Psychologists have a name for people who are aroused by, or attracted to dangerous killers that have committed unspeakable acts of violence. They call those people hybristophiliacs.
Hybristophilia is sometimes referred to as, “Bonnie and Clyde syndrome” and scientists say it occurs more often in women than in men. It is classified as a paraphilia and researchers offer little explanation as to its origins. They do say, though, that it can take two forms, either aggressive or passive. The aggressive form was, likely what Bonnie Parker displayed, when she helped Clyde Barrow in their infamous 1930’s bank robberies. Aggressive hybristophilia is characterized by the sufferer’s willingness to help a partner commit and conceal his or her crimes.
Others suffer from the passive form that is characterized simply by a strong attraction to a dangerous person. Such people are known to send “fan mail” to convicted serial killers who are serving out prison terms. Ted Bundy was a well known recipient of such mail. Perhaps even more strange is that there are well-documented cases of hybristophiliacs marrying convicted murderers who will never be released. Serial killer, John Wayne Gacy was one such convict who exchanged vows while behind bars.
Indeed, many women have shared a roof with shockingly brutal and prolific killers over the years. Scientists are reticent to describe such women as hybristophiliacs though, because many of them claim they had no idea what their husbands were doing in the dark of night.
Society tends to view such women as victims of circumstance rather than troubled by a difficult -to-explain paraphilia. But given that their husbands committed such horrible acts of violence, many wonder if those women did not purposely blind themselves to what must have been disturbing warning signs. Here is a list of five women who were married to brutal killers with high body counts. Could they, or should they have seen the warning signs? Might they have been suffering from hybristophilia? That is for the reader to decide.
5 Paula Rader - Married to BTK Killer — 10 victims
Paula and Dennis Rader married in 1971. Less than three years later, Dennis would kill his first victims.
On January 15 of that year, Dennis Rader entered the home of the Otero family and killed the mother and father and their two children. It was the first crime in a string of 10 murders that haunted Wichita, Kansas for nearly 30 years. Police attributed the Otero murders to the so-called BTK killer. The acronym stood for “Bind, Torture, Kill,” the suspect’s preferred modus operandi.
Although Rader quit killing victims in 1991, he continued to taunt police with calls and cryptic letters into 2004. The taunts eventually caught up to him and he was arrested in 2005. Paula filed for divorce that year and a judge waived the state’s 60-day waiting period to grant the divorce.
Did Paula ever notice any clues that she was living with a killer? Well, she did discover a poem in 1977 that described, in brutal detail, the strangulation murder of a local woman. Her husband told her it was simply a creative writing assignment for a class he was attending. In 2005, as police began sending the BTK killer’s poorly written letters to local news stations, Paula remarked that her husband spelled "just like BTK.” Strangely she never made the connection. Dennis Rader was sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences in 2005.
4 Linda Yates - Married to Robert Lee Yates Jr. — 16 victims
Linda Yates has repeatedly told interviewers that she never suspected her husband was killing people. She insists that she believed the man she married in 1976, was guilty of nothing more than infidelity. Robert Lee Yates Jr. was arrested in Washington state in April of 2000. He was eventually convicted of killing 16 people. His first two victims were killed in 1975, the others died by his hand over a period of three years, between 1996 and 1998.
Were there warning signs? Linda Yates said she began to suspect something might be up when her husband started burning the family’s credit card statements in 1999. After looking at some of the bills, she realized her husband had been paying for rooms at a seedy hotel that billed hourly rates. But as she said, in her mind that was only evidence of an affair.
Others might think that Linda Yates wasn’t aggressive enough in pursuing explanations for her husband’s troubling sexual proclivities. Early in the marriage, the couple separated for more than a year when she discovered her husband had drilled a hole in an attic wall so he could watch the neighbors in his apartment building having sex.
Still, she says, she was as shocked as anyone when her husband was eventually arrested for murder. The most shocking revelation, though, came after the arrest. Police, one day, called her at work to tell her that they found the body of one of her husband’s victims buried outside her bedroom window. Robert Lee Yates is currently on death row in Washington state.
3 Julie Baumeister - Married to Herb Baumeister — 11 victims (20 suspected)
Julie Baumeister was only slightly bothered by suspicion, the day in 1994 that her 13-year-old son brought home a human skull. He told her he found it while playing on the family’s property. He took her to the site of discovery and showed her a cluster of bones.
That night, Julie confronted her husband, Herb, to whom she had been married for 23 years. He told her that the bones were relics of his deceased father’s medical career. He never offered an explanation as to why a medical skeleton needed to be buried on the family’s estate in the Indianapolis suburb of Westfield, Indiana.
The explanation apparently satisfied Julie who never brought up the matter again with her husband. "It wasn't like I was sitting at home with nothing else to think about," she said in an interview years later. The bones eventually disappeared. Julie thought they were carried off by animals.
But in 1996, police connected Herb Baumeister to the disappearances of at least 10 gay men in Indianapolis. They approached both Herb and Julie, separately, asking for permission to search the couple’s property. Both refused. But Julie remained haunted by her son’s discovery two years earlier. “What if the police are right and I'm wrong?” she thought. Eventually she allowed police onto the property while her husband was away on business. They found the remains of at least 11 of Herb’s victims, all gay men lured away from bars in Indianapolis.
Herb never returned home, he slipped into Canada and committed suicide while police were still conducting their investigation. They suspect he killed as many as 20 men in the Indianapolis area and believe he may be connected to the unsolved “I-70 Killer” case.
2 Carole Hoff - Married to John Wayne Gacy — 33 victims
To Carole Hoff’s credit, she did not ride out her strange marriage to one of the nation’s most notorious serial killers. Troubled by the man’s bizarre behavior, uncontrollable rage and admitted homosexuality, Hoff divorced John Wayne Gacy in March of 1976. They had been married less than 4 years.
While it is true that Gacy, who raped and killed 33 young men before he was caught in 1978, killed most of his victims after Hoff divorced him, she was still around to witness some pretty troubling clues.
She began finding her husband’s homosexual pornography lying about the house. That, of course, was not evidence that the man was a murderer, but his uncontrollable rage and his tendency to disappear during the evening hours should have been clues that Gacy was up to no good. Perhaps she thought Gacy, a gay man, just felt trapped in a marriage to a woman. Although that would be a reasonable explanation, it still wouldn't explain the horrible stench emanating from the crawlspace of the couple’s home.
Gacy’s neighbors noticed the stench but assumed it was a dead animal. Gacy told many visitors the horrible smell was caused by moisture. The true source of the smell was most likely the decomposing body of Tim McCoy, who Gacy killed and buried in his crawlspace in 1972. It also might have been the body of John Butkovich who Gacy buried under his garage in 1975. Those are the two men Gacy is known to have killed before Hoff left him. He then went on to kill 31 others. The state of Illinois executed Gacy in 1994.
1 Judith Mawson - Married to Green River Killer — 49 confirmed victims
Judith Mawson met Gary Ridgway in 1985. The two married in 1988. But in 2002, police told Judith that she had been married to one of the nation’s most prolific serial killers for over 13 years.
2002 is the year that police finally identified Ridgway as the elusive, “Green River killer.” He was arrested the same day Judtih got the news. Ridgway was eventually convicted of killing 49 prostitutes in the Seattle area and dumping their bodies in remote locations. Police believe he may have killed over 90 women during the 20 years he was prowling the streets south of the city.
Judith described Ridgway as a “perfect husband” and has said she had no idea he was a vicious killer. “He made me smile everyday. I had the perfect husband, perfect life. I absolutely adored him,” she said in one of her many interviews. But Judith had to swallow a lot of questionable excuses from Ridgway over the years. When he abruptly replaced the carpet in a room of their house, she believed him when he said kids had ruined it. When the couple’s bed was replaced, she believed his story that an old girlfriend had simply reclaimed some of her old property. When police arrested Ridgway for picking up prostitutes and he plead guilty, she believed him that he accepted the charge because fighting it would have been too expensive. And when police detained and questioned him — one of many times — in connection with the disappearances of numerous prostitutes, she believed him when he told her that it was because he "looked like somebody.”
Judith even refused to believe that Ridgway was guilty once he was arrested. Not until he eventually confessed to 49 murders did she give up and file for divorce. Ridgway is serving 49 consecutive life sentences in Washington state. He will die in prison.