Process of Writing Historical Serial Killer Bio of Bill Bonin—Years of Intense Work Takes Reader from Birth to Execution
May 17, 2023 Vonda3310 0 Comments
Los Angeles, CA—The process of writing Without Redemption: Creation & Deeds of Freeway Killer Bill Bonin, His Five Accomplices & How One Who Escaped Justice was a done in two parts. The last involved Vonda Pelto, Ph.D. and Michael B. Butler and involved four years of intense work on a daily basis.
First, Vonda Pelto, Ph.D., who knew Bonin from her work at LA Men’s Central Jail, created the first draft over three years of sporadic work using reams of official investigative documents given to her by a former detective. Her recollections of meetings with Bonin and two accomplices were a key part of the story. Then, in January 2019, Michael B. Butler was brought in for the purpose of organizing and cleaning up the manuscript. After months of work, it was realized they had to start from square one.
First, Butler organized the over 40 boxes of documents by subject matter and chronologically. Second, he broke down the manuscript into small feeder files based on chronology. Large tables were stacked with folder files that were scrolled through, revamped, added to, and then marked up based on what was used in which area of the book. Thousands of pages of trial and interview transcripts were culled for material relevant to the story. In addition, over 400 newspaper articles, from all over the United States, were printed out to fill in story gaps and reveal what the public knew and didn’t know.
Bonin’s nine years spent in mental hospitals and prisons, from July 1969 to October 1978, were represented by myriads of arrest, psych, progress, probation and parole reports. Many of these documents were filled with hospital or court codes that had to be researched, even then a proper understanding could be elusive. Butler often had to read numerous items multiple times in an effort to unlock their true meaning, this is an effort to successfully tell Bonin’s story while charting his psychological evolution from abused child to sexual predator to serial killer.
Then there were Bonin’s jailhouse diaries, covering shortly after his arrest in June 1980 till months before his trial in November 1981, and his 22 confession murder stories that covered August 4, 1979 to June 2, 1980. Bonin, with five occasional accomplices, ran wild for ten months till a lucky break ended his reign of terror. Written in longhand on legal pads supplied by his attorney, they were mostly legible and fairly well written. They gave the authors insight into Bonin’s personality and contributed vital behind the scenes reports about attorneys, prosecutors, detectives, journalists, inmates, snitches, friends, family, LA Men’s Central Jail and much more.
Topping it all off are interview sessions Pelto had, as a Clinical Psychologist working at the jail, with Bonin and two of his accomplices, Greg Miley and Jim Munro. These personal conversations, a number involving brutal murder stories, added keen insight into Bonin’s demeanor and personality. Pelto’s own difficult struggles dealing with other serial killers are also touched on in the book.
Only after the book was completely finished did Michael B. Butler fully realize the importance of March 24, 1980, a day in the middle of Bonin’s horrific murder spree when four people crossed paths and changed everything to follow.
The process of writing Without Redemption was truly a mind-bending experience. For example, when writing and editing the murder sequences, which took about five months, Butler was having nightmares all the time. To alleviate this problem, he began watching romantic comedies—the syrupier the better and high school ones were the best to wash his brain to begin anew the next day.