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'Toolbox Killer' Lawrence Bittaker Dies On San Quentin Death Row

SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) -- Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker, a serial killer and rapist known as one of the infamous "Toolbox Killers" who kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered five teenage girls in Southern California in 1979, has died at San Quentin State Prison at the age of 79.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said Bittaker died of natural causes on Friday afternoon.

Bittaker, along with Roy Lewis Norris, went on a grisly, murderous rampage over a period of five months in 1979 with their five victims ranging from ages 13 to 18 years old, abducting them in a van as they traveled along the Pacific Coast Highway.

The bodies of two of their victims were never recovered.

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Bittaker and Norris became known as the Toolbox Killers because of the tools they used to torture and murder their victims, such as pliers, ice picks, and sledgehammers were items normally found in a toolbox.

At the time of the investigation, then-Los Angeles County Sheriff Peter Pitchess said the girls had been subjected to "sadistic and barbaric abuse." Among the evidence presented at trial was an audio recording which "contains the voice of a young girl screaming and begging for mercy while she is being raped and tortured," according to court documents.

Bittaker was sentenced to death for five murders in 1981. Norris accepted a plea deal and testified against Bittaker and was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison in 1980 with the possibility of parole.

Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 82 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 27 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, one was executed in Virginia, 14 have died from other causes and four – including Bittaker – are pending a cause of death.

There are currently 729 offenders on California's death row.

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