Unsolved Serial Killings, p.2R. J. Parker
Not all serial killers are caught however, and in this book there are several unsolved serial killing cases. Yes, some are arrested or picked up for other crimes, and evidence leads investigators to their murders, but other times it’s just pure luck for the authorities or bad luck for the serial killer, that leads to their capture. For example, Ted Bundy was caught at a routine traffic stop, while David Berkowitz, The Son of Sam, was initially picked up for loitering and was thought to be a witness to the crimes instead of the killer.
Most serial killers either spend their lives in prison once convicted, or are executed if the death penalty exists in the state that prosecuted them. Of course, there’s always the exception to the rule. For instance, Ed Gein was considered incompetent to stand trial and was sent to a mental facility, but his doctor later determined him to fit. The judge then found him not guilty because of insanity, and in 1984, he died of heart failure in prison.
Peter Woodcock is an example of no cure for a serial killer. He spent thirty-five years in a criminal ward at a psychiatric hospital in Ontario, Canada, after killing three children. Only hours after being released, he killed another psychiatric patient and was immediately sent back to the hospital. He’d been released as he was deemed cured by his psychiatrist, but obviously, even after thirty-five years, he was not cured.
Chapter 7: Unsolved Serial Murder Cases
It is very frightening when serial murders are happening in a community. Just knowing there is someone stalking the neighborhood, looking for victims, is very frightening. Many of these killers hunt in the same area for years; others travel around spreading their fear in new regions and, luckily, many of them are captured. When the killer is not captured, however, the public is forced to envision when he or she will strike again.
There is sorrow in knowing that a serial killer was never brought to justice for the crimes they committed. There are several unsolved murder cases in the United States alone, not counting all around the globe, that are thought to have been the work of a serial killer. This book will depict several of them, as well as Serial Killers who were captured. Some of the unsolved cases in this book include The Axeman of New Orleans, The Capital City Killer, The Frankford Slasher, The Original Night Stalker, Highway of Tears Killer, The Servant Girl Annihilator, The Zodiac Killer and many more.
Chapter 8: The Axeman of New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana (11 Victims)
It all began in New Orleans in 1918 with The Axeman of New York. He would chop a hole in a door to get into his victim’s house. He would then axe the man or woman to death. In one case he slit the victim’s throat with a barber’s razor. Often leaving the axe behind, he would flee the house.
He usually used the axe that belonged to the victim and took great joy in confusing the police with this. In several cases, a neighbor or relative was arrested for the murder.
The killer often had a cooling down period and would go months between killings. When that happened, the common folk of New Orleans would let their guard down. That’s when he would strike again. In 1919, the killings unexpectedly stopped.
In total, there were eleven people victimized by the Axeman, including one baby. Of the eleven, five people survived their attacks, though none could say who attacked them.
Chapter 9: The Capital City Killer
Madison, Wisconsin (8 Known Victims)
In Madison, Wisconsin, over a fourteen year period, women would suddenly disappear, until, in 1968, bodies began to turn up. Police theorized it was the work of a serial killer, but because the bodies were badly decomposed, identification was near impossible, as was the cause of their deaths.
In total, there were eight victims, each a female between the ages of seventeen and twenty-four who wore her hair long and parted in the same way. They were associated with the University of Wisconsin in one way or another, either living on residence, working there, or attending as a student. For those whom the autopsy could verify cause of death, it was discovered that the victim was stabbed, charred, or had suffered blunt force trauma. It was also believed that many of the bodies have never been found as there were many more young women missing.
In 1984, the abduction of women ended, which makes one wonder again: did the serial killer simply stop, die, or move?
Chapter 10: The Frankford Slasher
Frankford, Pennsylvania (8 or 9 Victims)
Between 1985 and 1990, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, nine females ranging from twenty-eight to seventy-four were assaulted, raped, and stabbed to death. One victim in particular was stabbed a total of seventy-four times and one was raped with a three-foot piece of wood.
On May 5th, 1990, Leonard Christopher was apprehended and convicted in the murder of one of the nine murders, but the others remain unsolved. As Christopher was awaiting trial, another murder took place and police verified that the killings were not connected to Christopher, as the MO was not the same. Christopher did not even match the description that witnesses gave.
Were there two serial killers working in the same region during this five-year span? Public opinion differs. Some think that Christopher did all the killings; more think the killer has not been caught; some believe he died; and others think he is in jail for another crime. Will the residents of Frankfort ever know? Will there ever be closure for the families of the victims?
Chapter 11: The Servant Girl Killer
Austin, Texas (8 + Victims)
In Austin, Texas in 1884 and 1885, a serial killer preyed upon citizens, raping and killing women. On December 26th, 1885, the New York Times reported that the "murders were committed by some cunning madman, who is insane on the subject of killing women."
On December 31st, 1884, a killer entered a little cabin and killed a servant girl, Mollie Smith, twenty-five, and seriously injured a man named Walter Spencer. Each time he killed, he would use a different weapon. He used a knife to stab eleven-year-old Mary Ramey in the ears. Other times he used an iron rod, and even a brick. Many of his victims were raped before being killed, and the people of Austin were fearful of this maniac.
The people suspected the killer had an affinity for negro serving girls, but on December 24th, 1885, he struck twice, both times killing a white woman in the same brutal manner as previous. The killings, however, stopped after that night.
In total, he killed one man and seven women, and assaulted another eight victims who managed to survive. Some believe the Servant Girl Killer went on to become Jack the Ripper; we will never know. The period, however, was right, as was the atrocious nature of the killings. The Ripper, though, never raped his victims, as the Servant Girl Killer did.
Chapter 12: The Zodiac Killer
San Francisco, California (39+ Victims)
The identity of the Zodiac killer is unknown and probably will always be, but FBI has not stopped looking, and updates are made to the file regularly. In the 1960s and 1970s, the serial killer operated in the North of California. Normally, the media or police dub a serial killer. This arrogant killer, however, made up his own, calling himself Zodiac in a series of letters he sent to the media.
The Zodiac claims, by way of letters, to have killed thirty-seven people. Authorities only know of seven confirmed victims. It all started on December 20th, 1968, when David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were on their first date together, and planned to go to a Christmas concert, but first drove out to Lake Herman Road, which was a “lover’s lane.” About a half hour later, their bodies were discovered, and the Sheriff’s office was notified. Both had been shot dead.
Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau went for a drive on July 4th, 1969 and parked just four miles from the first murder site. Another car drove up and immediately drove away. Ten minutes later, the car returned and parked behind them. The killer shot both of them with a 9mm Luger, firing seven shots. Darlene Ferrin, although shot in the chest, neck, and face, survived, and was able to give details to the police. The Vallejo Police received a call from a man the next day reporting himself to be
The Vallejo Times Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner, each received a letter on August 1st, 1969, supposedly from the killer, taking credit for the murders. The catch was that each newspaper only received 1/3rd each of the 408 symbol cryptic letter that the killer claimed would identify him. He demanded the letters be printed on the front pages of their papers or he would kill a dozen people over the weekend. This turned out to be a bluff as the Chief of Police Jack Stiltz said in the Chronicle “We’re not satisfied that he letter was written by the murderer.” The Chronicle, however, did publish their part on page four, but no murder took place over the weekend. The other newspapers also published their pieces, but not on the front page, and not the next day.
The cryptic code was cracked by civilians, Bettye and Donald Harden, of Salinas, California, on August 8th, 1969. What it contained was not the identity of the killer, as the killer had claimed, but a message claiming the killer to be collecting slaves for the afterlife.
Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell were college students at Pacific Union and on September 27th, 1969, they were having a picnic at Lake Berryessa when a man approached them wearing a hoodie and sunglasses. On his chest hung a 3”x3” circular cross-like symbol. He had a gun but never used it. Instead, he tied both of them up and stabbed them. He proceeded to draw a circular cross symbol on Bryan’s car with a pen, and then wrote beneath it, "Vallejo/12-20-68/7-4-69/Sept 27-69-6:30/by knife." The killer then made a call to the Sheriff’s office from a payphone to report the crime. The police got a wet print off the phone, but it did not match any criminal in their system.
Cecelia Shepard went into a coma and passed away two days later. Bryan Hartnell, however, survived, and gave a good recount to the police and media about what happened, and what the perp looked like.
It’s interesting to make a note that Detective Ken Narlow of the Napa County Sheriff’s office was assigned to the investigation at the start, and continued working the case until his retirement in 1987, and even then, investigated on his own until he passed away at eighty years old on December 2nd, 2010. Talk about dedication.
In San Francisco on October 11th, 1969, a cab driver by the name of Paul Stine stopped for a passenger when he was instantly shot in the head with a 9mm gun, Three teenagers witnessed the killer take the cabbie’s money, tear of a piece off the driver’s shirt, and wipe down the cab. They each gave a description of the killer and more composite sketches were drawn up. Over the years following, detectives investigated over 2500 suspects under the tutelage of Detectives Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong. The killings were all happening in Northern California; thus each county would have to investigate the murders in their own backyards.
The Zodiac killer prepared another letter and just three days later on October 14th, the Chronicle received it along with a swatch of the cab driver’s shirttail to prove he was the killer. In addition, the Zodiac Killer threatened to kill school children on a bus and wrote, “just shoot out the front tire & then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out."
On June 19th, 1970, Police Sgt. Richard Radetich was shot in the head with a .38 caliber handgun while sitting in his patrol car, writing a parking ticket. In another letter to a newspaper, the killer said, “I shot a man sitting in a parked car with a .38.” The killer continued writing to the media with letters and greeting cards taunting the police and public.
Donna Lass worked as a Nurse at the Sierra Tahoe Casino. On September 6th , 1970, she finished her shift at 2am and was never seen again. In one of his notorious letters to the media, on March 22nd, 1971, the Zodiac took credit for killing Donna Lass and hiding her body. Things were quiet for about three years, until January 29th, 1974, when the Zodiac once again sent a letter to the Chronicle praising the movie, “The Exorcist,” as the best comedy that he had ever seen.
The case of the Zodiac Killer has been investigated by numerous people officially and unofficially for over forty years. The murder cases remain open to this day with the SFPD, Napa County, Solano County, and the California Justice Department.
A website is available and is quite interesting if you want to check it out:
Chapter 13: The Original Night Stalker
Ventura, Dana Point and Irvine, California (50+ Victims)
It all started in Southern California in December of 1979 and continued to at least May of 1986. I will refer to the Original Night Stalker as ONS.
In a condo in Goleta California on December 30th, 1979, Debra Manning, thirty-five, and Dr. Robert Offerman, forty-four, were found shot to death in bed. Some neighbors thought they’d heard gunfire, but weren’t sure and never reported it. The killer had actually brought along his German shepherd, and after he’d shot couple he’d fed the dog leftover turkey. He then went next door, which was vacant, and stole a bike. The neighbor, who happened to be an FBI Agent, heard the noise and gave chase on foot, but the ONS abandoned the bike and ran off.
On March 13th, 1980, another couple was found murdered in their home. Lyman Smith, forty-three, and Charlene Smith, thirty-three, were beaten to death with a fireplace log, and bound with drapery cords on their ankles and wrists. Then, again in 1980, on August 19th, newlyweds, Patrice Harrington, twenty-seven, and her husband Keith, twenty-four, were beaten to death in their home in Dana Point.
The following year there was another home attack and this time only the woman was home because her husband was in hospital recuperating from an illness. On February 6th, 1981, Manuela Witthuhn, twenty-eight, was murdered in her home in Irvine. Her body showed signs of being tied before being beaten, but no ligature marks or murder weapons were found at the scene. It was believed that the ONS tried to make it look like a botched robbery, as he left her TV in the backyard, and stole a crystal curio and lamp.
Just five months later in Goleta on July 26th, 1981, the ONS went to the home of Gregory Sanchez, twenty-seven, and Cheri Domingo, thirty-five, and brought along his German Shepherd again, as shown through trace evidence. Both victims were shot to death and Gregory’s body was found in the closet. Neighbors heard no gunshots even though the houses were close together.
There was a five year break between kills, but potentially not. Ten murders were linked through the dog’s DNA, but it is suspected the ONS killed approximately fifty people.
Janelle Cruz was only eighteen years old, and home alone as her family was in Mexico on vacation. On May 4th, 1986 the ONS entered her home and beat her to death with a pipe wrench.
Some Law Enforcement authorities guesstimate that the ONS’s combined total number of victims is around fifty, including his rape victims in Sacramento County and Contra Costa County, and his murder and rape victims in Ventura, Dana Point, and Irvine, California. In the beginning, the ONS was actually called the East Area Rapist and was believed to be responsible for the raping of almost 100 women. He would target females living alone, but escalated his modus operandi and moved on to couples and killing; hence he is called the Original Night Stalker.
It is interesting to note that the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker case was the determining factor in the passage of legislation leading to the organization of California's DNA database which authorizes the collection of DNA from all accused and convicted felons in California. California's DNA data retrieval and storage program is considered by experts to be second only to Virginia's in size and effectiveness in solving cold cases. Ironically, while the California DNA database motivated by this case has solved numerous previously unsolved cold cases across the country, the original case remains unsolved.
Chapter 14: The Twin Cities Killer
Minneapolis and St. Paul (34 Victims)
There was a growing concern among the residents of the twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis between 1986 and 1994. Over that span, thirty-four young w
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