Money and murder. Two things that too often seem to go together. Do certain people feel they're above the law just because they are wealthy? Is it a sense of entitlement that comes from growing up with everything being handed to you?
It's hard to say, because every case is different and disturbing in its own unique way. But one thing each case of millionaire murderers has in common is that it's fascinating. The contrast between the rich, elite people of the world and the ugly stories that go on behind their gilded closed doors is morbidly intriguing. One minute, they're on top of the world, wanting for nothing. And the next, they're exiled to a cold, hard prison cell, far away from their credit cards, mansions and their yachts.
Or at least we hope they're sitting in prison. But, that's not always the case.
There is, of course, the most recent millionaire murderer, Robert Durst, who's making headlines right this very moment. But Durst (not to be confused with Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, though the Associated Press made this cringeworthy mistake) isn't alone. He isn't the first wealthy citizen to go off on a murdering spree, and he's not even the most well-known. Nor is he the most shocking. Not by a long shot. He's just the latest in a string of millionaires turned murderers, and I'm sure he won't be the last.
15 Robert Durst
Robert Durst is probably the most recent millionaire murderer to make the news. And no, we're not talking about the frontman for Limp Bizkit (That's FRED Durst) but the son of a New York City real estate mogul. Not only has Durst admitted to killing and dismembering a neighbor – a crime he was acquitted for because he claimed self-defense – he's also suspected in several other killings as well. Durst is suspected in the deaths of his wife and a potential witness to her murder.
14 Joran van der Sloot
Joran van der Sloot's name likely sounds familiar to most of you. And that would be thanks to his involvement with Natalee Holloway, a teenager from Alabama, who went missing while traveling in Aruba. He was born to an affluent Dutch family who relocated to Aruba where his father accepted a job as a judge. His father was one of only four judges on the island and his family was close to the police chief. It all gave van der Sloot to live a life of extreme privilege, and allowed him to get away with things most of us can only imagine – including gambling on a $5,000 line of credit. Some even believe he was dosing women with a date rape drug, but that has never been proven.
While he was never convicted in the death of Holloway – her body was never found, and some believe his wealthy and influential father helped dispose of it – van der Sloot continued living the playboy lifestyle. He would continue telling stories of Holloway, even insinuating at one time that he sold her into sex slavery – something that he later recanted. He was later charged with attempting to extort the Holloway family out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for disclosing the location of her body. But after being led to where he said the body would be located, it proved to be nothing but a hoax.
13 Lyle and Erik Menendez
Both van der Sloot and our next two killers seemed to have one thing in common. Rich, successful fathers. Could it be that sometimes, the pressure that comes with having rich, successful parents might be too much for a person?
The Menendez brothers, Erik and Lyle, were already getting in a lot of trouble before they turned to murder. The brothers committed home burglaries together – even though they came from a wealthy family. Their father, Jose, was a successful business executive that expected nothing but the best from his two sons. And perhaps, that's what pushed them too far. Their mother, Kitty, was struggling with marital issues as it was, including infidelity. Not only that, she kept a close eye on her sons since they were both diagnosed with sociopathic tendencies. But there was more to it than that, Kitty was afraid for her safety.
And she had every right to fear her two sons. After watching Billionaire Boys Club, a mini-series where a social club turns to murder, the brothers came up with a plan to free themselves from their abusive father. They hatched a plan to murder him. But not only that, they knew that they'd have to murder their mother as well.
On August 20, 1989, they shot their parents to death in their Beverly Hills home, staging the scene to make it look like a burglary. But months later, they attracted the attention of authorities due to their lavish lifestyle. By the end of the year, they'd spent well over a million dollars of their inheritance on shopping sprees and more.
12 Allen Blackthorne
Allen Blackthorne made his fortune selling medical equipment, and he lived a comfortable life with his fourth wife, Maureen and their two children in a million-dollar mansion in San Antonio, Texas. But his temper, and penchant for never losing, is what got the best of him in the end.
He had admitted that at one time, he hit his ex-wife Sheila Bellush. He was arrested and plead guilty to domestic abuse, but claimed it was a one-time occurrence. However, following the divorce, police were called in to mediate between the two of them. And when Sheila Bellush was found dead, her throat slit and two of her toddlers playing in her blood, it was Blackthorne who was suspected of the murder. It was believed that he'd hired someone to take out his ex-wife after she'd won custody of their two daughters. A friend of Blackthorne's admitted that he was given Bellush's address and hired someone specifically to murder the woman.
11 James “Bob” Ward
Bob Ward seemed to be living the dream. He was a millionaire real estate developer, and he even lived in the same neighborhood as several celebrities, including Tiger Woods. But his wealth wouldn't save him from his conviction in 2011 when his wife was shot dead in their home.
Ward claims it was an accident, that the jurors didn't understand the way everything went down. He claims his wife was suicidal and had a gun, saying that he tried to get the gun from her and it went off. But the jury didn't buy that story. The prosecutor even used Ward's own words against him, recalling the 9-1-1 call in which he repeated, “I just shot my wife” several times.
10 Michael Skakel
Not only is Michael Skakel from a wealthy family, he's also the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's wife, Ethel. One person even claims that Skakel outright said, “I'm going to get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy.” And he probably did assume he was getting away with it – for a time at least.
The crime took place in October 1975, when Skakel was 15 years old. However, he wouldn't be convicted of the crime until 2002. The victim was also 15 years old, a girl named Martha Moxley who was found bludgeoned to death in her own backyard. She disappeared after attending a Halloween party at the Skakel home. Originally it was Michael's brother, Thomas, who was a suspect in the killing because Moxley was seen flirting and kissing Thomas prior to her disappearance. She was even seen walking away with Thomas at the party.
The next day, her body would be found in her backyard with her pants and underwear pulled down. However, it was eventually determined that she was not sexually assaulted. A six-iron golf club was in pieces near the body, and it was determined to be the murder weapon. The club was traced back to Skakel's mother. However, no charges were initially brought, and the case sat cold for decades until it was reopened in June 1998 after it was determined that Michael had changed his story about where he was the night of the murder.
9 Freddie Young
Many of the millionaires on this list either earned their money in business or were born into wealthy families, but Freddie Young doesn't fall into either of these two groups. Instead, he became wealthy the way most of us dream of – by winning the lottery. Young won a $1.6 million cash payout after a lottery club he belonged to split a ticket which ended up winning $46 million in all.
8 John du Pont
If the name du Pont sounds familiar, well, there's a good reason for that. John du Pont was heir to the DuPont family fortune. John du Pont lived the life of extravagance from an early age. He pursued interests in science and athletics, and took an interest in wrestling. He helped fund a wrestling program at Villanova University and served as head coach until charges of sexual abuse were brought against him. He was eventually dropped from the program.
But that wasn't the end of his wrestling days, not by far. He opened up his own facility, called the Foxcatcher National Training Center on his own estate. It would become a center for the country's top wrestling talent. But after the death of his mother, he started to display some eccentric behavior. He was convinced ghosts lived in the walls of his house, and asked to be introduced as the Dalai Lama at a wrestling event.
7 Adrian Prout
Adrian Prout had everyone convinced that he was innocent, that he did not, in fact, kill his ex-wife, Kate. Everyone but the police, that is. Prout was charged and convicted of the murder even though the body of his wife was not found. There was even a Facebook group called Justice for Adrian Prout who insisted that the authorities had convicted an innocent man with no proof whatsoever.
He was already serving time in prison when new fiancee', Debbie Garlick, convinced authorities to give Prout a lie detector test. At first, Prout didn't want to take the test, but relented, saying he'd do it for Debbie. Problem was – he failed the test. And when the test administrator said, “I'm looking at a murderer,” Prout responded, “Not really.” However, when the administrator asked him if that meant the test was lying, Prout admitted then and there that it was not.
6 Phil Spector
Phil Spector was a respected name in the music industry, working with The Beatles and other significant artists, and was even inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a famous music producer, there is no doubt that he lived a comfortable life. That is, before he was convicted of murder in 2009.
5 John Brooks
It's one thing to hold a grudge when someone steals from you, but most of us would hopefully not go to the lengths millionaire John Brooks did when he suspected a handyman had stolen from him. Brooks was found guilty of killing Jack Reid in 2005 with the help of two hired hands. The two men confessed to helping kill Reid, saying that the three of them ambushed Reid in a barn, and Brooks allegedly beat him to death with a hammer.
4 Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb
Many killers set out to commit the perfect crime, believing they have the wherewithal to never get caught. And that's precisely the motive two wealthy teens, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, had in mind when they set out on their mission. The two grew up in the same neighborhood, and reconnected after college and became intimate. Like many couples, they enjoyed many of the same hobbies – except, their hobbies included vandalism, burglary and other criminal mischief.
Leopold and Loeb eventually decided they were capable of carrying out the perfect crime – which included kidnapping and murdering a child while demanding ransom. It all started on May 21, 1924 when they drove their rental car around the South Side of Chicago. They saw Leopold's young cousin walking alongside the road and picked him up. They attacked and killed him with a chisel, beating him in the skull until he died. They disposed of the body and mailed off the ransom note, expecting for it to arrive at the parent's house the next morning. But unfortunately for them, the body was discovered soon after it was dropped off, and their entire plan fell apart. Even worse for them, Leopold's glasses were also found at the scene.
3 Harold Landry
Harold Landry was an American engineer who earned his millions in the oil and gas industries. He met his wife online and moved to England to live with her. While it appeared that they had a happy life together, there was a rather large age difference between the two of them that seemed to cause some issues. Not only that, the two were heavy drinkers and often fought.
But things took a turn for the worse when Landry's wife, Lucy, reconnected with an old friend on Facebook and they started having an affair. Later, she asked for a divorce and money to pay for a new place for her and her new boyfriend. Leading up to her death, the pair fought about money a lot. And during one of these fights, Landy hit Lucy over the head with a granite rolling pin. She fled upstairs, but Landry picked up a kitchen knife and stabbed her in the cheek. She tried to flee the house, but he caught her and stabbed her repeatedly, leaving the knife in her.
2 Issei Sagawa
Society would like to believe that no matter how wealthy a person is, they wouldn't get away with a crime as disturbing as cannibalism. But Issei Sagawa proves that sometimes, even the most perverse of criminals may get a chance to taste freedom again.
Sagawa was a Japanese student at the Sorbonne in Paris, studying literature and language when he was discovered walking around with the body parts of a fellow student in a suitcase. Upon investigation, authorities discovered that Sagawa not only brutally murdered the woman, Renee Hartevelt, but that he'd also eaten parts of her body. He was arrested and jailed in France, but they deemed he was mentally unfit to stand trial and was transferred to a mental institution.
But this is where things went awry. In 1984, just three years after the murders, Sagawa was transferred to a Japanese hospital who subsequently determined that while Sagawa had a personality disorder, he was by no means as mentally ill as the French had determined. They said he deserved prison, not a mental hospital, yet the files on Sagawa had been closed and the Japanese lacked the materials to bring new charges. So he was released.
Prior to the murder, Sagawa was arrested after breaking into a woman's apartment in Tokyo, but the case was dropped after his father paid the victim a large sum of money. They claimed he was trying to rape her, but Sagawa said he never admitted to anyone that his true desire was to eat her instead.
1 H.H Holmes
Considered one of America's first serial killers, H.H. Holmes almost sounds like a true-to-life Jigsaw of “Saw” fame. Born in 1861 to an affluent family, he expressed interest in medicine from a young age. So much so, that it's believed he practiced surgery on animals and may have been responsible for the death of a friend. But it wasn't until he was a medical student that there is any documentation of his crimes. Starting out with merely stealing corpses to make false insurance claims, Holmes may have experimented on these corpses as well.
But his true dirty work didn't come until 1886 when he moved to Chicago, took over a pharmacy – after the previous owner disappeared. Then, like the true maniacal genius he was, he created a three-story house of horrors that some call “The Murder Castle” The upper floors are where he lived, but alongside his bedroom and dining room were small rooms where he tortured and killed his victims. Some of the macabre features inside some of these rooms include gas jets to asphyxiate his victims and trapdoors and chutes to move the bodies down to the basement where he could dispose of the bodies in a number of ways.
During the 1893 Columbian Exposition, he even opened up his home as a hotel for guests to the fair. Sounds like a nice gesture until you realize that some of these guests were never seen alive again. Many of them women, which he'd seduced prior to killing them. It wasn't unusual for him to get engaged to a woman and then have her mysteriously disappear after the fact. Other victims were lured to the Murder Castle with offers of employment.
But ultimately, it wasn't the killing that got him into trouble - it was his penchant for insurance scams. He later admitted to killing 27 people, but some believe that in actuality, the real number may be as high as 200.
CNN, Biography, Time, CBS, Huffington Post, The Guardian. Seacoast Online
Smithsonian Mag, Telegraph. LA Times
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