogan still a few years in the future.
Stepping into a car with a stranger was dangerous, but it was also a common occurrence, and the two girls presumably felt there was safety in numbers. As they thumbed their way along the coast, the girls generally kept to the busy freeways where they were more likely to be offered a ride, and they always stuck together. The sisters’ bodies were found on June 12, 1980, not far from a California highway off-ramp. It appeared to investigators the girls had been killed at another location and their partially nude bodies dumped from a vehicle, and then allowed to roll down an incline, where they came to rest amongst desert scrub and brush that reached upwards to the unforgiving sky. No attempt had been made to conceal the bodies; it was as if the killer was proud of their work and eager to display it, taking delight in the shock and fear the scene would evoke in others.
Terrorists are known to work in a similar manner. Terrorism is not about the atrocities experienced by the individual being targeted, but rather, the fear felt by witnesses to the crime and the terror these crimes instill. Causing others to experience psychological terror after they have witnessed the physical torture and brutality perpetrated on victims is a classic hallmark of sexual serial killers. Initial pleasure and satisfaction come from acquiring the victims and the commission of the crimes, then they relive the acts in their mind or by following accounts on the television news or in newspapers, from which further satisfaction is experienced. Fear expressed by the public that they might also become victims of this sadistic killer causes more pleasure experienced by the perpetrator.
The bodies of Gina and Cynthia were dumped in a similar manner and location as some of the victims attributed to the “Hillside Strangler;” however, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, the two cousins arrested and charged with the murders, had been off the streets and in police custody since January 1979. This made it impossible for the two girls to be victims of Bianchi and Buono. The girls had been murdered sometime on the previous day, only a few hours before their bodies were discovered. The sweltering California heat, however, had already caused the bodies to bloat and decomposition was progressing at a rapid rate. Skin that had once glowed with youth now held a waxen pallor and threatened to burst open as it was stretched taut from the gases created by the process of decomposition.
Around 1 pm on June 12, a worker clearing debris and litter in the area near Forrest Lawn Cemetery found Gina’s body lying face down and Cynthia’s body a few feet away. Gina’s clothing had been removed except for the red tube top she was wearing, which had shifted down to her waist. Cynthia was still partially clad in a pink jumpsuit, which had been slit up the leg with a sharp instrument, all the way to the crotch. Neither girl had on panties, but it was not readily apparent to officials at the scene whether any sexual assault had occurred either immediately prior to or following their deaths. Except for the girls’ clothing being partially removed, torn, and in disarray, there was not much evidence of this being a sex crime.
A small amount of blood and a drop or two of what was believed to be motor oil was noted on Cynthia’s jumpsuit. Gina had succumbed to gunshot wounds to the head, while Cynthia had, in addition to a matching head wound, been shot in the chest at close range. Black burn marks, which fanned out in a speckle pattern, told investigators that the muzzle of the gun was either held extremely close to, or pressed into, Cynthia’s chest.
Finding very little of any evidentiary importance, investigators nonetheless collected any stray cigarette butts, beer bottles, or paper wrappers—anything that might assist them in finding out who was involved in the girls’ deaths. Police faced the grim task of not only identifying a killer but identifying the victims as well.
Murder investigations, and the subsequent search for a killer, are much more difficult and tedious without knowing the victim’s identity. Investigators need to look at where the person was last seen and when, as well as people the victim knew, and people who might have come into contact with the victim based on the victim’s occupation and lifestyle. At the time of discovery, neither girl was found to be carrying an identification card on her person, which resulted in the necessity of both being given Jane Doe monikers until family members came forward and were able to identify them as their loved ones. The girls had been dumped so casually, and with such disregard for human life, it seems doubtful that this would have been their murderer’s “first kill.”
The perpetrator seemed comfortable with killing and handling the bodies. Cynthia’s body displayed marked lividity, a phenomenon caused by the cessation of blood circulation when the heart stops beating at the time of death. Blood, which would normally be in constant motion, propelled by the natural pumping action of the heart through the various blood vessels, becomes dependent on the force of gravity, pooling in the areas closest to the ground. For instance, a person who is lying on their back at the time of death will display the appearance of bruising brought on by lividity along the posterior regions of their body. If that body is then moved and placed on its stomach, the areas of lividity appear in dramatic contrast to the deathly pallor of the rest of the body and provide the investigators with important information regarding the person’s death.
It was this lividity on Cynthia’s body and the lack of any blood at the scene that told law enforcement the girls had been killed elsewhere and transported to the area in which they were found. Police cordoned off the area with yellow crime scene tape, although it would not deter the only living creatures in the area—the insects already setting up house in and making meals from the remains.
Gina and Cynthia’s parents were looking for their daughters the day the bodies were discovered; they were able to identify them and give police a bit of information and insight. Gina’s father recalled talking to his daughter a week or two earlier but had not heard from either girl since. Right before the girls’ murders, they had been at a party in Beverly Hills where they had been introduced to a girl by the name of Mindy Cohen. Cohen, a nineteen-year-old from an affluent background, was nevertheless a very down-to-earth type taking an interest in the two girls who seemed so out of place at a catered affair in the hills. Cohen was able to fill in some of the missing pieces for authorities concerning the days surrounding the sisters’ deaths.
Cohen’s boyfriend, thirty-eight-year-old Mark Gotteman, was a wealthy lawyer who, like the girlfriend half his age, loved to party and loved to throw hedonistic drug-fueled fêtes with guests ranging from business professionals and people in the entertainment industry to strippers and prostitutes. Gotteman had a close friend named Richie, who owned a long, sleek limousine driven by a tall, handsome chauffeur. The chauffeur was often sent out by his boss in search of attractive girls to bring back to the Gotteman mansion to party with other guests. Allegedly, a few nights before the girls were killed, Richie dispatched his chauffeur and limo on just such a mission, and while cruising slowly down the Sunset Strip, the man happened across Gina and Cynthia. He brought them back to the mansion with him. In her statement to police, and the testimony she gave at trial, Cohen said she quickly struck up a conversation with the sisters. Gina told Cohen they had gotten jobs at a Taco Bell near the place they were currently residing, but if they were employed, Cohen thought to herself, it was obvious that they were barely getting by. Despite the girls having a hungry look about them, as if they weren’t getting enough to eat, Cohen envied the girls and their bravery in striking out on their own.
She might not have been so envious had she known what neither sister had told anyone, that Gina had been drugged and raped at a party a few nights prior to the one at Gotteman’s mansion. Cohen admired the girls’ spirit of adventure and upon hearing their story, and that their main means of transportation involved hitchhiking, she gave Gina her name and phone number, which she had written on a piece of paper, urging them to call her day or night if they were ever in trouble or needed anything. Gina kept a red address book with her at all times, and she stuck the paper in amongst the business cards and notes already inside it. Gina’s father spoke with the police about his daughter’s address book, perhaps in hopes it might contain some clue that would help capture a killer, but the address book was not at the scene, nor was it ever recovered.
Mindy Cohen had more to share with the police than the details of her meeting Gina and Cynthia. Cohen contacted police in a terrified state after receiving a phone call from a man who identified himself as a police detective. After introducing himself, he went on to say that he was investigating the deaths of two teen girls with whom she was acquainted—Gina Marano and Cynthia Chandler. Cohen’s number had been found in an address book one of the girls had with her when the bodies were discovered, the detective told her. He asked if it would be possible to come by and ask a few questions, but Cohen’s parents were out of town and she was babysitting her younger sisters. She gave this as her reason for not meeting with him that day, but she was willing to answer any questions the detective had.
After a few seemingly inconsequential questions, the man claiming to be a detective with the LAPD asked Cohen if she knew the girls had been prostitutes. No, she replied, she had not heard anything about that. The police had confirmed this, the caller informed her, because a man’s business card had been found with one of the girl’s bodies, and the man admitted to paying the girl for sex.
It was only after Cohen hung up the phone that she realized she could not recall the name the detective had given her. She also thought it was highly unusual for a police officer to go into so much detail about what was still an ongoing murder investigation. The thought of him telling her the girls were prostitutes, as if he felt the need to convince her it was true, made her uncomfortable. While thinking over the phone conversation, Cohen realized she had told the caller she was alone in the house with her younger sisters because her parents were out of town.
Now she wondered, not only if this could have been Gina and Cynthia’s killer posing as a cop, but if he had her address as well as her phone number. If she had known the truth at the time, that Gina’s address book had not been at the scene, she would have known that her feeling that it had been the killer on the other end of the phone was correct. In tears, she called her lawyer boyfriend, Mark Gotteman, who in turn placed a call to the LAPD. No one from the precinct had made a call to Cohen, they told him; it must have been a crank call. Nevertheless, Cohen and Gotteman were worried.
A few days later, a woman by the name of Laurie Brigges also received a call from a man claiming to be a detective with the LAPD, who had been assigned to the Marano-Chandler investigation. Brigges’ husband, Henry, and his brother ran a moving company and Henry had been one of the last people to see the girls alive. Henry’s business card was found with the girls’ bodies, the caller stated—the same type of story that Mindy Cohen had been told. Laurie asked if Henry should call or come down to the station to speak with the detective, but he assured her that it was not necessary, and they would be in touch.
When Laurie relayed the message to Henry later, he told her that on June 11 he and an employee had seen the two girls. The girls had been hitchhiking and the men were worried for their safety, so they had given them a ride and warned them of the dangers of hitchhiking. Brigges had given the girls his business card and said that if he could help in some way, to call the number listed on the card. He never saw or heard from them again.
Upon reflection, Henry decided it would be best for him to contact police and offer any information he might have that could assist them in capturing the killer. As with Cohen’s experience, the police said no one had called the Brigges’ home and to disregard the phone conversation as some type of prank. Henry Brigges agreed to try to put the incident out of his mind, but he couldn’t forget what had happened to the two sweet girls, and Laurie couldn’t forget the sound of the caller’s voice. Even the blistering California sun couldn’t rid her of the chills she got when she remembered it. It sounded like pure evil.
Less than a year after the United States was attacked by the Japanese and subsequently entered into World War II, Carol Mary Peters entered the world. Born August 26, 1942, to parents Charles and Gladys, the newborn was so lovely. The parents were sure she would grow to become a beauty just like her mother. The young couple already had a son, Gene—a precocious boy who enjoyed moderate fame as a child actor.
Both parents worked, with Charles in the entertainment industry, in which wife Gladys had also worked before they wed and began a family. Gladys was a slender, lithe tap dancer when she met Charles, and had kept her good looks and stunning figure, but had changed careers, now working as a hairdresser.
Although seemingly happy to still have ties to the entertainment field through her husband, she nevertheless lived vicariously through her son and had dreams of doing the same with her darling daughter. Intelligent, adorable, and confident, Carol amazed and delighted her family, displaying signs she was a natural born entertainer. Sadly, the acting skills Carol honed as a child would be used throughout her life as both a means of escape and as a coping mechanism.
When Carol was three years old, her sister, Vicky, was born, and this event seemed to coincide with major changes in both Carol’s outward appearance and her outlook on life. As Carol grew and entered into her school years, the girl who once possessed a sweet sunny disposition and precious baby doll looks evolved into a sullen and withdrawn, overweight child. Fate dealt her another cruel blow by the necessity of wearing large coke bottle glasses to help correct her poor vision. Teased and taunted by classmates and shunned by her own siblings, Carol retreated into a literary world of make believe, devouring title after title of science fiction and fantasy tomes.
Her dismal perception of her own life was forgotten while she lost herself inside worlds in which everyone was different, and, thus, no one was singled out for their differences. Each day she would hurry home from school as quickly as possible, complete her chores and homework and read late into the night. Any free time Carol had was devoted to reading, and she became more and more introverted, her social growth so stunted that it would affect every interaction and relationship she had for the rest of her life.
A seminal event occurred after school one day when Carol arrived home to find the door locked. Pounding on the door and calling out for her mother to let her in until her small balled up fists burned with pain and her voice grew hoarse, she wilted to the ground, collapsing in a puddle of tears. At last, she heard what she knew to be the sound of her mother’s voice from inside the house, even though it was obvious Gladys was trying to disguise her voice.
The words her mother spoke to her would remain with Carol the rest of her life. Gladys called out repeatedly in a shrill, affected falsetto tone that she was not Carol’s mother, Carol’s mother and family had moved away, and now the house belonged to her. “Go away little girl,” the impossibly high soprano voice called to Carol. “You don’t live here anymore.”
Carol, who seemed to have either blocked out memories too painful for her to recall or subconsciously changed facts as a form of self-preservation, was never able to tell psychologists and others who examined her just where she went when her mother locked her outside. She knew her father had somehow convinced her mother to allow the eight year old to return, but she did not remember or would not remember the exact circumstances. Was there a chance that the event did not actually happen? Had her mind manufactured a way to explain how Carol’s mother had shut her out of her life and denied that this child, this clumsy, pudgy child with the wandering eye and thick corrective lenses, could not possibly be her little girl? It is certainly possible.
The fact that Carol’s siblings did not remember events or did not remember them the way Carol stated they happened could be an indicator that Carol had invented them or, simply, that everyone, especially children, interpret and recall events differently. An item not disputed by anyone is that both parents were alcoholics and prone to violence. Gladys, says Carol, couldn’t be trusted to discipline the children. Her temper and rage turned the act of spanking a child into a brutal beating. Despite the harsh memories she had of her mother, Carol related that she was panic-stricken the day her mother suddenly paused mid-sentence as her face turned a chalky white. Carol, in tears, pleaded with her mother asking what was wrong, as Gladys slowly made her way to her bedroom and lying on the bed, she told Carol to go get her father and tell him she was not feeling well. Charles immediately left work, and gently scooping Gladys up in his arms, took her to the hospital. Charles returned home alone long after dark, and through tear-filled eyes told his two young daughters that, despite the doctor having given their mother a shot—perhaps a shot of adrenaline or lidocaine, which are still used in certain cases of cardiac emergency—their mother had died.
Losing the mother, who had never been particularly loving and nurturing to Carol, would still leave a void. There would never be any reconciliation or chance to work on establishing a better mother/daughter relationship. Carol would have trouble the rest of her life with defining her role as a nurturer and searching for the nurturing in others that she had been denied by both parents. This would lead to several toxic relationships in which Carol saw herself as both the alpha, who was in charge of doling out affection and the downtrodden submissive constantly seeking attention and acknowledgement.
The void Gladys’ death had left was a topic her father, Charles, broached with both daughters almost immediately, according to Carol and Vicky. Gene, the eldest Peters child, had already left home by the time their mother passed away. Charles made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that his daughters would be expected to take their deceased mother’s place in every aspect—including her place in the parental bed. Carol, thirteen, and Vicky, eleven, had no real concept of what adults did in bed, but they nonetheless knew that the idea of being alone in bed with their father terrified them.
Charles did not care which one of his daughters accompanied him to bed that night, he informed them, just make a decision and be quick about it. Carol and Vicky played a game of rock-paper-scissors, with the loser being required to follow Charles into the darkened bedroom for the night. Carol’s relief at Vicky being the loser was quickly replaced by fear for her younger sister as she lay curled up in the fetal position in her own bed, eyes tightly clenched, and her hands balled into fists. She pressed her fists as hard as she could against her ears in an attempt to block out her sister’s cries and the sound of her pleading with Carol to come help her. The guilt that began growing inside Carol that night would stay with her for many years. She felt she should have offered herself to their father so that eleven-year-old Vicky would not have to experience the loss of her innocence and virginity that night only hours after their mother’s death.
Charles initiated both his daughters into the adult world of sex, and the abuse continued for the better part of a year until their father met and married an unsuspecting woman and moved her in. Charles’s drinking and temper were growing significantly worse and Carol was acting out in extremely dangerous and disturbing ways. She developed an interest in voyeurism and would often watch neighbors outside their bedroom window. Carol, having been introduced to sexuality and the awareness of her own body, would often streak naked through the neighborhood at night and masturbate openly outdoors, progressing to trading sexual favors for small amounts of cash. Offering her body to classmates and a school bus driver helped Carol find some of the attention she so desperately craved. She never enjoyed the physical act, but adored the feeling of being desired, no matter how fleeting.
Her father’s violent acts against her had become intolerable to Carol, who began running away from home when Charles was at his drunkest and most abusive. Returning home one evening, Carol was surprised to find no one there and the case for her father’s shotgun lying empty on the floor. Slowly scanning the dark living room with her poor eyesight, Carol noticed the curtains were torn, and there were spots of what, on closer inspection, appeared to be blood. That was when she saw the family cat, dead from a shotgun blast that had rendered its small body nearly unrecognizable.
While the reality and the gravity of what she was seeing were still sinking in, her father appeared at the door. In an oddly calm and detached manner, Charles told his daughter that he had become enraged while arguing with her stepmother and made a swift decision that he would murder his entire family, starting with his wife. Realizing her husband’s plans and knowing his penchant for violent acts, Carol’s stepmother was able to wrestle the gun from Charles, but not before a random shot was fired, killing the cat. Carol looked down at the pool of blood surrounding her pet as she listened to her father’s uncharacteristically quiet voice tell her how close she had come to her own death.
Charles’s wife, understandably, filed for and was granted a divorce and never returned to the Peters house. Custody of Carol and Vicky was remanded over to foster care, where they were shuffled around before being passed on to a grandmother in Michigan and an uncle who lived in Indiana. Less than a year after his attempt at exterminating his family, Charles made the long journey from California to Indiana and brought the two girls back to live with him. At the age of seventeen, Carol decided she could no longer tolerate the daily beatings she was receiving from her father and his drunken tirades. She married a fifty-six-year-old man she did not love and who, unsurprisingly, was also an alcoholic. Leonard, the man Carol had married to escape from her father, turned out to not only to be an abusive drunk, but also refused to hold down a job.
At seventeen, Carol lacked the education and work experience that would enable her to support both herself and her husband. Leonard came up with what appeared to him a simple and obvious solution; Carol should use what knowledge and experience she had to support them by becoming a prostitute. Sick of his drinking, abuse, and insistence that she sell her body, Carol fled her husband just as she had fled the abusive drunkenness of her father.
Meeting the next man in her life, Richard Geis, could have been the turning point in Carol’s life; a point where she made something of herself. Geis was a writer, specializing in pornography, with occasional foray into the genre of science fiction. Carol was transfixed by the idea of earning a living as a writer and had secretly harbored a desire to be a writer or artist. Geis encouraged Carol’s attempts at writing. He gave her a typewriter, a crash course in writing, and pushed her to sell her work. Carol was able to sell some articles and even wrote, illustrated, and published a single edition science fiction fan magazine.
Though she was gifted with writing as well as artistic talent and had found a person who gave her the emotional support and kudos she had missed out on during her life. The recognition she got from Geis was not enough for Carol, and she soon gave up. When Carol was twenty, she received word that the man who had dominated and tormented her for two decades was dead. Her father, Charles Peters, had hung himself. Carol pulled the blame for his death around her like a familiar blanket.
If she had been there, if anyone had been there she speculated, maybe at least one of her parents would still be alive. Entering into a stage in her life devoted almost entirely to a fruitless and vacuous search for someone to care for her and take care of her, Carol turned her back for a time on the one person who had done just that: Richard Geis.
Geis seemed able to analyze Carol’s actions and the motives behind them better than Carol herself. He reflected that although Carol had sold an article she had written to a magazine and, through his encouragement, started the novel she said she had always dreamed of penning, she stopped after only writing twelve pages. Geis’s observations indicate that whenever Carol encountered a stressor, any small amount of success she had previously achieved was forgotten, and she reverted back to the child her parents thought was never good enough and would never make anything of herself.
The same could be said of her romantic liaisons and interludes. Any slight by a lover sent Carol emotionally back to that scared child who craved love from the very people she feared. Carol often used the smallest excuse to run and to break things off with a partner before the relationship began to sour or before they could dump her first.
Carol moved back and forth between lovers of both sexes with no notable preference. It doesn’t seem that Carol was involved in these relationships for sexual gratification as much as for the longing to be desired and opportunity to experiment with gender roles and passive-aggressive aspect of each partner in these relationships. Geis and Carol continued seeing each other, despite obvious signs this was not a forever pairing; a realization Geis came to once he learned Carol was still having sex with men for money.
It was Richard Geis who paid for Carol to attend nursing school, and in 1968, Carol’s life seemed to be finally shaping into something with real possibility as she stood on the cusp of what, to her, was the closest she had ever been to a life of normalcy. Hope blossomed and bubbled up within Carol.
Even as she and Geis parted ways as lovers, they remained lifelong friends; he was someone Carol would continue to call upon in times of crisis. One of the things Carol was most hopeful about as she ventured forth into her new role as a healthcare provider was the new love interest in her life. A healthcare provider named, Grant Bundy. He and Carol initially seemed to get along quite well together, but when Carol became pregnant with the first of the couple’s two children and began developing health problems, a death knell sounded on the relationship.
Carol, a diabetic, had always experienced difficulties with her vision; with two young boys, Carol was not taking proper care of herself, and her vision worsened. Grant worried that it was due to her diabetes and developed a fear of Carol becoming completely blind and rendering her unable to work, leaving not only the entire burden of providing for the family solely and squarely on his shoulders, but the care of both children and Carol would be left to him.
Grant became increasingly violent, and with flashbacks of prior relationships and her father’s frequent beatings screaming in her head, Carol left with her two young sons and took refuge in a battered women’s shelter in January 1979. She had no way of knowing at the time that this new beginning would also signal the end.
Jack Murray arrived in California with dreams of becoming even more famous than Tom Jones, the beloved American singer with whom he was so often compared. Born and raised in Australia, Jack reveled in the persona of a rugged gentleman from the outback. His manner, at first charming, took on a more Mr. Hyde-type appearance after a few drinks.
A consummate liar, Jack told tall tales of his days fighting the Viet Cong and working as a hired assassin for the CIA; a claim Doug Clark also made about himself. Jack was known to carry a police badge to back up his claims of being associated with law enforcement. This was a point Doug would make when Cohen and Brigges both stated in court he was the person who had called them, impersonating a LAPD detective. It was Jack Murray, Doug told the court, who enjoyed impersonating a police officer.
Jack weaved tales that would leave women misty-eyed when he spoke of the music that had brought him back from the brink of insanity. He laid claim to Top 40 songs he told others he had personally penned, and when confronted with the falsehood, he cocked the goofy grin many found irresistible and disarming, and said, well, he might not have written it, but he had improved on it.
Jack and his wife Jeanette were raising their two children in an apartment complex they managed called Valerio Gardens, and at night, Jack would moonlight as a crooner at country-western bars—most frequently one called Little Nashville. The outward appearance of a gentleman with a gentle spirit was shattered as soon as anything angered him—and he was quick to anger. Careful to present himself in the best possible light when meeting women, he rapidly progressed to a sadistic abuser.
Jeanette was aware of her husband’s dalliances with women he met at the bars in which he performed, as well as those with women who lived in the complex. She had become quiet on the subject for the most part, knowing how quickly Jack’s temper escalated. Jeanette had suffered plenty of black eyes and even a broken arm at the hands of her husband. Making a scene led to physical violence, and what upset Jeanette the most was the thought that her children would witness these events.
Jack was literally capable of charming the pants off women and carried on numerous short-lived affairs and flings. Jack implemented the same psychological tactics as Doug Clark. After showering a woman with attention and playing the role of caring lover, he would then become extremely aggressive and use sadomasochistic acts to frighten the women and assert his dominance. He had become so frenzied on one occasion that he had torn his lover’s nipple off with his teeth.
Jack enjoyed the role of leader and his managerial duties at the apartments suited him just fine. When he met a dumpy, nearly completely blind thirty-seven-year-old divorcee who was searching for an apartment in 1979, he arranged for her and her two young sons to move into an apartment best suited for her disabilities. Ensuring that tenants had access to basic needs and assisting them in acquiring things such as secondhand furniture for their dwellings, he had cemented his place at the top of the Valerio Gardens hierarchy.
Jack’s favorite topic of discussion was himself, and the shorthaired, dowdy new tenant was so desperate for company that she welcomed his visits and listened intently to his stories and delusions of grandeur. Topping off his drink at frequent intervals, it was not long before Jack Murray was drunk, and Carol Bundy was smitten. They drifted into the bedroom and began their twisted affair of sadomasochism and perversion.
Jack encouraged Carol, who had been told her blindness was irreversible and progressive, to seek a second opinion. He also took her to sign up for disability. She received retroactive payments and began to receive a steady check each month. The second opinion brought good news as Carol was told she had cataracts, which would be possible to remove in two separate operations. After the operations, Carol had been pleased to see so well again, but disappointed at the image in the mirror she was now able to see so clearly. On what would be the first of many such occasions, Jack used this opportunity to make Carol feel obligated to hand over cash.
If Carol was hesitant handing over cash, Jack quickly reminded her that, without him, she would not have the money in the first place. Along with Carol’s disability payments, Jack had also made sure that when the house she owned with her ex-husband, Grant Bundy, was sold; she would receive her fair share of the profits. During his nonexclusive affair with Carol, Jack managed to convince her to use $15,000, a combination of money from the sale of her house and social security checks, to open a joint account in both their names, as well as providing him with huge lump sums of money at his request.
One of the lowest and most despicable plots Jack used was telling Carol in a tearful voice that Jeanette had been diagnosed with cancer and an expensive operation was needed if she stood any chance of surviving. Choking through his sobs Jack said he loved Jeanette, even though he had done her wrong, and he couldn’t imagine telling his small children that their mother was dead, because he couldn’t get her the surgery she needed. Carol was now in tears herself. Anything he needed, she said, she would give him anything. She gave Jack the requested $10,000 without any further hesitation. Jack smiled and wiped away the crocodile tears. It had worked like a charm.
Around Christmastime, Carol made a desperate bid to spend time with Jack, hoping he would realize how much he cared for her and enjoyed her company. She planned on paying for a trip for the two of them to Las Vegas. While there, she would explain to Jack that she could offer him everything he needed and seemed to be lacking in his marriage to Jeanette.
Jack agreed to the plan, instructing Carol to leave with her suitcase separately so as not to arouse suspicion. The first night in Vegas, the two ate dinner together and took in a show. Jack then promptly disappeared, leaving Carol alone. She did not see him again until it was time to depart for the airport and their return flight home.
Carol rode back from the airport with Jack in his van and sulked the entire ride back to Valerio Gardens. Arriving at the complex, the two had a bitter exchange and Carol fled to her apartment. A short time later, someone knocked at her door and the ever optimistic and delusional Carol believed it was Jack coming to apologize. Swinging the door wide open, prepared to forgive Jack for everything he had done, she instead found Jeanette standing on her doorstep with both of Carol’s suitcases. Carol had been so upset when she fled the van she had forgotten her bags were still in it.
Jeanette told Carol she wanted her to leave Jack alone. She was aware that Carol made up excuses for Jack to come to her apartment to fix things she had broken intentionally. The entire complex, Jeanette informed Carol, was talking about the way she followed Jack around and made cow eyes at him. She was making a fool of herself and should try having a little more pride, Jeanette told her wearily. She was tired. Tired of Carol chasing Jack. Tired of Jack screwing around behind her back. Tired of it all.
Carol was not certain that Jeanette knew she was carrying on an affair with Jack the entire time she had been living at Valerio Gardens, but she believed Jeanette had a suspicion at the very least. In addition to all the money she had given Jack and presents she had bought him, she had given him a video camera and VCR for Christmas. Both were expensive gifts, and she was not sure where he had told Jeanette they had come from. It was this video camera, in fact, that Doug would attempt to have entered into evidence, alleging it had been used by Jack and Carol to record their crimes, which they would then sell on the black market as snuff films.
This was a story that echoed the crimes of serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, who together kidnapped women to use as sex slaves. The duo would videotape the tortures, rapes, and murders of their victims. What Doug did not mention, however, was that, just like Lake and Ng, he had often fantasized about having a place in which to house and torture women he had abducted.
Thinking about the money she had given Jack made Carol remember Jeanette’s alleged poor health and the surgery she had required. Carol inquired about Jeanette’s condition and whether the operation had been a success. Baffled, Jeanette asked Carol what she was talking about. After Carol had begun her explanation, Jeanette put the rest of the pieces together and informed Carol she had never been diagnosed with cancer. The entire story must have been a ruse by Jack to get money from an easily manipulated Carol Bundy, she said.
Carol could do little else but stand there with her mouth wide open and her eyes, enormous behind the thick lenses, blinking. If Jack was not going to have to stay with Jeanette out of a sense of propriety and obligation due to an illness, then surely he was free to be with Carol. With this thought in mind, Carol offered Jeanette $1500 if she would divorce Jack. It was the final straw for Jeanette, and she demanded that Jack order Carol out of the apartment complex.
Jack found an apartment for Carol and the boys, which was far enough away that he would not have to see her unless he chose to do so. It was also conveniently close enough for him to drop by when he wanted money or sexual favors. On the day Carol moved in, Jack had set aside time to assist her with moving her furniture and other belongings. Jeanette followed the two as well, along with the moving van, parked a short distance away to monitor the move and ensure there were only moving vans and no roaming hands that day.
Carol and Jack’s relationship continued to unravel, and Jack had even begun ignoring her when she showed up at Little Nashville hoping to catch his attention. It was on one such occasion that Carol met Doug Clark and took him home with her. Carol listened to Doug’s story of a mean landlady who had it out for him. The landlady was, in actuality, a girlfriend of Doug’s, and their relationship was on the decline as well.
Needing to find accommodations, Doug had chosen Carol because she seemed sympathetic and easy to manipulate. He infrequently shared a bedroom with her and openly discussed his sexual escapades with other women, on a few occasions he had even asked Carol to take photos of these happenings. Carol was having a difficult time making herself believe Doug wanted a relationship with her. Her fragile psyche would not allow her to believe that Jack and Doug were both merely using her.
Jeanette no longer saw Carol as any threat to her marriage to Jack. Carol, however, was still upset about Jack swindling money from her. When Carol confronted Jack about his deception, she was told he had used the money to pay off the loan on his van and the remainder was used to refurbish and reupholster the van’s interior. Jack took immense pride in the vehicle and used it as a rolling fortress of fornication.
A fake handicapped placard placed on the front dash insured Jack a convenient parking space and privacy while he carried on with prostitutes, exotic dancers, and other women in his life. Outfitted with carpet-covered benches and a crude area to wash up, it was the perfect spot for the quickies Jack enjoyed.
Carol had committed carnal acts with Jack inside the van, and had seen, much to her chagrin, what she defined as “sleazy” women departing from the van and Jack’s company after his set at Little Nashville. Jack had a voracious appetite for sex and kept a supply of porn he had made with his partners, sex toys, and bondage gear in his van. Carol, who seemed to only find value in herself if she were being made to feel desired and used as a sex object, was both enraged and hurt when Jack seemed to have lost interest in her as a sex partner.
She tried the same tactic she would use when Doug Clark was no longer interested in her sexually—bringing in another female. Jack told her in no uncertain terms that he would not have sex with her unless it was a ménage a trois, and Carol did her best to comply. Part of the problem was that most women, even those who were paid for their services, found Carol as distasteful a sexual partner as most men did.
Carol had happened on a solution. While moving three miles away from Valerio Gardens to an apartment which Jack had found for her on Lemona Avenue, she met an eleven-year-old girl—identified only in court documents by her first name to protect the identity of the underage child—named Shannon who impressed Carol by firing off a round of wisecracks and dirty jokes. Around Shannon, Carol would drift between the roles of adult, and as a peer of Shannon’s own age. This ability allowed her to manipulate the young child in a very effective manner.
Carol, always desperate for a reason to talk to Jack, sought him out one night at Little Nashville, saying that she was in a lot of trouble and needed to talk to him right away. Stifling his annoyance by reminding himself he could probably count on Carol to fork over some cash if he played his cards right, he agreed to meet with her. When they met up, Carol wasted no time, according to a statement she later gave police, in detailing the murders that Doug Clark had committed.
Jack listened as he sipped his drink, but the more Carol said, the harder it was for him to keep a straight face. Come on, he cajoled her, this has to be some kind of joke. She insisted that in fact, she was quite serious, and now she was afraid for her own safety. She knew too much, she had seen too much, she told Jack. She described the “kill bag” and its contents, which Doug Clark carried in the car to commit murder. When she realized Jack was not taking her seriously, she pulled him over to the trunk of the car. It was there just as she had described it.
Slowly, Jack’s face lost its bronze color, and he was the color of marble as he realized this was no joke. Carol was incapable of making stuff like this up. This was serious he told her and said that he thought perhaps he needed to give this information to the police. It was then that Carol decided Jack had to die. She had told him too much.
Jack went back inside, and Carol followed a short time later. She slipped him a note, which said if he would agree to have sex with her, she would set it up so he could have sex with Shannon. Carol knew the offer of pedophilic sex would be too strong a temptation for Jack to resist.
They decided on a time, and Jack told her to meet him at his van. As the night wore on, Carol sipped her Sprite and kept an eye on Jack. Carol finally exited the club, making her way out to her car with the intention of waiting there with Jack’s van in sight, just in case he decided to try to give her the slip as he had done on previous occasions.
She was angered to see Jack leave Little Nashville with one of the other women he was intimate with from time to time. Her name was Avril Roy-Smith and like several other women, she was involved in a sexual relationship with Jack Murray, Doug Clark, and Jack Murray’s brother-in-law. It was from her that police would learn Carol was the last person seen with Jack.
The two entered Jack’s van, and Carol waited as long as she could manage before going over and knocking on the side of the van. Neither of the two seemed upset to see Carol, so she was uncertain whether she had interrupted anything. She hoped she had. Avril Roy-Smith told police she gave Carol a quick once over, told Jack goodnight, made her way back into Little Nashville, and spent the next few hours drinking with friends. Carol took her place in the van with the intention of discussing her concerns about Doug further.
Jack was not interested in talking and told Carol that as soon as she entered the van. Making his way to the back and the bench seats, Jack pulled down his pants around his ankles, and Carol was amused to see he was wearing some of his favorite undergarments—pink, lacy panties—the same kind worn by some of the Sunset Strip victims.
Positioning himself on his stomach, he told Carol, “You know what I like.” His abruptness made Carol even angrier than she already was. When he asked her if she really intended to let him have the eleven-year-old, the only topic he did want to discuss, it was the last straw.
Carol positioned herself behind Jack and used her hands to massage his penis before pressing her face in between his butt cheeks. Jack moaned, telling Carol how good that felt. Once again, however, he brought up Shannon and as Carol continued the oral stimulation, she pressed the Raven handgun to the back of his head and pulled the trigger.
Jack’s head slammed forward with the momentum of the bullet and his anus clamped tightly on Carol’s tongue. Now instead of moans, Jack was making a gurgling sound. Carol pumped another bullet into his skull, but Jack continued to make wet bubbling noises as he struggled to breathe.
Easing her hand into the waistband of her slacks, Carol pulled out a knife and stabbed Jack in the back nine times. While she stabbed him, she cursed him and called him names. She was not good enough for him, he would rather have a little girl. Well, she would give him what he deserved.
Carol checked Jack’s pulse and was relieved to note he had finally succumbed to his injuries, but she was not finished yet. Still feeling frenzied, angry, and full of adrenaline, she stabbed and slashed his buttocks saying that he always wanted a piece of ass from someone, well she was going to take a piece of his ass. Jack was also known for enjoying forcing women to submit to sodomy and then cleaning his penis off with their mouth, so Carol ran the knife into his rectum over and over, asking him how he liked having something shoved up his ass.
By the time she had finished with him, Carol realized she was shaking. Breathing deeply, she planned her next move. She went over to the sink in the van, rinsed her hands, and then went to her car to retrieve the kill bag. Cleaning up as best she could, Carol happened to think that the bullets, which were lodged in Jack’s brain, might be traced to her gun. As she saw it, she only had one option—get rid of the evidence.
Picking up the knife once more, Carol took hold of Jack’s hair and shoved the knife into the back of his neck, prying apart the spinal column. With a sawing motion, Carol was finally able to remove Jack’s head, which she then dropped in a plastic grocery bag and carried it to her car, placing it on the passenger seat.
Carol called the apartment where Doug and a girlfriend were spending the night shortly after 3 am. She was laughing hysterically and not making a lot of sense as she tried to tell Doug what she had just done and that it was to protect him because Jack was going to go to the cops. Doug told Carol to shut up and get over to the apartment as quickly as possible.
When she arrived, an ambulance was at the apartment. Doug’s girlfriend had suffered a seizure. Ever helpful, Carol asked the medics if she could be of any assistance since she was a nurse. The medics took one look at the crazed-looking woman and told her they had things under control.
Doug agreed to help Carol dispose of Jack’s head and they both got into the car, Carol saying they should find a fence post and leave Jack’s head to be found by some poor unsuspecting soul—that would be a real gas, she giggled. Doug pulled up to a trashcan and told Carol to chuck the head into it. Disappointed at this anticlimactic end to her adventure, she nevertheless did as she was told.
Four days later, police received a call about a van parked on a street that seemed to be emitting a horribly foul odor. Upon arriving at the scene, police recognized the smell of decomposition; a smell that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. Detectives arrived to inspect the scene and noticed an expended bullet casing. It would prove to be more important than they could have ever imagined.
It would not be long before Carol would tell startled co-workers about murdering Jack and participating in the Sunset Strip murders. Police would receive a phone call from them as well as from Carol herself claiming to have been working in conjunction with her lover to kill the women. She went to her apartment to begin gathering evidence the officers would need to put both herself and her lover away for a long time—perhaps forever.
Explore The Rest Of Doug Clark and Carol Bundy’s Stories on Amazon
Want more spine-chilling stories? Get our most shocking and horrific stories sent straight to your inbox, sign up for True Crime Seven’s newsletter and you can also receive a FREE copy of “The Briley Brothers” today.