A once bullied nerd leaves a toothless head on a golf course, this isn’t his only victim and gets away with multiple murders for years; a child whose brother was eaten by starving neighbors becomes an almost invisible killer; while another man, a respectable grandfather, would never have been caught had he not once explained what the backside of a human tasted like after 30 minutes in the oven.
These men are seven serial killers of the highest degree, men who could have killed many more people had fate or ego not intervened.
7. Dennis Nilsen
Dennis Nilsen is one of the worst serial killers ever, and certainly one of the strangest, is busy at work in his upper management job at a government office in London. This always polite man is well-liked by the staff, and even though he can be quiet at times, he’s a conscientious worker and boss.
As evening approaches on February 8, 1983, he has no idea that he will soon be explaining how he killed people, many people, and that he often sat with the bodies propped up in a chair as he laughed and joked with the corpse about what he, or they, were watching on the television.
He neatly places his pens into his office drawer and announces he’s going home. That is, to 23 Cranley Gardens, situated in a leafy suburb of middle-class London. At that moment, as he puts on his coat, ready to face the wintry evening, something strange and perplexing is happening outside his house.
He’s a clever bloke, Nilsen, there’s no doubt about it, but oh my, did he get caught in one the weirdest ways imaginable.
Some say Nilsen’s fascination with death and holding on to dead bodies crystallized during his time serving in the army. Some say it went farther back to his childhood. And maybe he learned how to get away with murder when he was a cop.
But it wasn’t until he became a trusted civil servant in the 1970s that he really started to thirst for company, not so much blood, more for the friendship of the dead. Truth be known, he didn’t enjoy the killing part. He really didn’t enjoy the dissecting and dismembering bit, especially when the bodies were already in a terrible state of decomposition.
After his one true living love left his life, he started killing for company. In 1978, lonely and depressed but successful at work, he invited a guy back. He waited for him to fall asleep, and strangled him. This was at his previous house on Melrose Avenue. Number 195. A veritable house of horrors.
One trick Nilsen had up his sleeve is that he was an alcoholic, and boy could he drink. He invited more young men back for booze, sometimes just tourists visiting the UK armed with cameras and full of curiosity. Nilsen got them wasted and strangled them.
Then they became his friends. He washed their bodies. He stroked them as they lay in bed next to him. He propped them up in chairs and slapped them on the knee when something on the TV made him laugh, treating them like the living.
But the problem with bodies is they bloat, and they decompose, and Nilsen didn’t much like watching Coronation Street with lovers who were stinking and falling apart. So, he buried them under the floorboards. He later burned their bodies in the garden under a stack of tires. Local kids used to come around and enjoy what they thought was a nice man having another one of his bonfires.
At night he drank with the dead, and throughout the day he gave orders in the office. He once explained his routine, saying, “End of the day, end of the drink, end of a person … floorboards back, carpet replaced, and back to work.”
But then he had to move house, and his new place, 23 Cranley Gardens, a lovely looking 1930s Semi-detached with Tudor-style exposed wood on the façade, was a large place but with separate apartments. That meant no place to bury or burn bodies. But as you know, serial killers aren’t quitters. They can’t quit. And Nilsen kept on killing.
This brings us back to the beginning.
When Nilsen returned home that evening, he found a drain cleaning company outside his apartment. The other residents complained of often smelling something terrible in the air and they didn’t know where it was coming from. But get this, even Nilsen had complained to the landlord about that. Yeah, go figure.
So, a hired drain cleaner named Michael Cattran started looking for blockages in the drains, where he too could smell something akin to a dead animal. Perhaps, he thought, a dead rat. But then he pulled out what looked like bits of meat. That’s exactly when Nilsen walked up to him and said the famous words, “It looks to me like someone has been flushing down their Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
But Cattran was pretty sure it wasn’t chicken. In fact, he thought he’d found part of an eye, a human eye. He sent what he’d found off to a pathologist, while Nilsen went up to his flat and went about his life as normal. During the night, he was in his vest as snow fell outside. He was doing a bit of drain cleaning, but there was no way he was getting out of this.
The next day the cops were at the house. It was a human eye!
They asked to look inside Nilsen’s flat, to which the polite man didn’t refuse. The place stank. The cops looked startled. Nilsen then pointed to a wardrobe and said, I think that’s what you’re looking for. He added calmly, “It’s a long story; it goes back a long time. I’ll tell you everything. I want to get it off my chest.”
After being led out of the house, an investigator asked him how many? Nilsen, again in a calm voice, said, “Fifteen or sixteen, since 1978.” There were bits and pieces of bodies all over the house. The police had never seen anything like it. One of them, perplexed, later at the station said why? Nilsen responded, “I’m hoping you will tell me that.”
He killed 12 to 15 people and the cops were never on to him at any point.
Let’s remember that many of his victims were young, gay, homeless men. To the police’s shame, they were less than caring when those young guys went missing. Had the victims been wealthy, you can be sure this story would be different.
And if it weren’t for Nilsen”s poor choice of flesh disposal, he might have had a lot more dead lovers. He died in prison in 2018, aged 72.
With this next maniac, his massive ego led cops to him.
6. Dennis Rader
“Bind, torture, kill”, that’s what this man was known for. The BTK Killer confounded cops and made panic pervasive for almost two decades in America’s Midwest. He later became Dennis Rader, but only after he’d left many bodies on the streets and had his fun taunting detectives.
Again, we the classic quiet guy next door, who may have tortured animals as a kid and played with himself dressed in stolen panties while peeping through neighbors’ windows, but as an adult, he was just another normal-looking family guy.
Rader had a degree; he had decent jobs, he married, and had two kids. He became president of the church council and was a trusted Boy Scout leader, but my God was this guy sick in the head.
As a child he kept detective magazines out near his family’s chicken house. Magazines that showed women tied up with ropes with knives at their necks. Young Dennis tied himself up and fantasized about killing at the same time. He was just 14. He later admitted even getting turned on by the Rocky and Bullwinkle show when the damsel in distress got tied up on a railway track.
Bondage and torture became the thing for this father of two. He got away with it time and again, and the cops were for a long time not even close to solving the crimes. That was until 2004 when Rader was pulled over and asked, “Mr. Rader, do you know why you’re going downtown?”
That’s when things went wrong for the BTK, a man who thought he couldn’t get caught.
On January 15, 1974, he murdered a family of four. They were the Otero family.
He first cut all the lines to the house and with his murder toolkit: ropes, knife, gun, he broke into the house. There he found the husband and wife and two kids. At gunpoint, he told them they were safe, that he’d soon be gone, once he’d gotten what he wanted.
He tied them up one by one and killed them all.
Rader wasn’t just a perverted sadist; he was also a narcissist. That’s why he hid a letter in a library detailing what he’d done. It read in part, “I did it myself with no one’s help…the code words for me will be…Bind them, torture them, kill them, BTK.”
In another part of the letter, he tried to explain his madness, saying, “It’s hard to control myself. You probably call me ‘psychotic with sexual perversion hang-up.’ Where this monster enters my brain, I will never know. But, it here to stay.” He even talked about his heroes, H. H. Holmes, Jack the Ripper, The Boston Strangler, and other fiends.
He killed again, in much the same style, and again, this arrogant beast wrote letters. He committed one murder while he was on a Boy Scout trip being a good role model to boys learning how to tie knots and make fires. Rader had some outdoor skills. Like Nilsen, he’d served time in the military. He even won a good conduct medal.
He killed another woman named Nancy and another named Shirley. He wrote letters to the cops with the titles, “Oh, Death to Nancy” and “Shirley Locks.” He said in the former letter that he was driven by “factor X”, a force only a serial killers would understand.
The killer who’d frustrated the police just as the Zodiac Killer had done, then just vanished. He’d stay vanished for a long time, but Mr. Rader was not immune to making silly mistakes.
As you’ll see again, ego is sometimes the downfall of murderous men.
What’s dark and unfortunate, is that in order to catch a killer it often requires them to make a mistake, so to get justice, the police, in some ways, need the killer to strike again. But Rader, well, he completely went off the radar for many years so there didn’t seem like there was any hope of catching him anymore. In 2004, the BTK became a cold case.
But Rader just couldn’t stop himself. He sent a newspaper a photocopy of a driving license of a dead girl. He signed the letter, Bill Thomas Killman.
Later, he sent more letters and even a puzzle, with one letter titled the “BTK Story” and another along with a package titled, “The Sexual Thrill Is My Bill.” In 2005, he left a cereal box in a pickup truck at a Home Depot, and although the box was thrown away, Rader told the cops what he’d written another letter. It was then the detectives looked at the CCTV of the parking lot. They saw a Jeep Cherokee.
He then had the temerity in another letter to ask the cops if they thought it could be traced if he sent them his letters on a floppy disc. They replied in a newspaper article in the Witchita Eagle and said no, they couldn’t trace that. Rader was no computer specialist, and he didn’t know that there was metadata in the Microsoft Word document he then sent them. It revealed the name Dennis and the words “Christ Lutheran Church.”
It didn’t take long to find a Dennis Rader who was president of the church council, and lo and behold, he drove a Jeep Cherokee. DNA did the rest and Rader went down. In court, his confession was likened to a speech at the Academy Awards. What a narcissist he was. But in the end, his self-adoration put him behind bars. Like Nilsen, he could likely have killed many more and gotten away with it.
Ok, now for a maniac like no other, arguably the sickest man that’s ever lived.
5. Albert Fish
A story of a seemingly kindly grandpa who committed crimes that would have made Jack the Ripper blush, that might have compelled Ted Bundy to proffer words of concern. He was also another man that thought he was too clever to get caught.
Mr. Fish got off on not just inflicting pain on others, but on himself, too. When he was arrested, x-rays showed he had a total of 28 needles deeply embedded in his thighs and groin area. Not only that, he often beat himself with a studded paddle and set his nether-regions on fire.
He claimed to have murdered 100 victims all over the USA, but we doubt that’s true. Still, he definitely deserved all the monikers he got, which included the “Brooklyn Vampire”, the “Moon Maniac”, and without doubt, he was the living version of “The Boogey Man.”
At some point, he developed a liking for human meat, at times feeding himself and his kids on raw meat because that seemed like the closest thing. During this period in his life, he was seen by numerous psychiatric doctors, but all of them said he was sane, despite Fish telling them he regularly hallucinated. If only they’d listened to him more.
By 1924, still acting like the good dad of six kids, his psychosis got to a point that he thought that God was telling him to hurt people, often of a young age. But because he looked like a stable fella working hard to feed a family, people trusted him. This was at a time when he kept various killing tools, which he called his “implements of Hell.”
He murdered people in the proceeding years, but we only really need to know about one particular murder.
In 1928, he responded to an ad in the newspaper, an ad made by one of the sons of the Budd family. Part of it went, “Young man, 18, wishes position in the county.”
The son wanted work, and Fish, using a fake name, visited the Budd family and regaled them with tales of being a single parent. They liked him. They trusted him. Fish told the son that he had a job for him on his farm on Long Island. There was no farm. Fish wanted to lure him there and kill him. He did later confess that he intended to bleed the son out.
Budd, excited, ran out of the house to buy a new suitcase, while Fish told the parents that his niece was having a birthday party and would like their daughter, Grace, to attend. Delighted that this man had given their son a job, they said yes, sure. The last time they saw Grace, she and Fish were holding hands and waving goodbye as they entered the dark mouth of a subway station.
It was six long years before Mrs. Budd discovered what had happened to her daughter. One day, she woke up to find a letter addressed to her. She was illiterate, so she asked one of her sons to read it.
Here are some of the parts of possibly one of the worst letters sent in history:
“My dear Mrs. Budd. In 1894 a friend of mine shipped as a deckhand on the steamer Tacoma, Capt John Davis. They sailed from San Francisco to Hong Kong, China. On arriving there he and two others went ashore and got drunk. When they returned the boat was gone. At that time there was a famine in China. Meat of any kind was from $1 to 3 Dollars a pound. So great was the suffering among the very poor…”
Fish went on to talk about how these people became cannibals and acquired a taste for human flesh, young flesh, according to Fish. This was all fiction, of course. Fish was just being a creative demon.
He wrote in another part of the letter, “He was roasted in the oven, boiled, broiled, fried, stewed.” That kind of thing. He then talked about his own taste for flesh and the time he invited Grace to his house and fed her strawberries and pot cheese. He said he took her to an empty house and prepared himself while she picked wildflowers without a care in the world.
“When all was ready, I went to the window and called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room.” You can guess what happened next, especially when we tell you he used the words “sweet and tender.” He was talking about meat, not personality.
The cops were not surprisingly shocked, and even though the part about Hong Kong could not be verified, the part about Grace looked like the truth. But Fish, too confident for his own good, had used an envelope with the letters “N.Y.P.C.B.A.” on it. That stood for “New York Private Chauffeur’s Benevolent Association.”
The police discovered that the envelope had belonged to a janitor and he had left it at 200 East 52nd Street after he moved out.
The landlady there said another guy had lived there but had just moved out, too. His name was Fish.
Detective William F. King got on the case and found this Fish guy, who pulled out a razor blade after being escorted to the police station. He was easily wrestled to the floor, and not that long after, in an interview, he admitted to killing Grace Budd and other young folks.
Subsequent investigations found that Mr. Fish wasn’t just a killer, but he was an avowed madman with sadistic impulses. He later admitted to not just killing, but mutilating and drinking blood, after which he ate the flesh. That’s when a newspaper rightly called him the most vicious killer in criminal history.
At the trial, psychiatrists invoked numerous words, isms and illias, which most people had probably never heard before. They called him a “psychiatric phenomenon” of which he definitely was, but he wasn’t insane by the standards of the law. To think, he would have gotten away with it had he not have written that letter.
On January 16, 1936, Fish uttered the words “I don’t even know why I’m here” right before the switch was pulled for the electric chair. Prior to that, he had written a detailed document as to the full extent of his crimes and passed it to his lawyer, James Dempsey. When journalists asked Dempsey about the contents, he replied, “I will never show it to anyone.”
As you will now see, other maniacs could have gotten away with murder, many more murders, in fact, and they would’ve continued had the cops have not been given the facts on a silver platter.
4. Peter Sutcliffe
If ever there was a serial killer who a casting agent would want to play the devil in human form in a movie, it would be the British killer, Peter Sutcliffe. Let’s now talk about how he got away with killing for so long.
The date was July 1979, and a police constable named Andy Laptew had just knocked on the door of a fairly nice-looking semi-detached house in Yorkshire, in the north of England. A woman invited him in for a cup of tea and her husband, Peter, joined them.
Laptew was one of many cops who’d been looking for a man who’d been plaguing this part of industrial England for years. The police had so much paperwork for the case that the room where it was kept had to have a reinforced floor so it wouldn’t give in to the weight. Somewhere in that paperwork, Sutcliffe’s name popped up many times, but the organization was so bad that it was hard to connect the dots.
But when Laptew spoke to this man, he got a feeling this could be the guy they were looking for. After all, he was a dead-ringer for the police sketches compiled by some survivors of attacks.
When this young officer told his boss about this suspicious man he received the loud reply, “Anybody mentions photofits to me again will be doing traffic for the rest of their service!” After that, Sutcliffe went on killing.
His MO was just about always the same.
He sneaked up behind women at night and bashed them over the head with a hammer. After that, he often went to work with a knife, hence he got the name the Yorkshire Ripper.
The women were often poor, with some of them selling their bodies on streets in some of England’s most rundown areas of Leeds and Bradford, places that looked as though they belonged not in wealthy England but some of the poorest places on the planet.
This is one reason why the cops were later criticized. Had the victims been well off, perhaps they’d have felt more pressure to solve the case.
In truth, they tried hard, but their minds and investigation techniques were old. The case ruined not just the victims’ lives and their families’ lives, but it made the hardworking investigators so ill some of them died from stress-related illness way before their time.
Still, when at first it seemed as though the Ripper was only killing prostitutes, the cops seemed less than compassionate. When it seemed Sutcliffe had killed the first woman who wasn’t a prostitute, unbelievably the cops issued a statement saying, that the Ripper “is now killing innocent girls.”
They were all innocent of course, but that statement shows how the cops felt and how out of date their thinking was.
As the years passed more and more women were being found with similar injuries, but police didn’t always connect the killings. They had an innumerable amount of survivors coming forward, some stating this man had a definite Yorkshire accent and that he had dark hair with a dark beard.
They actually interviewed Sutcliffe nine times during the long investigation, but he was let go each time. After all, he was a working man with a wife, and they shared a nice house. He didn’t look like a killer. As you guys now know, it can literally be a fatal mistake to discount people who don’t look like serial killers. Serial killers look like you, like me, like your neighbor and your boss.
Then in 1977, Sutcliffe made his fatal mistake. He was already many victims in, so this time he decided to choose the city of Manchester for his next killing, about a 45 minutes’ drive from Bradford. He killed her, mutilated her, and left the scene, but later he realized he’d given this woman a five-pound note for services that were never rendered.
Furious with himself, he drove back to the bit of wasteland to retrieve the note.
When he couldn’t find it, in anger he almost took off her head with a spanner. Knowing how mean the streets were, the clever woman had hidden the note in a secret compartment in her purse.
But the cops found it. Tracking a note isn’t easy, as you would guess, and it took some pretty amazing police work to eventually find out that note had been paid to someone who worked at T. & W.H. Clark Holdings…where Sutcliffe had a job as a driver.
He was interviewed like all the staff, and when police interviewed him again at his house his wife lied and gave him an alibi for the night of the murder. She didn’t actually know about his extramarital murderous activities.
Then the cops received a tape recording in the post. It read, “I’m Jack. I see you’re having no luck catching me. I have the greatest respect for you, George, but Lord, you’re no nearer catching me now than four years ago when I started.”
George was the lead investigator, a man who’d soon die from stress. But George was stubborn and he was convinced that the guy on the tape was the killer, even though his accent was not from Bradford or even close by.
The man was a hoaxer, and he later sent a letter to a newspaper that read, “I am the Ripper. I’ve been dubbed a maniac by the Press but not by you, you call me clever and I am. You and your mates haven’t a clue that photo in the paper gave me fits.”
Even the FBI’s Behavioral Unit, who’d literally invented criminal profiling, went over to England and said that man is not the killer.
But those Yorkshire cops kept looking for the man who’d been dubbed “Wearside Jack” due to his accent, while Sutcliffe murdered more women. Then the unbelievable happened, even in a case already implausibly bad.
One of Sutcliffe’s buddies, who’d long suspected his friend was the Yorkshire Ripper, sent a letter to the police. It was marked “Priority No1” and read, “I have good reason to know the man you are looking for in the Ripper case. This man has dealings with prostitutes and always had a thing about them… His name and address is Peter Sutcliffe, 5 Garden Lane, Heaton, Bradford, Shipley.”
Remember, the police had already interviewed Sutcliffe nine times and had been to that house. He looked almost identical to the man in the sketches and he had a Yorkshire accent just as some survivors had said. For Pete’s sake, he even worked where the note came from.
That friend even went to the police station soon after to say what he knew verbally, but it seems he was ignored again and to the cop’s utter discredit, that talk he had at the police station, which must have been noted in the station files, seemed not to have happened. The police later said all the evidence of that chat had somehow disappeared.
And so, Sutcliffe was preparing himself to kill again. He couldn’t believe his luck. Even though he’d just killed a woman with a hammer and severely mutilated her, that murder had not even been connected to the other murders in Bradford. It was a carbon copy, in a city that didn’t have many murders. Sutcliffe thought he could keep doing this forever.
He later said God must have been helping him, but no, it was just shoddy police work.
He killed again, even after being charged with a DUI. He then attacked a woman studying at Leeds University who’d been so scared she slept with a knife under her bed. Sutcliffe’s buddy died from a heart attack, so he wasn’t alive to hear that on January 2, 1981, a man had been pulled over in the city of Sheffield, not far from Bradford.
It was just a routine stop at a police check, and the guy that stopped him was still in police training. He soon discovered that Sutcliffe’s car had a fake license plate. It was then he recalled that this guy looked a bit like those sketches he’d seen in the newspapers.
Sutcliffe then said he needed a pee, and so before the cop took him in for further questioning, he was allowed to go for one. There, out of the view of the officer, he threw over a wall a knife, hammer, and some rope.
In the police station, they had no idea they had the Ripper, and Sutcliffe was sent to a holding cell without being searched. He not only had another knife on him, but he was wearing a V-neck sweater on his legs. A kind of undergarment that gave easy access to his private parts for when he killed.
The next day the cops went back to the scene after the constable had told the peeing story. They found the evidence and were soon interrogating Sutcliffe. He held out for a bit, but cracked in the end, saying, “The women I killed were filth. I was just cleaning up the place a bit.”
In court, it was incredible that the judge said this, “While some of the victims were prostitutes perhaps the saddest part of this case is that some were not. The last six attacks were on totally respectable women.”
Sutcliffe went to prison and then to Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital, a place where he was viciously attacked and lost sight in one eye after someone put a pen through it. He was attacked more times after that. He lasted until 2020 when he died of a heart condition as well as COVID.
This next killer is straight from hell, and likely one of the most terrifying people you have never heard of.
3. Israel Keyes
On the morning of March 13, 2012, two Texas police officers go over to a man in a parking lot at a café in Lufkin, Texas. It’s still early in the day and it’s a fairly routine stop after the guy had been seen driving a bit erratically.
But little do those cops know that the man they’re talking to is one of the vilest, unforgiving creatures that has ever been put in this sometimes wicked world. It will take a long time for them to figure this out, and not without the killer’s help.
Israel Keyes is a man that tortured and terrorized, a man that was so unrepentant that he despised other serial killers that had apologized for their crimes. When your idol as a teenager is Ted Bundy, there sure is a problem. The term evil-personified springs to mind, and it is only by chance that this evil was contained when it was.
He started killing in 1998, did his stint in the army, and then started killing again. He had one thing on his mind while driving all over the US robbing stores and burglarizing houses. That was murder, or what he called hunting.
He often chose isolated areas to pick his victims, with campgrounds being one of his favorite places. And when you drive from one side of the US to the other and pick people from campgrounds, well, that makes the job of law enforcement pretty darn hard.
When he brutally murdered Bill and Lorraine Currier in Vermont in 2011, he made sure their bodies were never found. According to Keyes, he shot the man and strangled the woman.
He bought weapons all over the country, and when he bought chemicals to get rid of the bodies, he also bought them in locations far and wide. He paid only in cash, and he often kept his phone turned off.
How do you catch a man like this? Even one who is robbing banks and breaking into people’s houses, numerous times?
No sooner than he committed a crime he became a ghost. But at some point, he had to make a mistake.
On February 1, 2012, a young woman named Samantha Koenig was just finishing up her shift at Common Grounds coffee stand in Anchorage, Alaska, when a man walked in waving a gun.
She did as told, and handed him the cash, but Keyes had more on his mind than money.
He took her out to his Ford Focus at gunpoint, her hands now tied with zip ties. She fought and struggled, but with a sharp warning about that gun being used, she had no choice but to comply. And anyway, Keyes assured her that she wouldn’t get hurt, that he was only after a little ransom money.
At some point, he drove back to the coffee place to pick up her phone. Keyes then told her to send a message to her boyfriend, It read, “Hey, I’m spending a couple of days with friends, let me dad know.”
Later, Keyes went to her house to get her credit card. That credit Keyes knew was in the boyfriend’s car, and so when he went to get it, the boyfriend saw him. Instead of confronting Keyes, the boyfriend went inside and called the cops.
Keyes returned to his home, where he eventually strangled Koenig. Calmy, he drank some wine, and then made some notes about his upcoming cruise ship trip close to New Orleans. He woke his daughter up and they went to the airport.
The cops knew someone was using that bank card, but the guy was on the move. And strangely, even though they had video from when Keyes took the girl from the coffee place, they wouldn’t release it.
Seven days after the abduction, a news website in Alaska wrote this:
“Anchorage police say showing the video now would be purely for entertainment, because besides containing evidence that could be used in a courtroom, they say the video shows nothing that would help them solve the crime.”
But as he’d committed numerous murders, bank robberies and burglaries, surely they must have had a face on file that looked similar? Surely, someone in the public would have recognized Keyes.
Possibly, but in a book about Keyes called “American Predator”, the writer says it is possible that Keyes once went to Mexico for plastic surgery. He might also have removed the skin on the tips of his fingers.
After his cruise was over, Keyes went back to Alaska with only a bit of cash in his pocket. He made a decision, and applied makeup to the now dead body of Koenig. To ensure her eyes stayed open, he tied the lids with fishing line.
After that, he took a picture of her, and sent out a ransom note. To make it look real, he placed a new copy of the Anchorage Daily News beside the body. Soon after, he chopped her up and threw the parts in a lake.
He later drew money from Koenig’s account in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. But when in Arizona, he was caught on camera, so when those two cops pulled him over in Texas, they had a guy fitting the description of a kidnapper.
Sometime later, CBS News wrote, “Investigators believe Samantha died within hours of her abduction. The article also said, “Investigators further believe the person responsible for Samantha’s death acted alone, and we are confident that we have that person in custody.”
But at this point, those investigators really had no idea who they had on their hands. They thought Keyes was an idiot who’d messed up a kidnapping. They had no idea he was a serial killer. He ended up telling the cops about his other murders, explaining that doing the deeds so far and wide made him virtually undetectable.
In 2012, he was found dead in his cell.
Close to his body lay a piece of writing titled “Ode to murder.” Some of it went like this:
“The reality is you were just bones and meat, and with your brain died also your soul… Your wet lips were a promise of a secret unspoken, nervous laugh as it burst like a pulse of blood from your throat. There will be no more laughter here.”
Yeah, this guy wasn’t exactly a bag of laughs. But how many people did he really kill? It’s hard to say, but investigators found a pentagram drawn next to 11 skulls in his cell. Under the drawing were the words, “WE ARE ONE.” Those 11 skulls, maybe they meant 11 victims.
And let’s be honest here, before that kidnapping, police had no idea who he really was even after all the confirmed robberies. His name had popped up only in Washington State for the offenses of driving without a valid license and a separate DUI.
Now for a disturbing case of a man who really knew how to get rid of a body, even though he was bullied all his school life because of his learning difficulties.
2. Joel Rifkin
Don’t ever bully people viewers, it’s always wrong, it’s the jurisdiction of the stupid… and you never know if the person whose life you’ve made a misery might one day put the head of a woman inside a paint can and leave it lying on a golf course. You could really put someone off their game by doing that.
A head in a can would usually be pretty useful to the cops, but not when all the teeth have meticulously been pulled out, and not when the legs for that head are lying miles away and the torso and arms are swimming down a river somewhere. When that happens, as did happen in this case, the pieces might not be put together for 24 years and even then, the perpetrator had to lend a helping hand.
On February 20, 1989, Joel Rifkin committed his first murder, and his victim was Heidi Balch.
When she was killed at the age of 25, she’d been working as a prostitute in the Manhattan area of New York City. Sometime later, as you know, her head was found on a golf course stuffed inside of a paint can. One of the cops that worked on this case not surprisingly said, “It was shocking.”
That cop also said that as the years passed, they never thought they’d ever arrest someone for the crime. This guy had gone to great lengths not to get caught, so despite his learning disabilities, he was certainly what detectives sometimes call “forensically aware.”
Had he not told police that he killed this girl and killed many others, he’d still likely be known to his few friends as merely an oddball who wasn’t very charismatic when it came to the opposite sex.
This troubled and sexually frustrated man may have killed up to 17 women, many of them prostitutes.
Unfortunately, sometimes when the poor and most vulnerable people on this planet get murdered there is not always the most energetic police response. That’s why there is a theory of what’s called “less dead” people, meaning such folks don’t mean as much in life and so in death, they are less dead.
Rifkin would almost certainly not have gotten away with murdering 17 middle-class students in New York, but to be fair to the police, he was very good at not leaving clues. When he murdered Balch by hitting her over the head and strangling her, he then used an X-acto knife to remove her fingertips on top of throwing her dismembered arms in the East River. Taking out her teeth was also a testament to his forensic awareness.
Soon after when he killed another prostitute, Julie Blackbird from Long Island, he not only did the dismembering, but he weighted the body parts down with concrete and threw them in a canal. He kept killing this way, mostly prostitutes or drug-addicted people whose existences were tenuous, to say the least.
One addict, 28-year old Lorraine Orvieto, was killed by Rifkin and then stuffed into an oil drum and dumped in Coney Island Creek. She was found by a fisherman, but notably, her family took two months to even tell the cops their daughter was missing. It seems she was less dead to her family, too.
In June 1993, Rifkin strangled a prostitute named Tiffany Bresciani. He proceeded to drive her body back to where his mother lived, to presumably take her apart. On the way, he stopped at a hardware store and picked up some serial killer necessities: tarp and rope.
He then made the rookie mistake of leaving her body in a wheelbarrow in the garage for three days in the summer heat, which as you know, will speed up the decomposition process and create quite the stink. With that malodor starting to perfuse the nearby area, Mr. Rifkin decided it was time to make a move.
He got in the car and started driving to an area which he knew was an excellent spot to dump a dead prostitute, but again, he’d made a rookie mistake, especially for a man who had become an accomplished killer. He drove in a car with a missing license plate, which for a serial killer, is tantamount to the folly of a politician opening his mouth and speaking his mind.
When Rifkin was spotted by State troopers Deborah Spaargaren and Sean Ruane, and those blue and whites starting flashing, he knew that he couldn’t stop because he’d allowed that body to progress to putrefactive stinkiness. At first, he didn’t speed up, but he didn’t stop, either. A high-speed chase ensued which ended with Rifkin and his eternally quiet passenger being wrapped around a utility pole right outside a courthouse.
When the cops ran over to the wreck, guns in hand, before they could even assess the damage, they smelled the familiar odor of a dead person.
Rifkin was subsequently questioned at the station, and in time, he just told the cops everything, stuff they had no idea about. He even drew them maps so they’d know how to find the bodies, or body parts.
Some Jane Does finally got a name, although the head in the can on the golf course was named Susie, her working name and the name she’d given Rifkin. It wasn’t until 2013 she became Heidi Balch.
In 1994, Rifkin met another killer in prison named Colin Ferguson, a man who opened fire at a train in 1993 with the intent of killing white folks. He shot 25 and killed 6.
Close to the prison telephones, they both started arguing over who was the better killer, and with 17 bodies to his name and an exemplary background in body disposal, no doubt Rifkin got the upper hand in that debate.
But his troubles with other prisoners, in the end, meant solitary confinement. Presently, he’s at Clinton Correctional Facility. He’s due to see a parole board in the year 2197.
1. Andrei Chikatilo
He was arguably Russia’s worst serial killer, although the killer cop Mikhail Popkov and the infamous chessboard killer might have something to say about that.
Chikatilo possessed a rage from hell. He did indescribable things to his victims. He was MONSTER INCORPORATED, and he got away with it for years.
He really shouldn’t have, given that when he was a young man it was obvious he was a fiend. He was impotent from a young age, and some girls mocked his non-working member. This shame manifested into rage, and the angry young man groped his way through university while being roundly reviled.
When he later taught Russian literature, he was a creep who groped his own students. He spied on young women, watching them from a distance as something stirred in his loins. He acted on that as well, many times, and so was removed from schools. If he started at another school, he did the same again.
You might wonder, how did he even get another job?
Well, the reason is connected to why he got away with so many murders. At the time, the Soviet Union and the Soviet education system didn’t want to admit such a criminal could come through the system. So, it denied the wrongs that this man committed.
And even when he started killing, detectives didn’t look at a literature teacher. Former academics didn’t mutilate people and rip parts off them with their teeth even when the victim was still breathing. Only wild animals did that. Sometimes the bodies were literally torn to pieces, which is why the killer became known as the Rostov Ripper.
Chikatilo had by this point become a traveling businessman, which is an ideal job for a serial killer since bodies far from each other in a massive country like Russia can’t easily be connected. Even when they did start turning up in numbers, with utterly disturbing crime scenes, Moscow didn’t want to admit Russia had a serial killer. It said, that kind of thing only happens in the decadent West.
But bodies kept piling up and Moscow had to face the truth. Soon there were 100s of cops after this killer, many hanging around train stations where the majority of victims had gone missing.
Operations happened where undercover cops were stationed on trains and around railway depots, but Chikatilo kept killing pretty much under their noses. One time he was spotted by an undercover cop at Donleskhoz station, right after he’d murdered a woman.
The cop asked him what those stains were on his clothes, to which Chikatilo replied that he was a mushroom forager. Hmm, thought the cop, a mushroom forager with a nice duffel bag. It didn’t make sense.
It was only by sheer luck that when another cop was looking at the names of men who’d been questioned, he actually noticed the name Chikatilo. He recalled seeing that name before, back in the day, related to a missing person. But this time, unlike the other times, this cop dug deeper.
Guess what he found?
He discovered that this traveling businessman had been kicked out of numerous schools in the past for sexually motivated crimes. He then saw Chikalito’s name had popped up again when there had been a sexual and violent crime. No one had joined these dots in years, and now they seemed to form the picture of a violent murderous maniac.
Chikatilo was at last put under some serious surveillance, and even though they arrested him right before he was about to commit another murder, under questioning he never cracked, and the cops really didn’t have much hard evidence.
He might have not done one year in prison had something strange not happened next.
Police did something that had not ever happened in the Soviet Union. Instead of grilling him again, they called in a psychiatrist named Alexander Bukhanovsky. It was this guy that once rightly told them, you are looking for an educated man, a sadist, who is likely impotent and hates women.
Now the cops knew he was right and so gave a bit more credit to the art of understanding the motivation of madmen.
Bukhanovsky sat in front of Chikalito and told him what he had suspected. That he was a sad, lonely man, a man with a terrible childhood. A boy who’d been traumatized. Bukhanovsky didn’t know right then that Chikalito’s family literally starved in a famine, and his own brother was killed and cannibalized by neighbors, after which, the mother blamed the bed-wetting murderer-to-be.
Childhood could not have been any worse, by any human standards, and when the psychiatrist said this to Chikalito, by the time the doctor was done, Chikalito, now in tears, said, “It was me, I did it. I killed them all.”
He told the police about the murders they’d been investigating, but about many other murders they didn’t even know had happened. Then on October 15, 1992, Chikatilo was sentenced to death for 52 murders.
On February 14, 1994, a bullet to the back of his head ended his life. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the prison.