One of the central questions surrounding serial killers is why they kill repeatedly. But even as each investigation brings forth a motive, knowing what twists a person’s mind to perform this sort of crime doesn’t stop it from being repeated. The danger is as real now as it always was.
The profile of a serial killer is a big deal for crime enforcement, whether police are on the scent of an active agent or just profiling past murderers. According to the FBI, serial killers emerge gradually, are ethnically diverse, are very often women, and mostly don’t live in isolation.
While serial murder was more common in the 1970s and ’80s than it is now, there are, today, between 20 and 50 active serialists operating in the States alone, according to former chief of the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, John Douglas. On average, they account for about 150 murders yearly.
A serial killer is defined, according to the FBI, as someone who has killed “two or more victims” during “incidents occurring in separate events at different times.” But it’s not just the output rate of serial killers that makes them newsworthy; it’s often the way they choose to kill and what is done with the bodies afterward that capture our attention. Some of the most notorious are those who eat their victims or have sex with them once they’re dead.
Here are 15 rare pictures of serial killers from all around the world. We think you’ll be amazed how people who have committed inhuman acts can look so normal. The motto of the story is: you don’t know who’s capable until he or she is found out – if he or she is ever found out.
15. Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo
Most of the attacks by Russian Andrei Chikatilo were against young women. Known as the “Rostov Ripper,” his crimes ranged from depraved sexual assaults and murder to mutilation. Between 1978 and 1990, at least 52 women and children fell victim to Chikatilo’s evil. Initially, police couldn’t link the series of murders, but by 1983, four of the victims were tentatively attributed to the same killer.
The race was on, and searches began amid the sprawling forests of Western Russia. In September 1983, several people confessed to the murders, but wikipedia.org states that these were often “intellectually disabled youths who admitted to the crimes only under prolonged and often brutal interrogation.” At the end of 1984, Chikatilo was arrested, but because of a mismatch of blood-types, was discounted as the killer. Regrettably, after being released, he continued to kill until his final arrest and formal arraignment several years later. He was brought to trial in 1992 and executed in 1994.
14. Joanna Dennehy
Known for carrying out what was, in 2013, called the “Peterborough ditch murders,” Joanna Dennehy had severe mental problems. The killings took place on the 19th and 29th of March. Although Dennehy knew the victims, she was motivated only by a lust for killing. In her own words, she, “found murder to be ‘moreish,’” and after the first time, “got a taste for it.” Afterward, Dennehy drove to Hereford and tried to murder two other men.
Dennehy pleaded guilty to all three murders and also to two further attempted murders in November 2013. She was subsequently sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to life imprisonment with the trial judge, Mr. Justice Spencer, recommending that she should never be released. Because of the premeditated nature of her crimes and the psychiatric reports into her motives, she’s believed to pose a significant risk to the public and is thus not being considered for parole.
13. John Collins
The Michigan Murders took place over two years from 1969-1971. In the year that the Concorde was first flown, Boeing launched the 747, and the Pontiac Firebird went on sale in the US, a psychopathic serial killer was lurking in the shadows. More specifically, Michigan Murderer John Collins set off on a killing spree that terrorized Michiganians. Also known as the “Ypsilanti Ripper” and the “Co-Ed Killer,” Collins killed seven local girls and young women between the ages of 13 and 21.
His MO was quickly realized by the FBI and other investigating teams. Each victim had been raped, beaten, and murdered either by stabbing or strangulation, their bodies mutilated after death and then discarded within a 15-mile radius of Washtenaw County. Collins was formally charged with the murder of Karen Sue Beineman, and although he was never tried for the remaining six missing people, police believe he was responsible. He’s currently serving a life sentence at Marquette Branch Prison.
12. Beverly Allitt
On the whole, nurses are trusted for their professionalism and competence. But British woman Beverley Gail Allitt broke that trust in a horrific way. In 1991, working at Grantham Hospital in Lincolnshire, England, she had several children in her care. Then, between February and April, for some reason, Allitt murdered four of them. She gave her young victims an overdose of insulin, stood back, and watched them die.
With a large number of unexplained deaths on the children’s ward, the hospital bosses called the police. Allitt was the only staff nurse on duty when the deaths took place; she had access to the drugs and was able to spend time alone with her victims. In 1993, Nottingham Crown Court sentenced Allitt to 30 years behind bars. Mr. Justice Latham said she was “a serious danger” to others and was unlikely ever to be considered safe enough for release.
11. Jeffrey Dahmer
One of the most famous of all serial killer cases in the States was attributed to Jeffrey Dahmer. He began his murderous campaign in 1978 but wasn’t arrested until 1991. Dahmer lured 17 young men back to his home where he proceeded to rape, murder, and, in many cases, eat their remains. When Dahmer was arrested on July 22, 1991, police found bags of human organs, severed heads, limbs and entire torsos dissolving in a vat of acid.
Nicknamed the “Milwaukee Cannibal,” Dahmer was charged with four counts of murder. But by August 22, he was charged with an additional 11 killings. He was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences. In November of 1994, while Dahmer was showering unsupervised, he was attacked with an iron bar by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver. He survived the beating and was taken to a local hospital but died some time afterward.
10. Richard Ramirez
Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramírez terrorized residents of Los Angeles and San Francisco during the 1980s. He was known for a spree of violent home invasions and subsequent murder or rape of victims. Eventually, after he was caught and charged, Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts of murder, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and as many as 14 burglaries. At the end of 1989, he was sentenced to death by a court in California.
Dubbed the “night stalker” by the American press, Ramirez’s MO was to gain entry to a person’s house, burgle them of their belongings, and, in many cases, either sexually assault them or kill them. One of the biggest clues the investigating teams discovered was the recurrence of the imprint of Ramirez’s Avia sneakers. Along with other circumstantial evidence, this find eventually led to his conviction.
9. Aileen Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos was a woman with a criminal record but it didn’t include “murderess” just yet. However, after a series of unexplained killings hit Florida during the early 1990s, police began to suspect a connection. A car belonging to murdered 65-year-old Peter Siems was found abandoned but with a handprint on the door. The print matched that of Wuornos, evidence enough to secure her arrest on suspicion of murder.
Following extensive questioning, Wuornos admitted to having shot and killed seven men. However, she claimed she had shot them in self-defense after they had tried to rape her. Although Siems’s body was never found, Wuornos still received six death sentences for her killing spree. On the day of her execution in 2002, she was quoted as saying, “I would just like to say I’m sailing with the rock. Big mother ship and all, I’ll be back, I’ll be back.”
8. Luis Alfredo Garavito
Nicknamed “The Beast” or “The Priest,” Luis Garavito is currently serving, in Colombia, a 24-year prison sentence — a short time locked away when you consider that the total number of victims of his killing spree is estimated to be around 300. Garavito is known to have lured at least 138 children to their deaths in the 1990s by offering them food and drink while visiting poor towns in Colombia and Ecuador. He would dress as either a priest or a charity worker.
Garavito targeted boys between the ages of 6 and 16 who were vulnerable through homelessness. Once in his possession, they would be subjected to torture and rape. Garavito would finally dismember his victims before disposing of them in surrounding woodland.
7. Harold Shipman
Between 1975 and 1998, Harold Shipman, then working as a doctor in England, murdered about 250 elderly people. In most cases, he was motivated by financial greed. His usual killing MO was by way of an injected overdose of medical morphine.
At the beginning of 1998, a local funeral director noticed that an unusually high number of cremation forms had been signed by Harold Shipman. The police investigated but had insufficient evidence to work with. However, when the authenticity of one of Shipman’s patients’ last will and testament was questioned, the coroner ordered the exhumation of the patient and discovered an unusually high dosage of Diamorphine. The discovery led to Shipman’s arrest and subsequent 15 life sentences. He hanged himself in 2004.
6. Ed Gein
Known as “The Butcher of Plainfield,” Ed Gein was a multiple murderer and body snatcher. Convicted for the brutal killing of local shop-owner Bernice Worden in 1957 and tavern owner Mary Hogan sometime after, he was also considered a suspect in other unsolved cases in Wisconsin including the 1953 disappearance of Evelyn Hartley. At the time, Gein was only charged with Worden’s murder.
It was later discovered that Gein was also robbing graves at local cemeteries. He wasn’t after the valuables people had been buried with, though; he wanted their corpses. After Gein was arrested, police searched his house and found, among other items, whole human bones, a wastebasket made of human skin, human skin covering several chair seats, skulls on his bedposts, and bowls made from human skulls. He was admitted to a secure psychiatric hospital and died incarcerated in 1984.
5. John Wayne Gacy
Also known as the “Killer Clown,” John Gacy was a nightmare murderer. He killed from 1972 until his formal arrest for murder in 1978 when he finally admitted to having killed 33 young men. The majority of his victims had been strangled and their bodies then disposed of either by being thrown from a highway bridge or stored in a crawl space beneath his house.
After his confession, Gacy was brought to trial in the early part of 1980. He remained on death row for 14 years before being executed on May 9, 1994. According to published reports, Gacy was a diagnosed psychopath who “did not express any remorse for his crimes.” His last words to his lawyer before execution were chilling. He declared that his own death would not compensate for the loss of others and that the state was murdering him. His final spoken words were “Kiss my ass.”
4. Alexander Pichushkin
Between 2001 and 2006, Russian Alexander Pichushkin – also called the “Chessboard Killer” – struck out 49 times, though the actual body count is thought to be as much as 60. It was said that part of Pichushkin’s motivation was to be in some sort of warped competition with Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo although his MO wasn’t the same.
Pichushkin targeted mainly elderly homeless men whom he lured to his home with the offer of free vodka. After they had drunk together, he would kill them by bludgeoning them with a hammer, usually from behind. He would then push a vodka bottle into the gaping wound in their skulls. Later explaining his motive for killing, he said, “In all cases, I killed for only one reason. I killed in order to live because when you kill, you want to live.” Pichushkin was sentenced in 2006 to life in prison.
3. Gary Ridgway
Although confessing to having killed 71 people, Gary Ridgway was charged formally with the murder of 49. He was known as the “Green River Killer” and targeted prostitutes around Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. He would strangle his victims before throwing their bodies into the Green River. As if killing them and dumping their remains unceremoniously wasn’t enough, Ridgway would often return to where he left the corpses and have sex with them.
Ridgway was arrested twice in 1982 and 2001 on charges relating to prostitution. He became a suspect in the Green River killings in 1983 but wasn’t charged. In 2001, due initially to circumstantial evidence and then later to DNA analysis, Ridgway was formally arraigned on four counts of murder although he later confessed to more. In a statement, he said that murdering young women was his “career.” He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
2. Tommy Lynn Sells
Convicted and sentenced to death for a single murder, police believe Tommy Sells was responsible for at least 21 others. He first killed at the age of 16 when he burgled a house and again five years later after staying the night with Ena Cordt in 1985. In 1999, Sells was identified as the murderer of Kaylene ‘Katy’ Harris for which he was sentenced to death.
Details of previous murders came about after he confessed to having committed several between 1980 and 1999. It was in the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville where Sells’s death sentence was eventually carried out. When he was asked if he’d like to say any final words, Sells simply said, “No” and lay back, resigned to his fate. When the lethal dose of pentobarbital was injected, he “took a few deep breaths, closed his eyes, and began to snore,” according to Wikipedia. He was pronounced dead just a matter of minutes later.
1. Ted Bundy
A notorious serial killer, Ted Bundy looked anything but evil. Calm, handsome, and charismatic, Bundy would use his charms to lure young women to secluded locations before murdering them. He would invariably rape then strangle or bludgeon his victims to death, on occasion, heading back to the murder scene to perform sex acts on the corpses. He decapitated at least 12 of his victims and kept some of the severed heads in his apartment for a period of time.
Bundy claimed that his need to kill was motivated by a need to possess his victim completely. In cross-analysis before his death sentence was carried out, he said, “The ultimate possession was, in fact, the taking of the life.” In terms of a historical cross-examination of a serial killer, it didn’t get much better than this. Bundy was sentenced to death and executed by electric chair in 1989 when he was 42.
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