Male serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Dennis Rader (the BTK Killer) are infamous for their brutal, and prolific crime sprees. They made headlines around the world, and are considered by many to be psychopaths. Some early traits that have been identified as an indication of future violent tendencies include an obvious lack of empathy, anti-social behaviour, and narcissistic tendencies. Many serial killers were also severely abused as kids, and surprisingly not many have been officially diagnosed as a psychopath.
While a lot of men kill out of sexual frustration, and the need to feel power over their victims, female killers are a lot more pragmatic in their motives, and methods. Female serial killers are outnumbered by males (15% to 85%), and they often use more covert methods like poisoning, or smothering. As a result, their killing sprees often go on for years longer (an average of 8 years, compared to 2 years for their male counterparts). There was a time when even the FBI said “there are no female serial killers”, but that is no longer the consensus. When profiling, behavioral analysts can no longer assume the culprit is male. Female serial killers can’t hide behind their gender as a kind of built-in assumption of innocence, and they have these 10 horrific killers to thank for it.
Prominent Louisiana socialite Marie Delphine LaLaurie lived in a time where owning black slaves was nothing out of the ordinary. According to outsiders, her treatment of the multiple slaves who lived and worked on her property was generally favourable. It wasn’t until her mansion in New Orleans caught fire in 1834 that all her secrets were revealed. The police and fire marshal arrived at the house to find a 70-year-old woman chained to the stove by her ankle. She admitted to starting the fire to commit suicide and avoid being taken to the attic. Upon searching the attic, multiple emaciated slaves were found chained, and bound in restricting positions, some with multiple wounds indicating torture. LaLaurie fled to Paris after her mansion was ransacked by angry townspeople. If you recognize her name, it might be because she was recently portrayed by Kathy Bates in the third season of American Horror Story.
Genene Jones was a pediatric nurse who was suspected of killing up to 60 infants and children during her spree which lasted from approximately 1971 until 1984. Her method of choice was poisoning. She would inject her patients with drugs like digoxin, and heparin to induce a medical crisis, and then she would come to their rescue by reviving them. Her main motive in doing this was to receive praise for her skills as a nurse, but a lot of her victims actually ended up dying instead. The hospital Jones worked at in San Antonio noticed that an inordinate number her patients were dying, and instead of conducting an investigation, they asked her to resign, which she did. She continued the same routine at her next job, and was eventually arrested, charged, and convicted of killing 9-month-old Chelsea McClellan. She was sentenced to 99 years in prison, but is scheduled for mandatory release in 2017 in order to prevent prison overcrowding. Jones is also rumored to be the inspiration for the character of Annie Wilkes in Stephen King‘s novel, Misery.
32-year-old British woman, Joanna Dennehy plead guilty in 2013 to stabbing three men and dumping their bodies in a ditch in Peterborough, UK. Before her sentencing, she wrote a letter to the judge telling him that she felt no remorse for what she had done. She ended up being sentenced to life in prison, and is only the third woman in the UK to ever be told she will spend the rest of her life behind bars. The judge called Dennehy a “cruel, calculated, selfish, and manipulative serial killer” during her sentencing, and all she did was smirk. She told her psychiatrist, “I killed to see how it would feel, to see if I was as cold as I thought I was,” and after the first kill, she “got a taste for it.” Dennehy has since been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
English serial killer, Beverly Allitt was convicted of murdering four children, attempting to murder three other children, and causing bodily harm to six more children. The crimes were committed over a period of 59 days in 1991, at the hospital in Lincolnshire where Allitt was employed as a nurse. Her victims were all admitted to the hospital, and following a period alone with Allitt, they would go into cardiac arrest, because she had injected them with an overdose of insulin. Allitt was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years, with no possibility of parole until 2022. The motives for her crimes remain unclear, but she did show symptoms of “factitious disorder” which involves a pattern of abuse where the perpetrator physically falsifies illness in someone under their care in order to attract attention. Allitt is currently serving her sentence in a psychiatric hospital in Nottinghamshire.
Another example of a nurse, turned “Angel of Death” is American serial killer, Kristen Gilbert. She was convicted of three counts of first degree murder, two counts of second degree murder, and two counts of attempted murder, for injecting epinephrine into her patients, causing them to have heart attacks. Growing up, Gilbert was a pathological liar, who manipulated people by faking multiple suicide attempts, and she also had a history of violent outbursts, and checking herself into psychiatric wards regularly. She was convicted of her crimes in 2001, and was sentenced to life in prison.
It wasn’t until Nannie Doss’ fifth husband, Samuel Doss, died of arsenic poisoning that authorities began to take notice of all the deaths that followed Nannie throughout her life. She was arrested and charged with her husband’s death, and she also confessed to murdering three of her other husbands, her mother, her sister, one of her mother in laws, and her infant grandson. Her methods of choice were poisoning and asphyxiation, and on multiple occasions she collected a life insurance policy on the deceased. Because of her love of romance columns, and her constant search for men to marry, she has been dubbed “The Lonely Hearts Killer”. She was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Samuel Doss, and she died in prison of leukemia in 1965 at the age of 59.
Canadian serial killer, Karla Homolka helped her husband, Paul Bernardo rape and murder at least three teenage girls, including her own sister, in the 1990’s. When they were caught and charged, the prosecution needed Homolka’s testimony in order to convict Bernardo, and as a result her own charge was downgraded to manslaughter. Bernardo maintained throughout his trial that while he tortured and raped the victims, it was his wife who actually killed them. But Homolka was already being cast as another one of his victims, who had been coerced into helping him. It wasn’t until it was too late, that video evidence came to light that confirmed that Homolka was indeed a willing participant in the crimes. She served 12 years in prison, and was released in 2005.
You may recognize the name Aileen Wuronos as the American serial killer Charlize Theron portrayed in the award-winning film, Monster. Wuornos claimed her 7 male victims all tried to rape her while she was working as a prostitute in Florida in 1989-1990, and therefore she acted in self defense. As a child, Wuornos never knew her father, was abandoned by her mother, and was sexually abused by her grandfather. She gave birth to a child who she gave up for adoption when she was 13 years old, and by the time she was 15, she was on her own, supporting herself through prostitution. Despite being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, she insisted she was sane, saying “I’m one who seriously hates human life and would kill again.” She was sentenced to death six times over, and was executed in 2002, after serving 10 years on death row.
Rosemary West is a British serial killer who worked with her husband, Fred West, to murder at least 10 young women from 1971 until 1987. Although she never confessed to any of the crimes she was accused of, and still maintains her innocence, she became the second British woman in history to be given a life sentence. West’s father was a paranoid schizophrenic who raped her repeatedly throughout her entire life. She also worked periodically as a prostitute, while her husband watched, and one of her most frequent customers was her own father. The West’s usually picked up young girls at the bus stop, took them home, and tortured them for days before killing them. Their own daughter, Heather, is suspected to be their last victim.
The crimes known as the “Moor Murders” were committed by Myra Hindley, and her boyfriend, Ian Brady. Together, they sexually assaulted and murdered 5 children between the ages of 10 and 17, before being turned in by Hindley’s brother-in-law, who witnessed the last murder. During the trial, Hindley was dubbed “the most evil woman in Britain”, and she was sentenced to life in prison, the first woman ever in British history. After her conviction, Hindley continued to maintain that she only took part in the murders because Brady drugged, and blackmailed her. But later she admitted that she believed her role in the crimes was worse, since it was due to her coercion that the children were in Brady’s presence at all. Hindley died of pneunmonia in prison in 2002, at the age of 60.