Some people are drawn to each other over a shared sense of humor, a love of the outdoors, or an interest in politics. Some people end up bonding over a passion for travel, shared classes in school, or a talent for cooking.
Then, there are some people who find their partner for life who shares their sickest and most twisted desires; another soul who is just as angry and perverse as they are; another person who has murderous impulses and desires; but just needs that special someone to push them from thought to action. A serial killer who operates on their own is terrifying, but a pair of murderers is twice as frightening. While many of the deadly duos on this list were romantically involved before they became partners in crime, others were related by blood and some others simply found each other by chance, and struck up a friendship that allowed for them to commit their most horrific acts with someone by their side to egg them on.
While one half of these duos may have already dipped a toe in the criminal waters, it took combining their evil energy with another person to really push them over the edge. Alone, they may have been caught more quickly, killed less, or perhaps not even killed at all. Together, though, they were able to realize their sick fantasies in living, breathing, bloody color.
15 Erik & Lyle Menendez
It was one of the most high profile cases in the early 1990's when brothers Erik and Lyle Menendez were convicted of killing their parents purely out of greed. In Beverly Hills in 1989, the brothers carefully planned the murders, wanting to get rid of their strict father and enabling mother. The brothers shot their parents in the den, dumped the murder weapons, and bought movie tickets so that they would have an alibi, pretending to wait to see License to Kill before opting for Batman instead. (The irony was likely not lost on the jury.) Lyle later telephoned the police to say that his parents were dead and the boys were immediately suspected.
Their greed didn’t help matters. Almost immediately, the brothers began splashing obscene amount of cash, spending about $1 million in the first six months following the deaths. Despite the defense claiming that the Menendez brothers suffered years of physical and s*xual abuse, the jury didn’t believe them and both brothers remain in separate prisons for life without the possibility of parole.
14 Charles Starkweather & Caril Ann Fugate
With inspiration from films like Badlands and Natural Born Killers (which influenced murderers Jeremey Steinke and Jasmine Richardson, mentioned above), Charles Starkweather and his young girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, went on a murder spree that saw the deaths of 11 people.
Starkweather was 19 when he met the 14-year-old Fugate. Unsurprisingly, her parents did not approve of the relationship. In order to be together (sounds familiar?), Starkweather shot and killed Fugate’s father and stepmother, before strangling and stabbing her toddler half-sister. Fugate wasn’t shocked when she came home to see their bodies. She even watched TV while Starkweather made sandwiches and wrapped the corpses in newspaper. Thus started their 60-day cross-country spree before they were apprehended on a Wyoming road. Fugate threw her older lover under the bus immediately, yelling to a deputy sheriff that Starkweather was going to kill her. In the end, Starkweather was executed at 20, while Fugate was sentenced to life. She served 17 years before being paroled in 1976.
13 Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold
The Columbine High School massacre is an event that was on everyone’s minds for years in the 1990's and is still discussed as one of the most vicious school shootings to this day. Much of the Columbine shooting and the stories of the boys who inflicted it has become both a myth and a legend, but the truth is that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not misunderstood. They were severely disturbed.
Harris and Klebold had been planning their massacre for quite a while, and while many of their sympathizers tried to claim that the pair had been bullied for years, research has proven that they were often the bullies and were by no means loners at their school. They also had severe psychological problems, including paranoia, depression, and suicidal tendencies. The two had tried to develop bombs in order to blow up any students trying to exit the school, and while those bombs fizzled, they still managed to murder 13 and injure 24 before eventually turning the guns on themselves.
12 Jeremy Steinke & Jasmine Richardson
Another deadly duo who took on family, this murderous pair made the papers and history, due to Jasmine Richardson’s age. You see, at the time, Richardson was only 12 years old when she made Canadian history as the youngest person in the country to be tried for multiple murders. Looking and acting older than her preteen age, Richardson met the 23-year-old Steinke at the mall, where they bonded over their love of music and the Goth subculture. Soon after, they chose to murder her parents and younger brother in order for them to be together, since Richardson’s parents disapproved of the relationship. High and drunk, Steinke broke into the Richardson home, where he murdered Richardson’s father and mother, leaving his young paramour to stab her brother. The pair considered the latter to be a “mercy killing” because Richardson’s eight-year-old sibling was too delicate to live as an orphan.
While Steinke was given twenty-five years before the possibility of parole, Richardson, owing to her young age, was released after ten years, in 2016. Despite being the brains behind the deadly operation, the old-for-her-years Richardson now walks free.
11 Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka
This deadly Canadian duo on our list were known as the “Ken and Barbie Killers,” owing to their good looks, lavish lifestyle, and deadly relationship. Paul Bernardo had already begun his criminal career before meeting Karla Homolka, as the Scarborough R*pist, entering the homes of women, where he r*ped and beat them. After meeting Homolka, however, the couple proved to be toxic with one another.
With three victims in all, including Homolka’s own sister (whom she presented to Bernardo as a present at Christmas), the couple videotaped their gruesome antics, showing that Homolka (despite her pleas to the contrary) was very much a willing participant. The video shows the pair drugging Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, assaulting them in various ways and eventually killing them. The case made headlines all over the country, and Homolka claimed that she had been threatened and coerced into aiding Bernardo, since their relationship was an abusive one. In order to secure a plea deal and reduce her sentence, Homolka testified against her husband, which allowed her to eventually walk free while Bernardo remains in Millhaven Institution.
10 Gwendolyn Graham & Cathy Wood
Engaging in rough activities in the bedroom is totally fine, as long as both parties give their consent to it. Apparently though, getting rough between the sheets wasn’t enough for Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood, who later took to murdering the elderly patients that resided in the nursing home where they both worked!
With a total of five victims by the end, the first victim was an Alzheimer’s sufferer, whom they smothered and then copulated next to. This became a pattern for all their subsequent victims. As they got more and more proficient in their kills, the pair would take souvenirs and brag about their misdeeds to their coworkers, who didn’t believe them. Things took a turn when the couple disagreed on their next victim, which led to a breakup. Eventually, the two turned on each other, with Wood claiming she only acted as a lookout for Graham, and Graham saying that the murders were part of a mind game devised by Wood. Since Wood confessed to the crimes first, she earned a lighter sentence of 20 years for her confession, while Graham received life imprisonment.
9 Alton Coleman & Debra Brown
Their murder spree lasted only two months. However, in that short time period, Alton Coleman and Debra Brown traveled across six states, murdered eight people, r*ped seven, kidnapped three, and committed 14 armed robberies.
Coleman was alleged to be the mastermind behind these crimes, owing to his criminal history that had him known to police prior to the murders. Brown, on the other hand, was considered intellectually disabled with a dependent personality disorder that made her the ideal helper to the sadistic Coleman. Almost all of their murders were committed through strangulation, but many of their victims were found beaten and assaulted beforehand. A particularly sick detail in the couple’s crime spree was the racial motivations that lay underneath. All except one of their targets were African-American, and Coleman even blamed black people for forcing him to commit these atrocities and left a r*cist note in lipstick at the scene of the one surviving victim, who was not African-American. Coleman was executed in 2002 and Brown was sentenced to life in prison. Only in 2005 did she show remorse for her crimes.
8 Raymond Fernandez & Martha Beck
A murderous duo who earned their own nickname, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck became known as the “Lonely Hearts Killers” because they teamed up to woo lonely women, only to rob and kill them! Using personal ads, the couple would pose as a single man looking for love, tricking and trapping naïve women (Beck knew exactly what to say, owing to her penchant for reading romance novels and magazines).
While Beck was enamored with Fernandez and jealous of any woman who slept with him as part of their scheme, she posed as his sister to look more respectable, even though the two often spoke of the great love they had for one another. Eventually, though, Beck’s temper began to drive the pair and instead of simply robbing their victims, they decided to kill them, too. Soon after the murders began, it was the death of a widow and her toddler that brought the police to their door; and after being convicted of murdering about 20 people, both Beck and Fernandez were sentenced to death via the electric chair.
7 Kenneth Bianchi & Angelo Buono
Although their murderous career began with three prostitutes whose bodies were dumped in the Hollywood Hills, it was only after the deaths of five young women who were not “working girls” that cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono had earned their nickname "the Hillside Stranglers."
Naturally, owing to their names, the cousins chose to strangle their victims (10 in total) between October 1977 and February 1978. Initially, the pair teamed up to make some money by pimping out young women, with Buono apparently the brains behind the operation; although Bianchi later committed two r*pes and murders on his own. All of their victims were women. All had been strangled, r*ped, and tortured before their bodies were dumped. One of those victims had also been injected with Windex, although it initially looked like marks of drug use. Once they were caught and tried, Bianchi tried to plead insane, but was determined to be faking. Both men were sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment in the most expensive court case in California history at the time.
6 Henry Lee Lucas & Ottis Toole
It’s a pretty big discrepancy to have a victim range between five and 600, but apparently it depends on whose story (and which lies) you believe. Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole met in 1973 at a soup kitchen and became lovers shortly after. Their murder spree lasted for about a decade, until Lucas stupidly bragged about what he had done while in prison on a weapons charge, and Toole was jailed for arson. Once the can of worms was opened, the men began admitting to a series of horrific murders that they had committed, allegedly while being members of some cult. They had some details that only the killer in question could have known, but their changing stories and retractions blurred the truth.
Fortunately, some good came of the couple’s extensive confessions. They were able to help police identify 246 missing persons, but their other confessions were at times false and at other times recanted. They said enough, though, and Toole was convicted of five murders, Lucas of 11. They were given the death penalty, which was reduced to life in prison. Both men died of natural causes.
5 Leonard Lake & Charles Ng
A lot of serial killers begin exhibiting disturbing behaviors at a young age, and this couldn’t be truer for deadly duo Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. As a child, Lake enjoyed dissolving mice in chemicals while Ng preferred stealing and setting things on fire. Lake also had a perverse attitude towards s*x and would photograph his sister nude and extort her for s*xual favors.
Both men were arrested by the FBI for firearms violations, and once they were released, they sought each other out to begin their serial killer careers. Lake, identified as a survivalist, built a bunker that the two would use to torture, r*pe, and murder their victims. But they didn’t simply target women. Sometimes, the men would abduct and murder entire families. To top it off, they captured everything on film.
Eventually, it was Ng’s shoplifting that led to their undoing, and once Lake was arrested for trying to pay for his partner’s stolen goods, he secretly took a cyanide pill, slipped into a coma, and died. Ng was tried for the deaths of 11 people, although police estimated that it could have been as many as 25, owing to the remains found in the bunker. He is currently on death row.
4 Delfina & Maria Gonzales
Having grown up in poverty and abuse, sisters Delfina and Maria Gonzales had only each other when they moved to San Francisco del Rincon and opened a saloon to alleviate their crushing fear of being poor. They also decided to start a prostitution ring, which would be how they lured in their victims before murdering them mercilessly.
Using classified ads and targeting young girls who had been just like them (poor and alone), the Gonzales sisters promised security and freedom before entrapping these young women into a life of prostitution. However, the girls they imprisoned weren’t always reliable. If a hired girl became pregnant, the sisters would force her to have an abortion and bury the fetuses on their ranch. Then, they began to murder the girls if they became sick, refused a client, or contracted STDs.
Different methods of murder were used for their victims—from starvation to beatings. The bodies were often dumped in shallow mass graves. The men who came for their services weren’t immune to the sisters’ wrath either. If they had a particularly large amount of money on them, they were immediately killed. In all, the sisters killed 91 people.
3 Ian Brady & Myra Hindley
It’s never a good idea to take up with a neo-Nazi. But apparently, Myra Hindley never got the memo when she became infatuated with Ian Brady. Obsessed with the Nazi regime, Brady gave Hindley books about the subject, influenced her with his extremist philosophies, encouraged her to dye her hair blonde to fit his Aryan ideals, and soon began discussing how to commit the perfect murder. Soon, the two engaged in their murder spree in 1963 and chose to harm the innocent—children.
Killing five in total, Hindley would first lure their victims into the couple’s car, where they were s*xually assaulted, before being murdered and buried in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor, which earned them the name the “Moors Murderers.” One of the victim’s throats had been slashed so violently, she was nearly decapitated.
Brady was arrested first, in 1965, and Hindley was charged just days later after Brady had been witnessed beating a child to death with an axe. After a trial that saw the two of them lying repeatedly without remorse, they were sentenced to life in prison, with Hindley dying in 2002 and Brady being transferred to a mental hospital after being declared criminally insane.
2 Charlene & Gerald Gallego
S*x is known to complicate things, but for murderous couple Charlene and Gerald Gallego, it became the driving force behind their sick and twisted relationship. Gerald was a man who had been living a life of crime for some time, while Charlene had a raging drug habit and was recently twice divorced, owing to her lesbian tendencies that upset her past husbands, but excited Gerald. The couple became a whirlwind of s*xual violence, eventually kidnapping, r*ping, and murdering 10 young women between 1978 and 1980. Some victims were as young as 13. The couple was under the twisted delusion of making these women their “disposable s*x slaves.” While Gerald initially r*ped their victims on his own, for hours on end, Charlene would later take part in the brutal actions. They also buried a pregnant woman alive.
While Charlene claimed that she was dominated by Gerald and eventually testified against him in a plea deal that saw her release in 1997, she also admitted in prison that r*ping and murdering the victims “excited her beyond belief.” Gerald, after being sent to death row, died of rectal cancer in 2002.
1 Fred & Rosemary West
It’s one thing to murder anonymous victims, but it’s quite another to murder your own children after subjecting them to a lifetime of brutal physical and s*xual violence. The perfect pair for how NOT to behave, Fred and Rosemary West were a twisted couple whose joined forces made for a lethal combination that saw the r*pe, torture, and murder of at least 10 victims.
Their relationship was one built on incest, prostitution, and violence, and saw both partners as willing participants in their atrocities. They both had violently sick upbringings, with Fred claiming that his father had introduced him to incest and bestiality while Rosemary had been r*ped repeatedly by her father into adulthood. At one point, while Fred was in prison, Rosemary murdered his stepdaughter after the child wouldn’t cry during a beating, and the couple later killed their own daughter and feigned her disappearance to their other children. Eventually, it was the disappearance of this daughter (who by then had been missing for seven years) that led to police to 25 Cromwell Street, and the subsequent arrest of one of the most deadly duos in history. While in prison, Fred hung himself while Rosemary remains, serving life sentence, to this day.