Nowadays, the idea of the perfect crime is a pipe dream. Due to advanced technology and surveillance everywhere, being a successful criminal for any period of time is almost unheard of. Criminals, for the most part, aren’t very smart people to begin with and, like anyone else, will eventually make a mistake and get caught. Even with forward-looking planning and plenty of prep-time, despite what Hollywood films will tell you, it’s almost impossible to get away scot-free! However, every now and then, some brazen criminals, having committed high-profile crimes, have indeed absconded without ever having to face the music, so to speak. In those rare cases, crime did indeed pay.
Many people have heard of the infamous Zodiac Killer, Jack the Ripper, or even the gruesome Axeman of New Orleans. Maniacs such as these have managed to elude investigators for decades, or even a century in the case of Jack. Rare individuals such as these, through criminal genius or sheer dumb luck, appear to have escaped justice and have successfully hidden from capture. Are they just good at blending in? Do they have some great shady connections that have continued to help them out? Who knows? What we do know is that law enforcement agencies have pledged to never stop looking for these villains.
Here, my intention is not to reiterate the ghastly exploits of Zodiac or Jack, but instead share with you a list of fifteen other notorious criminals, some you may have never even known existed. Any one of them could be quietly living as your unassuming neighbor, the creepy man who’s always at the dog park, or maybe your local grocery store stocker. Read and take heed, the following criminals have never been caught.
15 Donald Eugene Webb
Donald Eugene Webb is a career criminal who specialized in jewelry store burglaries. On December 4, 1980, he graduated to murder when he is believed to have killed 31-year-old Gregory Adams, chief of police in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania.
In that small community, everyone knew everyone and the crime rate was very low. But on that day in December, Chief Greg Adams was found near the home of his friend and neighbor, Midge Freehling. Freehling’s son had heard a gunshot and, when he went to check, he found Adams lying in the bushes, shot twice at close range after apparently being viciously beaten around the head and face. Adams was still alive at this point but didn’t know who attacked him. Paramedics rushed Adams to the hospital but he died soon after.
An investigation revealed that Adams had been killed while in the middle of a routine traffic stop. A driver’s license was found near the scene that was believed to have fallen out of Adams’ hand after he was shot. The license belonged to Stanley John Portas of New Jersey. Additionally, an empty pistol with the serial numbers scraped off was also found nearby. Immediately, police learned that Stanley John Portas had been dead for 32 years, but other information on the “new” Portas, including his wife, matched up with a known-burglar by the name of Donald Eugene Webb.
On December 31, 1980, Webb was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and on suspicion of murder. Webb is a master of assumed identities. With experience working as a butcher, car salesman, repairman, jeweler, and realtor, he could blend in anywhere. In fact, Webb has remained elusive for over 27 years!
14 The CBN Bomber
Televangelist Pat Robertson’s broadcasts are seen by millions of viewers around the United States. His outspoken nature and controversial statements have made him a target of numerous death threats over the years. He runs his media empire from the headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network, CBN, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
CBN receives thousands of letters and packages daily, but on April 27, 1990, one particular package looked suspicious. It had strips of newspaper sticking out of the box. Scott Scheepers, a CBN security officer, scanned the mysterious package with an x-ray machine, but didn’t see anything to confirm his suspicions. Still wary, Scheepers decided to check the package contents. As carefully as possible, Scheepers opened the lid to the box while still trying to maintain his distance. An explosion suddenly threw him to the ground. He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to remove shrapnel from his leg. Scheepers was fortunate that he wasn’t holding the package outright; otherwise he wouldn’t have survived the blast.
An investigation revealed that the package contained a homemade pipe bomb. It was quickly linked to an attack that took place just a few months earlier against another televangelist – Pastor John Osteen. In that attack, Osteen’s daughter, Lisa Cines, suffered third-degree burns and minor cuts. The investigation revealed the same materials were used in both, and that they were mailed from rural towns near Fayetteville, North Carolina. Authorities were able to get a composite sketch of the man who had been seen mailing the bombs. He’s described as a neatly dressed, average-build white male with brown hair. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service issued a reward for information leading to his capture; however, the bomber has remained at-large for 27 years.
13 The Human Time Bomb
It was January 1996, 65-year-old Harvey McCloud had seen just about everything in his decade as a taxi driver in Modesto, California. When he encountered a man wearing a turban, a phoney beard, and moustache, he wasn’t surprised. In a low voice, the man asked for a ride. After a few blocks, he put a gun in McCloud’s face. He secured a black metal box with a numeric keypad onto McCloud’s body. The gunman gave McCloud detailed instructions. He was to take a second bomb into a bank and leave it there. He said he could detonate the bomb with his cellular phone. McCloud entered the bank and handed the teller a robbery note. The shocked teller complied and filled a case with money. Everything had gone to plan; however, McCloud couldn’t bear the thought of innocent people getting harmed. Instead of leaving the second bomb in the bank, he took it with him as he left.
When he returned to the taxi, the man was gone, but had left a note with instructions. McCloud was to drive to a hardware store, then walk half a mile to a pay phone. There, the gunman would phone McCloud with directions for deactivating the bomb. After about 10 minutes waiting at the pay phone, McCloud realized that it wouldn’t accept incoming calls. He panicked and decided to call his dispatcher. After that, in quick fashion, the police arrived, evacuated the area, and had the bomb squad remove the bomb from around his neck. Both bombs ended up being fakes. Multiple witnesses told police that they saw the mystery gunman outside the bank but failed to get his license plate as he drove off. He was described as about 6-feet tall, medium build, with short salt-and-pepper hair. The mystery man was never caught.
12 I-70 Serial Killer
On April 8, 1992, 23-year-old Robin Fuldauer of Indianapolis, Indiana, was found shot to death at the store where she worked. Just three days later, 23-year-old Patricia Smith and 32-year-old Patricia Magers, co-workers at a bridal shop in Wichita, Kansas, were found shot to death in the storeroom of their shop. Then, three weeks later, 24-year-old Nancy Kitzmiller of St. Charles, Missouri, was found shot to death inside the boot store she managed. Within a few days, 40-year-old Michael McCown, of Terre Haute, Indiana, was also found murdered.
Five murders in three states; apparently random at first glance. However, each murder took place at a shopping center just off Interstate 70. A ballistics check confirmed that all four were shot with the same gun. Then on May 7, 1992, in Raytown, Missouri, at the Woodson Village Shopping Center, near an access road to Interstate 70, 37-year-old Sarah Blessing was shot in the gift shop where she was working alone.
A nearby shop owner heard the gunshot and went to investigate. As he did, he noticed a strange man cross the parking lot. Another witness saw the same man climb the embankment to the I-70 access road and disappear. A multi-state task force was set up to catch this vicious killer stalking the retail establishments along I-70. The investigation confirmed that all six victims were killed with the same .22 caliber pistol. In Wichita, a witness was able to give the one good description of the murderer which was used to create a composite drawing. The photo was publicized but the killer was never caught. Additional murders in Texas a few years later were believed to be committed by the same man. After all these years, he remains at-large.
11 The Cowboy Bandit
On September 19, 1987, a tall, well-dressed man in cowboy boots entered a bank in Spokane, Washington. He pulled a gun on a teller and announced that the bank was being robbed. He ordered everyone into the vault and had a teller collect $100,000. He then left the bank and disappeared. Approximately a year later, the same man robbed another Spokane bank, stealing $14,000, this time setting off a dye pack that he was given. The small explosion occurred in public outside the bank, causing witnesses to take notice of the man.
After another robbery three months later, a composite sketch was finally able to be drawn up and disseminated. However, a sketch is no photograph and the robber, now dubbed “The Cowboy Bandit,” remarkably managed to avoid being caught on security cameras. His luck changed the next summer, when a quick-thinking bank teller triggered a silent alarm, which set off the bank surveillance camera, as well. It was the break law enforcement was waiting for. They now had photos of The Cowboy Bandit. Using these photos, the elusive bandit was linked to three more robberies in Tucson, Arizona. However, even with photos, The Cowboy Bandit remains at-large.
10 The Ben Stahl Painting Thieves
The artist Ben Stahl was born in Chicago in 1910. As a young man, he sharpened his skills completing beautiful illustrations for books and magazines. At the pinnacle of Stahl’s career, the Catholic Press commissioned him to paint the Stations of the Cross for a special edition of the Bible. The 14 small paintings he completed gained so much popularity that Stahl decided to paint them again on a much grander scale. He spent two years on these and, in November 1966, opened the Museum of the Cross so the public would have a chance to see his work. The paintings were described as an almost holy experience.
Then, in 1969, just after Easter, burglars broke into the museum. There was no security in place and no alarm system. The crooks were meticulous in their theft. Instead of cutting the canvases out, they carefully removed each staple, then rolled the paintings up and made their escape. The paintings were never seen again. Ben Stahl died in 1987, without ever discovering what happened to his paintings. With the statute of limitation having expired on the theft, his children still have a standing reward being offered for the art’s safe return.
9 Roberto Solis
Twenty-one year old Heather Tallchief was an armored car driver in Las Vegas, Nevada. On Friday, October 1, 1993, while refilling ATM’s of several local casinos, she vanished. It was going to be a busy weekend so her armored car was loaded with over $3 million. A check of the surveillance footage shows that Heather simply drove off after dropping her co-workers at a casino side-entrance. She vanished with all the cash. It appears Heather’s whole job was a ruse. She had applied and taken the position two months prior as part of a grand criminal plan.
Heather had no criminal record and police searched her apartment for clues as to why she would do such a thing. In addition to Heather’s fingerprints, an additional set were found, belonging to convicted murderer and thief, Roberto Solis. The investigation revealed that Heather had met Solis, began a relationship, and together planned the perfect crime. Solis had even opened up a business retrofitting vehicles into armored cars, so as not to draw suspicion whenever Heather drove in with the stolen vehicle.
Two hours after her disappearance, Heather and Solis, in disguise, boarded their chartered jet bound for Colorado. In Colorado, the couple had covered their tracks and the trail went cold. Heather eventually surrendered in 2005, having left Solis when she learned she was pregnant with his child. She claimed she had been brainwashed by Solis and wanted her son to have a normal life. Heather served 63 months in prison, but Roberto Solis remains at-large.
8 The Brink’s Heist
On April 19, 1989, at approximately 1:00 P.M., Brink’s armored truck drivers in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, encountered a group of well-planned thieves. With commando-style precision, one of the robbers quickly overpowered a guard; another set blocked the armored truck’s escape, while a fourth robber affixed a bomb to the truck’s hood. In less than 60 seconds, the thieves stole almost a million dollars in cash and then simply vanished! The Federal Bureau of Investigation agents assigned were amazed at the level of precision in which the robbery was conducted. The thieves were evidently well-trained. The bomb squad, using an x-ray machine, discovered that the bomb was a clever fake. They were able to link the fake bomb to an identical one used in a robbery three years prior. In that crime, the same band of thieves absconded with over $600,000.
With $1.6 million in their pockets, the FBI believed that the gang would disappear forever. However, a year later, just ten miles from the previous robbery, the same gang took on another Brink’s armored truck team. They blocked the truck with a van while another team overpowered the guard who was loading the cash into the truck. The thieves fired numerous gunshots, but more to scare the guards than to harm them. In mere seconds, a getaway car pulled up and the thieves were gone, making off with a ton of cash! It was a miracle no one was harmed as the streets were full of bystanders.
The FBI quickly finds all their discarded vehicles but they are always wiped clean of evidence. After that last robbery, the thieves simply vanished and haven’t been heard from since, as far as law enforcement in aware. With all that money, they could be anywhere by now, living a life of luxury.
7 Lord Lucan
Lord Lucan was a dynamic British aristocrat and army officer, known for his skill at backgammon and his affinity for vodka martinis, powerboats, and Aston Martin cars. His legal name was Richard Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, a British noble whose spirited life took a terrible turn in November 1974. That was when he mysteriously vanished after the murder of his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett.
Rivett’s body was found in the basement of his family’s home in the wealthy Belgravia section of London. The search began for Lord Lucan after his estranged wife, Veronica Duncan, the Countess Lucan, ran into a nearby pub, bleeding from head wounds, shouting, “He’s in the house! He’s murdered the nanny!” Inside the house, police found Rivett, bludgeoned to death with a lead pipe and placed in a canvas mail bag. Though it wasn’t clear as to why Lord Lucan would have killed her, some theorize he might have mistaken her for his wife.
The couple had separated in 1972, and he had been in a bitter battle with his estranged wife over custody of their three children. An international manhunt ensued and unverified sightings were reported across the globe. A car that Lord Lucan had borrowed from a friend was found, abandoned and bloodstained near London. A subsequent inquest officially declared him the killer. Theories abound on the whereabouts of Lord Lucan, some even believing he committed suicide. A British judge declared him dead in 1999, and a death certificate was formally issued in 2014. Some believe, however remotely, there remains a possibility that Lord Lucan is still alive and in hiding. He would be in his 80s.
6 The Anglin Brothers & Frank Morris
Technically, John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris were caught, but they make this list because they mysteriously vanished and were never seen again. You might not recognize their names, but you know their accomplishment: they were the only men to ever escape from San Francisco’s famed “unescapable” island prison, Alcatraz.
The three men plotted their escape for years and finally carried it out on June 11, 1962. They left in their bunks realistic-looking papier mâché heads with real human hair. Then they squeezed through a hole they had painstakingly made in the walls of the prison. They crawled through air vents to the roof, then making their way down a smokestack to the shoreline. Using an escape raft they fashioned out of stolen raincoats and some improvised paddles, they proceeded into the dark waters of San Francisco Bay. After that, no one really knows what happened to them. Some believe they died before ever reaching the opposite shore, drowning in the turbulent currents of the bay. Others believe they made it to freedom.
A considerable manhunt ensued but their bodies or their trail was never found. The Anglin family are certain the brothers, at least, survived and were alive and well until at least the mid-1970s, possibly still today. The evidence? Well, after the brothers escaped, someone was sending Christmas cards to their mother and signing the Anglin brother’s names. The cards never had postage. Though experts agree the signatures are authentic, investigators are unsure about the exact dates of the cards. Other evidence includes a photo from South America in the 1970s, claimed to show the brothers alive and well on their ranch. What do you think? Did they make it to freedom?
5 Aribert Heim
Also known as “Dr. Death,” Austrian physician Aribert Heim was a Waffen-SS officer with Nazi Germany during World War II. He was assigned as a camp physician at the Mauthausen concentration camp. There, he conducted ghastly medical experiments on Jews. In 1945, when the war ended, Heim was captured by U.S. soldiers but later released. He stayed in Germany where he worked as a gynecologist for many years. Then in 1962, after learning the police were coming for him, he disappeared. He remains one of the last few major Nazi war criminals still wanted.
Some believe he made his way to Egypt where he assumed the identity of Tarek Hussein Farid. Having converted to Islam, the tall, imposing German known as “Uncle Tarek” would often sit at the Groppi Café downtown and buy bonbons for the area children. Friends and acquaintances of the man in Egypt remember that he was a prolific photographer and almost always had a camera hanging around his neck; however, he never allowed himself to be photographed. Tarek Hussein Farid reportedly died of cancer in Cairo, around August 1992. Investigators in Israel, Germany, and Austria all believe Heim was still living in hiding in Latin America, possibly with an illegitimate daughter in Chile. Witnesses from Finland to Vietnam and Saudi Arabia to Argentina have reported sightings. However, most believe “Uncle Tarek” was indeed Heim. Despite the claims, the case remains open as the location of Tarek’s burial site is unknown.
4 Heinrich Müller
Müller was the head of the Nazi Gestapo secret police during World War II. Müller was one of the most significant Nazis that were never brought to justice, nor whose death was ever officially confirmed. As a senior officer and trusted advisor to Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann, Müller was directly involved in the planning and implementation of the Holocaust, and was present as the 1942 Wannsee Conference when the “Final Solution” was officially adopted.
Under his command, the secret police were infamous for their brutal torture techniques. Since there was already another General Heinrich Müller, he was referred to as “Gestapo Müller.” After Gestapo founder Reyhard Heydrich’s assassination in 1942, Müller was put in charge of the investigation. Using bribery and torture, he successfully identified the Czech commandos, who then killed themselves rather than be captured. He also led the investigation into the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler in 1944. His investigation resulted in the arrest of more than 5,000 people and 200 executions.
Müller was last seen on April 28, 1945, the day Hitler committed suicide. Müller then vanished having made it clear that he would not be taken prisoner by the Russians. Due to the Cold War, interest in capturing Müller diminished in 1947, but was reignited years later when rumors began circulating that he had been seen in Soviet interrogation centers. Other rumors told of him being sighted in Panama. When Adolf Eichmann was captured in 1960, he stated he fervently believed Müller was indeed alive. By the late 1960s, sightings stopped and no one has ever discovered the truth about Müller’s whereabouts.
3 Matteo Messina Denaro
In the 150-year-old Cosa Nostra, or Sicilian Mafia, he was known as Il Capo di Tutti Capi, “the Boss of all Bosses.” Over many years, Matteo Messina Denaro, also known as “Diabolik,” proved himself to be an expert organizer and crime leader; possibly the world’s most famous. From expensive cars, beautiful women, large homes, and expensive jewelry, Denaro wasn’t afraid to flaunt his ill-gotten gains. Denaro, the last of Sicily’s notorious bosses, went into hiding after he was implicated in the 1993 Italian bomb attacks aimed at slowing the pace of government actions against the Mafia. He has remained at-large for over two decades.
Regarding himself as something of a folk hero, Denaro has maintained his luxurious lifestyle while still being on the run and wanted for more than fifty murders. He has made many top-10 lists of the world’s most-wanted criminals. Some believe he enjoys the protection of local police and politicians. That hasn’t stopped investigators from seizing investments from many fronts for Denaro’s money-making activities, including shopping centers, food distributors, and wind farms. His grasp is so extensive that they say it is hard to ascertain where the economy of western Sicily stops and his criminal empire begins.
As the government of Italy attempts to cut off the cash flow to Denaro, they hope he will eventually be caught. Though many believe that may never happen. Denaro doesn’t use a cell phone or computer more than once, maintains a fierce bodyguard force, and only associates with those loyal to him. Even though police are pretty sure he has remained near his home in Castelvetrano and western Sicily, those loyal to him refuse to admit they’ve had any contact with him. Instead of demanding protection money, Denaro has nurtured local businesses, ensuring they keep his location a secret.
2 The Pink Panthers
The Pink Panthers are a very successful band of Serbian jewel thieves. Interpol attributes to them some of the most sensational armed robberies in history. The group is bold, stylish, and use intricate planning to pull of their stunning capers. Some criminologists even dare call their crimes artistic in nature. Their robberies have spanned multiple countries across the globe. The first robbery they committed, that we know of, was in 1993, when they stole a £500,000 diamond from a London jeweler. They hid the diamond in a jar of facial cream, similar to a scene from the 1975 film, The Return of the Pink Panther, which is how the group earned their name. Since then, the Pink Panthers have profited from robberies of over 120 stores, in 20 different countries.
They are known for their attention to detail, which could be the reason for their success rate. For instance, before one raid in Biarritz, they coated a bench across from the jewelry store in fresh paint to keep bystanders from sitting on it and becoming witnesses to their crime. The group is also known for imaginative entrances and daring escapes. In another heist, they drove a pair of stolen limousines through a window into a Dubai mail, making off with over £8million. In Paris, they dressed up as women and stole over $100 million (£60 million) worth of jewelry. The Pink Panthers are believed to have made billions of dollars and remain at-large, able to strike anywhere at any time.
1 D.B. Cooper
On November 24, 1971, a man under the alias of Dan Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Airlines flight #305, in Portland, Oregon, bound for Seattle, Washington. Dressed in a dark suit and tie, he showed a flight attendant a bomb inside his briefcase and thus began the most famous hijacking in aviation history.
He demanded $200,000, four parachutes, and food for the crew. Once the plane landed in Seattle, he released all the passengers and one flight attendant. The FBI acquiesced to his demands and, once it was refueled, the Boeing 727 took off again heading south. About 45 minutes after takeoff, Cooper donned a parachute and told the flight attendant to go to the cockpit. He had tied the bank bag full of cash onto himself and lowered the aft stairs of the plane. Then, in a heavy storm, Cooper jumped from the plane and was never seen again.
The FBI had air force fighter jets scrambled to follow the plane, but Cooper had the plane flying close to stall speed, too slow for the pursuing aircraft to safely follow. A military search was conducted of the suspected jump zone but no trace of Cooper was ever found. The media mistakenly referred to him as “D.B. Cooper,” and the moniker stuck. In 1980, north of Portland, a young boy found bundles of cash totaling $5,800 buried a few inches in the sand. The money was from Cooper’s ransom.
Did Cooper die in the jump? Was he an experienced skydiver? Intriguingly, some of his actions, according to experts, pointed to him being a novice, while other actions seemed to indicate he was an expert. The case goes down in history as being the only unsolved skyjacking in commercial aviation history.
Sources: fbi.gov, nytimes.com, nypost.com, dailymail.co.uk, theguardian.com