Christmas is not usually the time for ghost stories. A few months after the spooky season, the most festive time of the year is all about feel-good songs, family fun, and rejoicing over presents. Bright and cheery decorations abound, festive comfort food is on the menu and good cheer permeates everything we do in December. The worst thing that might typically happen around Christmas is an unfortunate run-in with the in-laws or scraps resulting in a bit too much time spent with siblings.
Sometimes though, Christmas ends much more tragically. Sure, it’s odd to think of anything gruesome happening on Christmas day, and usually, nothing out of the ordinary occurs. But the following eleven murders did indeed happen on or around December 25th. Some are almost a century old, some happened much more recently; and they’re some bleak reminders of the fact that murder and tragedy don’t discriminate depending on what day of the year it is. Ranging from the 19th century all the way up to the present, these gruesome deaths all happened at the one time of year when we would least expect them – Christmas.
11. The Lawson Family Murders- North Carolina – 1929
Christmas day of 1929 would mark one of the most horrifying mass murders in North Carolina. On this day, Charles Lawson, a tobacco farmer, murdered seven people. He inexplicably shot and bludgeoned his wife to death before doing the same to his children. He finally killed himself, leaving eight dead in total. Following the murders, the house became a morbid tourist attraction, but closed shortly after.
All of the family members were buried in a mass grave, not far from the church grounds. Many have reported that the house is haunted, and that the family can never truly find peace due to the fact that they were buried outside of church grounds.
10. New Jersey – 2013
This next story is truly bizarre. On Christmas of 2013, a man murdered three people at a strip club in New Jersey. He was arrested on Christmas morning, and was also charged with two accounts of aggravated assault.
Anthony Fields was attempting to enter a strip club on December 25th, but was barred from doing so by the bouncer. He shot and killed the bouncer, Woodley Daniel, before continuing to shoot two others. In addition, he wounded two other men, but they were not killed.
9. Temple – 2009
A man in Temple was gunned down on Christmas day in 2009. At 11 pm, 43 year old Mark Allen Gibbs and 42 year old Kim Allen Treacher were shot; Mark Gibbs died from the shooting. Gibbs was a preacher, and was visiting his friend when he was shot.
The killer was 55 year old Jeffery Treacher, Kim’s estranged husband. Gibbs left behind 5 children and two grandchildren.
8. Little Rock – 2013
Also in 2013, and on Christmas eve, 20 year old Jamar Jordan shot and killed 23 year old Austin Burks. The suspect turned himself in following the incident. When Burks was shot, he was in the process of removing his children from his car. Jordan apparently opened fire from his burgundy Nissan Maxima before driving away; Burkes’ children undoubtedly witnessed the entire thing. He was a father, son and uncle.
7. California – 2013
Christmas 2013 saw a 21 year old woman murdered in California. Ortega was killed by a man she had a restraining order on. A family came home and found her lying dead on the floor while the suspect, Ernesto Rodriguez, was nowhere to be found. Police say Ortega died from a “violent confrontation”.
Rodriguez, who had a history of violence, was the woman’s ex-boyfriend. It transpired that following the restraining order, Ortega had the order changed to a peaceful contact order. This was a mistake, as her contact with her ex-boyfriend may have led to her death only four months later.
6. Chicago – 2013
A 41 year old man was discovered, decapitated, in Chicago on Christmas day, 2013. Once again, the murder took place in a quiet, secure neighborhood. The older man was murdered by 18 year old Alexis Valdez in the basement.
The relationship between the two was unclear at the time, but one woman saw them fighting outside before the murder took place. It is also unclear whether the man was decapitated before or after he was killed, although evidence points toward the latter. Following the investigation, it was discovered that the man killed was Valdez’s Aunt’s boyfriend. The severed head was gruesomely intended as a “present” for her.
5. Ashland Kentucky – 1881
In Ashland Kentucky, 1881, a fire erupted at a small family home the day before Christmas morning. The inhabitants of the community were distraught to find three charred bodies within the house. But they had not died from the fire: All three children (aged 14, 15 and 17) had their skulls cracked open. The two girls of the house, Emma and Fannie were also sexually assaulted before they were murdered.
This case marks the first legal hanging to take place in the U.S.; the community was in uproar over the brutal murders and demanded justice. Ultimately, three men were arrested for the crime. Two of the men were hanged legally, and the third was hanged by a lynch mob. The horrific nature of the crimes committed stirred the local populace into a frenzy, so hanging was deemed an acceptable punishment at the time.
4. Casa Grande – 2013
On December 25, 2013, 35 year old Connie Villa murdered her teenage daughter. She also attempted to kill her other three children as well as her ex-husband; he was stabbed repeatedly by her before escaping to call police.
Villa’s other children were not stabbed, but did have opiates in their system. It is believed that the mother was attempting to poison all four of her children. When police found Villa, she had self-inflicted stab wounds and was apparently attempting to kill herself.
3. San Diego – 2013
On Christmas Eve, 2013, a triple homicide took place in San Diego. The case had police stumped for a time, and as such, it became notorious among locals.
The first two victims in the case were shot in a Macy’s parking lot at the Mission Valley Mall. The two victims, Flint and Salvatore, died in hospital a couple days later. The third victim was Salvatore’s brother as well as Flint’s fiance. Gianni went missing after the shooting and was later discovered in the trunk of his car. He had also been shot. A man named Carlo Mercado was arrested in connection with the three murders.
2. Middletown – 2002
In 2002, on Christmas day, residents of Middletown, PA discovered a police scene in their neighborhood. The events which led to this scene in the neighbourhood on Christmas Eve are truly chilling.
Two young women and their mother were murdered inside their home, while the family’s youngest child, a 9 month old, was found alive, clinging to its dead mother. The infant was said to have been in that state, alone, for up to 30 hours.
Ernest Wholaver was arrested for the crime of killing his wife and daughters. The motive, according to prosecutors, was that his daughters were accusing him of sexually assaulting them and they were set to testify against him in court. Apparently, Wholaver decided that murdering the girls was a better alternative to being charged with sexual assault. He was sentenced to death.
1. Texas – 2011
On Christmas morning of 2011, an entire family was murdered. The man shot and killed his own family members, while dressed in a Santa Claus suit. Altogether, seven people were killed that morning; four women and three men. Their bodies were strewn among unwrapped Christmas presents.
The murder-suicide took place in a family friendly suburb called the “Christmas Capital of Texas”. No one reported hearing gunshots that morning in the neighborhood and the 911 call that alerted police to the home did not have a voice – that is, no one could be heard on the other line.