Real Crime

The Woman Who Tried to Kill for the Hillside Strangler

Kenneth Bianchi the Hillside Strangler
Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi Kenneth Bianchi, the Hillside Strangler, testifies in a courtroom against his cousins and accomplice Angelo Buono. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images
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    The Woman Who Tried to Kill for the Hillside Strangler

    • Author

      Becky Little

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      The Woman Who Tried to Kill for the Hillside Strangler

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    • Access Date

      March 29, 2020

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      A+E Networks

In 1980, Veronica Compton wrote a letter to Kenneth Bianchi, the man convicted in the “Hillside Strangler” killings. Bianchi was serving multiple life sentences for rape and murder, and she ostensibly wanted to interview him as research for her script about a female serial killer. But within a few months, she had instead developed a plan with Bianchi to murder a random woman to make it look as though Bianchi was innocent, and the real killer was still at large.

Why exactly did she do this? A little later, Compton told police she’d fallen in love with Bianchi. Many years later, she claimed that Bianchi had manipulated her while she was in a vulnerable state. As cited in Jennifer Furio’s book Letters from Prison: Voices of Women Murderers, Compton said she was dealing with drug use and damage from sexual abuse as a child. Whatever the true nature of their relationship, Compton was found guilty of trying to strangle a woman in Bellingham, Washington in September 1980. That woman survived, and Compton went to prison for over two decades.

The man Compton tried to kill for was identified as the real Hillside Strangler. Or to be more accurate, he was one of them. Between October 1977 and February 1978, Bianchi and his cousin Angelo Buono raped and murdered 10 girls and women in the Los Angeles area (the victims’ ages ranged from 12 to 28). At some point, Bianchi moved to Bellingham to live with his son. There, he raped and murdered two more women in January 1979.

That year, police arrested Bianchi and charged him with his crimes in California and Washington. The 28-year-old Bianchi pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against his 45-year-old cousin to escape the death penalty. In October 1979, Bianchi received life sentences in both states with the possibility of parole. The next year, Veronica Compton sent him a letter.

Bianchi and Compton corresponded for a few months, with Compton visiting him at least once. Together, they decided she would go to Bellingham and strangle a woman in the same manner as Bianchi and his cousin had killed other girls and women, to make it look like the “real murderer” was still on the loose.

“They came up with all sorts of crazy plans, even one in which she would dress as a nun,”  Sheila Isenberg, author of Women Who Love Men Who Kill and the forthcoming book Wanted: Why Crime Turns Women On, tells A&E Real Crime.

Because Bianchi and Buono had raped the women they killed, Isenberg says Compton planned on leaving semen inside her victim to make the attack look similar. Washington Department of Corrections records confirm Compton brought a vial of some man’s semen with her when she went looking for a woman to murder, according to the The Spokesman-Review.

“She was a bizarre character,” Dave McEachran, a prosecuting attorney in both Bianchi and Compton’s Washington trials tells A&E Real Crime. Instead of going with the nun idea, she ended up traveling to Bellingham “with a pregnancy disguise on and a wig,” he says. “It was a very unusual case, to say the least.”

At a bar in Bellingham, Compton met 26-year-old Kim Breed and lured her back to a motel room. Once inside, Compton “slipped a ligature around this woman’s throat and just about killed her,” McEachran says. Breed survived the attack, escaped and reported Compton to the police. The next year, Compton received a life sentence for first-degree attempted murder, with the possibility of parole.

During her time at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Compton had at least two high-profile correspondences with other men. One of them was Doug Clark, a serial killer who had murdered girls and women in the Los Angeles area with his girlfriend Carol Bundy (they were known as the “Sunset Strip Killers”). It’s unclear whether Compton knew who Clark was when he began writing to her, or what the nature of their relationship was. Compton has disputed claims that they were in love or engaged.

The other correspondence was with James Wallace, a political science professor at Eastern Washington University who was 26 years older than her. Wallace sometimes taught at prisons, and after hearing one of his lectures in 1987, Compton wrote him a letter. Over the next two years, they continued their correspondence and developed a relationship. In 1989, Wallace divorced his wife of 38 years so he could marry Compton in a prison ceremony.

During the first several years of her sentence, Compton had no communication with her son, whom she’d given birth to at age 17. In July 1988, Compton escaped from prison to try and see him, but was caught in Arizona and returned to prison after a week and a half. She convinced Wallace to adopt her son, which he did. In 1993, she gave birth to her second child, a daughter, at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

Then in 1996, Compton received parole and joined Wallace and her daughter at their home in Cheney (by this point, her son was an adult). But Compton lost her parole after only two weeks.

Things started to go downhill when a social worker visited Compton and Wallace’s house to check on their daughter. The social worker claimed Compton answered the door naked and had pornographic paintings on the walls that were inappropriate for a child to see. Compton disputed that she answered the door naked, and attorneys and parole officials disputed whether the paintings were inappropriate. But the fact was that Compton had also stopped seeing her counselor, which was a condition of her parole, reported The Seattle Times.

Compton returned to prison, then earned parole again in 2003. That year, she also published a book titled Eating the Ashes: Seeking Rehabilitation within the US Penal System under the name Veronica Compton-Wallace. Otherwise, Compton has managed to keep a low profile since her release. As for Bianchi, he is still in prison, and has filed multiple lawsuits and more than a dozen personal restraint petitions professing his innocence.

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