In a perfect world, there would be a justice system that prosecutes all crimes flawlessly and hands out sentences that please everyone involved. Violent criminals would be dealt with ruthlessly, while collar criminals would be punished in accordance with the amount of lives they destroyed. Of course, people who drive 20 mph under the speed limit in the fast lane would be publicly flogged. See? It sounds so magical already.
Of course, the world we do live in could not be farther from perfect. Murderers, s*xual criminals, thieves, fraud experts, con artists, and all manner of scumbags are often never found. Even if they are found, crimes can be hard to prove and sometimes the necessarily complicated and exact judicial process can cause problems for investigators and prosecutors alike.
While the worst criminals often see their horrible acts investigated as top priorities, simply having a ton of cops on the case doesn't always help to find a suspect. The same can be said of prosecuting once a suspect is in the crosshairs. Just because a lab full of experts, diligent detectives, and brilliant lawyers are doing their jobs, a guilty verdict is never a guarantee. There are tons of ways to throw a wrench of doubt into the gears of any trial if an investigation even gets that far.
From serial killers whose identities are never determined, war criminals, and of course, those who went to trial but got comically minimal sentences for terrible acts, there are tons of people out there who have gotten away with doing despicable things. Here are fifteen truly despicable people who were either never found, got acquitted, or got sentences that were insulting to their victims. There are plenty more. Tell us your favorite scumbag who got away in the comments section.
15 Robert Richards IV
A member of the Du Pont family, one of the historic "richest families in America", Robert Richards had it made and never had to work a day in his life. His family fortune is estimated to be over $15 billion these days. In 2009, he was arrested for having s*x with his own three-year-old daughter. This heinous act was reported to the girl's grandmother, who in turn got the police involved. He was pleaded guilty, knowing that even with a legion of lawyers, he was screwed. Richards was originally supposed to get at least eight years in prison, but Judge Jan Jurden decided that a suspended sentence and treatment would be more suitable as Richards "will not fare well in prison" as a child-molesting wealthy man.
This same man was accused of molesting his son as well, but was not prosecuted because police said there was not enough evidence. While he was convicted for the crime against his young daughter, the suspended sentence for "treatment" is not a punishment that comes close to fitting the crime. This dirtbag was given a laughably lenient sentence because he came from money.
14 Ethan Couch
A couple of years ago, we all got introduced to this profoundly stupid term "affluenza." Most people will be familiar with this story, but we included it anyway because the details of this case entail some impressive ignorance.
Born to parents with a bit of money, Ethan Couch had it easy growing up, attending private school, driving his parents' cars whenever he wanted and never facing the consequences for his trashy behavior. In 2013, he was 16 years old and drove over 70 mph down a residential road while drunk and high. He wound up killing four people who were pulled over to the side of the road, helping someone with a disabled vehicle.
He was convicted for his crime, but ended up receiving a sentence of ten years of probation, due to his lawyers' use of the "affluenza" defense, which essentially argued that because of his sheltered upbringing, he had difficulty deciding right from wrong. After ducking his probation officer and then being found with his mother in Mexico, he was sentenced to 720 days in prison. He was denied an early exit from his prison sentence a couple of weeks ago.
13 Bible John
Bible John is the name of an unknown serial killer who is believed to have killed three women in Glasgow, Scotland. These killings took place in 1968 and 1969, and there were numerous chilling similarities between the three cases. All three women were last seen in the company of a man at the Barrowlands Ballroom, a large music venue in Glasgow. Each of the three was s*xually assaulted and then strangled with their stockings. The women were found with tampons or napkins near their bodies, and police said all three were menstruating when they were killed.
The killer got the name "Bible John" because he apparently quoted bible verses while chatting up the women. Several men have been investigated, and a Scottish professor has made a case that Peter Tobin, a convicted killer with similar methods, may be Bible John. However, the evidence is largely circumstantial for all intents and purposes. Bible John is still on the loose, if he isn't dead.
12 Robert Blake
On one hand, Robert Blake was a respected actor whose film career started in 1939 and lasted until the late 1990's. On the other hand, he may well have murdered his wife. Around the turn of the century, he met and married Bonnie Lee Bakley, a woman who was obsessed with celebrities. After a year-long marriage that was described as "loveless," she was found shot dead in one of Blake's cars while they were out getting dinner.
He was tried and acquitted, despite there being evidence that not only did he murder her, he had contacted a couple of other people to do the job for him. Many people argued that he was about as guilty as he could have been but the prosecution team did an atrociously bad job of proving it.
Bakley's children sued Blake after his acquittal and in that civil case, he was found responsible for her death. So he got away with the crime, but still had to pay his dead wife's kids millions of dollars.
11 Aribert Heim - Nazi Doctor
After World War II, many ranking Nazi officers and leaders were rounded up and tried at Nuremburg. There were, however, many who managed to escape custody or were never even found that have committed acts beyond despicable. Aribert Heim was one of them, and this doctor remains one of the most hated names in the history of World War II and the Holocaust.
The stories of the "Butcher of Mauthausen" include performing surgical procedures without anesthetics and experimentation that included injecting substances into subjects' hearts. According to some survivors, Heim kept a prisoner's skull on his desk as a paperweight. After the war, he was briefly taken prisoner, but then got released. He was able to remain in Germany until 1962, when he fled to Egypt. He lived there under an assumed identity. The official story says that he died in the early 1990's, but several sightings of him have been reported in the last ten years.
10 Robert Durst
The law may be blind but it does certainly seem to like the smell of money. This is a roundabout way of saying that the legal system has an interesting way of treating guys with boatloads of money who have done terrible things. Robert Durst is a prime example of this. The son of a New York real estate mogul, he was the main suspect in the disappearance of his first wife, Kathie, but never went to trial for it. Years later, he killed his neighbor, chopped up his dead body, and dumped it in Galveston Bay. He was acquitted of murder but convicted of disposing of the body. More recently, he has been in the custody of the legal system for allegedly killing a former friend, journalist Susan Berman. He has also been investigated in connection with several other disappearances of young women, but the authorities are focused on Berman's death right now.
While he has spent time in prison for weapon violations and is currently being held prior to the Berman trial, Durst has gotten away with a lot so far.
Stoneman was a serial killer in India during the mid and late 1980's. Most of the killings were similar. The killer targeted beggars and other homeless people who were sleeping alone in the streets. He would then find a heavy rock and crush the people's skull. Six murders of this type were carried out in Bombay in 1985 alone, and they continued until 1987. The killings ended for a couple of years but then, there was a series of similar crimes in Calcutta in 1989. While the crimes were carried out in virtually the same manner, there was no evidence that the same person committed all of these acts. Police found people to charge for some of these murders but the killings never stopped and while one victim did wake up, it was too dark for him to get a decent look at his would-be attacker. Police have admitted that Stoneman, as they call him, may actually be more than one person, and similar killings took place in 2009, 2014, and 2016. A popular dark legend presents Stoneman as one person but it is likely that this is not the case. These killings have been made into plays and films. The picture above shows one of the Stoneman's victims.
8 O.J. Simpson
We can't write a list like this without mentioning the Juice, O.J. Simpson. Before we discuss his murder trial, we have to show some respect for one of the finest running-backs in the history of the grid iron. No matter how despicable someone is off the field, the kind of play O.J. brought to the Buffalo Bills in the 1970's was out of this world. He earned over 13,000 all-purpose yard throughout his career, with 75 total touchdowns and five seasons over 1,000 yards rushing. His 1973 and 1975 seasons remain some of the finest years the beautiful game has ever seen, with him racking up 2,003 and 1,817 rushing yards in those years, respectively, and all that during a time when football had fourteen games in a season. With that out of the way, we'll stop gushing over one of America's most polarizing former heroes.
He was tried in 1994 for the death of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman. He was found not guilty despite overwhelming evidence including DNA, motive, some changes to his alibi, and the fact that he ran from the cops in that infamous white Bronco chase. He went on to write a book about how he would have carried out this heinous crime as well. Many people close to the case have also come out and said that he is guilty.
While he got away with the more heinous of his crimes, he was convicted and imprisoned for his part in a Las Vegas robbery and kidnapping that he and some accomplices carried out in 2007. He may be granted parole later this year, so everyone, LOOK OUT!
7 West Mesa Bone Collector
Back in 2009, a woman was walking her dog west of Albuquerque, New Mexico when she found what she thought was a human bone. After reporting this to the police, they managed to find the remains of at least eleven more women in the same area. Many of them were identified as prostitutes and some were involved with the drug trade. They had gone missing between 2001 and 2005. There have been some suspects over the years, but several actually died while the police were investigating but all of them were barely connected, and only circumstantially, to the case. The West Mesa Bone Collector, as he, she, or they will likely always be known, is probably dead or never going to be found at this point.
6 Klaas Faber
Klaas Faber was a member of the National Socialist Party in the Netherlands before World War II and joined the "Sicherheitsdienst" intelligence division after the Nazis invaded. Throughout the war, he held several positions on the Nazi side, including a position on a firing squad, a position with a death squad who targeted members of the Dutch resistance, and a job in which he carried out dozens of assassinations on behalf of the Nazi party.
After the war, he was tried in the Dutch legal system. He was initially sentenced to death with his brother, who was executed. However, he managed to get his sentence commuted to life in prison. He escaped from prison in 1952 and fled to Germany, where he had citizenship due to his work for the Nazis during the war. He managed to land a job with Audi for a few decades and avoided extradition until his death in May 2012.
5 The Monster Of Florence
It is unknown whether this is a single person or several who have carried out similar crimes. The Monster of Florence is often assumed, however, to be one person, as many of the murders in question were similar. Over a 17-year stretch between 1968 and 1985, sixteen nearly identical murders took place in Florence, Italy. Each of these killings involved a couple who were killed with a .22 pistol, and more often than not, the corpse of the woman involved was mutilated.
There was a man put in prison for these crimes in the early 1980's, as he discussed the murder with some neighbors before police showed up to investigate. But he was simply a voyeur watching the couple have s*x when they were killed, and he was freed after another similar killing took place.
4 Isaac Turnbaugh
For those who aren't familiar with the phrase "double jeopardy" outside of the popular game show, it is commonly used in law. In the United States, the Double Jeopardy Clause is part of the Fifth Amendment, which states that a person will not be tried in court twice for the same offense. In other words, the prosecution has to get it right the first time and can't just keep dragging an accused back to court whenever they want. While an essential aspect of a legal system, pricks like Isaac Turnbaugh are protected by it.
Turnbaugh shot Declan Lyons in the head, and confessed the crime to the police. At trial, his lawyers were able to convince the jury that he was innocent and took responsibility for the crime because of a mental condition. He was judged not guilty but later admitted yet again that he was the culprit and that he knew what he was doing.
3 Casey Anthony
The Caylee/Casey Anthony case from between 2008 and 2011 was about as clear-cut as it could have been. Casey's kid was missing, and the grandparents got the cops involved. Casey lied to the cops about her child's whereabouts, claiming that she had been kidnapped, but this was later found to be a lie. The child's body was found in the woods, bound with duct tape. Throughout the investigation and trial, the prosecution caught her in a number of lies and like a few other members of this list, we'll probably never know how there was ever any chance of her being acquitted. She's been effective at playing the victim and blaming police for her several instances of...well...lying to the police, but there is little doubt in the minds of most people that she got away with the death of her toddler.
2 Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer, who terrorized California back in the 1960's and 70's, may be the most studied but least known unidentified serial killers out there. Let us explain. He not only committed murders, but also taunted the media with letters and cryptographs about his crimes. For some time during this time, it seemed that nobody was safe. To this day, there is no definite number agreed upon in terms of his victims. The most conservative estimates put his number at five, but he has claimed that it had been around forty.
The few suspects that the police in the area did bring in over the years, were based on very little solid evidence. While the case is still open in some jurisdictions, it is likely that the Zodiac Killer is dead and has gotten away with his murders.
1 Josef Mengele
If you're a history buff, this will be a name with which you are familiar. If not, get ready for some gross and profoundly troubling information. Josef Mengele, otherwise known as the Angel of Death, was Nazi Germany's most notorious "doctor." He was in charge of human experimentation at Auschwitz. His experiments included amputation, infecting people with various diseases, freezing body parts, and even sewing people together. There was virtually no limit to his experimentation, and he had no empathy for his victims for he considered them racial inferiors.
After the war, he managed to stay hidden for quite a while, and only left Germany in 1949. Between the end of the war and his escape, he had worked several odd jobs under various fake identities. He then managed to escape to Argentina and later to Brazil, where he died in 1979. It would not have been a pleasant way to live, constantly on the run, but he certainly fared better than other Nazi officials who got what they deserved—a noose.
Sources: NY Daily News, People, NBC, Telegraph, LA Times, USA Today