Serial Killers of America

Serial Killers of the United States.Knife Killer

A serial killer is typically a person who kills three or more people, with the murders taking place over more than a month and including a significant period between them. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines serial murder as “a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone.


Edward Adams was a brutal criminal in Kansas during Prohibition

Edward Adams was a brutal criminal in Kansas during Prohibition.

Edward J. Adams – Killer of the Prohibition Era (Between 1920 and 1921) – Adams was a notorious outlaw and murderer in the Midwest during Prohibition. In 14 months, he killed seven people, including three policemen, and wounded at least a dozen others. After being sentenced to life imprisonment, Adams escaped custody twice. He was killed in a shootout with police in Wichita, Kansas.

Amy Archer-Gilligan (Between 1907 and 1917) – Also known as Sister Theresa, Amy Archer-Gilligan was a nursing home proprietor for “elderly people and chronic invalids” in Windsor, Connecticut. She murdered at least five people by poisoning them. One of her victims was her second husband, Michael Gilligan; the others were residents of her nursing home. She was arrested in 1916 and tried for murder, originally on five counts, but her lawyer managed to reduce the charges to a single count. It is possible that Archer-Gilligan was involved in more deaths, as authorities counted 48 deaths in her nursing home during her tenure. She pled insanity and was initially sent to prison and later to an insane asylum, where she remained until her death on April 23, 1962.

Babysitter Killer of Detroit, Michigan (Between 1976 and 1977) – This killer abducted and killed four children between 1976 and 1977. In some cases, the victims were sexually assaulted. The killer would then clean the kids’ clothes and arrange their bodies in a display in downtown Detroit, Michigan, for investigators to find. This killer was never found.


Lee Malvo and John Muhammad, the Beltway Snipers

Lee Malvo and John Muhammad, the Beltway Snipers

The Beltway Snipers (2002) – The Beltway Sniper attacks, also known as the D.C. sniper attacks, were a series of coordinated shootings that occurred during three weeks in October 2002 throughout the Washington metropolitan area, consisting of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Cullen Montgomery Baker (1839-1868) – Baker was a cold-blooded and ruthless killer who left a long trail of bodies across the American Frontier. After the Civil War, he didn’t want to give up the fight and ambushed reconstructionists, killed former slaves, and generally terrorized the states of Texas and Arkansas.

Beltway Snipers (2002) – Over about three weeks during the fall of 2002, more than a dozen people had been mysteriously shot by an unknown sniper in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. On one day during the spree, October 3, five people were murdered by the sniper in Maryland and D.C. Eventually, the massive manhunt ballooned to include 400 FBI agents. Lee Boyd Malvo and John Muhammad were arrested and convicted. Muhammad was executed in 2009, and Malvo, only 17 years old at the time of the murders, was sentenced to life in prison.

The Bloody Benders – Serial Killers of Kansas – (From May 1871 to December 1872) – In 1870, the cult-like spiritualist family settled in western Labette County, Kansas. The Benders, comprised of John Bender, Sr.; his wife, Almira; son, John, Jr.; and daughter, Kate. A cult-like group. Estimates report that the Benders killed at least a dozen travelers and perhaps as many as 20 before they were discovered. The family’s fate remains unknown.

Robert Berdella (Between 1984 and 1987) – Known as “The Kansas City Butcher” and “The Collector,” Berdella kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered six young men in Kansas City, Missouri. Berdella pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He died of a heart attack while incarcerated at the Missouri State Penitentiary in October 1992.

David Berkowitz

David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam.

David Berkowitz (Between 1976 and 1977) – Known as “The Son of Sam” and the “.44 Caliber Killer,” he shot eight random strangers, killing six, in and around New York City. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Jake Bird (Between 1930 and 1947) – Bird was executed in Washington for the 1947 murders of two women in Tacoma. He was also known to have murdered at least 11 other people across several states between 1930 and 1947. Before his execution, he implicated himself in up to 46 murders.

Bonnie & Clyde – Stars of the Public Enemy Era (Between 1931 and 1935) – Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were American criminals who traveled the central United States with the Barrow Gang during the Great Depression, robbing people and killing when cornered or confronted.

Gary Ray Bowles (1994) – Bowles killed six men in 1994 in Florida, Maryland, and Georgia. Known as “The I-95 Killer”, he hung out in gay bars and lured his victims by posing as a prostitute. Bowles then beat and strangled his victims and stole their credit cards. He was sentenced to death in 1996 and executed by lethal injection in 2019.

Rufus Buck Gang. Left to right: Maoma July, Sam Sampson, Rufus Buck, Lucky Davis, Lewis Davis.

Rufus Buck Gang. Left to right: Maoma July, Sam Sampson, Rufus Buck, Lucky Davis, Lewis Davis.

Rufus Buck (18?? -1896) – A Creek Indian who had served time for minor offenses in the Fort Smith, Arkansas jail, Buck decided to make a name for himself in the summer of 1895. Forming the Buck Gang, he and four other men began to stockpile weapons before going on a ten-day murder and robbery spree in Indian Territory. All five members were hanged at Fort Smith on July 1, 1896. 

Judy Buenoano (From 1971 to 1983) – Also known as Judias Goodyear and Judias Morris, this seemingly ordinary woman murdered her husband, James Goodyear, in 1971, her boyfriend, Bobby Joe Morris, in 1978, her son, Michael Buenoano, in 1980, and attempted to kill her boyfriend, John Gentry, in 1983. She was convicted for the 1980 murder of her son, the 1983 attempted murder of her boyfriend, and the murder of James Goodyear. She was incarcerated on death row for women in the Florida Department of Corrections Broward Correctional Institution. On March 30, 1998, Buenoano was executed in the electric chair at the Florida State Prison.

Ted Bundy (Between 1971 and 1978) – Serial killer who kidnapped, raped, and murdered dozens of young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier. After over a decade of denials, he confessed to 30 murders committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978. Bundy confessed to detectives from Idaho, Utah, and Colorado that he had committed numerous homicides, including several unknown to the police. Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison on January 24, 1989.

The Chicago Rippers (Between 1981 and 1982) – Also called the Ripper Crew, this was an organized satanic gang of serial killers, cannibals, rapists, and necrophiles. It comprised Robin Gecht, Edward Spreitzer, and brothers Andrew and Thomas Kokoraleis, who were suspected in the disappearances of 17 women in Illinois in 1981 and 1982, as well as the unrelated fatal shooting of a man in a random drive-by shooting. All four were convicted and sent to prison. Andrew Kokoraleis was executed by lethal injection in March 1999. He was also the last inmate executed in Illinois, almost 12 years before the death penalty was abolished in Illinois. Robin Gecht and Edward Spreitzer continue to be incarcerated, and Thomas Kokoraleis was released in 2019.

Alfred Leonard Cline

Alfred Leonard Cline, the Buttermilk Bluebeard.

Alfred Leonard Cline (Between 1930 and 1945) – Known as The Buttermilk Bluebeard, he was responsible for murdering at least nine people. He married women of status, convinced them to will their possessions to his name, and persuaded them to drink a glass of poisoned buttermilk with potent sedatives. Cline cremated his later wives to hide any evidence of murder. He acquired over $82,000 in possessions from eight of his wives. He was prosecuted for a murder charge but jailed for forgery and sentenced to 126 years in Folsom Prison, California. He died of a heart attack in the prison on August 5, 1948.

Carroll Cole (Between 1947 and 1980) – Cole strangled 15 women and one boy in California, Nevada, and Texas. He was also believed to have murdered up to 30 other people. He was executed by lethal injection at Nevada State Prison on December 6, 1985.

Ray and Faye Copeland (Between 1986 and 1989) – This couple, who operated a farm in Mooresville, Missouri, murdered at least five drifters after hiring them as farmhands. These employees were tasked with paying for cattle with bad checks before being murdered. When they were caught, they were conflicted and became the oldest couple to be sentenced to death. However, both died of natural causes.

Juan Corona (1971) – Mexican serial killer Juan Corona killed at least 25 men who worked as migrant farm workers in California and buried the bodies on fruit ranches in Sutter County. He was diagnosed with a schizophrenic reaction, a paranoid type. Corona was given 25 consecutive life sentences in 1973. He died of natural causes in 2019.

Dean Corll

Dean Corll, the Candy Man.

Dean Corll (Between 1970 and 1973) – Corll was often called the Candy Man because he owned a candy factory and had a history of handing out free candy to children. In the 1970s, he abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered at least 28 boys in Houston and Pasadena, Texas. Two teenage accomplices, David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, aided him. The crimes, known as the Houston Mass Murders, came to light after Henley fatally shot Corll.

Jeffrey Dahmer – (Between 1978 and 1991) – Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 young men. He earned the name the Milwaukee Cannibal because he ate some of his victims. He received 15 life sentences but was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in 1994.

Joseph James DeAngelo (Between 1979 and 1986) – Known as “The Golden State Killer,” “The Visalia Ransacker,” “The East Area Rapist,” and “The Original Night Stalker,” he murdered three people in Sacramento and ten people in Southern California from 1975 through 1986. He is also linked to more than 50 rapes in the Sacramento area from 1976 to 1979. DeAngelo could not be charged with rapes or burglaries, as the statute of limitations had expired for those offenses, but he was charged with 13 counts of murder and 13 counts of kidnapping. He was sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole plus eight years.

Dillinger Gang, aka The Terror Gang (1933-1934) – Comprised of several unsavory characters such as Baby Face Nelson, Homer Van Meter, Eddie Green, Harry Pierpont, Charley Makely, Russell Lee Clark, John Hamilton, and Thomas Carrol, this ruthless gang, led by John Dillinger, spread terror across the Midwest from 1933 to 1934, killing as many as 16 people and robbing as many as 20 banks.

Thomas Dillon (Between 1989 and 1992)  – Dillon shot and killed at least five men outdoors in Ohio for seemingly no motive. He was sentenced to life in prison but died in 2011 due to illness.

Ronald Dominique (Between 1997 and 2006) – From the Bayou Blue area of Houma, in southeastern Louisiana, Dominique confessed to the rape and murder of at least 23 men. In 2008, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Nannie Doss, the Giggling Granny

Nannie Doss, the Giggling Granny.

Nannie Doss (Between 1927 and 1954) – Known as “The Giggling Granny” and “The Jolly Black Widow,” Doss was a serial poisoner who killed four husbands, two children, her two sisters, her mother, a grandson, and a mother-in-law. According to investigators, Doss couldn’t stop laughing while recounting how she’d killed her husbands. The state of Oklahoma centered its case only on Samuel Doss. She pleaded guilty on May 17, 1955, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Never charged with the other deaths, she died from leukemia in the hospital ward of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 1965.

Felipe Espinosa (1863) – A Mexican-American murderer who killed an estimated 32 people in the Colorado Territory throughout the spring and fall of 1863. Legendary tracker Tom Tobin killed him and his brother Vivian in a gunfight. Tobin then took their heads back to Fort Garland, Colorado.

Raymond Fernandez (Between 1947 and 1949) – Along with accomplice Martha Beck, the couple became known as “The Lonely Hearts Killers” because they met their unsuspecting victims through personal ads posted in the newspaper and Lonely Hearts columns. They were convicted of one murder, are known to have committed two more, and were suspected of having killed up to 20 victims during a spree. After their arrest and trial for serial murder in 1949, they were both sentenced to death. They were executed at Sing Sing prison in New York on March 8, 1951.

Albert Fish (Between 1924 and 1932) – Known as “The Werewolf of Wysteria,”; Fish was a serial killer, rapist, child molester, and cannibal who committed at least three child murders in New York from July 1924 to June 1928. Though he was a suspect in at least ten murders during his lifetime, he only confessed to three murders that police were able to trace to a known homicide. He also confessed to stabbing at least two other people. The sadistic child torturer and murderer bragged that he “had children in every state.” He was executed on January 16, 1936, in the electric chair at Sing Sing in New York.

Lavina Fisher

Lavina Fisher – First Female Serial Killer.

Lavinia Fisher – First Female Serial Killer (1819) – Married to John Fisher, the pair were active members of a large gang of highwaymen who operated out of two houses in the backcountry near Charleston, CharlestonSouth Carolina. Mysteriously, men visiting Charleston and last seen at the Six Mile Wayfarer House began to disappear. The couple were soon arrested, convicted, and sentenced to hang. The sentence was carried out on the morning of February 18, 1820, when they were taken from the Charleston Jail to be hanged on the gallows.

John Wayne Gacy (1972) – Gacy killed and sexually assaulted at least 33 young males in Chicago, Illinois, between 1972 and 1978. He was caught in 1980 and executed on May 10, 1994. His history of dressing like a clown for a living got him the nickname the Killer Clown.

Gerald and Charlene Gallego (1978-1980) – This pair were serial killers and rapists who were active mainly in Sacramento, California. In their sadomasochistic relationship, they murdered at least 11 victims, mostly teenagers, often kept as sex slaves before killing them. In June 1983, Gerald was sentenced to death in California and again in June 1984 in Nevada. Charlene was allowed to testify against Gerald for a plea deal that reduced her prison sentence to 16 years and eight months. In July 1997, Charlene completed her sentence and was released.

Kristen Gilbert (Between 1995 and 1996) – Gilbert is a former nurse convicted of four murders, and two attempted murders of patients admitted to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton, Massachusetts. In the 1990s, the death toll at the medical center began to increase. Gilbert was often present when they died, responding to the coded emergencies and often resuscitating the patients herself. It was later found that she induced cardiac arrest in patients by injecting their intravenous therapy bags with massive doses of epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline, an untraceable heart stimulant. Gilbert had orchestrated the deaths to get the attention of a hospital security guard with whom she was having an affair. She was eventually convicted of four murders, though some suspect she killed dozens more. She was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without parole plus 20 years.

John Gotti (Convicted 1991) – New York mob boss John Gotti had been so successful at avoiding criminal prosecution and conviction that he earned the nickname the Teflon Don. But after investigators managed to convince one of his confidants and fellow mafioso, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, to turn against him, the FBI in 1991 convicted Gotti of five murders and several other charges. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and died from cancer in prison in 2002.

Billy Gohl (Between 1903 and 1910) – In the first decade of the 20th Century, as many as 100 corpses were found in and around Aberdeen, Washington. Sailors, loggers, and laborers who disappeared were later found in the rivers around the town. William “Billy” Gohl, who became known as the Ghoul of Grays Harbor, was blamed for these mysterious deaths. The serial killer, a union official, allegedly murdered these men who were passing through town. Spared from the death penalty, he was sentenced to life in prison at Walla Walla State Penitentiary, where he died in 1927.

Belle Gunness and Children

Belle Gunness and Children

“Hell’s Belle” Gunness – Black Widow of the Midwest (Between 1884 and 1908) – Gunness was America’s most degenerate female serial killer in history, who likely killed both her husbands and all of her children. What is certain is that she murdered most of her boyfriends and her two daughters, Myrtle and Lucy. Between 1884 and 1908, the Norwegian immigrant is believed to have slain over 40 people in Chicago, Illinois, and La Porte, Indiana, profiting from insurance claims and other scams before disappearing without a trace.

Anna Marie Hahn (Between 1932 and 1937) – Hahn, a German immigrant, came to America to make a better life for herself. Instead, she poisoned five elderly men in Cincinnati, Ohio, to steal from them to support her gambling habit. She was sentenced to death in 1937 after a trial that made headline news. She was executed by electrocution in December 1938.

Robert Hansen (Between 1971 and 1983) – Known as “The Butcher Baker,” Hansen abducted, raped, and murdered at least 17 women in and around Anchorage, Alaska. He released many of his victims into the Alaskan wilderness after abducting them and hunting them with a semi-automatic rifle and a knife. He was arrested and convicted in 1983 and was sentenced to 461 years without the possibility of parole. He died in prison in 2014 of natural causes due to lingering health conditions at age 75.

The Vicious Harpes – First American Serial Killers – (Between 1797-1804) – Micajah “Big” Harpe and Wiley “Little” Harpe were murderers, highwaymen, and river pirates who operated in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Mississippi. Often referred to as the Harpe Brothers, they were cousins who often passed themselves off as brothers. During their crime spree, they killed at least 39 people and, by some estimates, 50 or more. After a $300 reward on each of the Harpe’s heads in April 1799, they were tracked down on August 1799, and Micajah “Big” Harpe was shot in the leg and back, and then his head was cut off and spiked on a pole. Little Harpe escaped. Four years later, he was captured, and in January 1804, he was executed.

Donald Harvey - Angel of Death

Donald Harvey – Angel of Death

Donald Harvey (Between 1970 and 1987) – Known as “The Angel of Death, Harvey was a hospital orderly who murdered patients in Ohio and Kentucky. He claimed to have murdered 87 people, though official estimates are between 37 and 57 victims. While serving 28 life sentences at the Toledo Correctional Institution in Toledo, Ohio, he was killed by prison inmate James Elliott on March 30, 2017.

Linda Hazzard (Between 1908 and 1911) – Known as the “Starvation Doctor,” Hazzard was a quack doctor and swindler who promoted fasting, pummeling, and hours-long enemas as treatments at a sanitarium she operated near Seattle, Washington. In 1911, she was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to two to 20 years of hard labor for killing at least 15 people for financial gain. However, after only serving two years, she was released on parole and, for unknown reasons, received a full pardon from the governor in 1916. Hazzard died after subjecting herself to her treatment methods in June 1938 at the age of 70.

Levi Boone Helm – Murderer, Cannibal & Thief – (Between 1850–1864) – A mountain man, gunfighter, and serial killer, Helm was known as the Kentucky Cannibal. After killing at least 11 people in California, Idaho, Missouri, Oregon, and Utah, he was captured, tried, and sentenced to hang in Virginia City, Montana, on January 14, 1864,

H.H. Holmes, colorized

H.H. Holmes, a touch of color LOA.

H.H. Holmes and the Murder Castle of Chicago (Between 1891 and 1894) – Dr. Henry Howard Holmes was a prolific serial killer who was said to have killed as many as 200 people. Eventually, he confessed to 28 murders, but only nine could be confirmed. If his murderous activities weren’t enough, he was also a con artist, a bigamist, and the subject of more than 50 lawsuits in Chicago alone. He was tried and convicted of only one murder and was executed in 1896.

Waneta Hoyt (From 1965 to 1971) – Hoyt murdered all five of her biological children but passed off their deaths as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) cases in New York. It wasn’t until years later that a forensic pathologist looked over Hoyt’s case while studying SIDS and realized that her children’s deaths had been no accident. In 1994, Hoyt finally admitted that she’d smothered all five babies because she couldn’t stand their crying. She was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison. She died in prison of pancreatic cancer in August 1998.

Jennings Eight of Louisiana (Between 2005 and 2009) – These were eight women whose bodies were found in swamps and canals around Jennings, Louisiana, between 2005 and 2009. The victims all knew each other through the crack trade and prostitution. Loss of evidence, mishandling, and lack of progress in the case led some to suspect that the police were involved in the deaths or in covering them up. The killer was never found.

Patrick Kearney (1970s) – Known as the “Trash Bag Killer” and “The Freeway Killer,” Kearney killed at least 21 young men and teenagers in southern California during the 1970s. He picked up hitchhikers and young men in gay bars before killing and raping them. He pled guilty to his crimes to avoid the death penalty. He is currently incarcerated with 21 life sentences.

Genene Jones (Between 1977 and 1982) – A pediatric nurse murdered as many as 60 babies and young children under her care by injecting them with lethal doses of digoxin, heparin, and succinylcholine to induce medical crises in her patients. In 1984, Jones was convicted of murder and injury to a child. In 1985, she was sentenced to 99 years for killing 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan. Later that year, she was sentenced to a concurrent term of 60 years in prison for nearly killing Rolando Santos. In 2018, she was scheduled for mandatory release due to a Texas law to prevent prison overcrowding. However, she was indicted on May 25, 2017, for the murder of 11-month-old Joshua Sawyer. She was then sentenced to life in prison.

Theodore John Kaczynski (1978-1995)  – Known as the Unabomber, he was a mathematician, serial killer, and domestic terrorist. He was a mathematics prodigy but abandoned his academic career in 1969 to pursue a primitive lifestyle. Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski murdered three individuals and injured 23 others in a nationwide mail bombing campaign against people he believed to be advancing modern technology and the destruction of the natural environment. Charged with ten counts of transportation, mailing, and use of bombs and three counts of first-degree murder, he was sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Diagnosed with cancer, he died at the Federal Medical Center, Butner, in North Carolina, in June 2023.

The Kelly Family (1887) – Family members William and wife Kate, son Bill, and daughter Kit conspire to kill travelers who stop in at their roadside Kansas ranch. Eleven people fall to their deaths through a secret trapdoor to the Kellys’ basement.

Charles Kennedy – Old West Serial Killer – (Late 1860s to 1870) – Kenndy was a mountain man who ran a traveler’s rest with his wife Rosa near Eagle Nest, New Mexico. Many passing travelers on their way to Taos stopped long enough to be killed and their valuables stolen. After the killer also murdered their three-year-old son, Rosa escaped to tell the tale. Though Kennedy was given a pre-trial on October 3, 1870, several men in Elizabethtown snatched him from the jail, threw a rope around his neck, and dragged him by a horse up and down Main Street until long after he died.

Paul John Knowles

Paul John Knowles

Paul John Knowles (1974) – Also known as The Casanova Killer, Knowles was tied to the deaths of 18 people in 1974, though he claimed to have murdered 35. The murders occurred in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and Connecticut. He was arrested on November 17, 1974. He was killed on December 18, 1974, while being transported to Georgia after grabbing an officer’s handgun and discharging it.

Randy Steven Kraft (Between 1972 and 1983) – A serial killer and rapist known as the Scorecard Killer, the Southern California Strangler, and the Freeway Killer, he committed the rape, torture, and murder of a minimum of 16 young men in California, Oregon, and Michigan. Kraft is also believed to have committed the rape and murder of up to 51 other young men and boys. He was convicted in May 1989 and is incarcerated on death row at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, California.

Delphine LaLaurie – Torture & Murderer of Slaves (1834) – Nobody knew the extent of the horrors that Delphine LaLaurie inflicted upon her slaves until 1834, when her home in New Orleans, Louisiana home caught fire. In her attic, rescuers found slaves chained and bound to the walls, all horribly beaten and tortured, some with their skin flayed off and eyes gouged out. She fled the city before being questioned by authorities and is thought to have died in Paris, France.

Henry Lee Lucas (1960-1983) – Lucas was convicted of 11 murders and confessed to approximately 3,000 murders, though most confessions were considered outlandish. He was sentenced to death, later commuting to life imprisonment in 1998. He was found dead in prison from congestive heart failure in March 2001 at age 64.

Leonard Thomas Lake (Between 1983 and 1985) – Leonard Hill and his accomplice, British Hong Kong-born Charles Ng, raped, tortured, and murdered an estimated 11 to 25 victims at a remote cabin near Wilseyville, California, in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 150 miles east of San Francisco. After his 1985 arrest on unrelated charges, Leonard Lake swallowed cyanide pills that he had sewn into his clothing and died four days later. Charles Ng was tried and convicted of 11  murders and is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California.

Samuel Little, The Stroke and Choke Killer

Samuel Little, The Stroke and Choke Killer.

Samuel Little (Between 1970 and 2005) – Known as “The Choke-and-Stroke Killer,” Little was a transient who allegedly killed 93 women in 14 states. In September 2014, Little was found guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He died in prison in December 2020.

Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, Ohio (Between 1935 and 1938) – Also called the Cleveland Torso Murderer, this madman was one of the most notorious serial killers in American history. Between 1935 and 1938, 12 headless and limbless bodies were found in a creek bed in Cleveland, Ohio, known as Kingsbury Run. The victims included seven men and five women. Only two were identified, and the killer was never caught.

Samuel “Wolfman” Mason Takes on the Natchez Trace (Between 1797 and 1803) – Mason was a river pirate associated with the Harpe brothers and other outlaws. Spanish government officials arrested Samuel Mason and his men early in 1803, finding $7,000 in currency and 20 human scalps in his baggage. They were turned over to American authorities, and while being transported up the Mississippi River, they overpowered their guards and escaped, with Mason being shot in the head during the escape. Mason died, and the others were arrested, tried, and hanged in Old Greenville, Mississippi Territory, in 1804.

Manson Family Murders (1967-1969) – This was a commune, gang, and cult led by criminal Charles Manson that was active in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The group consisted of approximately 100 followers who lived an unconventional lifestyle, frequently using psychoactive drugs and hallucinogens. Most were young women from middle-class backgrounds, many of whom were attracted by hippie culture and communal living and then radicalized by Manson’s teachings. Cult leader Charles Manson instructed his followers to commit a series of gruesome murders that killed seven people over two days, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate. All cult members charged in the killings, including Manson, were convicted and sentenced to death, which was commuted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty. While Manson continued seeking parole, it was never granted, and he died in prison in 2017.

Kenneth Allen McDuff

Kenneth Allen McDuff

Kenneth Allen McDuff (From 1966 to 1992) – McDuff was a serial killer convicted in 1966 of abducting and murdering 16-year-old Edna Sullivan, her boyfriend, 17-year-old Robert Brand, and Brand’s cousin, 15-year-old Mark Dunnam, in Texas. He repeatedly raped Sullivan before breaking her neck with a broomstick. He was given three death sentences that were reduced to life imprisonment. However, he was paroled in 1989 and went on to kill again. He was executed in 1998 and is suspected of being responsible for many other killings.

James Miller – Hired Killer of the Old West – Miller was one of the worst of the many violent men of the Old West. He was a law officerTexas Rangeroutlaw, and professional killer who was said to have killed 12 people during gunfights and more in outlaw activities and assignations. He was lynched in Ada, Oklahoma, in 1909, along with three other men, by a mob of residents angry that he had assassinated a former deputy U.S. Marshal.

Niagara, North Dakota Killer – In 1913, six men’s bodies were found in the crawlspace of a house in Niagara, North Dakota. The house belonged to Eugene Butler, who had been committed to an insane asylum in 1906. It wasn’t until after he died there that the bodies were found. The victims had been killed by crushing blows to the skull. Over a century later, the identities of these dead men remain unknown.

Carl Panzram (Between 1920-1929) – In 1920, Panzram committed his first murders. He lured sailors in New York away from bars, got them drunk, raped and shot them, and dumped their remains into the river. He claimed to have killed ten in all. However, he wasn’t caught. He was in prison for a burglary when he confessed to his friend, a prison guard, that he had killed 21 men and raped at least 1,000. He was sentenced to 25 years for these crimes but received the death penalty when he killed a fellow inmate. He was hung in 1930.

Thomas W. Piper (1873-1875) – Known as the “Belfry Butcher,” parishioners are stunned when Piper, a well-respected sexton at Warren Avenue Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts, confesses to raping and beating to death four victims after a body of a little girl was found in the belfry of the church.

David Parker Ray

David Parker Ray

David Parker Ray (Between 1957 to 1999) – Also known as the Toy-Box Killer, Ray was a kidnapper, torturer, serial rapist, and suspected serial killer. He became known as the Toy Box Killer following the chilling discovery of his sadistic torture chamber in 1999, which included various torture items, including surgical instruments and a gynecology table with restraints in a soundproofed truck trailer. He also made recordings of his victim’s torture and showed no remorse, stating: “It was a source of entertainment for me to create these tapes.” It’s estimated he kidnapped, tortured, and murdered up to 60 victims in New Mexico. In 2001, he was sentenced to 224 years in prison for numerous offenses in the abduction and sexual torture of three young women. However, there would be little justice as Parker died of a heart attack in 2002 at the age of 62.

Sarah Jane Robinson (Between 1881 and 1886) – Nicknamed the “Boston Borgia” or the “Poison Fiend,” Robinson poisoned 11 people to collect insurance money, including her husband, children, and various other friends and family members.

Lydia Sherman (Between 1864 and 1871) – Called the “Derby Poisoner,” Sherman poisons three husbands and eight children in Derby, Connecticut.

Erno Soto (1972 – 1973) – Soto was the only person ever suspected of being a serial killer nicknamed Charlie Chop-off, who killed at least four Black male children after mutilating them in New York City. Though Soto confessed to one of the murders, he was found not mentally fit to stand trial and was committed to a mental institution in 1974.

Speed Freak Killers (Between 1984 and 1999) – Comprised of serial killer duo Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine, they were suspected in the deaths of as many as 72 people in and around San Joaquin County, California. They received the “speed freak” nickname due to their habitual methamphetamine abuse. Herzog committed suicide in 2012, and Shermantine remains on death row in San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California.

Jane Toppan

Jane Toppan

Jane Toppan (Between 1895 and 1901) – Nicknamed Jolly Jane, Toppan was a nurse known to have committed 12 murders by poison in Massachusetts and confessed to 31 murders. Though most of her victims were her vulnerable elderly patients, she also targeted perfectly healthy people outside the hospital. She once said her ambition was “to have killed more people — helpless people — than any other man or woman who ever lived.” She was found not guilty because of insanity and committed for life to the Taunton State Hospital. She died there on August 17, 1938, at the age of 84.

Tool Box Killers  (1979) – Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris were two American serial killers and rapists who committed the kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder of five teenage girls in southern California over five months in 1979. The killers used an ice pick, screwdriver, vise grips, and pliers to subject them to the worst kind of physical pain and recorded the screams of their victims. Norris accepted a plea bargain whereby he agreed to testify against Bittaker and was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 7, 1980, with the possibility of parole after serving 30  years. He died of natural causes at the California Medical Facility in February 2020. Bittaker was sentenced to death for five murders on March 24, 1981, but died of natural causes while incarcerated on death row at San Quentin State Prison in December 2019.

Minnie Wallace Walkup (1885-1900) – This young beauty charmed three older men and then poisoned them with arsenic to collect their money after their deaths.

West Mesa Murders of New Mexico (Between 2001 and 2005) – In 2009, the bodies of 11 women and a fetus were found in the desert in the West Mesa of AlbuquerqueNew Mexico. Buried between 2001 and 2005, it took a year to identify all of the remains, and it was found that all of the women had connections to drugs and prostitution. The serial killer was never found.

Aileen Wuornos (Between December 1989 and September 1990) – The bodies of several men were found murdered along the highways of northern and central Florida, including Richard Mallory, Dick Humphreys, Troy Burress, David Spears, Walter Gino Antonio, Peter Siems, and Charles Carskaddon. During this time, Wuornos worked as a prostitute and came into contact with her victims, each of whom she claimed tried to rape her. Although she claimed self-defense, she was sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.

The Elusive Zodiac Killer (Late 1860s) – In the late 1960s, the Zodiac Killer killed five people, severely injured two others in Northern California, and taunted newspapers with coded messages. The still-unidentified killer attacked seven victims in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Four men and three women between 16 and 29 were targeted. However, in the killer’s letters to the Bay Area press, he would claim to have killed 37 people.


Serial Killer Wanted© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, October 2023.

Also See:

American History

Mysteries in American History

True Crime in America

Who’s Who in American History


All That’s Interesting
List Verse