The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, January 13, 1981-Page 7
'Freeway Killer' conmits
suicide on fifth attempt
LOS ANGELES (UPI) - The county
coroner ruled yesterday that confessed
"Freeway Killer" Vernon Butts com-
mitted suicide by twisting a towel
around his neck and said he had attem-
pted suicide four times previously.
"Based on the available data, death
was consistent with suicide," said
Coroner Thomas Noguchi, but further
examination will be made of Butts'
brain, his psychological state and
presence of drugs at the time of his
"A TOWEL RACK is very tempting
to someone who is determined to com-
mit suicide," Noguchi said.
Noguchi said it was known that Butts
was suicidal and needed monitoring,
but authorities were under a court or-
der to keep him separate from other
prisoners for his safety.
In his earlier attempts to kill himself,
Butts tried to shoot himself, tie a bag
around his neck and took two sleeping
pill overdoses, Noguchi said.
BUTTS LEFT a puzzling note with a
series of rectangles and dots that
Noguchi said represented a code.
Noguchi said he could not decipher the
note and did not know if it was a suicide
Butts, 23, an amateur magician, was
found dead in his cell Sunday morning
hanging from a towel rack. He had been
scheduled to appear yesterday at a
preliminary hearing to answer more
charges and also was the state's main
witness against primary Freeway
Killer suspect William Bonin.
Butts was one of five suspects in 14 of
the "Freeway Killer" slayings, in
which the bodies of young men were
found near freeways in the Los Angeles
area. Prosecutors have insisted that
they couldconvict Bonin, 32, adtruck
driver, without Butts' testimony.
IN HIS confession, Butts disclosed
how the killings were committed, in-
cluding details of one where an icepick
was driven into the brain of one young
victim and that the boy was forced to
Butts also revealed that Bonin liked
to strangle his victims with their own T-
shirts, using a tire iron to twist the shirt
around the throats of victims.
Butts' attorney, Joe Ingber, who
earlier said he doubted his client com-
mitted suicide, said he deferred to the
"I have no basis to know differently,"
Ingber said. "I'm going to defer to their
expert opinion unless I know differen-
Sheriff's Lt, Jerry Minnis said a note
to Butts' girlfriend was found near his
body, but it made no direct reference to
suicide. Deputies also found a letter in
Butt's cell indicating he was upset
about last week's unsealing of his
testimony detailing his part in six of the
the ann arbor
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may nose health risk
WASHINGTON (AP) - The surgeon
general advised American smokers,
yesterday that although low tar and
nicotine cigarettes may reduce the risk
of lung cancer, they contain unknown
quantities of additives whose health ef-
fects can't be assessed.
Surgeon General Julius Richmond
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°tarily. Richmond said there is a
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yge annual report on smoking and
liealth. "In the case of lung cancer,
soime cigarettes appear to be less
hazardous than others, although the
reduction in risk is minimal and
limited. No such conclusion can be
reached for cardiovascular disease,
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In Raleigh, N.C., Edward Horrigan
Jr., chief executive officer of R.J.
Reynolds Tobacco Co., dismissed the
surgeon general's report as containing
"no new news." He said research into
the health aspects of smoking "has yet
to prove anything."
Richmond noted that the proportion
of smokers in the United States has
dropped to 32.5 percent from 40.3 per-
cent when the first surgeon general's
report was issued in 1964. This means 54
million American adults smoke.
"SMOKERS WHO are unwilling or
unable to quit will be well advised to
switch to lower yield cigarettes, as long
as they don't compensate for the low
yield by smoking more, inhaling more
deeply, closing off the filters or
changing their smoking exposure in
other ways," Richmond suggested.
"But they will be better advised to
quit entirely," he said.
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