FEMALE SERIAL KILLERS
FEMALE SERIAL KILLERS
Female serial killers have always been something of an anomaly in criminology and a puzzle for law enforcement. As Eric Hickey (1991) describes them, “These are the quiet killers, every bit as lethal as male serial murderers, but we are seldom aware of one in our midst because of their low visibility.” One of the first writers on female criminality, Otto Pollak, also said that most female crime is hidden. Kelleher & Kelleher (1998) 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. On the other hand, Alarid, Marquart, Burton, Cullen et. al. (1996) conducted interviews with convicted female offenders and found 86% of them assumed a secondary follower role during criminal events by either working with a male or female accomplice. In all fairness, 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 usually account for about 15% of all violent crime and 28% of all property crime. However, there has been about a 140% increase in the number of crimes committed by women since 1970, and the upward trend is steady. Researchers typically track female offenders on FBI Part II offenses since they far outnumber men in two Part II categories: prostitution and runaway. However, they have significant numbers in embezzlement (41%), fraud (39%), forgery (36%), and larceny-theft (33%). For homicide, one of the mostf requently-cited facts is a Justice Department study in 1991 which found females who were incarcerated for murder were twice as likely as men incarcerated for murder to have killed an intimate (husband, boyfriend, orchild).
Female serial killers account for only 8% of all American serial killers, but American females account for 76% of all female serial killers worldwide. Hickey’s (2002) subsample of 62 females out of 399 serial killers used the following methods and motives.
1. Poison (80%)
2. Shooting (20%)
3. Bludgeoning (16%)
4. Suffocation (16%)
5. Stabbing (11%)
6. Drowning (5%)
1. Money (74%)
2. Control (13%)
3. Enjoyment (11%)
4. Sex (10%)
5. Drugs, Cult involvement, cover up, or feelings of inadequacy (24%)
CASES IN THE MEDIA
Three popular cases have influenced the public imagination. In1992, 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 andinto 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 are now urged to secretly videotape 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 is are presentative sample of the 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’98Woodward:CourtTV Nanny Murder Trial, Shaken Baby Alliance
THE KELLEHER TYPOLOGY
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.
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 Typology:
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. See printed resources below.)
BW-Belle Gunness (1896-1908) aka “Lady Bluebeard” was the first 20thCentury 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. 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 in1995 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, orother place where death is a regular occurance. In such places, murder can beeasily disguised, the offender enjoys the power of selecting who will live ordie, 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 maybe 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 “murderes sof the century”. Everyone was surprised by the lenient jury verdict.
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 herself-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.
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 asif 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-poundwoman 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 1989when 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 anex-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 a piece, 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 inpoisons, 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, charming and attractive California woman who spoke Spanish fluently and supered an apartment house in Sacramento. 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 ofage. 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-Raya & Sakina (1920-1921) were sisters who operated a chain of “houses of depravity” in Alexandria, Egypt against the backdrop of a large number of British soldiers in Alexandria’s crime-ridden Al-Labban district. Many of the women who frequented Raya and Sakina’s houses “to commit adultery”were married women, ranging in age from 17 to 50. They killed 17 of these women by drugging and suffocating them, then burying the bodies on property they owned. Police caught the scent one day,and both sisters, their husbands, and two thugs were sentenced to death.
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 inthe 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 companion ship 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 called Natural Born Killers starring Woody Harrelson.
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 butthe Charles Manson Fun Page also has a good collection of links]
TC-Carolyn McCrary & Sherman McCrary, Ginger Taylor, RayTaylor, and Daniel McCrary (1971-1972) aka “the McCrary Family” started out asa 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 isresponsible 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 wenton 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 ofage. 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 ofthe 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 spreethroughout 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 motelroom 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 amassive 450-pound woman who intensely loved the more dominant and sexually experimentative Graham. When Graham left to take a new job in Texas, Wood brokedown 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. Ingeneral, 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 shedied. 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 benton 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 indoing the world a favor by ridding it of evil. They were sentenced to 25 yearsto life.
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.
UNS-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, but no suspects were ever found.
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.
SerialHomicide.com – Mind of a Killer CD-Rom
Serial Killer Hit List (aka Internet Crime Archive or Mayhem.net)
Short History onthe Worst Serial Killers in the World
U.S. Dept. of Justice study on Female Offenders (pdf)
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