With the dozens and dozens of true crime shows that exist in the world, people are getting better and concealing their crimes. They're able to study how forensic science works and see what investigators are looking for at crime scenes. These shows are meant for entertainment purposes, and while crime shows are big moneymakers for networks, they're also popular among criminals who are looking for ways to cover their tracks.
Whether or not the perfect crime truly exists is debatable; however, considering there are hundreds of thousands of cases that have gone unsolved, you never know if your neighbor down the street or the person you work with is a notorious burglar or a serial killer who just hasn't been caught...yet. People live years, sometimes decades, believing that their crimes of the past will be buried forever. Unfortunately for them, it was their own mistakes or the perseverance of detectives who refuse to put a case to rest until they figure out whodunit.
These 15 offenders thought they pulled the wool over the police's eyes, but now, most are living out the rest of their days in prison because they almost got away with it but weren't clever enough to commit the perfect crime.
15 The Ninja Burglar Who Broke Into Over 100 Homes
With over 160 burglaries under his belt in the tri-state area, the Ninja Burglar evaded police for ten years. He was also a serial rapist who terrorized communities in various states and was so stealth that at times, he would be stealing items from unsuspecting victims who were in the same room, sleeping just a few feet away. In all, investigators believe that he was able to make off with $4 million in cash and valuables.
He slipped up in Connecticut when he changed his method. He broke into someone's house and didn't have the right tools to break the safe. Normally, he would come back another evening, but this time, he told the elderly owner to open it. After taking the items inside, he made a phone call, and the woman was able to hear the voicemail message on the other end. She went to authorities, and police were able to trace the robberies back to 47-year-old Robert Costanzo. He admitted to his crimes and was sentenced to 25 years.
14 A Body Found In The Mountains Leads Police To Married Architect
Elaine O'Hara had a string of mental and emotional issues that landed her in psychiatric hospitals on more than one occasion. In 2007, Elaine visited a BDSM website where she met Graham Dwyer. He sent her text messages sharing how he often fantasized about stabbing someone during sex, and for a year, the two had a violent sexual relationship. They reconnected in 2011, and the following year, Elaine disappeared. In 2013, a dog trainer was walking a trail in the Dublin mountains when one of her pups came across a bone. The trainer shrugged it off, believing it belonged to an animal, but a month later, they came across more bones wrapped in clothing. Elaine was identified through dental records, and the investigation pointed police in the direction of Dwyer. He got life in prison, and there, he'll have more than enough time live out his BDSM fantasies. He may not be the dominant one, though.
13 He Studied Murderers To Become The Perfect Serial Killer
Israel Keyes is a hardcore criminal whom you would never want to meet. He's an arsonist, burglar, rapist, bank robber, and serial killer. Before he began his murderous rampage, Keyes wanted to make sure he would never get caught for his crimes, so he began studying other killers. He had two rules: (1) don't take any lives close to where you live and (2) never kill in the same area more than once. He didn't have a type of victim he targeted and flew from one state to the next to kill or assault strangers. He got away with his deeds for a decade.
It was the murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig that would be Keyes's undoing. He kidnapped the teenager and demanded a $30,000 ransom from her parents for her safe return, but what the family didn't know was that he'd already killed her. The ransom was credited to a bank account, and Keyes was seen on surveillance cameras withdrawing the money. He committed suicide in prison in 2012 while awaiting trial.
12 Mimicked A Bank Robbery Movie But Left A Photo Behind
Ben Affleck's film The Town wasn't just a big hit among fans; it also inspired three men to take a stab at bank robbery. The group dressed up as cops while wearing masks, entered a check-cashing business, and thought that they were going to get a big payout. They handed the clerk behind the counter a photo of her house to let her know that if she tried anything funny, they'd have someone pay her a visit. After getting $200,000 in cash, they headed out, but not before pouring bleach everywhere to destroy any evidence left behind.
They got away with the perfect crime... well... almost. One of the bumbling idiots dropped the photo on the ground as they made their mad dash out of the building. There was a code printed on the back and police were able to trace it back to a local Walgreens. There, they learned about a customer named Edward Byam who had printed the picture. It didn't take long to figure out who the other two accomplices were, and all three men were sentenced to 32 years in prison.
11 Clogged His Pipes With The Human Remains Of His Victims
Dennis Nilsen was a former soldier and policeman, and for all intents and purposes, he should've been the person his neighbors turned to in times of trouble. Yet, between 1978 and 1986, Nilsen strangled and killed at least 15 boys and young men. After murdering his victims, he would settle his loneliness by sleeping next to their dead body for days. When Nilsen was finished with the corpses, he burned them on a bonfire or cut them up and flushed the parts down the toilet. Considering you're not even supposed to dispose of a tampon that way makes this completely illogical.
Soon, Nilsen found himself with a pipe problem. He wrote a letter of complaint to his landlords about the problem, and soon, a maintenance company came out to fix the issue. They opened the drain cover and found flesh and bones, but Nilsen explained it away as being the remains of KFC. The workers left, and Nilsen got to work getting rid of the evidence but forgot to clean the main pipe. The police were called, and Nilsen was arrested. He's serving out a life sentence at a maximum-security prison.
10 The Teenager Who Had All The Makings Of A Serial Killer
James Fairweather was only 15 years old when he killed two people in 2014. His first victim was 33-year-old James Attfield, and the other was 31-year-old Nahid Almanea. Both were strangers to Fairweather and were viciously stabbed to death. Seventy people in the neighborhood, including Fairweather, were questioned about the murders. Because he had an alibi, the police let him go and didn't consider him a suspect. It wasn't until a year later that Fairweather got sloppy. He was lurking around looking for his next victim while wearing rubber gloves and holding a knife. Someone walking their dog thought he looked suspicious and called the police. He was arrested and was connected to the two killings the year before. Fairweather admitted to authorities that he was obsessed with serial killers and claimed voices in his head told him to commit the crimes. He was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison, and after his trial, his mother said of him, "James Fairweather is a monster in our eyes -- and we will never be able to forgive him."
9 Doctor Husband Kills Doctor Wife Because She Wanted Another Child
Dr. Robert Ferrante was a well-respected researcher at the University of Pittsburgh and was married to a 41-year-old neurologist, Dr. Autumn Klein. The two seemed like a power couple, and Autumn told her husband she was ready to start working on baby number two. One day in April of 2013, Ferrante gave his wife a special drink that was supposed to help with her fertility. What Autumn didn't know was that her loving husband had laced it with cyanide. She died just a few days later.
Police were sure that Ferrante had murdered his wife, but he denied it. During his trial, his attorneys argued endlessly that Autumn had died of natural causes, even saying a byproduct of creatine was the culprit, but because Ferrante had changed his story of what had happened to her so many times, investigators knew that he was lying. An examination of his computer revealed that Ferrante had searched for information about cyanide poisoning. A jury of his peers found him guilty, and he'll be spending the rest of his life behind bars.
8 He Killed His Entire Family And Had An Alibi, But The Bugs Gave Him Away
Ladies, be glad that you were never married to Vincent Brothers. On paper, he came across as a well-rounded man: an elementary school vice principal with a wife and three children who lived a normal life in Bakersfield, California. However, Brothers was anything but normal.
In the summer of 2003, Brothers flew to Columbus, Ohio under the ruse of visiting his brother. However, once he landed, he rented a car and drove 3,000 miles back home where he waited for his family, including his mother-in-law, who lived with them. He then either shot or stabbed his family, even his newborn son, to death. He made it look as if someone had broken in, and then, he hopped back into his car and drove to Ohio where he visited with his brother.
Police couldn't seem to get around Brothers's alibi even though the car's odometer did show an extra 6,000 miles. Eventually, though, what gave Brothers away was the bugs on his windshield, particularly, four specific types that are only found in the Western United States. He's currently awaiting execution on death row.
7 Wife Disappears And Husband Becomes Chief Suspect
In 2011, Nique Leili mysteriously disappeared from her Georgia home. Her husband, Matthew, insisted that she had left of her own accord, leaving him and their two children behind. Her family didn't believe Matthew's story even though they knew that the couple had fought tirelessly. Two days after she vanished, Matthew filed for divorce, casting more suspicion on him. Nique was gone for eight days when her remains were found in the woods near her home. There were no marks or signs of struggle on her body. There were 21 security cameras on the Leili property, but the recordings of the date and time Nique went missing were deleted. Police struggled to directly link Matthew to the murder of his wife, especially after he moved to Vermont, but when he returned to Georgia to testify in court over claiming Nique's life insurance policy four years later, he was arrested. His daughters testified on his behalf, but a jury convicted him of murder, and Matthew was sentenced to life without parole.
6 'Sociopath' Could Have Gotten Away With Killing His First Wife Until He Tried To Kill The Second
Note to anyone trying to get away with the perfect crime: don't try to kill your second wife the exact same way you did your first. Malcolm Webster is the type of man who was always searching for his next wife because he was sizing women up according to their life insurance policies and bank accounts. In 1994, Webster was married to a woman named Claire who died in a tragic, fiery car accident. Webster, too, was in the car with his first wife at the time, but as it went up in flames with Claire inside, he told emergency responders that he was alone in the vehicle. It was declared to be an accident.
It wasn't until 1999 that Webster tried the same scenario out with his new wife, Felicity. He drove into an embankment with Felicity in the car and hoped that like the incident with Claire, the car would catch fire. However, she survived, and an analysis of her hair showed that Webster had also been drugging her. He had a number of relationships after Felicity, and it wasn't until 2011 that the man police called a "psychopath" was sentenced to life in prison.
5 Plant DNA Gets Man Convicted Of First-Degree Murder
Denise Johnson's family was devastated after they got the news that her body was found in a remote area of Arizona in 1992. The single mother had been strangled, but upon inspection, investigators couldn't find any forensic evidence to help them solve the crime. The only thing at the scene was a beeper that police later connected to a truck driver named Mark Bogan. According to him, he had picked up Denise while she was hitchhiking, and the two had sex. Bogan claims that immediately after the romp, Denise tried to steal his wallet and beeper, but she was only able to snatch the beeper before she disappeared.
Detectives didn't think there was any way to place Bogan at the murder scene until they called in a specialist to analyze the trees in the area where Denise's body was found. All they had to go with was a scrape on a branch and some beans from a tree, so it wasn't much. However, an examiner was able to prove that the DNA from the seeds in Bogan's truck perfectly matched the scraped foliage. He'll spend a life sentence behind bars thinking about that damned tree.
4 The Girl Who Committed Murder — Twice
We wonder if 10-year-old Mary Bell's parents saw any signs that she was a cold-blooded killer. Just days shy of her 11th birthday in 1968, Bell strangled and killed four-year-old Martin Brown in a rundown house. Two months later, Bell, along with her 13-year-old friend, Norma Bell (no relation), took part in the strangulation and murder of three-year-old Brian Howe. The girls left the body there, but Mary returned later to carve an "M" into his body, mutilate his genitals, and cut off some of his hair.
It took quite some time to link the girls to the crimes, but even after police did, it was difficult for them to believe that kids could do something so heinous. Norma was acquitted because psychiatrists saw her as being feeble-minded, but Mary was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years. When she was released, she was granted anonymity and is now a grandmother.
3 The French Robber Who Evaded Authorities For 10 Years
A decade went before François Chamorro had to pay up for committing his huge heist. In 2003, the 52-year-old had a job working for the French cash transportation company, Temis. One of his jobs was to take money from the world's largest fresh produce market and move it to the central bank. Pretending that there was big news to celebrate, Chamorro gave his co-workers a bottle of champagne, and while they were opening the bottle, he slinked away, got his gun, returned, and held them up at gunpoint. He made off with $1.2 million and fled the scene in a rental car.
For ten years, he lived in the Dominican Republic where no one suspected him of his crimes. He thought the statute of limitations for his crimes were up, so he applied for a passport. However, he didn't know that in 2008 a French court had convicted him in absentia, meaning the limitation was extended to 20 years. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.
2 Police Zoomed In On A Hand In A Photo To Get Criminal's Fingerprint
You can find some interesting things just zooming in on a photo, and no one knows that better than Stephen Keating. Danish police arrested a sex offender in 2012, and when they inspected his computer, they found child p----------y. Their next task was to find the person who took the disgusting photos, so officers had the arduous task of examining every photo in detail to look for clues. In one, they saw a pill bottle in the background with a name on it, but they were only able to make out part of the last name and part of a prescription number. Another photo showed a man's hand, and examiners were able to zoom in so tight they got a fingerprint impression. They were thus able to identify the man as Keating. The 52-year-old now has 110 years in prison to live out his much-deserved misery.
1 40-Year-Old Fingerprint Reveals Archbishop Was Nazi War Criminal
Valerian Trifa was seen as a gentleman and role model as the Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church. What people didn't know was that he was hiding a horrific secret: he was once an Iron Guard in World War II and helped incite riots that killed Jewish people in Romania. To escape detection, Trifa lied about his identity in order to attain citizenship in the United States. Rumors began to surface about his sordid, Nazi past, but Trifa denied them all. To prove the rumors true, the West German government even showed postcards that Trifa once wrote to his Nazi friends, including Heinrich Himmler, back in 1942, but the Archbishop continuously denied the allegations.
Forensic examiners got to work analyzing the handwriting on the postcards and looking for fingerprints. They couldn't dust them, so the FBI used lasers to find a 40-year-old thumbprint. Guess whose finger it matched? That's right. Trifa's. He gave up his U.S. citizenship in 1980 and died in Portugal where he sought refuge.
Sources: Vice, ABC News, The Daily Beast