Christmastime is supposed to be the most ideal time for holiday cheer. Classic holiday tradition tells us that December 25th is the day where we all are supposed to gather around a shiny tree alongside family and friends and exchange gifts while enjoying the company of our loved ones. It is a holiday that is supposed to be spent as a time to reward our true loves with french hens, turtle doves, a partridges in pear tress after a year’s worth of love and care. Then, maybe, we can squeeze in time to go to church and praise our world overlord, Santa Claus. Or Jesus Christ. Depends on which church you attend. However, the holiday spirit is not a feeling that everyone is so lucky to feel. For some, Christmas is nothing more than another day at the office. For criminals especially, Christmas is just another day to commit a heinous felony.
Crime never sleeps, not even on Christmas Day. Some people who feel the Christmas spirit every year on December 25th tend to forget that crime does not just stop on that day. The whole wide world does not suddenly become a unanimous mixture of peaches, cream, sunshine, and rainbows for one day of the year just because a fat man in a red suit just decides to stroll into town with a boat load of presents. Not everyone has the privilege or luxury of a having a happy Christmas experience. For some, it is a day that victims have spent being on the receiving end of a heinous crime and for others, they are spending their Christmas committing heinous acts. Here is a list of a few crimes committed on Christmas that were so heinous that they will probably put a damper on your own holiday cheer this year.
15. Rampage In Virginia
In 2005, Nathan W. Cheatham murdered four people before turning the gun on himself on Christmas Day. While a clear motive behind his murders was never discovered, Cheatham was known to have a history with mental problems. He also had a criminal record that included several, yet minor, infractions in Fairfax County. That day, he grabbed a 9mm pistol and killed his mother, Sheila G. Cheatham, who he had been living with for the past couple weeks, in the driveway. The 27 year old man would then drive 10 miles up to a home in Great Falls. He broke in and shot at everyone in his sight. This included Janina C. Price, her son Adam S. Price, and Christopher J. Buro. Those three were shot dead while another family member hid in the basement to call the police. More than 50 fired bullets later, Cheatham’s rampage ended with his own suicide.
14. Portland Killer
For a holiday meant to inspire holiday cheer, Christmas seems to bring out the worst in people. Take this horrific Christmas Day case as a prime example. Mentally ill Michael Kirkland broke into the Southwest Portland home of 33 year old Jaime Larson. The two met hours before the murder as the two found themselves smoking cigarettes in front of Larson’s apartment that morning. While Larson was oblivious of Kirkland’s presence, Kirkland admired her from afar and stalked her inside. Once inside, the intruder used a sock to cover the victim’s mouth, impeding her breathing before he beat and raped the woman to death. Later that night, her mutilated body was found in her apartment by a friend. Forensic evidence was able to peg Kirkland as a suspect. In 2014, Kirkland was found guilty of aggravated assault, burglary, strangulation, and abusing a corpse. Kirkland is currently serving a life sentence in prison.
13. Restraining Order Ignored
Gilroy County in California seldom is home to murders on a yearly basis. It’s sad to think that of all days for murder to pick up in this generally peaceful county, the third murder to occur there in 2013 happened to be on Christmas Day. On January 2013, months prior to the murder, Ernesto Rodriguez was issued a restraining order from ex-girlfriend, Alma Roque Ortega, after he attacked her with a box cutter in 2012. For whatever reason, in August later that year, Ortega deemed that her accord with Rodriguez had left them on well enough terms that she could change that restraining order into a peaceful contact order. Four months later, on Christmas, their final meeting was anything but peaceful as Rodriguez left her bloodied to death in a bathroom to be found by Ortega’s relative. Autopsies revealed that Ortega died from blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds to the neck. The case appears to be ongoing as the last documented trial for Rodriguez dates back to January 2014.
12. Connie Villa
In 2013, Connie Villa was in the midst of separating from her ex-husband, Michael Macias. The divorce was finalized, but her ex-husband was trying to get full custody of their kids. Fearing she would lose her children, Villa grew desperate and when most people grow desperate, most people are willing to stoop to murderous behavior. On Christmas Day, Villa asked her former husband to come to the house and then proceeded to stab him repeatedly. Eventually, Michael was able to escape her clutches long enough to call the police. Beforehand, Villa had murdered her 13 year old daughter, Aniarel Macias, via suffocation after failing to poison the girl. Her remaining 3 and 8 year old children are safe with their grandparents, but they had traces of opiate in their system, meaning their mother tried to poison them as well. Connie Villa seemed to have attempted to kill herself afterwards given the self-inflicted stab marks across her own body when authorities arrived, but they arrived just before she could kill herself. Though she was charged with first degree murder and multiple accounts of attempted murder, the case remains unresolved.
11. Strip Club Triple Murder
Lonely nights never feel lonelier than on Christmas night. On a night where a person is expected to be surrounded by family and friends, it makes someone feel isolated having to spend the holiday alone. When most men feel this isolated on Christmas, or any other day for that matter, they usually wind up at a strip club. This was most likely the mindset going through 19 year old Anthony Fields’ mind on Christmas 2013. While trying to enter a New Jersey strip club, the bouncer noticed Fields concealing a pistol and wouldn’t allow him inside. An agitated Fields—likely already agitated having to spend Christmas in a strip club alone—opened fire on the bouncer as well as other club employees and patrons. Two people were injured while three (including the bouncer) were killed. Along with three accounts of murder, Fields was convicted of unlawful possession on December 13th, 2016 by a jury. Facing life in prison, sentencing for Fields is scheduled to take place on February 27th, 2017.
10. Ronald Gene Simmons Murders
Opposed to occurring solely on Christmas Day, the murders of Ronald Gene Simmons occurred over a holiday vacation from December 22nd to December 28th. It’s a rather unorthodox way to spend a Christmas vacation, but that is exactly how the retired military serviceman spent his holiday time in 1987. He murdered 14 members of his family (6 daughters, 3 sons, 2 grandsons, 1 son-in-law, 1 daughter-in-law, and his wife). When he drove into Russellville from Dover afterwards, Simmons walked into a law office and killed a receptionist. He then went to an oil company where he killed a random man and injured a worker. He then drove to a convenience store where he used to work and shot and injured two more people. Finally, he went to the Woodline Motor Freight Company where he shot and wounded a woman. Simmons then sat in the office and talked with a secretary as he waited for the police to arrive. When they did arrive, Simmons surrendered without resistance. To this day, the crimes of Ronald Gene Simmons are considered to be the worst mass murder to ever be committed in the state of Arkansas. Simmons would later be executed for his crimes via lethal injection on June 25th, 1990.
9. The Murder of Margaret Bell
We all remember the famous scene from A Christmas Story where a department store Santa warns Ralphie, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” and then later on, Ralphie nearly does shoot his eye out with his brand new BB gun. This wouldn’t have been the first time an eye would have been shot out on Christmas Day. Something similar occurred in 1901, except in this particular case, it was no accident. For the past 15 years, John and Margaret Bell were happily married. That was until Margaret told John she was pregnant. For some reason, John didn’t believe that the baby was his. Despite not finding any evidence to the contrary, the very idea that his wife was cheating on him was eating away at John. Things came to a head on Christmas when he pulled a gun on Margaret. The two found themselves in a struggle for the gun until John fired a shot that went straight through Margaret’s eye. When Margaret died from the bullet wound, John was riddled with enough guilt that he turned himself in to the police.
8. A Holiday Party Gone Wrong
For anyone dreading having to go to their Christmas family dinner later this year, rest assured that it probably won’t turn out as badly as the Johnston Christmas dinner. In 1894, Amy and John Johnston hosted a Christmas dinner party where the guests included their neighbor, Daniel Herron. As with most dinner parties that offer alcohol, those in attendance started to get in a shouting match. This match was between Daniel and John and their argument turned so heated that Daniel pulled a gun out on John. Just as Daniel pulled the trigger, a chivalrous Amy jumped in front of her husband to protect him and ended up getting shot in the process. Amy would die from her wounds shortly after and Daniel would later be convicted of manslaughter. So if you’re still worried about how your own Christmas dinner will turn out this year, just know that as long as you’ve got a ride-or-die hubby by your side who is willing to take a bullet for you, you’ll be safe.
7. Texas Shootout
This case which spanned across Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1885 proves why men shouldn’t be so quick to brag about their sexual conquests. Especially if one of those conquests happen to be their buddy’s wife. Jack Doyle, Don Sullivan, and Buck Hannon got together one December 24th night and started to talk about all the women they had slept with. Things got dire quickly when Sullivan claimed that he had slept with Doyle’s wife. In the heat of the moment, like a regular western movie stare-down shootout, both men drew guns on each other. Doyle was quicker on the draw and Sullivan took a bullet through his chest. Doyle was quick to move on to a hotel down the street, but he didn’t expect to be approached by Hannon. Taking vengeance in the name of his fallen friend, Hannon shot Doyle dead. Both Doyle and Sullivan’s bodies were buried on Christmas evening, but Hannon fled out of town to avoid lawful punishment.
6. Covina Massacre
Technically, the actual murders in this case occurred on Christmas Eve, but this was a case that bled into Christmas morning. Speaking of bleeding, there was plenty of bloodshed in this tragedy. On December 18th, 2008, Bruce Pardo had finalized the divorce from his wife, Sylvia, but he hadn’t been adjusting to his newly single life well. A week later, on Christmas Eve at around 11:30pm, he arrived to his former in-laws house dressed as Santa Claus holding two gift wrapped packages. One package contained a 9mm semi-automatic handgun while the other concealed a flamethrower. His first victim that night was the eight year-old daughter of Leticia Yuzefpolsky (Sylvia’s sister). From there, Pardo unloaded his weaponry on a party of around 30 people. At least 9 were killed and at least 23 were injured. On Christmas morning, Pardo changed in street attire and drove a rental car to his brother’s house where he would commit suicide via self-inflicted gunshot.
5. Aziz Yazdanpanah Family Murders
Insecurities can get the better of us sometimes. The things that make us the most insecure eat away at us until finally, we snap. This is exactly what happened to 56 year old Aziz Yazdanpanah in 2011. Yazdanpanah had been dealing with some financial issues at the time and one thing that wasn’t making him feel better was that his estranged wife was making more money than him. Jealous of his wife’s success, he unexpectedly arrived to his ex-wife’s apartment in a Santa suit to unleash his rage. Not only did he open gunfire on his ex-wife, but also their two teenage children, his sister-in-law, his brother-in-law, and his niece. By time the police arrived to the scene, Yazdanpanah had already turned the gun on himself. What makes this story all the more depressing is that reports claim that the children were opening their Christmas presents just before Yazdanpanah arrived. So much for holiday cheer.
4. The Killing of Mrs. Hayden
In 1878, after being married for four months, 16 year old Mrs. Sarah Hayden had started to get awfully cordial with the friendly neighbor Felix Lavelle. Whenever they met, she had grown fond of digging in his pockets for candy. On one fateful Christmas morning in front of the Hudson River Railroad, his pocket was filled with not candy, but a six-shooter revolver. Being playful, Lavelle pointed the pistol at Hayden as a joke, but accidentally shot her in her left breast at point blank range. He was remorseful enough to walk her to a doorstep until the police arrived. She would die from her wounds later on and due to some doubt surrounding whether or not the altercation was actually an accident, Lavelle would go to trial the next year where he would be given a life sentence in prison. This was a truly tragic way to end what appeared to be a truly genuine friendship.
3. Lawson Family Murders
Between all the holiday shopping and flying in to see all of your relatives (especially that one uncle who is known to get a little too drunk off egg nog; we all have that uncle), Christmas can drive us all a little crazy. For Charles Davis Lawson, it was the day he became psychotic. On Christmas evening in 1929, he took a shotgun and murdered his wife along with six of his seven children. His seventh child, 16 year old Arthur, was off tending to an errand. He would later return home to discover his father’s dead body after the man committed suicide. To this day, no one knows the reasoning behind the father’s psychotic episode. It’s been speculated that it was a premeditated attack given that he took the family to buy new clothes and take a family portrait (as pictured above) shortly beforehand. Some say that Charles’ mental breakdown was due to a head injury sustained some months prior, even though autopsies revealed no abnormalities. Others think that Charles was feeling guilt over a rumored incest relationship with his 17 year old daughter, Marie, where he supposedly got her pregnant. Whatever the reasoning, one thing is for sure, this was a gruesome massacre.
2. Stagger Lee
Does the name “Stagger Lee” sound familiar? It should. The story of Stagger Lee inspired a plethora of songs in the folk blues genre and generated even more urban legends in his name. For those not familiar with the real life story, carriage driver and pimp Stagger Lee (real name Lee Shelton) entered a St. Louis saloon on a cold Christmas evening around 10:00. After knocking back a few drinks with friend, William Lyons, the two started debating about politics. Which, as we all know in this post-Trump election climate, is never a good idea. The debate turned into a full blown argument where Lyons snatched the hat off Lee’s head. When Lee demanded his hat back and Lyons refused, Lee pulled out his revolver and shot Lyons in the stomach. Then, as Lyons bled out on the ground, Lee calmly put his hat back on and walked out the bar like he was the baddest man on the planet. Lee would later be arrested and Lyons’ wounds were hospitalized, but the legend lived on.
1. The Murder of JonBenet Ramsey
Anyone remotely familiar with this case had to have known that this one had to take the top spot. JonBenet Ramsey was a 6 year old beauty pageant who went missing in 1996. Shortly afterwards, a lengthy ransom note was discovered and just 8 hours later, her parents discovered her body in the family basement. Those who have doctored on her autopsy ruled her death as a homicide via strangulation and skull fracture. The autopsy also determined that her murder had to have occurred either on Christmas or the day after. 20 years later, much of the case remains shrouded in mystery. It has been heavily speculated that the crime could have been perpetrated from anybody ranging from some unidentified kidnappers to her own parents. Many people doubt if we’ll ever know the truth behind who killed JonBenet Ramsey, but with the DNA portion of the case recently being reopened to incorporate new technologies, we may be getting closer to the truth.