Things aren’t always as they appear. Though you can sometimes tell a lot of information solely by someone’s appearance, that isn’t always the case. For instance, someone that looks perpetually angry and has a resting “bee-otch” face may indeed be the friendliest person you could ever hope to meet, if you can get past his or her appearance to extend a greeting. And on that token, the sweetest, kindest, oldest grannies can be some of the most malicious and evil people out there.
They say that the killers and criminals you have to look out for the most are the ones that can commit their crimes yet maintain a sweet and innocent smile on their faces. While that adage makes us envision smarmy, charming, seductive serial killers that were somehow the most popular people around, we’d still be looking in the wrong places. Sometimes, it’s absolutely whom we least expect, such as the little old lady that’s known for volunteering and making cookies for various people in the neighborhood. And we’re not talking about petty crimes like stealing spools of yarn or smuggling kittens across borders; we’re talking hardcore, horrifying, gory, messy murders. These are the grannies who had a lot of explaining to do when the skeletons fell out of their mothball-filled closets.
Plenty of grannies have been arrested for crazy murders, and we’re going to lay the worst of them all out for you here. So cuddle up under your warm quilts and put down your knitting needles — it’s about to get real. Here are twenty evil grannies who killed:
20. Tamara Samsonova – The Granny Ripper
We’re pretty clear on the fact that Tamara is one messed up old lady, and we know that she committed some heinous crimes… but at the same time, we still kind of want to sit down with her and have a cup of tea and talk about her wild experiences in her younger days. She looks to be the kindest old lady, but there are plenty of messed up stories behind those tired eyes. Tamara was also known as the Granny Ripper. The little old Russian lady confessed to killing 11 people over 20 years. If she hadn’t confessed, she surely would’ve been found out anyways as she kept vivid and brutal descriptions in her diary, which was discovered by police. One entry details how she murdered one of her tenants, dismembered him, and scattered him across the district. It’s also rumored she’d eaten some of her victims, but there’s never been any undigested proof.
19. Juana Barraza – The Silent Lady (Killed 50 Women)
If you don’t know her by the name of Juana Barraza, you may know her by her stage name: The Silent Lady. Juana decided to take up Luchador wrestling when she was reaching her old age and, fighting in night shifts, she spent her spare time targeting and hunting down her chosen victims: little old ladies like herself. Between the years of 1998 and 2006, she killed almost 50 women, almost all of them over the age of 60, by either strangling them or beating them to death. She’d then proceed to rob them and abandon their bodies for authorities and civilians to discover. Guess not all Luchador fights are staged after all, huh? Once she was caught and dubbed guilty, she was sentenced to 759 years in prison… a tad excessive, in our opinion. They could have just said “until your rotting corpse completely dissolves and your bones turn to dust.”
18. Melissa Ann Shepard – The Black Widow Killer
This old lady looks so dang sweet. Even here, in her petite bonnet and her dark clothes, she looks adorable and innocent and fragile and delicate… as she’s being removed from a police paddy wagon. Melissa was also known as a “black widow” killer, for obvious reasons. The Canadian woman from Halifax was found to be guilty of murdering at least two of her five husbands, though she attempted to kill the others over the years. The two that she succeeded in killing were killed by tranquilizer overdose. After her second husband died, she spent a few years in prison, only to be released and commit murder again. She was finally caught when the coroner did the autopsy on her deceased fifth husband, finding five different overdoses in his system. She’s out of prison again, but she’s under legal obligation to report any personal relationships to the appropriate authorities.
17. Sandra Layne – Shot Her Grandson 8 Times
This cute little old lady looks absolutely precious! She looks like the kind of grandma that would make you oatmeal cookies before sitting you down for story-time. What could she have possibly done wrong?
A lot. She shot her grandson… in the chest… eight… times. Obviously, she was arrested immediately after the crime was committed in 2012. The 74-year-old woman argued throughout her trial that she did it out of self-defense because her grandson was a drug addict and she was afraid of him, which is why she had the gun in the first place and why she had to use it so recklessly. Yeah, no one bought that. We think she was simply so fed up with her grandson mouthing off to her and doing what he wanted to do that she responded in the most dramatic and horrifying way any granny could. She’s serving her prison sentence now and will likely die in prison.
16. Angela Bingham – Suffocated Three-Year-Old
It’s terrible when an old lady kills a random stranger, but there are some things worse than that. Now, don’t get us wrong — we’re not saying that that isn’t messed up, because it 100% is — but you know what’s significantly worse? When an old lady kills her grandchild. Who does that?!
Angela Bingham was a Delaware grandma who was the guardian in charge of her three-year-old grandson. She explained to prosecutors that she couldn’t afford to support a child as she didn’t have the money. So when the three-year-old was sleeping, she held a towel over his face until he suffocated. To mask the scent of his rotting body, she lined the bottom of his door with more towels and burned incense. She apparently considered suicide after the murder was committed but was arrested and convicted before she had the chance to take her own life.
15. Nilda Sheffield – Killed Grandkids and Daughter To Free Them From Hell
No, the evil Nanna Nilda Sheffield is not in the photo. This is a picture of Nilda’s daughter and her two adorable children. What a wonderful and happy family she had, one that loved to take adventures to Universal Studios and play together and giggle and smile and be happy. What could have gone wrong in this picture?
Apparently, Nanna Nilda was cray cray. Nilda came to her daughter’s home one day in 2015 and killed both of her grandchildren as well as her daughter before turning the gun on herself. When police were investigating the murder-suicide, they came upon a diary in Nilda’s home. She wrote in the diary that she felt that she had to kill her three relatives in order to free them from hell. She also wrote about the prospects of reincarnation and meeting again in heaven. She compared herself to the biblical character Abraham, who was asked to sacrifice his son to God in order to demonstrate his faith. We don’t think Nilda was any kind of prophet — we think she was a demented old lady that had access to a gun.
14. Dorothea Puente – Don’t Marry This Lady!!!
Dorothea Puente is one of the more famous granny-killers in the United States right now for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, her killing spree went unnoticed for a shockingly long time. She was put on trial at the age of 64, when cops found evidence of her killing nine people (including her ex-boyfriend). She wasn’t noticed in her odd behavior for so long because she ran an unlicensed boarding house, which she advertised to the elderly, drug addicts, and alcoholics; what police officers like to call “ghost people.” They caught her for sure when they found all nine bodies buried beneath her house. She’s also really popular today because a documentary called The House Is Innocent, which was just made about the house she killed in, was sold to an adorable couple that has decorated the place with tacky ornaments in attempts to take the negative stigma away from the home.
13. Carolyn Hood – The Mastermind
Well, this lady looks like she couldn’t hurt a fly. Literally. She doesn’t look like she’s capable enough to even wheel herself around, let alone commit a crime such as murder. To be fair, little old Carolyn Hood didn’t do it alone. Carolyn was arrested, along with her son, for killing her husband. The 79-year-old woman from Alabama was apparently approached by her son with a plot to kill him, and she helped him carry it out. Police believe that Carolyn helped her son plan the murder. While the son carried out that dark deed, Carolyn was the mastermind behind it and took joy in cutting up her husband’s remains to be scattered across the Alabama landscape. Her lawyer used her disabilities, age, and poor physical health as his entire defense, saying that she was “basically an invalid.” Even if that’s true, it doesn’t seem to have slowed Carolyn down too much!
12. Gloria Marie Tensley – The Body in The Closet
Gloria Marie Tensley looks like an awkward old lady, for sure. She was the kind of granny that had a short pixie haircut and looked like she’d strike up a long conversation you had no interest in while you were walking around the farmers market. Her 36-year-old roommate, Allen Trobaugh, thought she was a bit of an odd-duck too, but he didn’t ask many questions. Allen lived with Gloria for a few months, helping her around the house in exchange for cheap rent. He was always forbidden to look in the closet, but when he did, he found a body. Gloria was taken in and charged with abuse of a corpse as well as fraud, as she was cashing the dead man’s social security checks. They couldn’t pin the murder on her, but seriously — how else would she have gotten the body? All we can think is that we’re glad Allen decided to do some spring cleaning and check out the closet before he was next.
11. Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt – All About The Life Insurance Policies
Alright, so we cheated! Technically there are 21 crazy old killer grannies on the list, but don’t let the extra one scare you off too much. These two old ladies from Southern California have been spending the remainder of their lives in prison after being caught in a serial-killing plot and cashing in their life insurance policies. The ladies got away with it twice, killing the homeless men Kenneth McDavid and Paul Vados, before botching a third attempt. This victim, Jimmy Covington, was asked to apply for an $800,000 life insurance policy. The women were dogging him about it, aggressively insisting he do it, when he noticed something was terribly amiss. He fled and told the police, and the women were brought in. Apparently, after getting the policies, their plan was to fake hit-and-run accidents by killing the men with their cars. Then they’d be the beneficiaries of big payouts.
10. Faye Copeland – The Killer Farmers
Well, these country bumpkins don’t look like they could hurt a fly. Ray and Faye Copeland (yep, those were actually the couple’s names) were farmers out in Missouri, and they struggled to make ends meet back in the 1980s. Ray was known as a criminal around the small town, as he had a tendency to pick up drifters and convince them to aid him in committing cattle fraud: the drifter would “buy” some cows, present a fraudulent check, get away with the cows to deliver to Ray, and never be heard from again. Well, many suspected that the drifters simply skipped town after committing fraud, but what they didn’t know was that Faye was disposing of the liabilities by helping her husband kill them after they did their job. Faye would bury their bodies on the farm and then make quilts out of their clothes! She was the oldest woman to ever be put on death row.
9. Mangal Bharat Thorat – The Small Dowry
It’s very rare that people love their in-laws. If you care about someone in your family, you want the best for them and for them to be treated with only the best dignity, respect, admiration, and love. That can be hard to feel sometimes when it comes to the loved ones of your loved ones — no one ever seems to measure up enough.
Well, this was true in the case of Mangal Bharat Thorat for sure. The 62-year-old mother from Mumbai watched her son get married and then learned of the meager dowry the family was to get in exchange for taking the daughter-in-law in. It was a small dowry for sure, one that may have been taken as an insult by the mother and father. Mangal was so livid that she beat the daughter in law, doused her in kerosene, and lit her ablaze. The young woman died in a hospital bed from her wounds. Mangal is now serving a life sentence for her overreaction.
8. Hazel Dulcie Bodsworth – The Husband Killer
Hazel, an Australian woman, seemed so sweet to everyone around her. Her favorite hobby was to bake cakes and walk them down to the local police station for the cops to nibble on. So what happened? Hazel was adept at killing her husbands and making it look like an accident. She started with her first husband, who “accidentally” drowned. Another close friend died in a mysterious fire. Her son-in-law nearly suffered a fatal wound when she “accidentally” pushed him into a hole in the ground. Cops caught her just in time, as she and her husband were on their way to pick up their newly adopted son.
7. Myra Hindley – The Moors Murderer
With a sweet little old lady name like Myra, she doesn’t sound so bad. Even her picture looks pretty okay, like she was the cool kind of grandma that wore makeup and smoked around the grandkids too much. Well, Myra was anything but cool — she was one messed up lady, and NO ONE called her Myra. She was known as The Moors Murderer (or sometimes, she was better known as The Most Evil Woman in Britain). Myra didn’t work alone; her boyfriend, Ian Brady, was her accomplice. But the two did some insanely messed up things together. They conspired, plotted, raped, and murdered five kids in England in the 1960s (when Myra was only in her 20s). They were turned in by Ian’s brother who caught a glimpse of a murder, and Myra was known as the prison-psycho grandma until she was 60 years old and died in prison.
6. Nannie Doss – Killed Husbands Because Of “Boredom”
Nannie Doss was known as a “black widow” killer — just like the spider of the same name, which tends to go after its significant others. However, there’s a big difference between Nannie and this spider — the spider kills its significant other to eat it in order to nourish her unborn children. Nannie killed her husbands because she was bored and it sounded like fun. She was guilty of killing not only five of her husbands, but also a mother-in-law, two of her sisters, her own mother, and two children that were descended from her murdered sisters — total: she killed eleven people. What’s worse is that Nannie didn’t seem to feel bad for any of their deaths. Not only did she confess, but she even made jokes about how pesky those husbands were. She died in prison while serving out her sentence and was only spared the death penalty because she was a woman.
5. Amy Archer-Gilligan – Sister Amy
Amy had a long life that spanned from 1868 to 1962. Back then, that was more than just a good life — that was remarkable! What was her secret to health and success? Murdering the elderly, it would seem. Amy, who went by the name of “Sister Amy” (even though she was not a nun, for obvious reasons), was a nursing home proprietor back in the day. When you think about it, it was kind of the perfect place to commit regular murders; it was a time when forensic science wasn’t brought in to investigate deaths, especially if they seemed commonplace or natural, as they did in this case. Amy would poison her victims (including her second husband) until they keeled over and died. She did this for life-insurance money, typically, until she was caught and sent to an insane asylum. She killed at least five people.
4. Andrea G. – The Baby Killer
We realize that this name doesn’t give you a whole lot to go on — there have got to be millions of Andrea G.’s in the world. Well, this German woman was only identified as Andrea G., so we don’t know anything more than you do as far as her identity. We do, however, know what she’s guilty of. The woman was arrested when eight dead babies were found in her apartment in 2016. She admitted to killing several of them but confessed she didn’t know how many she’d killed; she’d “lost count.” Apparently, she’d given birth to the babies at home alone and suffocated any babies that cried or moved (so, you know… all of them), then hid them in the apartment in plastic bags or containers. What’s most messed up is that this lady had a husband and three children of her own who lived with her in the apartment.
3. Jane Toppan – The American Nurse
Another old lady from the late 1800s that was not a granny you wanted to mess with was Jane Toppan. The American nurse, who was born with the name Honora Kelley, owned her own private medical practice. She was a solid resource in the community that everyone trusted and went to — that is, however, until she confessed to the murders of 31 people in 1901 (when she was 44 years old). And it’s not like she did any of it out of self-defense, or like the people died from malpractice or poor medical techniques. She was quoted as saying that she aspired to “have killed more people — helpless people — than any other man or woman who has ever lived.” This lady was not just malicious; SHE WAS DOWNRIGHT EVIL! She was a true villain, one that any person rightfully should fear. She died at 81 years old, rotting in prison.
2. Leonarda Cianciulli – Not A Cute, Old Italian Lady
What a sweet little old Italian woman! There’s this stereotype that Italian grandmothers are the kind that just wants to make sure you’re well fed, and that they start day drinking around 11 A.M., and that they’ll adore you and pinch your cheeks until they’re sore. Well, we don’t think Leonarda Cianciulli fit that stereotype. Despite her adorable name, this woman was mega hardcore… like, beyond mafia level and hitting straight up crazy. She actually started killing when her children were dying due to miscarriages and diseases in the late 1930s. She was desperate to save them and turned to odd solutions, making human sacrifices in hopes that her children would be spared. But what did she do with the bodies? She dismembered them and would turn them into soaps or tea cakes. When one woman’s remains made an excellent cake, Leonarda commented, “That woman was really sweet.”
1. Amelia Dyer – Rumored To Have Killed Over 400 Kids
Finally, we reach the end of the line with Amelia Dyer — and with a name like that, you know things are going to get grim. Amelia was what was commonly known in the late 1800s as a Baby Farmer. You see, back then, the government or adoption agencies would give adoptive parents a sum of money to help them support the child, so many people were known to adopt many children and proceed to neglect them just for the sake of a quick payout. Amelia was one of these people, only she didn’t just neglect the babies — she killed them. Though police were only able to pin one solid murder on her, investigators found concrete evidence of 12-50 infanticides, and she’s rumored to have killed over 400. She was one of the few women of her time to be sentenced to death for a crime other than witchcraft. Forget Bloody Mary — this is the face that you don’t want to see in your nightmares.