America’s deadliest serial killers


Netflix


Netflix launched a scripted series about the Jeffrey Dahmer murders in September 2022. Evan Peters (right), plays the title role of the killer (left). 

The series took some Artist license. Some facts are not up for debate: Dahmer killed 17 men and boys between 1978-1991.

This article will take a look at some the most prolific serial killers this country has ever seen. It also includes one murderer whose identity was kept secret for decades until his capture in 2018. 

Some of these murderers are believed to have killed more people than they were convicted of, and the true number may never be known.

Dennis Rader

Travis Heying/Getty Images


A new documentary, released in January 2022, explored the origins, motives, capture, and eventual release of Dennis RaderAlso known as the “BTK Killer”, he terrorized Witchita in Kansas starting in the mid-1970s.

“I lived a normal life, yet I had a real dark mind,” Rader says in the documentary, which aired on A&E in early January.

Rader was involved in 10 murders during a 17-year-long crime spree that ended in 1991. 

Dennis Rader is seen in this photo as he makes his court debut on March 1, 2005, in Wichita. 

Joseph DeAngelo Jr.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images


Joseph James DeAngelo was a former police officer. He is also believed to be the East Area Rapist. Also known as the “The Rapist,”Golden State Killer,“Who engaged in at least three crimes sprees between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s.

DeAngelo pleaded guilty in June 2020 to 13 counts each of first-degree murder as well as 13 counts for kidnapping as part of an agreement to avoid the death penalty. He was later awarded multiple subsequent sentences. Life sentences Without parole. 

DeAngelo later offered a brief apology, saying that he had listened to all of your statements and was truly sorry for any harm done.

Robert Lee Yates

Spokane Police


Robert Lee Yates pleaded guilty for murdering 13 women in Spokane Washington. He then killed them and dumped their bodies in rural parts. He was later convicted for two more murders.

Yates’ death sentence was commuted into a life sentence in prison after the state abolished its death penalty. 

Chester Turner

California Department of Corrections


Chester Turner was convicted in Los Angeles of the murders of 14 people between the 1980s and 1990s. Most of his victims were strangled and raped.

Prosecutors described Turner as “one of the most prolific serial murderers in the city’s recent history.” He is currently in death row. 

Ángel Maturino Reséndiz

FBI


Ángel Maturino Reséndiz, known as “Railroad Killer“” killed at least 15 people in the U.S. and Mexico during the 1990s.

He would jump from trains and attack people with knives, pickaxes, rocks, and other blunt objects. He would often steal their belongings, and sometimes rape his female victims. 

He was executed by Texas in 2006. 

Randy Steven Kraft

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Randy Steven Kraft, better known as “Scorecard Killer”, drugged and raped, tortured, and murdered at most 16 young men between 1972-1983. Most of his murders were committed in California. 

Kraft’s nickname was derived from the fact that Kraft left a cryptic listing of his victims. Based on this list and other evidence, investigators believed Kraft had killed 67 men. However, Kraft was only convicted for 16 murders. 

He is currently in death row. 

Charles Ray Hatcher

Bettendorf Iowa Police Department


Charles Ray Hatcher raped and murdered at least 16 people — mostly young men and boys — in Missouri, California and Illinois between 1969 and 1982. 

He committed suicide in prison. 

“Zebra Murders”

Handout


Between October 1973 and April 1974, San Francisco was terrorized with a series of racially motivated shootings. These crimes were nicknamed the “Enduring Terrorism”.Zebra Murders“After a special radio band of police used to investigate the killings.

Four men, Manuel Moore (Larry Green), Jessie Lee Cooks, J.C.X., were eventually convicted. Simon were convicted for killing 15 people. They called themselves the Death Angels and were later referred to as members of a cult.

“Death Angels”

Bettmann


Over 179 days, panic spread throughout San Francisco by the Death Angels.

Here, Joseph Alioto, mayor of San Francisco, holds a press conference on May 1, 1974. He explains that the San Francisco murders are part of a conspiracy led by an previously unknown cult.

Anthony LaRette

CHRIS O’MEARA/AP


Technically, Anthony LaRette was convicted in 1980 of killing one person in St. Charles (Missouri). However, he later confessed that he had been involved in 31 murders in 11 other states back in the late 1960s. Based on the details he provided to authorities, fifteen of these cases were closed.

This 1976 police booking photo shows LaRette. She met with Pinellas County Detective Patricia Juhl several times, giving her details on more than two dozen rapes and attacks, as well as killings. 

Missouri executed LaRette via lethal injection.

Carroll Cole

Police mugshot


Between 1948 and 1980, Carroll Cole strangled at most 15 women and one child in different states.

He confessed to the murders, saying that there could have been more as he was often drunk at the time they occurred. 

He was executed on August 15, 1985. 

Robert Hansen

Police photo


Robert Hansen would abduct prostitutes and then release them into the Alaskan woods for hunting. He admitted to 17 murders between 1971 and 1983.

Hansen died in prison in 2014. 

Jeffrey Dahmer

AP


Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 boys and girls between 1978 – 1991.

Later murders often involved acts of necrophilia or cannibalism. Some of his victims’ body parts were kept in his Milwaukee apartment.

Dahmer was sentenced to life in prison, where he was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in 1994.

Randall Woodfield

Fair use


Randall Woodfield was known as “The I-5 Killer” and was linked to 18 murders in Washington and Oregon between 1979 and 1981. It is possible that he had 44 victims. His female victims were often raped by him. 

He is currently serving his life sentence at the Oregon State Penitentiary, Salem.

Paul John Knowles

AP


Knowles was released from prison in 1974. He began a murder spree, resulting in the deaths of 20 people across the country. 

He was eventually captured, but he tried to shoot a sheriff. This led to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent kills Knowles 

The “Ripper Crew”

Denise Crosby/Chicago Tribune/Getty Images


In the 1980s, four men from Chicago were given the disturbing nickname “The Ripper crew”.

Investigators found that the four men, Thomas Kokoraleis Andrew Kokoraleis Robin Gecht and Edward Spreitzer, were part of a satanic group believed to have been responsible for the murders up to 20 women. They drove around in a red van, looking for women to abduct from the streets. All four were convicted in connection to at least a portion of the attacks — either for murder, attempted murder, kidnapping or rape.

Thomas Kokoraleis (pictured here) was Released In 2019, he was released from prison. Andrew, his brother was executed in 1999.

Samuel Mason

Public Domain


Captain Samuel Mason, a native Virginian, was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War. He became the leader and founder of the Mason Gang, a group river pirates that is responsible for at least 20 deaths.

The gang operated along the Ohio River and Mississippi Rivers.

Patrick Kearney

The Daily Breeze


Patrick Kearney, also known as “Freeway Killer”, pleaded guilty 21 murders committed during the 1970s. He also admitted seven more. He is currently serving life imprisonment. 

His usual pattern was to grab young male hitchhikers, or young men from homosexual bars, and shoot them. He often sexually assaulted the bodies. 

Larry Eyler

Police mugshot


Larry Eyler, a 15 year-old boy, was convicted and confessed to the murders of at least 21 other young boys and men between 1982-84 in five states. He was violent with his victims during their sex acts.

He died of AIDS complications while on death row in 1994. 

William Bonin

Wally Fong/AP


William Bonin, another murderer also known as “Freeway Killer,” murdered at least 21 boys in 1979 and 1980.

He lured victims aged 12-19 into his van, and then sexually assaulted them before strangulating them. 

He was executed on December 22, 1992.  

Coral Eugene Watts

CARLOS OSORIO/AP


Officially, at least 14 murders have been linked to “The Sunday Morning Slasher,” Carl Eugene Watts (who operated between the mid-1970s & the mid-1980s). 

Authorities suspected Watts of 100 murders before his death in prison in 2007.

In this 2004 photograph, Watts waits for closing arguments to begin in his murder trial in Pontiac (Michigan).

Wayne Williams

FBI


Wayne Williams was convicted of killing two men in 1982, but the Atlanta Police Department found Williams responsible for at most 23 other killings that terrorized the area.

The case known as Atlanta Child MurdersAt least 28 young African American adults and children were murdered in the Atlanta area. The murders stopped after Williams was sent to jail.

Williams was sentenced to life imprisonment, but he maintains his innocence. 

Earle Nelson

Police photo


Earle Nelson, also known as “the Gorilla Man”, was convicted of killing 22 people in the U.S.A and Canada between 1926-1927. 

Nelson claimed that he wanted to rent out a room and then attack the landladies who were most of his victims. He would sometimes have sex and hide the bodies under the bed. 

He was executed for his crimes. 

Ronald Joseph Dominique

Alex Brandon/AP


Ronald Joseph Dominique confessed that he raped and murdered at least 23 Louisiana men over a period of ten years, beginning in 1997. 

He said that he believed it was better to kill his victims than to get caught. 

He is currently serving his sentence in prison for life. 

Gerald Stano

Public Domain


Officially, Gerald Stano confessed to killing 41 women, mostly in Florida and New Jersey — starting, he would eventually say, in the early 1970s, though his killing spree may have begun even earlier.

Stano Executed In the Florida electric chair, he was convicted of nine murders in 1998. He declared his innocence before he died.

Belle Gunness

AP


Belle Gunness was a Norwegian-born  American serial killer active in Illinois and Indiana between 1884 and 1908. 

She is believed to have killed 14 people. Most of them were men who were lured to her Indiana home by the promise of marriage.

Juan Corona

/ AP


Juan Corona, a Mexican national, was convicted of the murders 25 people. They were all found buried in peach orchards near the Feather River in Sutter County in California in 1971. His victims were all migrant farmers.

Corona waves to his supporters in this 1973 file photo as he leaves Fairfield’s Solano County Hall of Justice, California after being sentenced for 25 consecutive life terms. 

Corona died in 2019 at 85 from natural causes at an outpatient hospital. 

Dean Corll

U.S. Military


Dean Corll kidnapped, tortured and raped at most 28 teenage boys in Houston in the 1970s.

The Houston Mass Murders, also known as the Houston Mass Murders were discovered by Corll’s accomplices who fatally shot him. All the victims were buried on local beaches or in a boat shed.

Ted Bundy

Mark Foley/AP


Ted Bundy He was executed in Florida in 1989. He was also linked to a series of murders that had taken place in the 1970s in young women from several states. He confessed that he had committed 35 murders prior to his execution.

He would often charm women with his attractive looks, before attacking them. His vicious crime spree, which captivated the public imagination for decades, continues to inspire many. Television and film treatments.

Filipe Espinosa

Library of Congress


Authorities have linked this Mexican-American killer of the 19th century to approximately 32 murders in Colorado Territory during summer 1863.

His brother Vivian was also killed in the murder spree. No reason has been given. Tom Tobin, a tracker, was ultimately credited with Espinosa’s capture, his death, and Vivian’s return to Fort Garland, Colorado. This photo is historic.

John Wayne Gacy Jr.

AP


John Wayne Gacy Jr. was convicted for 33 murders and executed in 1994.

Gacy, sometimes performing as a clown in Illinois, sexually assaulted young boys and men in the 1970s. Many of his victims were buried in the crawl space of his Chicago-area house. 

Donald Harvey

Al Berhman / AP


After being admitted to killing three hundred hospital patients in Ohio, Kentucky and Kentucky between the 1970s-’80s, this former nurse’s assistant was called the “Angel of Death”. He was sentenced to multiple life terms. 

James Elliott, a fellow prisoner, would be charged in 2017 with the fatal beating of Harvey.

Harvey stands in front of a judge during Cincinnati’s September 1987 sentencing. 

“The Horrible Harpes.”

Courtesy Library Special Collections, WKU


Some historians consider these brothers,  born as Joshua and William Harper around 1750 and also known by the last name Harpe, as two of America’s earliest documented serial killers.

After their military service, the brothers became loyal to the British crown and began their murder spree. Based on confessions by the siblings, Archivists put their victim count at around 39, but it is possible that they had 50 victims in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois.

Gary Ridgway

Getty Images


Gary Ridgway Sentenced He was sentenced to life in prison for murdering 49 women between the 1980s and the 1990s.

Ridgway, also known by the Green River Killer terrorized Seattle killing mostly prostitutes strangling them. He would dispose of their bodies at dump sites along the Green River and sometimes return to have sex. 

He was only 20 years old when DNA evidence linked him to his crimes. He was arrested in 2001. 

Samuel Little

CBS Los Angeles


Samuel Little was Convicted in 2014. Three Californian women were killed in the 1980s. Four years later the 78-year old confessed to having killed about 90 women over several decades in the country.

Police have 34 of the murders were confirmed So far.

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