Most people can’t name ten female serial killers off the top of their head, but in reality throughout history women have committed the most horrific murders. Whether it’s crimes committed out of passion, pure hate, or negligence, women have turned quiet suburbs upside down with tales of cold-blooded murders. And yet, we barely know about them.
Out of all the female serial killers, you probably know all about Aileen Wournos after Charlize Theron’s critically acclaimed portrayal of the serial killer. The film Monster, was a deep dive into the life of Wournos, who killed seven men in Florida by shooting them at point-blank range. One year after her death by lethal injection, Monster swept the Oscars, and the mainstream learned about the tragic and twisted life of Wournos. But she’s far from the first. When the film came out, the media hyped up Wournos as the deadliest woman, but way before Wournos there was Nannie Doss.
In 1955, Doss was convicted of killing her entire family with arsenic-infused pie. Before Doss in 1901, Jane Toppan confessed to dozens of murders and was considered extremely dangerous and unhinged at the time of her arrest. We tend to zero in on the likes of The Zodiac Killer, Charles Manson, and Ted Bundy, but never forget these female killers you’d be well-advised to steer clear of. These murderers may be less well known, but they’re just as evil as their more “famous” killer counterparts. From dismembering husbands to injecting children with heart stopping drugs — here are the deadly women proving men aren’t the only ones capable of committing grisly murders.
15. Juana Barraza
Despite only confessing to the one murder where she was caught fleeing the scene, in January 2006, Baraza was sentenced to 759 years for the murder of 16 elderly women in Mexico City. Nicknamed the Mataviejitas, or Little Old Lady Killer, Juana Barraza was a professional wrestler, who survived a troubled childhood with an alcoholic mother who let a man r*pe her in exchange for beer. Barraza’s deep-seated contempt for her mother inspired the brutal murders on specifically older women. Barraza would stalk locations ripe with elderly women and strike up conversation. On some occasions, she would gain access into their homes and rob them at gunpoint by pretending to be a nurse or a cleaner. By 2005, she had gotten away with strangling a group of women in their homes, and stayed under the radar because, who suspects the old lady’s a serial killer? Barraza was finally caught in 2006 when a jogger witnessed Barraza running away from his landlady’s apartment. Curious, he went inside and discovered the 82-year-old’s body. Police connected the fingerprints from the 2005 murder and what was left in the house and arrested Barraza. She only confessed to her last murder.
14. Nannie Doss
How did Nannie Doss murder four husbands, two children, two sisters, a grandson, a mother-in-law, and her own mother? Arsenic-infused drinks and pies. Doss’ first murder was in the 1920s, when she retaliated against her husband’s abuse by poisoning his whiskey. Doss used her charm to get away with killing eleven people who were mostly family so she could collect her victim’s life insurance policy. When her house was “mysteriously” burned down with her husband inside of it, Nannie collected $1,500 on his insurance policy and another $1,000 in fire insurance. By her second marriage, Nannie had already murdered her mother when she came to live with her, her mother-in-law and two other husbands. Doss was eventually caught after the murder of her fifth and final husband. In an attempt to collect his the life insurance policy, she poisoned her husband following a brief hospitalization for a digestive tract issue. Her plot backfired when doctors sensed some sort of foul play. When they discovered arsenic in her husband’s body, they tipped off the authorities. Doss later confessed to the murders, but because she was a woman, she was not put to death. She died from natural causes in 1965 at the age of 59.
13. Jane Toppan
Jane Toppan began her killing spree in 1885. While studying to become a nurse, she began experimenting with patients, creating lethal combinations of medicines and chemicals to alter their nervous system. She could literally kill them and bring them back to life with a shot. Genius… and dangerous. While in custody in 1901, the former nurse confessed that she enjoyed the power that came with controlling human life and the process of killing. The most chilling part about Toppan’s murder spree is just how long she got away with it. Jane managed to kill her way through school, and ended up in a private practice, racking up more victims. At the height of her murders, she killed her landlords and later her foster sister. But after killing Alden Davis and his two daughters, the Davis family requested a toxicology investigation which turned up traces of the poison used by Toppan. In 1902, she was charged with the murders. Toppan was declared insane and the court found her not guilty.
12. Delfina and Maria De Jesus Gonzalez
In 1964, police raided a graveyard that became known as Mexico City’s “Bordello from Hell” and unearthed the 90 bodies, victims sisters Delfina and Maria killed. In the early 20th century the sisters owned a bordello in Guanajuato. The sisters recruited their female staff through help-wanted ads. When the women became pregnant, or ill, or looked worn out, the sisters killed her, dismembered her, and buried the body on the property. Customers weren’t safe from the butcher knife either. The sister act also killed extravagant customers who flaunted money, and poor customers who came up short or empty handed. During the raid, police found the remains of 11 men, 80 women and (the most chilling) multiple fetuses. Delfina and Maria were each sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of 90-plus people.
11. Leonarda Cianciulli
Before Cianciulli was caught thanks to a witness, her three murders were actually turning a profit because she was turning their bodies into soap. The Italian serial killer, dubbed the “Soap-Maker of Correggio,” murdered three women in Correggio in 1939 and 1940. Their remains were used to make soaps and cakes which she would sell at her small shop. Cianciulli’s transformation from doting mother to murderer started in 1939, when she killed a middle-aged women as a human sacrifice to protect her son, Giuseppe, who had enlisted in World War II. After murdering her first victim with an axe she got rid of the body by throwing the parts in a pot, and according to Cianciulli, “added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the whole mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.” Her next two murders were done in a similar fashion, crunch tea cakes and all.
10. Genene Jones
Genene Jones is a paediatric nurse who just may have the most bone-chilling murder story on this list. In 1977, she killed roughly 46 infants and children by injecting them Succinylcholine, a strong muscle relaxation and short term paralysis that stops the heart. Jones would then attempt to revive the children all in order to receive praise from the staff for her efforts. In an interview with one victim’s parents, they recall Jones giving their child a shot in her left thigh, and immediately she “started gasping for air.” Petti McClellan-Wiese told CNN that Jones “gave another one, and she immediately just went limp and quit breathing.” The exact number of killings under Jones’ care remains unclear, the hospital allegedly destroyed patient files in order to avoid lawsuits. Genene Jones was sentenced to 99 years in prison in 1985, but because of a Texas law put in place to avoid jail overcrowding, Jones can walk free as soon as 2018.
9. Miranda Barbour
The teen mom and serial killer became known as the Craigslist Killer and has been dubbed the real-life female Dexter after killing dozens of people before the age of 20. Back in 2013, when she was just 19, Barbour and her husband, Elytte Barbour, 22, lured Pennsylvania man Troy LaFerrara to their apartment after he responded to her Craigslist ad for “female companionship.” After getting LaFerrara in their trap, the duo butchered him and buried the remains near their Pennsylvania home. While facing murder charges, Miranda told a Pennsylvania newspaper reporter she killed at least 21 other people over the course of six years in North Carolina, California, Alaska and Texas, dumping some body parts in Big Lake, Alaska and Mexico Beach, Florida. Barbour revealed that she based her killings off of the TV series, Dexter, only killing evil people as a way to practice her satanic beliefs through thrill killings. In February of 2014, a judge ruled that prosecutors can pursue the death penalty in the trial of Miranda Barbour. She is currently awaiting trial.
8. Tamara Samsonova
The creepiest part about Tamara Samsonova’s murders? There are body parts missing from her 14 murders and Russian investigators suspect the serial killer may have resorted to cannibalism. This grisly granny murder spanned between 1995 and 2015, when she was finally charged with murder after she was caught on camera carrying a saucepan containing the boiled head and hands of her friend, 79-year-old, Valentina Ulanova. She kept her killings under wraps by dismembering all her corpses with a handsaw and disposing of their body parts. It’s said that the body parts of her victims are scattered around the city of St Petersburg. In 2015, unbeknownst to Tamara, security cameras caught her butchering her friend and moving her body parts in bags. Despite refusing to confess to 11 more suspected killings, Tamara told investigators that she murdered Ulanova by poisoning her salad. Samsonova is serving time in a psychiatric prison hospital.
7. The Lainz General Hospital Nurses
We expect nurses to keep our elderly family members safe, but unfortunately, killer nurse stories are all too common. The most evil and complex case is the story of Lainz General Hospital “Angels of Death,” group comprised of Maria Gruber, Irene Leidolf, Stephanija Mayer and Waltraud Wagner. In 1989, the killer quartet confessed to 49 murders over the course of seven years by morphine overdoses or drowning. What made the case complicated were claims from the nurses that the reason they killed the elderly was to take them out of misery. According to the nurses, the patients asked for lethal injections. According to Wagner, the first nurse to kill a patient in 1983, a 77-year-old woman allegedly asked Wagner to end her life. Wagner complied and injected the woman with the lethal dose, ending her life. She would later tell police that after that moment she began killing more patients. Despite receiving lengthy sentences, all four were free by 2008 and now live life under new identities.
6. Dorothea Puente
Nurses have the power to kill, and boarding homes have the power to scam their patients and collect benefit checks if they’re anything like Dorothea Puente. For years in the 1980s, Puente owned and operated a boarding house for the elderly in Sacramento, California. Then in 1988, she was arrested after the authorities found the bodies of seven people buried in the yard of her boarding house. All seven, plus two others buried elsewhere, had been Ms. Puente’s tenants. Prosecutors say that most of her victims were homeless drifters, mentally ill people or alcoholics ranging in ages 52 to 80. According to authorities, and Puente, she drugged the tenants and stole their money. She would then collect their government checks and bury the victims in her backyard. Dorothea was convicted for the murders in 1993 and died in prison from natural causes in 2011 at age 82.
5. Stacey Castor
Stacey Castor handled the case of the ex by killing them with antifreeze. Her first husband, Michael Wallace, began to feel ill and died in 2000 from a heart attack. In 2003, Castor, now married to David Castor, alerted police that she was concerned for her suicidal husband who had locked himself in the bedroom after an argument. When authorities arrived, they broke down the door and discovered David dead with a bottle of antifreeze at his side. Eerily enough, Stacey buried Castor next to the body of her first husband in the same upstate New York cemetery. After her first husband’s family paid for an investigation into their son’s death, and Stacey’s connection, evidence soon started to mount that Castor had force-fed her husband the poison with a turkey baster. She was an official suspect when Wallace’s body had evidence of antifreeze poisoning. At one point, Castor went as far as to place blame on her daughter, Ashley Wallace. She drugged the 20-year-old, and forged a suicide note, confessing to killing her father and David Castor. Castor was arrested for murdering David and attempting to murder Ashley. She was convicted and sentenced to 51 years. In 2016, she died in prison.
4. Myra Hindley
Myra Hindley and her equally heinous partner Ian Brady, embarked on a two year killing spree, murdering five children in Greater Manchester, England. The victims were in between the ages of 10 and 17 years old, and were sexually assaulted before being brutally murdered. Hindley’s role was to lure the girls, get them comfortable, win over their trust and then aid Brady in the attack. Three of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor, and the last victim’s body was found at Brady’s house. The whereabouts of the fourth victim, Keith Bennett, remains unknown. Both Brady and Hindley were later sentenced to life behind bars. Hindley died in prison in 2002 while Brady has since been confined in the maximum security Ashworth Hospital.
3. Magdalena Solís
“The Great Blood Sorceress” wasn’t just a murderer, she was serial killer, a religious cult leader and sex criminal who removed her victims’ hearts and drank their blood. Yerba Buena, Mexico’s 20th century High Priestess of Blood was responsible for 8 confirmed murders. She mostly killed her followers through sacrifices in which victims were mutilated and beaten. Magdalena’s power was so real, during her height her worshippers claimed she was the reincarnation of an Aztec goddess Coatlicue. In actuality, Magdalena was a con artist, she was basically the original Joanne The Scammer. She became a prostitute early in her life and her brother, Eleazar was her pimp until he began to scam people into believing he was a prophet. In 1963, police descended on Magdalena’s cult campsite where they discovered bodies, including the remains of her two other brothers. Solís was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the deaths of her brothers. Authorities suspected her of killing many more, but surviving cult members refused to testify against her.
2. Fred and Rose West
The married couple turned their home into a sadistic torture chamber by sexually abusing and beating their own young child and teen daughters, as well as other women. The couple would later kill several of their own children and bury them under the patio in their garden. Chilling. At the time of their arrest, Rose West refused to confirm the exact number of potential victims the duo murdered over a 20-year period, between 1967 and 1987. Fred West was ultimately charged with 12 murders, but committed suicide while awaiting trial in Birmingham prison. Rose was convicted of 10 murders in November 1995 and is serving a life sentence. In an interview with family members on the 20th anniversary of the arrest, a friend told reporters that Rose is “so happy with her life, she has no plans to appeal for early release.” She has ceased communication with relatives.
1. Karla Homolka
Karla Homolka may be the most dangerous female murderer because today she is living the quintessential soccer-mom life in Châteauguay, Quebec, despite murdering three young women, including her sister, with her husband Paul Bernardo. Back in April, multiple Quebec outlets reported sightings of the serial killer, who was convicted in 1993 to 12 years in prison for the deaths of schoolgirls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, as well as the r*pe and death of her own sister, Tammy. When detectives found French’s naked body in a ditch in North Burlington, Ontario, an acquaintance reported Bernardo to detectives as a possible murder suspect. The Ken and Barbie killing spree came to an official end on January 5, 1993, when Homolka, severely beaten by Bernardo, confessed the crimes to her family. Homolka later received a plea deal that would have her out of prison within 12 years. She now lives under a new identity and her children attend a local public school.