Bittaker was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was put up for adoption as an infant. His adoptive father, George Bittaker, worked at aircraft factories, forcing him and his parents to move around often. He grew up in four different states before his family settled in California. Though he had an IQ of 138 (within the 99th percentile), he dropped out of high school when he was 17, having already been arrested on several occasions for petty crimes. Shortly afterwards, he was sentenced to two years for auto theft, evading arrest, and leaving the scene of a hit-and-run. Just days after finishing the sentence in the California Youth Authority, he was arrested by the FBI in Louisiana for violating the Interstate Motor Vehicle Theft Act. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison to be served at a federal reformatory in Oklahoma, but was transferred to a medical center in Missouri through good behavior. He later claimed to have had his first sexual experience there, but wouldn’t give any details other than that it was with a woman there. After serving only one-third of his sentence, he was released. In 1960, he was arrested for robbery in Los Angeles. The next year, he was sentenced to 1-15 years in a state prison. A psychiatric evaluation of him stated that he was paranoid and a borderline psychotic as well as manipulative. In spite of this, he was conditionally released in 1963. Just two months afterwards, he was imprisoned for violating his parole and suspicion of robbery. Over the following 15 years, he was frequently incarcerated for various crimes. One of his last sentences was for attempted murder for stabbing a clerk in the parking lot of a grocery store after attempting to shoplift a steak. While serving a sentence at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, he met Roy Norris.
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