"Male and female life experiences are utterly different" (Kate Millett)

    Most male serial killers can be easily classified by "type" so, for example, they can either be called:  (1) visionaries -- who hear voices, receive godly commands, pick up telepathic or psychic messages, or believe they are possessed by demons, spirits, or devils; (2) missionaries -- who are evangelical about cleaning up society and target prostitutes, drug addicts, minorities, or deviants; (3) hedonists -- who are usually power-oriented, but subdivided into subtypes, such as: (a) lust killers -- for which the act of raping and/or killing someone is a highly personal event often accompanied by overkill, necrophilia, or cannibalism; (b) thrill killers -- for which the act of torturing, raping, and/or killing someone is part of a desire for new and exciting thrills or kicks also often accompanied by mutilation or cannibalism, but usually not overkill or necrophilia; and (c) gain (or comfort) killers -- for which raping and/or killing is part of profit seeking, advancement of career, or contract for services; and (4) power seekers -- a fairly rare fourth type where the dominant impulse is to have full control over life and death.  There can be, of course, "mixed" types and cases where we have to create new subtypes.  Some of the more unusual cases of vampirism and cannibalism may be "mixed" types.  It is also unknown how well these "types" fit with cases of female serial killers.

    Less is known about female serial killers because, well, let's face it, the media has stereotyped them, and it is almost impossible to sort out the reality from the mythology.  Jewkes (2011) provides a good overview of the mediated response to women who kill, as does Morrissey (2003), in the way the media magnifies unconscious fears about women who not only violate the laws of man but the laws of nature.  The following narratives tend to be the ones most commonly used by the media to portray female offenders:

    What follows are some classic 20th century cases that best fit these types.  No attempt has been made to distinguish between disorganized or organized, but it will probably be obvious if the case involves staging the crime scene or not.  (Dates in parentheses refer to active years of killing) [Links to reading further about a case may or may not work due to Internet change of addresses]



William Heirens (1942-1946) was a 17-year old University of Chicago student who killed 3 females after breaking into their apartments and slashing them to death. He is the one who used a victim's lipstick to write on the wall "For heavens sake, catch me before I kill again. I can't control myself."  (What would make someone write this on the wall?) He was raised by a cruel, domineering mother who taught him sex was dirty, and throughout his life, he reportedly got sick whenever touching a girl. He was an excellent burglar, however, and had amassed an impressive collection of firearms and women's underwear. He liked to pose in women's underwear in the privacy of his room. Arrested during one of his burglary sprees, he confessed to the killings but said that an alter ego, named "George Murman" took over control, and it was George who did the killings, not him. The state of Illinois didn't buy the story, and sentenced him to 3 life terms.

Herbert Mullin (1972-1973) was a 24-year old religious former scholar-athlete at Santa Cruz high school who suffered some form of mental aberration after the 1965 motorcycle death of his best friend. He withdrew from society and turned his bedroom into a shrine to his best friend. In 1969, he told his family he wanted to go to India and study religion. His parents put him in a mental hospital where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and released. He began experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, and was in and out of mental hospitals for the next two years where he underwent treatment for hearing voices about an upcoming great earthquake. What he didn't tell doctors is that one of the voices were telling him to kill in order to prevent the earthquake. He started killing by driving up in the mountains and pretending to have a disabled vehicle where he would kill passerbys who stopped to render assistance. He beat 2 such people to death with a baseball bat, ripping the innards out of one victim with his bare hands, and leaving the pieces for the vultures. He then came to believe that some of the voices were telepathic messages from people begging him to kill them, so he bought a gun and went into state parks looking for pick up messages. He shot 5 people in one day at one park, a group of 4 campers at another park three months later, and 2 other people at various other times. The victimology represented no particular social group except for all victims being from the Santa Cruz area. A jury in 1973 decided he was fit to stand trial, and he was sentenced to life with eligibility for parole in 2025. [Read more about this case]

Harvey Carignan (1972-1975) aka "the Want-Ad Killer" was a 39-year old Army veteran who had actually been kicked out of the Army for a violent sex murder in which he was acquitted on a technicality. (Do military backgrounds have anything to do with creating serial killers?) His serial killer career began in Seattle where he managed a gas station and beat to death at least 2 young girls who applied for jobs at the gas station. In 1973, he moved to Minneapolis, and committed a string of 4-5 similar murders, this time raping and sodomizing young female victims who answered his want-ads in the local paper. He was eventually identified by a victim he left for dead by the side of the road who survived. When police searched his car, they found maps with red circles leading to victim dump sites. When arrested, Harvey politely explained that he was under personal orders from God who commanded attacks on girls who were whores. In fact, Harvey was sincerely sorry he hadn't properly finished the girl who survived because God would be angry with him. He described God as a large figure who wore a hood concealing His face. He was sentenced to 100 years in prison and started coming up for parole in 1993. [Read more about this case]

Joseph Kallinger (1973-1974) was a foaming-at-the-mouth, speaking-in-tongues, raving lunatic from Bergen county, New Jersey who enlisted the help of his 12-year old son in killing 3 people in and around the Philadelphia area. He claimed to have received simultaneous instructions from God and the Devil to destroy all of mankind. He later claimed an alter ego, named "Charlie" was responsible for the murders. Despite the crazy antics he displayed at his trial, the court found him able to tell right from wrong, and sentenced him to life in prison. He committed suicide in prison shortly thereafter.

Drs. Teet Haerm & Allgen Thomas (1984-1986) were forensic pathologists in Stockholm and Copenhagen who killed 8 prostitutes. Ironically, they were the same doctors who conducted post-mortem examinations on their own victims. Their wives and family had also disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and it was an investigation into charges of familial child abuse that brought them down. In Dr. Thomas' confession, he named Dr. Haerm as the leader of a secret medical society devoted to the encouragement of cannibalism and necrophilia. During their investigation and trial, they provided lots of intellectual reasons for cannibalism and necrophilia, but refused to provide any more information about this secret society for which they had a higher allegiance. Note: it's rare for Scandinavian countries to have serial killers.


Vaughn Greenwood (1964-1975) aka "the Skid Row Slasher" was a 31-year old black man who ritually killed 11 down-and-out alcoholic bums in Los Angeles. All the victims died by having their throats cut open, salt sprinkled around the bodies, and their shoes removed and left pointing toward the body. Police wasted a lot of the investigation searching for a white man, but in 1975, captured Greenwood attempting to murder again. He was sentenced on 2 deaths to life imprisonment.

Carroll Cole (1971-1980) was a 40-year old drunkard from San Diego who visited Las Vegas often. He claimed to have killed 35 "loose women" across several states, California, Nevada, Texas, Wyoming, and Oklahoma because they reminded him of his mother. Most of the victims were strangled in parking lots, and he reportedly took their bodies home to sleep with their corpses. At his trial in 1981, he attempted an unsuccessful insanity defense by falsely claiming he cannibalized one of the victims. When sentenced to be executed by lethal injection, he thanked the judge. (Why would someone thank the judge?)

Zebra Killings (1973-1974) involved 5 African-American ex-convicts who were adherents to the Black Muslim ideology that all white people were "devils" that needed to be exterminated. They left a known total of 15 men, women, and children dead throughout California, and another 8 victims paralysed for life. They belonged to an elite group of assassins known as the "Death Angels", for which the qualification to join was the murder of a specific number of white people. Police suspected they may have been responsible for as many as 135 murders, and the ensuing panic resulted in Gestapo-like police tactics as authorities searched and storm-trooped several African-American communities in California. The trial in 1975 was, at the time, the longest in California legal history, and 4 of the defendants received life sentences. (Does racist ideology play a role in the motivation for serial crime?)

Peter Sutcliffe (1975-1981) aka "the Yorkshire Ripper" was a 35-year old, married truck driver who bludgeoned, stabbed, and mutilated 20 women, 13 of whom died. The survivors were only able to say the attacker was a white man of adult age and average size. The victims were 16-47 years of age, ranging from students to prostitutes, with one thing in common -- they were alone on the street after dark. The killer was apparently patterning himself after the famous Jack the Ripper Whitechapel murders of 100 years earlier. (Does the continued celebration of famous cases lead to copycat crime?) The investigation into the Yorkshire Ripper was the most expensive and intensive in British history. The manhunt cost $10 million, over 250,000 people were interviewed, 30,000 homes and 180,000 vehicles were searched. Police departments and newspapers received scores of calls and letters from people claiming to be the Ripper. One of these taunting calls were taken seriously, and the tape was played on national television, radio, and over the PA at soccer games, to see if anyone would recognize the voice. As the FBI tried telling the Brits, the phone call turned out to be a hoax, a disgruntled ex-policeman taunting the police. Sutcliffe was arrested on a fluke in 1981 (parking suspiciously in a dimly lit area), and turned out to be an introverted woman-hater. Ironically, he had been stopped and questioned at least 2 times during the manhunt, but released because he didn't have the country accent in the hoax tape. During one of these stops, a junior policeman voiced an opinion that this was the killer, but the report was dismissed. (Do patrol officers sometimes have better instincts for profiling than detectives?) At trial, the killer's younger brother testified that Peter told him "I was just cleaning up the streets". The killer believed he was on an evangelical mission to rid the streets of prostitutes, and he offered a story (which many believe was false in order to receive a lighter sentence) about first becoming aware of this mission while working as a gravedigger and hearing the voice of God coming from one of the graves. He was sentenced in 1981 to 30 years in prison for 13 counts of murder. In the wake of this case, the British police created a computer database retrieval system called HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) which became their version of VICAP. [Read more about this case here and here] (Why did the Brits develop their own system instead of just copying the U.S. system?)

Carlton Gary (1977-1978) aka "the Stocking Strangler" was a "granny-killer" from Atlanta, Georgia with a genius IQ who raped and killed 7 elderly women, strangling them with their own stockings. It is unknown if the motive was sex, lust for murder, or robbery. He was eventually picked up on narcotics dealing. The most interesting thing about this case is that he had a rival (Is there rivalry between serial killers?) who operated at about the same time in Atlanta, a copycat killer named William Hance, who sent letters to the newspapers saying "No more grannies" and threatened to kill a black women every 30 days unless the granny killer stopped or was arrested. Hance also demanded $10,000 for his services. His notes were signed "the Forces of Evil". Hance was caught by police tracking the last activities of the 3rd black woman he killed, and he turned out to be a Fort Benning soldier. The case proved to be a good example of cooperation between Army CID and Atlanta police, both assisted by FBI agent Robert Ressler. Both Gary and Hance received sentences of death by electrocution. [Read more about this case]

Joseph Franklin (1977-1981) was a 37-year old former Klansman and neo-Nazi from Madison, Wisconsin who believed that interracial couples were a sin against God. He also believed that the criminal justice system was too lenient on blacks, and he once targeted a judge he thought was too lenient. He is thought to have bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga and was also a suspect in the shooting of Larry Flynt presumably because interracial couples were featured in Hustler magazine. He was an excellent sniper, and in his travels around the country, he shot 15 people, mostly couples consisting of a black man and a white woman. His favorite sniping post was the rooftop of shopping malls, but he eventually began shooting mixed-race jogging couples from any rooftop or perch. He evaded prosecution several times because he was so mobile and the only evidence authorities had on him was that he was in town when the shootings happened. A jury in Utah eventually sentenced him in 1981 to four life terms, and other states, such as Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida followed suit in 1986 or considered their cases closed. [Read more about this case here, here, and here]


LUST Subtype:

Jerry Brudos (1968-1969) was a 28-year old electronics technician from Portland, Oregon who in early childhood developed a shoe fetish. As a child, he would play with women's shoes he had "borrowed". By adolescence, he could only become sexually aroused by the sight of women wearing black, stiletto-heeled shoes. At 17, he was arrested for forcing a young woman to take her clothes off while he photographed her, subsequently receiving a mental hospital stay and diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. Jerry married after a brief stint in the Army, and required his wife to walk around the house naked. He also liked posing in her underwear. In 1968, his first victim, a young female encyclopedia salesperson, was bludgeoned to death. He cut off her left foot and dumped the rest of the body in a river. He preserved the foot in a freezer in his garage to be taken out during special occasions to play with in his extensive collection of high-heeled shoes also in the garage. In all, the feet of 6 women became part of Jerry's collection. With his second victim, he started having sex with corpses, cutting off breasts and making molds of them, and experimented with different ways to kill his victims while photographing their last minutes of suffering. His last 3 victims were students at nearby Oregon State University, where he was eventually picked up for lurking around campus. At his trial in 1969, an insanity defense failed and he was sentenced to life in prison. Numerous forensic psychiatrists testified at his trial, and in forensic psychiatry, Jerry Brudos is regarded as the textbook case of a lust killer. [Read more about this case] (What background characteristics of this case would make it a textbook case in psychiatry?)

Wayne Boden (1968-1972) aka "the Vampire Rapist" was a 26-year old charming young man from Montreal who always left bite marks on the breasts of his 5 female victims. All victims had been found naked and strangled to death in their apartments, but there were no signs of any struggle. Investigators looked into who the girls had been dating, and the name "Bill" kept coming up. Police even had a photograph of the suspect. He was caught when police staked out all blue Mercedes, which was the kind of car he drove. He was convicted of multiple life sentences through forensic odontology. The dentist was able to demonstrate 29 points of similarity between the bite marks on the breasts and Boden's teeth.

Richard Cottingham (1977-1980) was a 31-year old computer operator and valued employee of Blue Cross-Blue Shield in downtown New York City. He was also a married, respectable man with three children. He raped, sodomized, killed and mutilated 6 prostitutes in New York and New Jersey. Sometimes he would cut their hands and heads off, and other times he would set the motel room on fire afterwards. He almost always sliced off a breast. He seemed to prefer Quality Inn motels, but one victim was found in a fancy Times Square hotel room. He was caught when police responded quickly to screams coming out of a motel room. The survivor said he raped and sodomized her, forced her to have oral sex, and bit her breasts. It turned out there were many other survivors of his attacks over the years, and their testimony plus forensic evidence got him multiple life sentences in multiple trials in NJ and NY.

Tim Spencer (1984-1987) aka "the Southside Slayer" was a 35-year old resident of Richmond, Virginia who viciously raped and strangled 7 people, 6 women and 1 man, the man left hanging from an overpass. Each of the crimes were somewhat different, leading Richmond police to suspect copycat killers, and in 1985, they convicted the wrong man for one of the murders. They learned it was the wrong man via DNA evidence. This was the first case in Virginia legal history to use DNA "fingerprinting" and it both convicted Spencer and exonerated the person wrongfully convicted. Spencer received the death penalty.

Harrison Graham (1986-1987) was a 28-year old mentally retarded drug abuser who lived in a slum district of Philadelphia and rented a third floor apartment. He was evicted for smells coming from his apartment, but before he left he nailed up the bedroom door claiming there was some property in there he was coming back for. When he never came back, authorities broke down the door and found 7 bodies, all in various stages of decomposition. Only 2 bodies could be identified, and one was his former girlfriend. He turned himself in to police, and admitted strangling all the women while having sex with them during and after their deaths. He was sentenced to life for 7 counts of murder and 7 counts of abusing a corpse. [Read more about this case]

Danny Rolling (1990-1994) aka "the Gainesville Killer" was a 45-year old sexual serial predator who terrorized the University of Florida campus. The son of a police officer, as a child Rolling progressed from voyeurism to rape to murder. The 5 women he raped and killed in their dorm rooms at Gainesville had their bodies left posed in a sexually explicit position. He was caught during a scuffle with one of the victim's boyfriends. At his trial, Rolling claimed he was told to kill by a demon named Gemini, and complained of terrible nightmares. He was sentenced to death, and while awaiting execution, he has produced sexually explicit fantasy artwork while in prison. He has also co-authored a book with Sondra London called The Making of a Serial Killer. (For background on the story, read this news article, or this one, or visit Sondra London's website and be sure not to miss Danny Rolling's own home page. Does the Media turn serial killers into celebrities? Do journalists cross the line to get stories on serial killers? Read this love letter story. Should serial killers be allowed to write books? Have their own home page?)

THRILL Subtype:

Norman Collins (1967-1969) aka "The Michigan Murderer" was a 30-year old resident of Ypsilanti, Michigan, and he killed 7 female students at Eastern Michigan University using a variety of methods -- guns, knives, blunt instruments, strangulation. All the victims had been sexually mutilated. He showed up at the funeral parlor of one of his victims and asked the mortician if he could take a picture of the corpse, but this didn't result in as good a description of the suspect as it should have. The famous Dutch psychic, Peter Hurkos, was called in to help (Should psychics be used in criminal investigations?) and was fairly accurate in predicting when the killer would strike again. Someone else gave a good description, however, when Collins was leaving a soda shop with his last victim. The killer never admitted to anything, and fiber evidence was used to sentence him to life at hard labor in 1970.

Donald Evans (1977-1991) was a 34-year old drifter from Biloxi, Mississippi who walked into a police station one day during the Dahmer case and confessed to killing at least 60 people. Police at once suspected a desire for some of Dahmer's noteriety, and 14 of his confessed murders checked out, across a variety of states, including Alabama, Arizons, California, Idaho, Colorado, Washington, Wyoming, South Dakota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. His activities in the state of Washington led authorities for awhile to suspect they had apprehended the mysterious "Green River Killer". Evans apparently targeted female prostitutes or anybody who was available. He claimed to have started killing after release from the Marine Corps. He agreed to show police the grave sites in exchange for the death penalty, which he wanted. There were and continue to be problems in obtaining him a fair trial and lawyer because no one wanted to represent someone who wants the death penalty so bad. (Should lawyers always object to their client wanting punishment?)

Randy Woodfield (1980-1981) aka "the I-5 Killer" was a 30-year old bartender from Salem, Oregon who raped at least 60 women and killed at least 18 others, leaving their bodies strewn along the I-5 corridor from Washington state to California. An outstanding college football player who never got over being rejected by the Green Bay Packers after only one tryout, Woodfield was accustomed to "hero" status. (Does athletic superhero or star backgrounds have anything to do with the abuse of power over women?) He was caught by the determination of one victim who dragged herself, bleeding heavily, to a telephone and called police. Woodfield's alibi that he was tending bar fell apart, and he was given multiple sentences.

William Suff (1984-1993) aka "the Riverside Prostitute Killer" or "The Lake Elsinore Killer" was a 41-year old government stock clerk from Riverside County, California who liked to impersonate police officers, write books, drive fancy cars, and do community service work. His neighbors described him as "a friendly nerd who was always doing things to help people". He had, however, spent some time in prison during the 1970s in Texas for, along with his wife, beating their 2-month-old daughter to death. In the orange groves of Riverside County, he dumped the bodies of 13 victims, all prostitutes, and authorities suspected he may have been responsible for as many as 22 deaths in the local area. He would cruise around red light districts in a van and then knife his victims to death. A traffic stop and forensic evidence obtained from inside his van resulted in conviction for 2 of the murders, and in 1995, he was sentenced to death. After the trial, the prosecutor told the foreman and four other members of the jury that they suspected Suff used the breast of one of his victims in his prize winning chili, although this was a rumor that was never verified. What is true is that this stable Jekyl-and-Hyde type offender stumped some of the nation's best crime analysts at RCSO. At one point, his job required delivering furniture to the serial killer task force investigating his crimes. In 1997, his friend and solicitor Brian Lane released, "Cat and Mouse: Mind Games with a Serial Killer," a book containing Bill's writings, poetry, and some of his award-wining recipes. Bill also appeared on the Geraldo Rivera show from Death Row in San Quentin as part of the book's promotion. (Was all the attention to this case necessary?)

GAIN Subtype:

Joseph Briggen (1894-1902) was a 46-year old rural California hog farmer who always had blue ribbon prize pigs at the state fair. Sleek and plump, his pigs always drew the highest prices at auction. He said "it's all in the feeding". He also complained of an inability to keep ranch hands, so he took to recruiting down-and-outs from the streets of San Francisco. It turned out he had been killing the ranch hands, grinding their bodies up for hog feed, when one of his ranch hands found some body parts and reported it to police. The police uncovered at least 12 skulls buried on the grounds. Joseph explained that his pigs needed a steady diet of human flesh, and that he would kill the ranch hands when they started demanding their back pay. In 1902, he received a life sentence.

Herman Drenth (1929-1932) was a 49-year old rural resident from Clarksburg, Virginia who constructed a sound-proof concrete underground chamber in his house. He would later confide to police that it gave him sexual excitement to hear his victims' screams from within the chamber at night. He was suspected of perhaps as many as 50 victims, widowed women who answered his lonely heart ads for courtship and possible marriage. When the women would show up at his ranch, sometimes with children, he would throw them all down the chamber and send down buckets for them to sign letters withdrawing any money they had in bank and liquidating all other assets they had. He usually killed the children right away with a hammer and let the women starve or he beat them to death. Postal inspectors caught up with him, and he was sentenced to death by hanging.

John Haigh (1944-1949) aka "the Acid Bath Murderer" was a permanent hotel guest in London, England where he disposed of 5 rich widows he had conned by inserting them in a vat of sulphuric acid he kept on a farm. What he couldn't get them to sign over to him by charm, he obtained by forgery. He would taunt the police with calls and letters saying "You can't get me, you haven't got a corpse", but one set of plastic dentures in the vat that didn't dissolve and the willingness of the court to convict even if they lacked a body resulted in a sentence of death by hanging. He is regarded as one of the most cold-blooded, ruthlessly professional killers who ever lived. [Read more about this case here and here] (Are any serial killers capable of commiting the perfect crime?)

Glennon Engleman (1963-1985) was a St. Louis dentist who killed 7 people for their life insurance and unpaid dentist bills. He used a variety of means, including car bombs and shooting. He collected the insurance by killing his former male patients and then wooing their widowed wives to give him money to invest for business purposes. Former female patients who didn't pay their bills were just killed. He was eventually caught by a would-be female victim who wore an undercover microphone. He was sentenced to three life terms.

Donald Gaskins (1970-1975) was a contract killer from South Carolina whom everybody called "Peewee". He was known to operate on the fringes of the criminal underworld, but he also apparently operated an ad hoc gravesite on his property where he disposed of 8 people, men, women, and children, he killed for a fee. Police tracked him down by investigating missing persons and dug up some remains on his property. Peewee was arrested while trying to cross state lines and sentenced to death. While in prison, he was given truth serum (sodium amytal) and confessed to a total of 13 murders, but these cases were never followed up. Also while in prison, he has avoided execution by continually carrying out contract hits on other prisoners. He has written a book, called Final Truth, about his childhood and what caused him to grow up to be a serial killer. 


Dean Corll & Wayne Henley (1970-1973) were 17-year old glue sniffers from Houston, Texas who raped, tortured, and killed 32 young boys they picked up as hitchhikers or vagrants. Wayne usually found the boys, and Dean and Wayne would sodomize them for days and subject them to other painful indignities, all while tied up to what they called the "torture board". Wayne upset Dean one day, and wound up on the board himself for bringing a girl rather than a boy back to the apartment. Both Dean and Wayne were well-liked in their neighborhood because they passed out sweets to local children and did other things for the neighborhood. They buried the bodies in a boat house on the other side of town. One night while sodomizing a couple of victims, Wayne inexplicably shot Dean fatally, and then called the police to report he had just shot somebody. Wayne led police to the grave sites, and was sentenced to 6 terms of life imprisonment. [Read more about this case] (Why did Wayne shoot Dean?)

Robert Hansen (1977-1981) was a well-known Anchorage, Alaska resident who killed 17 women after torturing and sexually abusing them. The method he used to kill them was to turn the naked girls loose out in the country, give them a head start, and then track them down like animals with a high-powered rifle. Most of the victims were prostitutes, topless dancers, or topless barmaids. A complaint by one prostitute who got away before the "hunt" began led police to him. He admitted to 4 cases that could be proved by ballistics evidence, and was sentenced to 99 years on each count. [Read more about this case]

Robert Berdella (1984-1988) was the 39-year old owner of Bob's Bizarre Bazaar in Kansas City, a downtown novelty shop that specialized in lava lamps, replica skulls, incense, and other kinds of supplies that would appeal to potheads and weekend Satanists. At his home, he imprisoned, tortured, sexually assaulted, and killed 6 young men, dismembered their bodies and disposed of the remains in the garbage except for the skulls, which he buried in the back yard. He made his victims compliant by injections of animal tranquilizer. Police were led to the house by a victim who had escaped, and was picked up wandering the street naked with a dog collar around his neck. The victim said Robert told him to stay put or "end up in the trash like the others". In 1988, Robert Berdella was sentenced to multiple life sentences after a trial with technical faults in which he almost got off. From prison, he set up a trust fund to help the families of his victims. [Read more about this case] (Why did the offender try to help the victims with the trust fund?)

Here are some histories to test your ability to classify the cases. What type are they?

(1) Wolfgang Abel & Mario Furlan (1977-1986) were 27-year old sons of rich parents in Milan, Italy. Upon graduation from the university where they had been roommates, they embarked upon an odyssey of killing homosexuals across Italy and the Central Alps Region of West Central Europe. Along the way, they killed whomever they thought was "subhuman" and although they were not Nazis, they left notes at crime scenes for police to think a group of Nazis led by a "Ludwig" were responsible. Their 13 victims included gypsies, drug addicts, prostitutes, and of course, homosexuals. Toward the end, they specialized in arson and bombing, burning down pornographic movie theaters and gay discotheques, timing the fires for when the places were most crowded. Hundreds of people were injured or scarred for life by their actions. They were finally caught by patrons of a crowded disco when seen dancing around in costume while secretly releasing accelerant from inside their pantlegs. In 1987, an Italian court found them partially insane and sentenced them to 30 years of "open custody" (the equivalent of "house arrest") in the Alpine castles of their parents.

(2) Harvey Glatman (1951-1958) was a 25-year old Hollywood photographer for girls interested in becoming models. Once the most beautiful girls came into his "studio", they were raped, tied up, and then brutally murdered. He would often take photos of him raping the girls, as they died, and their grave sites out in the desert. He killed 4 victims before the last one got away by resisting. His "studio" turned out to have a room with walls covered with portraits of death. He was executed in the gas chamber in 1959, and his last words were "I knew this is the way it would be". [Read more about this case]

(3) Klaus Gosman (1960-1965) aka "the Midday Murderer" was a 19-year old Theology student at the University of Nuremberg, Germany who had seen his father shot dead by American troops during World War II. He randomly shot 7 people from a sniper position using the noonday Church bells to disguise the sound of his rifle. A perfectionist in every way, Gosman planned his killings down to the last detail, but was eventually caught by quick police action after the last shooting. At his trial, it turned out he was hatching an intricate plan to kidnap actress Elke Sommer. He received life in prison.

(4) Paul John Knowles (1973-1974) aka "the Casanova Killer" was a lifelong delinquent and indiscriminate killer of schoolteachers, young girls, elderly women, people he met in bars, and police officers. He had 18 victims total, and usually operated along the I-95 corridor from Virginia to Georgia. Sometimes he would rape his teenage female victims. He was carrying on an affair with English journalist, Sandy Fawkes, who was writing a book called Killing Time about serial killers. He made a tape-recorded confession to this solicitor, and was flattered that a book was going to be written about him. He once told her "I'll be dead within a year", and indeed, during an attempted escape attempt, following a car chase, he was shot dead by FBI agents. [Read more about this case]

(5) Frederick Mors (1914-1916) was an immigrant from Vienna to the U.S. who worked in nursing homes for the elderly. He liked to dress up in a white uniform with a stethoscope around his neck and have the patients call him "Herr Doktor". He was responsible for killing 8 patients by chloroform suffocation. He was eventually caught in the act, and certified criminally insane, but he escaped from the mental institution and was never heard from again.


    Female serial killers, and female criminal offenders in general, have always been something of a mystery for criminology and a puzzle for law enforcement. As Eric Hickey (1991) describes them, "These are the quiet killers, every bit as lethal as their male counterparts, but we are seldom aware of them in our midst because of the low visibility of their killing."  One of the first writers on female criminality, Otto Pollak, said that most female crime is hidden.  Kelleher & Kelleher (1998), perhaps the foremost writers on the subject, argue that female serial killers are more successful, careful, precise, methodical, and quiet in committing their crimes.  They examined 100 cases since 1900 and found an average duration of 8 years before being caught -- double that of the male serial killer.  However, Alarid, Marquart, Burton, Cullen et. al. (1996) conducted interviews with convicted female offenders and found 86% of them assumed a secondary follower role by either working with a male or female accomplice. On the other hand, feminists and people of conscience maintain that the academic literature on female crime is fraught with misconception and that popular mythology detracts from the real reality of women as victims of crime.

    Statistically, females account for 15% of all violent crime and 28% of all property crime. However, there has been a 138% increase in the number of crimes committed by women since 1970 -- whereas the equivalent male increase has been 57%.  Female offenders are mainly counted on FBI Part II offenses. They outnumber men in only 2 categories: prostitution and runaway.  Yet, they have significant numbers in embezzlement (41%), fraud (39%), forgery (36%), and larceny-theft (33%).  Female serial killers account for only 8% of all American serial killers, but American females account for 76% of all female serial killers worldwide.

    One of the commonalities among the deadliest female killers includes sexual promiscuity.  Many of them (like Diane Downs, Susan Smith, and Karla Homolka) maintained a series of illicit sexual liaisons with various men, even to the point of trysts with prison guards after their incarceration.  This doesn't mean they are lust killers (getting sexual sadistic pleasure from killing), although many female serial killers are, and in these cases, the victims they enjoy seeing life snuffed out of their eyes are usually females or young girls also.  The argument is that many of them are just sexually "overcharged" in some manner.


    Three popular cases have influenced the public imagination in recent years. In 1992, Aileen Carol Wuornos was convicted in Florida for the murder of 7 men she killed while hitchhiking and was (incorrectly) called America's first female serial killer. In 1995, Susan Smith of Union, South Carolina, left her 2 sons strapped in their safety seats and rolled the car off the end of a pier and into a lake, becoming America's poster child for Bad Mother. The lake where the killings took place is said to be haunted. In 1998, Louise Woodward, a British nanny and former au pair, popularized the "shaken baby syndrome" in Massachusetts, and parents everywhere started secretly videotaping their babysitters. None of these cases are typical of the female serial killer (Wuornos got caught early and Smith and Woodward didn't kill 3 or more people), but each case received extensive media attention. The following are some Internet websites devoted to these cases:

'92 Wuornos: Lesbians Who Kill, Homicidal Heros, Media Monsters
'95 Smith: Victim or Murderer, Lake Takes 7 More Lives, Handwritten Confession, Jury Shown Photos of Decomposed Bodies
'98 Woodward: CourtTV Nanny Murder Trial, BBC Coverage, The Woodward Case, Shaken Baby Alliance


    There are few researchers of female serial killers. The best book on the subject is by Michael & C. Kelleher (1998) Murder Most Rare NY:Dell.  In it, the authors argue that the organized-disorganized typology constructed by Ressler, Burgess, and Douglass in Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives is inadequate.  Instead, Kelleher & Kelleher suggest a different typology, one based on whether the female serial killer acts alone or in partnership with others.  They, further, construct a nine-point categorization method (pp. 15-16) based around this acting alone-in partnership typology.

Acting alone:

Acting in partnership:

Black Widow - systematically kills multiple spouses, partners, or other family members Team Killer - kills or participates in the killing of others in conjunction with at least one other
Angel of Death - systematically kills people who are in her care for some form of medical attention Question of Sanity - kills in apparent random manner and later judged to be insane
Sexual Predator - systematically kills others in clear acts of sexual homicide Unexplained - kills for reasons that are totally inexplicable or for unclear motives
Revenge - systematically kills out of hate or jealousy Unsolved - a pattern of unsolved killings that may be attributed to a woman (or women)
Profit or Crime - systematically kills for profit or in course of committing another crime  

Deductive Characteristics of the Kelleher Typology

Acting alone:
Killers of this type are often mature, careful, deliberate, socially adept, and highly organized. They usually attack victims in their home or place of work. They tend to favor a specific weapon, like poison, lethal injection, or suffocations.
Acting in partnership:
Killers of this type tend to be younger, aggressive, vicious in their attack, sometimes disorganized, and usually unable to carefully plan. They usually attack victims in diverse locations. They tend to use guns, knifes, or torture.


    BLACK WIDOWS (BW) usually begin their criminal career after age 25 and then they start a decade or longer cycle of systematically killing spouses, partners, family members, and indeed, anyone with whom they develop a personal relationship. The typical cycle is 6-8 victims over a period of 10-15 years, although in places where law enforcement is lax, the victim count may go up as high as 13. Poison is the preferred weapon of choice, dosing the victim with a wide variety of lethal substances to mimic more medically appropriate and diagnosible illnesses to collect life insurance & inheritance proceeds. (In these case histories, the years in parentheses refer to active years in the killing cycle. Victim counts, average career lengths, typical ages, and other numbers are derived from the Kellehers' book, Murder Most Rare.)

BW-Belle Gunness (1896-1908) aka "Lady Bluebeard" was the first 20th Century Black Widow. She was never brought to justice. On a farm outside of Chicago, she killed 49 people, including multiple husbands, ranch workers, and children who were put up with her thru adoption agencies. Most of the people died from poisoning, diagnosed as acute colitis, although many others met with freak accidents on the farm. Toward the end, she collaborated in an arson cover-up with one of the ranch workers who was also set up as the patsy while she faked her own death via a headless female corpse on the grounds. Police found the head some years later, determined it was not her's, and conducted an unsuccessful manhunt until 1935. The patsy died in prison, innocent of any crime other than the arson he participated in.

BW-Amy Gilligan (1901-1914) ran a private nursing home in Windsor, Connecticut, and married and killed 5 elderly men. She also convinced 9 elderly women to name her in their wills before poisoning them too. That last victim's family demanded an autopsy which showed clear signs of poisoning, and Amy spent the rest of her life in prison.

BW-Lydia Trueblood (1915-1919) killed 5 spouses, a brother-in-law, and her own child by poisoning in Pocatello, Idaho. She made it look like typhoid or influenza, until physicians examining the last victim found suspiciously high traces of arsenic.

BW-Rhonda Bell Martin (1932-1956) killed her mother, 2 husbands, and 5 of her children in Birmingham, Alabama. She was eventually foiled by the results of an autopsy, confessed to the crimes, and was given the electric chair in 1957.

BW-Janie Lou Gibbs (1965-1967) had a short serial killer career in Cordele, Georgia where she systematically poisoned her husband and 4 children with arsenic and later confessed. With each life insurance settlement, she donated the money to the Church.

BW-Waneta Hoyt (1965-1971) killed 5 of her 6 children in Oswego, New York by suffocation, claiming they had just stopped breathing. The case came on the advent and discovery of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and one of her children became the first in the nation to be placed on a special monitor at home. The child died anyway, and Waneta said the machine malfunctioned. The trial became a test case on the medical validity of SIDS. The syndrome was determined valid, and Waneta was found innocent. In 1994, however, she confessed to the killings, but later recanted in 1995. A trial in 1995 convicted her to life in prison.

BW-Margie Velma Barfield (1969-1978) a 53-year old grandmother, killed 7 husbands, fiances, and her own mother in Lumberton, North Carolina. She burned some victims to death while they slept (made to look like smoking in bed), arranged prescription drug overdoses for others, and resorted to arsenic made to look like gastroenteritis for others. She was executed by lethal injection in 1984, the first woman to be executed in the U.S. since 1976.

BW-Blanche Taylor Moore (1966-1989) killed 2 husbands, one or more lovers, a pastor, her father and mother-in-law in Burlington, North Carolina by arsenic poisoning made to look like severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Her husbands and men she had affairs with reminded her of her abusive father, whom she also killed in a family reconciliation meeting. She won a $250,000 sexual harassment suit against Krogers while at the same time she was poisoning a coworker-lover there. Bodies had to be exhumed for evidence, and she was convicted to die by lethal injection in 1991.

BW-Diana Lumbrera (1977-1990) systematically suffocated 6 of her own children in Fort Worth, Texas. She would consistently rush each child (already dead) to the hospital, saying they had stopped breathing, and then blame medical staff for not resuscitating the child. The case prompted a nationwide concern for the problem of "crib death", but hospital officials eventually became suspicious, and she was tried and convicted, receiving three life sentences.

    ANGELS OF DEATH (AD) usually begin their criminal career at age 21 and operate in a localized setting, typically a nursing home, hospital, or other place where death is a regular occurance. In such places, murder can be easily disguised, the offender enjoys the power of selecting who will live or die, and there is easy access to all sorts of life-sustaining and life-threatening equipment and supplies. The typical cycle is 8 victims over a 1-2 year period, although if the offender is mobile, the number of victims may be 16 or more. Their short careers are usually due to a tendency to brag about their actions.

AD-Genene Jones (1978-1982) a 27-year old vocational nurse who loved to work with terminally ill children, was convicted to life imprisonment in San Antonio, Texas for 11 murders in 1984. Because she was mobile, moving around Texas to work in different clinics, authorities expect she may be responsible for as many as 46 deaths. Her pattern involved injecting heart medication (digoxin) into ailing infants in order to gain recognition as a heroine when she was able to miraculously bring them back from the brink of death, or more commonly, appear as a heroine by taking extraordinary measures to resuscitate the doomed infant. She brazenly continued her pattern even while she was under a CDC investigation, and her medical supervisors defended her. When she lost the 1984 trial, hospital officials throughout Texas shredded records of her employment and activities, preventing further trials and embarrassment.

AD-Terri Rachals (1985-1986) a 23-year old intensive care nurse in Albany, Georgia was indicted on 6 counts of murder in 1986, but only sentenced to 17 years imprisonment for aggravated assault. Her defense was successful in portraying her as suffering from "fugue states" and in claiming that her elderly victims had begged her to help them die. Her pattern was to inject potassium chloride to mimic the effects of cardiac arrest. Georgia officials suspected her of 20 such acts, and used statistical probability evidence in the prosecution. A (recanted) confession she made to officials was suppressed because of her mental condition. Newspapers in 1986 called her the "murderess of the century". Everyone was surprised by the lenient jury verdict.

AD-Kristin Gilbert (1989-2001) a 33-year old, bright, attractive, well-trained nurse in Northampton, Mass who was found guilty of killing 4 or 5 patients at a VA hospital where about 350 suspicious deaths had occurred in a seven-year period, usually on Kristen's shift.  She mainly used stolen vials of medicine from a locked cabinet to make the kills. Several victims were AIDS patients, but one died within hours after Kristin asked a supervisor if she could get off work early if her ICU patient died.  A jury sentenced her to life in prison without the chance for parole plus 20 years.  Newspapers called her the "Angel of Death" which was a title she shared with the similar case of an Englishwoman about the same time period named Beverly Allitt.

AD-Beverly Allitt (60 days in 1991) a 38-year old English pediatric nurse who administered overdoses of insulin and air bubbles to at least 13 infants in her care, 4 of which died. At her trial, in which she got 13 life sentences, experts diagnosed her with Munchausenís Syndrome by Proxy, which presumably caused her to hurt and kill children in order to get attention from others.  Her real motives have never been explained.  She is the most commonly thought-of female serial killer when one hears the words "Angel of Death."  The families of the children she murdered have threatened her with death, should she ever walk free again.

SEXUAL PREDATORS (SP) that are female and act alone are so rare that there has only been one in U.S. history. To their credit, the Kelleher's (1998) attempt to make comparisons with cases in other countries, but the question remains whether the case of Aileen Wuornos was only the tip of the iceberg or a portend of things to come. This is speculation, but like their male counterparts, female sexual predators are usually in their 30's or middle-aged, geographically mobile, suffer from a fantasy-driven compulsion to kill, and usually have at least 6 victims before being caught sometime in their average 3-year career.

SP-Aileen Wuornos (1989-1990) a 33-year old veteran prostitute, killed 7 men in Florida, each of the encounters starting out as an ordinary proposition for sex. Then, at various points while engaging in sex, she would perceive the relationship as becoming abusive, pull out a .22-caliber handgun, and shoot her victims repeatedly in the chest, or sometimes in the back of the head. She would then rob her victims and hide their bodies in the woods along the I-95 corridor. The first victim was a known rapist, two of the victims were retired or reserve police officers, one was a rodeo worker, one was a missionary, and the rest were truck drivers or delivery men. Authorities suspected her of 2 additional murders, but the bodies could not be found. She was easily tracked down via police sketches and the careless paper trail she left behind in pawning the property of her victims. She confessed to 6 murders, but claimed self-defense in all of them. At the 1992 trial, her lesbian lover of six years (who also assisted in her apprehension, but never participated in the murders) provided testimony against her, destroying her self-defense claim. The jury felt no sympathy for her history of childhood sexual and physical abuse. She was sentenced to the electric chair for 4 of the murders. [Read more about this case]

    REVENGE (RE) killers that are female and repeat offenders are rare. More common are one-time crimes of passion motivated by revenge. What makes the revenge serial killer different is that they are driven by a deeper, more overwhelming anger, bordering upon the pathological, with little or no cooling-off period, implying a certain kind of obsessive attachment to the darker qualities of revenge that goes beyond what we normally mean by "motivated by revenge". Such persons usually begin their criminal careers at age 22, and their victims are either family members or symbolic of an offending organization. There is a noticeable consistency in the victimology. The typical pattern is about 3-4 victims over an average period of 2 years or less, although some careers may extend up to 5 years in length. Although the revenge killer is usually able to control their passions enough to successfully conceal their crimes, they are also sometimes careless and demonstrate a lack of planning. Ironically, when apprehended, they show great remorse, almost as if to compensate for their excessive flights into the darker realms of revenge.

RE-Ellen Etheridge (1912-1913) was 22 years old when she married a Texas millionaire and inherited an instant family of 8 stepchildren. She became incurably jealous of her husband's devotion to their children and poisoned (arsenic) 4 of them, two at a time, about six months apart. Autopsies revealed poisoning in the latter pair, and she was arrested and confessed. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.

RE-Martha Wise (1924-1925) aka "the Borgia of America" was a 39-year old widow from Ohio who fell deeply in love with a younger man whom her family was opposed to. She devised a plan to poison (arsenic) her family members one-by-one, killing 3 of them before the rest got suspicious and reported her to authorities. When questioned, she confessed to the murders, several other attempts, and even burning down a church that expressed a reluctance to carry out the marriage ceremony. Her defense at trial was "the Devil made me do it". She was sentenced to life imprisonment.

RE-Martha Ann Johnson (1977-1982) was a 22-year old, 250-pound woman in Georgia with 4 young children who, after every argument with her husband, would roll her weight onto one of the children while they slept and suffocate them. She claimed they died of SIDS. She went unprosecuted until 1989 when an Atlanta investigative reporter dug up a medical report on one of the children which labeled the death suspicious. A 1990 trial and subsequent confession resulted in her receiving the death penalty.

    PROFIT or CRIME (PC) killers who are female and repeat offenders are rare or unknown. Some of them are presumed to be organized contract killers available for hire if someone wants to have their spouse or business competitor murdered. Others have set up a localized scam operation to rob victims of their assets and lives. They are considered to be the most intelligent, resourceful, and careful serial killers. Their career usually begins around age 25 or 30 and lasts for about 10 years. They usually claim about 10 victims before they make enough to retire, but greed may drive the total upwards to as high as 25. They use a variety of methods to kill, and are highly dispassionate about the murders they commit. There are more known cases of this type overseas than in the United States.

PC-Madame Popova (1879-1909) (age unknown) operated a murder-for-hire service in Russia that specialized in liberating married women from cruel husbands for a fee. She murdered over 300 victims, by using poison, her own hands, a weapon, or hiring an assassin. Russian police were tipped off by a liberated woman who experienced a moment of remorse. She was executed before a firing squad.

PC-Lila Young (1927-1947) was a 28-year old midwife who operated a baby farm in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She and her husband, both devoted Seventh Day Adventists, catered to unwed mothers who wanted to give their babies up for adoption. At the time, they operated the largest, multi-million dollar, adoption business along the Eastern seaboard. When business was slow (there were more babies being born than being adopted), they allegedly killed off at least 100 babies by starvation and buried their remains somewhere. Despite an ex-employee who testified to this, the authorities were never able to prove anything other than to get the operation shut down for minor health violations. The Youngs retired to Quebec and never faced prosecution.

PC-Anna Marie Hahn (1932-1937) was a 26-year old immigrant from Germany who offered her services in Cincinnati as a live-in attendant for elderly men. Over a period of about a year apiece, she would end up bilking 5 victims of all their assets in a variety of ingenious ways and then finally murdering them after they had nothing more to take. She was also an expert in poisons, using a different kind each time to dispatch her victims. Her activities came to the attention of meticulous bank examiners, and suspicious police exhumed the bodies of her former employers. Her mercy killing defense failed, and in 1938, she became the first woman in Ohio's history to die in the electric chair.

PC-Dorothea Puente (1986-1990) was a 57-year old, attractive and charming Mexican-American who supered an apartment house in Sacramento, California. She convinced the Dept. of Social Services to refer clients to her, and operated a state-subsidized room & boarding facility where she systematically bilked the residents out of their Social Security income to the point of killing 25 of them (officially listed as missing) and collecting their Social Security checks even after their deaths. Neighbor complaints about the stench in the backyard led police to dig up 7 bodies, and she was charged with 9 murders (2 other bodies were found in the river). The trial lasted until 1993 and was a tortuous affair involving a change of venue and whether the public wanted to execute a woman who was now 64 years old. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.

    TEAM KILLERS (TC) represent about one-third of all female serial killers, and they come in 3 forms: (1) male female teams, (2) female teams, and (3) family teams. The male female team is the most common, and the crimes are often sexual in nature, with the female member typically being about 20 years of age and the career being a short 1-2 years. All-female teams tend to be active for 2-4 years, and the members are usually older, around 25 years of age. Family teams tend to be short-lived, about 1 year or so, and the female members are typically young, about 20 years of age. For all three categories of team killers, the average victim count is 9-15, and a variety of methods are used, including guns and knifes.

TC-Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow (1930-1934) were a Depression era 17-year old and 21-year old couple that started out in Dallas, Texas, eventually forming a gang that stole cars, robbed grocery stores, and banks in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Arkansas. They shot and killed 16 victims, 13 of which were police officers, and Bonnie is reported to have enjoyed putting a few extra bullets in the cops. Both were gunned down in a hail of bullets during a police ambush outside of Shreveport, Louisiana. A movie was made about them in 1967 called Bonnie & Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

TC-Martha Beck & Raymond Fernandez (1947-1949) aka "the Lonely Hearts Killers" were a 27-year old couple from Pensacola, Florida who murdered 20 women throughout various cities in the U.S. While posing as brother and sister, they placed personal ads in newspapers and various lonely heart magazines to attract female victims to companionship or matrimony with veteran gigolo Raymond, a suave Hawaiian Latino. They beat their victims to death whenever they resisted or caught on to being bilked of their assets. Martha also initiated several of the murders in a jealous rage whenever she felt Raymond and a victim were getting too close.

TC-Caril Ann Fugate & Charles Starkweather (1958) were a James Dean era 14-year old and 19-year old couple from Lincoln, Nebraska that went on a one-month crime spree in Nebraska and Wyoming. They shot and killed 11 people, including Caril's own family where they staying in the house for three days with the dead bodies while eating and making love. With at least one female victim, Charles committed rape before shooting her, and Caril is reported to have mutilated the genitals of this victim in a rage of jealously, but she denied it. They were captured in a high-speed police chase after a National Guard roadblock. Charles died by electrocution in 1959, and Caril did 20 years in prison until she was paroled in 1976. A movie was made about them in 1973 called Badlands starring Martin Sheen, but perhaps more well known is Oliver Stone's 1994 movie calledNatural Born Killers starring Woody Harrelson.

TC-Ian Brady and Myra Hindley (1963-1965) were a British couple who sexually assaulted and killed five children between the ages of 10 and 17.  Myra Hindley and her famous mugshot became the world's poster child for the "epitome of evil" or world's worst female killer because, basically, she just had that good-looking but evil blonde look.  In fact, some Brits still regard her as the devil incarnate.  Together, the two of them had an interest in committing the perfect murder as an outlet for their pornography-driven interest in inflicting pain on others.  The case has been dramatized on television twice: in See No Evil: The Moors Murders and Longford (both 2006).

TC-Charles Manson & Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, Mary Brunner, Linda Kesabian, and Charles Watson (1968-1969) aka "the Manson Family" or "Manson cult" were a Beatles-era group of teenagers led by a 34-year old ex-convict. At its height, the group may have totalled 50 members, most of who hung on every one of Manson's words. They lived on an abandoned film studio ranch in the California desert. The group is suspected of having committed 20 ritualistic murders, but Manson never participated, only directed the murders. A lengthy trial in 1970 resulted in guilty verdicts and the death penalty for all family members for the 7 deaths in the Tate-Bianchi murders only (the prosecution's strongest case). However, the death sentences were automatically commuted to life because the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional nationwide right after the verdict. Over a hundred books have been written about this case. [Yahoo collects mosts Manson links but the Charles Manson Fun Page also has a good collection of links]

TC-Carolyn McCrary & Sherman McCrary, Ginger Taylor, Ray Taylor, and Daniel McCrary (1971-1972) aka "the McCrary Family" started out as a group of armed robbers in Athens, Texas and proceeded to become obsessed with kidnapping, rape, and murder. Ginger was the McCrary's daughter who was married to Ray. Daniel was the McCrary's son and Ginger's brother. The group is responsible for the rape and shooting death of 22 victims, most of whom were young female employees of stores they robbed from Florida to California. They would rape their victims repeatedly in the car, then shoot them, and throw the bodies out the window. Their brutal spree came to an end during a shootout with police in Santa Barbara and their subsequent arrest after a car chase. Although the FBI linked them to 12 additional unsolved homicides, they were only convicted on ten of the ones they could be directly traced to. Each member of the family received a sentence of imprisonment ranging from 5 years to life.

TC-Charlene Gallego & Gerald Gallego (1978-1980) aka "the Sex Slave Murderers" were a 22-year old married couple from Sacramento, California who abducted, brutally raped, tortured, murdered and buried alive 10 young female victims between the ages of 13-16. Gerald had convinced his wife that the only cure for his impotence was to have a collection of young virgins, and his wife helped lure, control, and murder his victims. The pair abducted victims throughout California, Oregon, and Nevada, and were caught via someone writing down their license number after an abduction. In 1983, Gerald was given the death sentence and Charlene a sentence of 16 years in prison.

TC-Judith Neelley & Alvin Neelley (1980-1982) aka "the Night Rider and Lady Sundance" were a 19-year old and 29-year old married couple from Rome, Georgia who brutally raped and murdered 15 young female victims throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Both had extensive criminal histories and a love for sexually torturing their victims for days until they died or were injected with drain cleaner to finish them off. Judith was in the habit of making taunting telephone calls to the police, giving them hints on where to find the bodies, and it was analysis of background sounds in one of these calls that led to their capture. Alvin was sentenced to two counts of life imprisonment in Georgia, and Judith received the death penalty in Alabama.

TC-Carol Bundy & Doug Clark (1980) aka "the Sunset Slayer" or "Hollywood Slasher" were a 38-year old couple from Los Angeles who terrorized the Southern California area a whole year, abducting, sexually torturing, killing, and decapitating 50 people, both male and female victims. Doug was a necrophiliac who liked shooting his victims in the head during oral sex. Carol preserved and dressed up the heads in the refrigerator for Doug to have trophies, and Carol also had a habit of bragging about her role in the killings to boyfriends she then had to kill and mutilate to make them keep quiet. Carol also believed she was the secret wife of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, although they were not related. The couple were caught due to Carol's bragging to a boyfriend that got away and reported them to the police. Doug received the death penalty and Carol life imprisonment.

TC-Debra Brown & Alton Coleman (1984) were a 21-year old and 28-year old African-American couple from Waukegan, Illinois (there were common-law man & wife, Chicago recognizes common law marriages) that went on a seven-week sexual homicide spree throughout Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. All their victims were also African American, and 8 of them were brutally raped and murdered, ranging in age from 7 years old to 41 years of age. Alton had a history of being an aggressive "pansexual" and a product of the Illinois Dept. of Corrections. Debra was an easily influenced high school dropout who quickly became a remorseless killer directly responsible for two of the murders. The couple quickly made the FBI Most Wanted list and were soon brought to justice. Each received multiple death sentences in at least three states.

TC-Cynthia Coffman & James Marlow (1986) were a 24-year old and 29-year old couple from Arizona that went on a five-week crime spree throughout the South, from California to Kentucky (Cynthia was originally from St. Louis). Both were heavy drug users, and James was a white supremacist. They met while Cynthia was visiting a boyfriend in prison. The couple targeted female victims who had just withdrawn cash from ATM machines. They strangled 4 such victims to death, 2 of which were brutally sexually assaulted. Authorities caught up with them in California where they had carelessly registered a motel room under their own names. In 1989, James was sentenced to death and Cynthia to life imprisonment.

TC-Gwendolyn Graham & Catherine May Wood (1987) were a 24-year old and 25-year old lesbian couple from Grand Rapids, Michigan who achieved sexual thrills in killing 5 elderly female patients at the nursing home they worked at. They would smother their victims together and make love shortly thereafter to relive the thrill and enhance their lovemaking. Wood was a massive 450-pound woman who intensely loved the more dominant and sexually experimentative Graham. When Graham left to take a new job in Texas, Wood broke down and confessed to authorities. Graham received a penalty of life imprisoment and Wood got 20 years in prison.

    QUESTION OF SANITY (QS) killers who are serial offenders and female are few in number. Angel of Death offenders are most capable of launching a successful insanity defense, especially if the psychological disorder is Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a common symptom among this type. In general, however, the insanity defense strategy in a serial killing case is rarely successful. A lot depends upon which insanity test is used, and whether the jury can be understanding or not.

QS-Jane Toppan (1880-1901) was a 26-year old nurse from Boston, Massachusetts who gave lethal injections of morphine to 31 hospital patients, and was suspected of having killed an additional 70 patients over the course of a two-decade career. When apprehended, she said she wanted to kill more people than anyone who has ever lived before, but could only provide details to solve 31 crimes. Her history of suicide attempts helped her win an insanity plea, and she was eventually confined to a state mental hospital for 40 years until she died in custody.

QS-Bobbie Sue Terrell (1984-1985) was a 29-year old diagnosed schizophrenic from Woodlawn, Illinois who worked on the midnight shift in nursing homes across Illinois and Florida. She also suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy. She killed 12 elderly victims in St. Petersburg, Florida by insulin overdoses, and would cover her tracks by calling the police, mutilating herself, and saying there's a serial killer loose in the home. Police finally arrested her when they discovered her psychiatric background. She was judged insane and sentenced to 65 years in prison.

    UNEXPLAINED (UN) female serial killers are motiveless killers. Neither themselves nor the authorities can come up with an explanation for why they did it.

UN-Stella Williamson (1923-1933) was a 75-year old spinster and recluse from Johnston, Pennsylvania who left a mysterious note behind when she died. The note said for authorities to check a trunk in the attic. In it, the preserved bodies of 5 newborn infants were found. It was assumed that the victims were her own illegitimate children from affairs she had during her younger days, but there has never been an explanation for these crimes.

UN-Audrey Hilley (1975-1979) was a 42-year old housewife from Anniston, Alabama who prepared poisoned (arsenic) coffee for neighborhood children and her family. 3 victims died, including her family members, and several people became seriously ill. She claimed to suffer from bouts of loss of consciousness in which she took on the personality of her twin sister. She was adjudged insane, and was also a model inmate, earning release after release, repeating her bizarre behavior until authorities finally sentenced her to life imprisonment.

UN-Christine Falling (1980-1982) was a 17-year old babysitter from Perry, Florida who murdered at least 5 neighborhood children by suffocation because she said she heard voices telling her to do it and prevent anyone from hearing them scream. She was sentenced to life imprisonment and will be eligible for parole in 2007.

UN-Susan & James Carson (1981-1983) were 30-year old hippies from San Francisco who operated a large pot farm in Humbolt County, California. They regularly took hallucinogenic drugs, and during one of their trips, Susan had a vision to change their names (to Suzan & Michael Bear) and declare allegiance to the Muslim faith. They became convinced some of their old friends and acquaintances as well as regular visitors to the pot farm were witches bent on doing the world evil, so they killed 3 people by smashing their skulls, stabbing, and shooting. No evidence of sexual motive or profit was present, and at their trial, they claimed self-defense in ending spells put on them and in doing the world a favor by ridding it of evil. They were sentenced to 25 years to life.

UN-The Michigan VA Hospital Murders (1975) involved 5 murders and serious injuries of numerous other patients by injection of a muscle relaxant. The drug was somehow administered via a routine intravenous tube even while the patients were being closely observed by hospital officials who had called in the FBI and CDC to help. It was suspected that a technologically savvy Angel of Death was operating in the hospital, and eventually, Filipina Narcisco and Leonora Perez were both convicted for those killings, though both convictions were set aside on appeal.  

    UNSOLVED (UNS) female serial killer cases are similar to cases like "the Green River Killer" or the "Zodiac Killers" which were never solved. The most common feature is that the cases have stumped officials for years like the nonserial Black Dahlia case.

UNS-The Butcher of Kingsbury Run (1935-1938) was a suspected female serial killer responsible for 12 murders along a stretch of railway wasteland between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. All the victims were castrated and decapitated in a way to suggest the work of a butcher. Police thought they had a suspect, who worked as a meat butcher, but he had an airtight alibi. Many people think it was the work of a female. [Read more about this case]

UNS-The Riverside, California County Hospital Murders (1981) involved 24 murders and serious injuries of patients by overdoses of lidocaine. Most of the patients were in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Robert Diaz, a registered male nurse at the hospital, was convicted in 1984 of 12 of the murders, but he denied it, and many people believe this was a case of wrongful conviction. The evidentiary foundation and full accounting for these killings never emerged.

UNS-The Prince George, Maryland Hospital Murders (1984-1985) involved 17 murders and serious injuries of numerous other patients by injection of potassium. Most of the patients were in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) following surgery or other emergency procedures. Law enforcement officials thought they had an employee as a suspect, but the state's attorney did not. No one has been prosecuted for these crimes.

Into the Mind of Serial Killers

Main's Domain of Serial Killers
Mass Murder Website
Scratching Post Serial Killer Archives
Serial Killer Central
Serial - Mind of a Killer CD-Rom
Short History on the Worst Serial Killers in the World

Serial Killer Hit List (aka Internet Crime Archive or
Top Ten List of Deadliest Female Killers
Worldwide Serial Killer Homepage

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Douglas, J. (1995) Mindhunter. NY: Pocket Books.
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Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
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Last updated: Mar. 30, 2013
Not an official webpage of APSU, copyright restrictions apply, see Megalinks in Criminal Justice 
Citation: O'Connor, T.  (2013). "Male and Female Serial Killers,"
MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from