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Key Event in Serial Killer Bill Bonin’s Childhood—Two Years, 1953-55, at Franco-American Orphanage in Lowell, Mass.

Key Event in Serial Killer Bill Bonin’s Childhood—Two Years, 1953-55, at Franco-American Orphanage in Lowell, Mass.

Los Angeles, CA—During the writing of Without Redemption: Creation & Deeds of Freeway Killer Bill Bonin, His Five Accomplices & How One Who Escaped Justice, authors Vonda Pelto, Ph.D. and Michael B. Butler sought to discoverer the mystery of why he became a serial killer. Able to track his personal evolution, by mining a trove of official investigative docs and Bonin's diaries, they found a number of key episodes that truly mattered. For example, Bonin's two-year stay, from ages 5 to 7, at the Franco-American Orphanage in Lowell, Massachusetts is a formative and unappreciated event by those seeking a better understanding of the infamous Freeway Killer Bill Bonin.

Without Redemption, the most detailed historical biography about Bonin, let alone any serial killer, provides lots of information vital to truly understanding the how and why of the unfeeling murderer Bill Bonin. 

Here is an excerpt from the book regarding Bonin's stay, with his older brother, at the orphanage:         

Franco-American Orphanage, September 1953 to May 1955

Alice and Robert Bonin had a dual problem on their hands. Their two oldest sons, Bobby nine and Bill six, were acting out, they were out of control and becoming seriously delinquent. Pressure to control their children's behavior began coming from all sides: neighbors, local police, probation officers, school authorities and the Church.

    The children were lucky because their father spent little time at home. He continued to beat them over the slightest provocation, clearly not understanding the value of or how to offer appropriate guidance, discipline and love. Alice kept drinking, chain smoking and frequenting the local bingo parlor, equally out of her depth when it came to properly caring for her sons. Inept at the demands of giving her sons the protection, love and attention they required and needed. 

    All of the elements in the Bonin's lives combined to force a decision serving multiple purposes; satisfy local authorities, give the boys a structured environment, relieve pressure on the parents and keeping the boys away from their father's physical abuse.

    On September 6, 1953 the Bonin's two older sons were placed in the Franco-American Orphanage at 357 Pawtucket Street in Lowell, Massachusetts, a Catholic boarding school for children, to be cared for by Nuns with a mandate from society and God.

    Most of the children placed there were not orphans, rather coming from families unable to care for or control their children. The facility was maintained by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and run primarily by Nuns. Located 83-miles north of Willimantic, the school consisted of a three-story red brick building complex situated on the banks of the Merrimack River.

    Originally built as a stately mansion in the 1870s by prominent Lowell industrialist, Frederick Ayer, it was designed in the Victorian style of the time to reflect Ayer's wealth and power. Vacant for eighteen years before it was purchased in 1908 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, it was to provide a home for orphaned children of Franco-Americans, thus ensuring a continuity of French-Canadian heritage from families who settled in Lowell from Canada.

    During a campaign stop for John F. Kennedy's second senatorial campaign, in October 1958, Jacqueline Kennedy visited the facility, and a picture was taken with her and all the students.

    When Bobby and Bill arrived, the facility was surrounded by a 15-foot-high chain link fence covered with metal nubs and topped by loops of barbed wire, looking more like a prison than an orphanage. Newcomers were teased, one student recalling "it took a while to learn not to cry." Passersby viewed the sad faces of the confused children pressed against the fence, looking for help which never materialized.

    They spent almost two-years at the orphanage. Bill attended grades one thru three in this structured environment and maintained acceptable grades. Cut off from the outside world, the Nuns running this rather scary institution could and did treat the children as they pleased. A daily routine consisted of "morning wake-up, go to church, eat, go to school, go to church, go to lunch, go to school, go to church, go to dinner, go to church, then bedtime. Once you went to bed at night, you were not allowed to get up and would be physically punished if you did."

    Their lives were strictly regimented with playgrounds segregated by sex and age. Should boy and girl siblings see each other through the playground fence and attempt communication, severe punishment followed; one incident saw a young girl, who tried to talk to her brother, "jerked away from the fence by her hair and severely beaten." Siblings might see each in the community dining room but were not allowed "to sit together or talk with each other." Bill became severely depressed. He was scared and lonely, not allowed any interaction with his brother.

    Perimeter fencing kept children inside and served as a punishment tool. When Bill misbehaved, the Nuns forced him to hit the fence with his fists until his knuckles bled, the fingers becoming unmovable once scabs formed. When subjected to this severe punishment, children "cried and begged not to have to hit the fence."

    Begging, crying or pleading brought neither sympathy nor relief from the Nuns, whose Christian charity came from a sense of their duty to the children. They never held, hugged or offered any emotional support. A number of sisters spoke only French, leaving many of the children unable to understand them; of course, blood curdling anger and punishment is the same in any language.

Without Redemption Book Trailer 

Here are two interesting reviews of Without Redemption: 

All the Makings of Compelling Serial Killer Movie or Mini-Series

'Without Redemption' sets itself apart from other serial killer bios with the sheer volume of factual detail, one which reads like historical biographies of famous leaders. Freeway Killer Bill Bonin's whole life is laid out and this allows the authors to carefully track his 30-year journey/descent into murderous depravity. I have worked on a number of productions about serial killers and murderers, and this book has all the elements for a compelling movie, mini-series or docudrama. 

First, you have Bonin's detailed diaries/written confessions which give an inside view of everything; Second, the co-author, Vonda Pelto, Ph.D., having ersatz counseling/confession sessions with three of the six Freeway Killers in jail; Third, reams of documentary evidence about Bonin's childhood, war service, years in mental hospitals and prisons followed by the months leading up to the murder spree. Next are Bonin's carefully written stories of the 22 killings all over Southern California, the journalists reporting on his activities and the detectives chasing him.

Then, after his arrest the story really gets juicy, and complex, as everyone jumps in the pool together to hash out the penultimate act. Surprises await around every corner as cases are getting built, deals negotiated and more suspects pursued. Part and parcel are scenes of political backstabbing, deception, lying and coverups, which is followed by Bonin's huge trial and the final curtain in this tragic drama.

Generous use of newspaper stories fills in the gaps and the whole book moves rapidly forward without too much lollygagging. 'Without Redemption' is as close to a complete serial killer historical biography that one might find. 


Co-Author Vonda Pelto is Actually a Player in This Serial Killer Bio

My surprise in this book was how the co-author, Clinical Psychologist Vonda Pelto, Ph.D., actually participated in the story told about the life of Freeway Killer Bill Bonin—she dealt with Bonin and two of his accomplices while working at Los Angeles Central Jail. Pelto had numerous sessions with all three, and other horrible serial killers, and had to listen to their ghastly stories, told in some ways to see her reactions and in other ways to relive their crimes. Her disgust is evident, but she hides it during discussions with Bonin, Miley and Munro, where they all talked about murders in detail. 

Aside from that 'Without Redemption' is interesting because it is the story of one person's slow march to becoming an unfeeling monster. It was scary how the killing took over his life, kind of like Gollum in 'Lord of the Rings,' it simply swallowed him up.

The authors really packed in the factual stories of Bonin's life, from birth all the way through months and months of day-to-day events after his arrest, when the system was gearing up and he was trying to make a deal to avoid the death penalty. This part of the book is when very public events are analyzed from inside and outside, and where big surprises pop up.   

A thoroughly fascinating and engaging read. 


Without Redemption: Creation & Deeds of Freeway Killer Bill Bonin, His Five Accomplices & How One Escaped Justice, Paperback ISBN: 979-8841931249, Hard Cover ISBN: 979-8844477775. For more info go to www.WithoutRedemption.com and purchase copies at Amazon.

Media Contact: For interviews or to request review copies contact Flotsam PR at 213-534-7292 or flotsampr@pm.me.

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