The Hillside Strangler : Devil in Disguise on Peacock is worth a weekend binge

THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER: DEVIL IN DISGUISE -- "The Second Strangler?" Episode 103 -- Pictured: Kenneth Bianchi -- (Photo by: Peacock)
THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER: DEVIL IN DISGUISE -- "The Second Strangler?" Episode 103 -- Pictured: Kenneth Bianchi -- (Photo by: Peacock) /

At only four hour-long episodes, the Hillside Strangler: Devil in Disguise on Peacock makes for an easy weekend (or anytime) binge.  Episodic documentaries often include the same information repeatedly in every episode, but, in my experience, this documentary has very little of that.  Also, even for true crime buffs like myself who have known about this over forty year-old case for decades, this documentary provides insight and information that is definitely worth viewing.

So how DO you make a documentary about one of the most famous serial killings in history that says something new or portrays old information in a new light?  You include extensive interviews with the GIRLFRIEND of the killer DURING all the killings.  That’s right,  Sheryl Kellison was dating Kenneth Bianchi during his killing spree and is interviewed extensively throughout the four episodes.  I would watch the documentary just for THAT insight – but there’s more.

Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi's mug shot
THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER: DEVIL IN DISGUISE — “Two-Faced Killer” Episode 102 — Pictured: Kenneth Bianchi — (Photo by: Peacock) /

Charged with the murder of ten women, eight in California and two in Washington, Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi’s original plan was to set up an insanity defense and claim multiple personality disorder.  The Bellingham, Washington police and psychiatrists recorded entire interviews of Bianchi portraying multiple personalities – including Steven Walker, who he blamed for the murders – both in and out of hypnosis.  Multiple psychiatrists interviewed Bianchi and were all over the map about whether he was actually experiencing this mental illness or lying.  You can watch and determine for yourself during the course of this documentary.

In addition to interviews with Sheryl Kellison, there are extensive interviews with the main detectives on the case, as well as the forensic investigator, and lawyers and psychiatrists for both sides.  Even more interesting is the interview with Veronica Compton, the woman who served twenty-three years in prison after attempting to copycat the Hillside Strangler M.O. for Kenneth Bianchi, who gave her explicit instructions on how to perpetrate this crime. This was all in an effort to show that he couldn’t be the Hillside Strangler because the Hillside Strangler was still out there killing!

Hillside Strangler Angelo Buono is arrested outside is home
THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER: DEVIL IN DISGUISE — “The Second Strangler?” Episode 103 — Pictured: Kenneth Bianchi — (Photo by: Peacock) /

Convicted Hillside Strangler Angelo Buono’s guilt is called into question in the Devil in Disguise documentary

The other side of this criminal duo, Angelo Buono is covered in the second two episodes of the documentary series.  He was Kenneth Bianchi’s cousin, implicated by Kenneth Bianchi, who testified against him in return for the prosecutors not seeking the death penalty.  Notoriously stoic and quiet, there is no footage of Buono speaking, being interviewed, protesting his innocence or otherwise.  A look at the evidence (or lack thereof) against Angelo Buono presents a mainly circumstantial case that relies heavily on the testimony of proven liar and completely unreliable narrator Kenneth Bianchi.  The detectives are one hundred percent sure he was guilty and his attorneys are one hundred percent sure of his innocence.  Ultimately he was convicted of nine of the ten California murders and sentenced to life in prison – he never testified in his own defense.

The Hillside Strangler trial lasted six months and was the most expensive trial in United States history, costing the taxpayers of California over one million dollars and resulting in life sentences for both Bianchi and Buono.  Buono died in prison, peacefully in his cell, still claiming his innocence, and Kenneth Bianchi unsuccessfully continues to try and appeal his case to this day.  A lot of evidence and footage is presented in this documentary, and it is done in such a way that you do question if these convictions were justified, or if the way the whole case was handled (did Kenneth Bianchi know details of the crimes because he was given access to police reports?) led to life sentences of two innocent men, one innocent man, or was justice served.  All the DNA evidence was destroyed in 1990, so there can be no certainty through testing using the technology we have today.  However, there were no more strangled women found on hillsides once Kenneth Bianchi was caught.  So, at the end of the day, what do you think?

dark. Next. The Reef: Stalked does not hold up to its predecessor, The Reef

Do you think Angelo Buono is truly guilty, or did Bianchi lie to get out of the death penalty?  Let me know in the comments!