When police burst into the Ontario Travel Lodge in May of 2012, they found two dead women, their heads nearly decapitated, and a naked, bloody man, mumbling incoherently. When the man, Mark Dobson, went to trial in the Fall of 2014, a Canadian court heard a testimony that chilled (even the seasoned judge) to the core. Dobson, an ordinary looking 20-something man, had ritualistically sacrificed the two women to mark the Satanic holiday of Beltane, before trying to kill himself.
In 1978, the murder/suicide of 918 members of the People’s Temple cult in Guyana received saturation coverage. Pictures of rows and rows of bodies, men women and children, stunned the world.
At the end of October of 2014, a severed head found in a Long Island street was thought to be just another Halloween prank. It turned out to be the grisly murder/suicide involving a mother and her son.
Sometimes, like in Dobson’s case, the pacts involve ritualistic killings with Satanic overtones. Sometimes, the deaths are within cults or communes. And sometimes, they are between two people with a family or relationship connection that has gone wrong. The Violence Party Center estimates that there are about 1,500 murder/suicide pacts in the U.S. each year. Here are 13 murder/suicide pacts that shocked the world.
13. Helen Godet and David Lund
The movie Peter and Maude depicted a loving relationship between an elderly woman and a much younger man. Friends and family say that 106 year old Helen Godet, and her caregiver, 30-something David Lund, were constant, loving companions. In 2006, they agreed to go together. Leaving behind notes explaining that they had decided to end it all, David first strangled Helen and then took a fatal dose of anti-freeze.
12. Thomas, Patrick and Jonathan O’Driscoll
In September of 2014, Ireland was shocked by the murder of Thomas and Patrick O’Driscoll, two 9 year old boys that teachers described as energetic and fun-loving, and the suicide of their older brother. Shortly after their bodies were discovered at their home in Charleville, Ireland, the body of Jonathan O’Driscoll was found in the woods nearby. In an apparent murder/suicide pact, Jonathan had stabbed the twins multiple times in a frenzied attack before fleeing and taking his own life. Just weeks before the tragedy, Ireland was shocked by the murder/suicide of Brandon and Shane Skeffington in Sligo.
11. Candice and Kristin Hermeler
They looked so much alike that when their bodies were discovered, police did not know which was which. They had come to America from Australia on a visa and were visiting Aurora, Colorado, near the site of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Apparently the twins were obsessed with the massacre, had been taking shooting lessons at the Family Shooting Center in Aurora, and had written letters to some of the survivors of Columbine. Police believe they shot one another with 22 caliber pistols, in a bizarre murder/suicide pact. The irony? Candice survived, confirmed the pact, and ended up inheriting some $200,000 under Kristin’s will.
10. People’s Temple
In one of the largest murder/suicide pacts of modern times, the men and women of the Guyana-based People’s Temple, led by the infamous Reverend Jim Jones, first injected their children with poison, then themselves drank poison. Nearly 918 men, women and children died on that day, in 1978. Just prior to the murder/suicide, a number of members had expressed a desire to leave. When a visiting U.S. Congressman, Leo Ryan, tried to take them to an airplane, Jones’ response was to open fire, killing Ryan and a number of others. Some reluctant followers were murdered, while others drank the poison. A few temple members escaped just before the murder/suicide and were able to tell the stories.
9. Scott Rogers and Matthew Hodgkinson
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Scott Rogers was the popular, smiling host of a local television show and the father-in-law of Matt Hodgkinson. Both men hailed from Britain. In the Fall of 2014, 52 year old Rogers was found shot to death, with Hodgkinson near death at his side. Police called it a murder/suicide pact. It turns out that Rogers had been accused of child molestation in Britain. In fact, he and Hodgkinson had been long time lovers. Rumors had it that the two had been lovers in England and that Hodgkinson’s marriage to Rogers’ daughter was a sham intended to smooth the way for his immigration to the United States. Hodgkinson survived for a time and remained on life support until producing a valid marriage certificate. Rogers’ daughter ordered the plug pulled.
8. Patricia and Derek Ward
When neighbors first saw the bloody severed head on the sidewalk, they thought it was a Halloween prank. It wasn’t. In October of 2014, Derek Ward cut off his 66 year old mother’s head with a kitchen knife, threw her body out onto a Long Island street, then kicked her head some-20 feet down the sidewalk, before jumping in front of a train. The New York transit system was paralyzed. Patricia Ward had been a popular college English professor who lived in a New York apartment with her mentally ill son. All this time, neighbors thought them normal.
7. Solar Temple
Beginning in the 1980’s in Switzerland, the cult believed the world was headed for a catastrophic apocalypse and that death, moving to a higher plane, was their only option. In October of 1994, a baby who was believed to be the Anti-Christ was ritualistically murdered on the orders of the cult leader, Dr. Joseph Di Mambro. A wooden stake was repeatedly pounded into its body. Then, about 50 members committed a series of murder/suicides over a two-day period, before the cult’s headquarters was burned to the ground. In the aftermath, Di Mambro was confirmed as dead. In the next three years, over 2 dozen other members committed murder/suicide in a bid to reach that higher plane. Records left behind, show some of them had given Di Mambro in excess of $1 million.
6. Ben and Kristi Strack
What the outside world saw was a happy family. Mom and dad (Ben and Kristi) and their picture-perfect children, living the American dream in Utah. But one day in September of 2014, the Straks and three of their children were found dead in what police and family believe is a murder/suicide. The children, Benson aged 14, Emery aged 12 and Zion aged 11, were found dead in their beds, covers pulled up to their necks with empty bottles of methadone strewn around them. Ben and Kristi apparently killed their children before poisoning themselves. Family members spoke of Ben and Kristi’s drug abuse and overwhelming irrational fears and paranoia. People believe that at least one of the kids knew what was going to happen, as a note to a friend scribbled by Benson just prior to his death, was a “good bye” letter.
5. Mark Dobson
Dobson freely talks about the gruesome murders of his girlfriend, Mary Hepburn, 32 and their friend Helen Dorrington, 52 in May of 2012, while his attorneys push an insanity plea. The trial which began in the Fall of 2014, has seen a parade of gruesome and grisly revelations. On the day of the murders, Mary had a change of heart and tried to stop Dobson, but he broke her neck, then slit her throat, before sticking his fingers in the wound to stop her gurgling protestations. The deadly murder suicide happened in May of 2012, on the eve of Beltane, a Satanic holiday commemorated by sacrifice. After the trio checked into the Barrie, Canada Travel Lodge, they ate and drank and made merry before Dobson set about his grisly task. Friends from high school say that when they were into girls, Dobson was into dark magic and the occult. Many thought him a little strange.
4. Heaven’s Gate
Based in California, this cult was led by one Marshall Applewhite, who hailed himself as a descendant of Jesus Christ. In 1997, 39 of Applewhite’s followers participated in a murder/suicide, believing they would board a spaceship that would take them to a gender-less afterlife. Believing in their gender-less future, some male cult members had undergone voluntary castration. On the day of the murder/suicide, cult members wore black sweatshirts that read “Heaven Gates Away Team”. Applewhite died with his followers.
3. Missing Flight MH370
On the 8th of March, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 left Malaysia bound for China, It disappeared en route, and where it went or why, nobody knows for certain. While only a theory, certain experts believe that what happened was in fact a murder/suicide and that the pilot, Ahmad Shah, 53, locked his co-pilot out the cockpit before cutting off the cockpit’s oxygen supply and disabling the plane’s auto-pilot. As the plane plummeted, terrified passengers would have been unable to breath oxygen through oxygen masks. Journalist Geoff Taylor, and former airline CEO, Ewan Wilson cite the pilot’s mental instability, his massive ego, and arrogance as all pointing to a classic murder/suicide waiting to happen. Also, Taylor and Wilson point to the fact that Shah had cancelled all his future engagements before getting behind the wheel of the plane. We may never know.
2. Bryan Sweatt and Chandra Fields
He was 27, and she was 26, and they were embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their infant child. Sweatt posted violent rants on Facebook, but Chandra refused to budge. So, in October of 2013, Sweatt broke into the Greenwood, South Carolina home of Chandra’s parents and waited for the family to return. When they did, Sweatt shot Chandra, her parents, and two of their grandchildren before shooting himself. Just before, he called 911 and said he had killed them and couldn’t go on. Chandra would understand. Thankfully, Sweatt had released four other children that were in the house, including his and Chandra’s 7 month old daughter, before killing the 4 that remained. Some say that with his history of domestic abuse and arrests for assault, someone should have seen this murder/suicide coming.
1. Clarence and Shauna Washington
This case is unusual, in that no one suspected anything beforehand and even after Clarence reportedly shot his wife and three children, then shot himself in August of 2014, family members remained skeptical. Some suspected a murder/suicide pact. Friends and family called Clarence a great guy, who worked several jobs. A guy everyone could depend on. But police believe that something happened and that Clarence shot Shauna, 4 year old Olivia, 6 year old Oniya and 13 year old Omesha, before turning the gun on himself. On that Sunday, Shauna’s mother came looking for them when she didn’t see them at church, and found the bloody bodies all over the house. Clarence’s mother has called what happened evil and satanic.