Criminal masterminds do exist; there are bad guys who have gotten away with their deeds for decades without ever leaving enough evidence behind for the cops to make a case. Yet, when these guys eventually get caught, the reason is usually exactly as stupid as that time your neighborhood meth head got nailed for trying to steal a cop car with the cop still sitting in it. It makes you wonder if these guys aren't just lucky after all.
#5. The BTK Killer Asks the Cops for Advice in Eluding Them
Dennis Rader was one of those special kinds of asshole who believe they're smarter than everyone else. He was also the kind of asshole who enjoyed torturing and murdering innocent victims, terrorizing the residents of Wichita, Kansas, with a string of unsolved murders from 1974 to 1991. Not content to simply get away with murder, he followed up his crimes with an endless stream of taunting letters sent to local law enforcement and television stations. In short, he was a total dick.
And probably had this really obnoxious monogram sewed onto all his towels.
After his first murder in January 1974, Rader left a letter in an engineering book at the Wichita public library. In it, he described in graphic detail the killings of his first victims, the Otero family. Unhappy with the lack of attention that resulted from his brazen act, he followed it up by sending another letter in 1978, this time taking responsibility for additional murders and demanding media attention. He also picked out a shiny new name for himself ... BTK. The letters stood for "bind, torture, kill," which was Rader's preferred means of killing.
"Bill Thomas Killman" is kinda undercut by that happy little train stamp.
Ordinarily, a chatty criminal is one who will get himself caught, unwittingly giving away details the police can use to track him down. But for a while at least, Rader proved to be every bit as smart as he thought he was, avoiding capture by making several photocopies of his letters before finally mailing them, and otherwise making sure to leave no evidence in his correspondence that could be traced back to him. He would fall into bouts of silence for years at a time before reinitiating contact with police, until finally, in 1991, the killings and the letters just stopped. If it had ended there, Rader might have remained free for the rest of his life.
But then, in 2004, he started right back up again, leaving untraceable letters and packages around the Wichita area. Rader had apparently grown tired of all the tedious photocopying that went into sending an untraceable letter to the police, and decided to look into this newfangled "computer" stuff that seemed to be all the rage. In the trademark fashion of a person who has little to no idea how computers or the Internet work, he literally sent police the following message:
"Look, be honest with me. If I send you a disk will it be traceable? Just put [the answer] in the newspaper."
He may be a bloodthirsty, sadistic killer, but by God the man has a sense of fair play.
Yep, he came right out and asked them if they could trace the disk back to him. This was information he just as easily could have Googled on his own, but somehow, that never crossed his wicked-smart mind.
The police, naturally, lied and said the disk could not be traced, and lo and behold, Rader's next package contained a 1.44 megabyte floppy disk. Metadata on a deleted Word document on the disk indicated that the last person who modified it was a man named Dennis and had information pointing toward a church where he volunteered. After that, it took just a scant amount of investigative work before police were able to arrest Rader and charge him with several murders.
With his arrest, the ailing floppy disk industry finally collapsed.
After being taken into custody and told how he was finally found, Rader expressed his disbelief at the shady tactics employed by Wichita police, going so far as to ask why they had lied to him about being able to trace the disk. Like he thought the whole thing was a goddamned video game and the computer AI police had just "cheated."
#4. Wu Gang Goes on TV
Wu Gang is not the the name of a Chinese gang, it's the name of a guy. But, a guy with a name like that is pretty much destined for a life of crime, and in 1998 he murdered a man in Jilin, China.
And then rapped about it in an influential '90s hip-hop group. Maybe.
Then, like a Chinese Keyser Soze, he vanished, seemingly never to be seen again. For 13 years, not a single lead surfaced in the case. The public was mystified, as were the police. As shocking as his ability to completely vanish off the face of the earth may have been, we're guessing the stupidity that led to him finally being caught took people even more by surprise.
Viewers of a Chinese dating show called Happy League were taken with a bubbly contestant by the name of Liu Hao, who sang like a bird and did an adorable version of the Running Man to a techno song. This is apparently considered cool over there, and Hao's lighthearted antics and adorable button nose landed him a date with a female contestant, who chose Hao out of eight possible bachelors competing for her love.
This is a damning verdict on the average Chinese bachelor.
But a viewer watching at home noticed something a bit less adorable about Liu Hao ... he looked almost exactly like Wu Gang. Concerned that they were literally watching an unknowing woman being set up on a date with a cold-blooded murderer, the observant viewer notified police, who apparently don't view television dating shows as something that needs to be monitored for possible criminal activity.
The fact that they're on screen is usually criminal enough.
For a month, police looked into the striking resemblance. Sure enough, the dancing weirdo from Happy League was none other than their fugitive. He had grown so comfortable with his ability to evade capture that appearing on national television no longer seemed like much of a risk. Amazingly, this turned out to be a massive miscalculation on Wu Gang's part, as he was quickly arrested and charged with murder.
As incredible as that story is, Wu Gang wasn't the only fugitive to be captured after appearing on a Chinese television show that year. That December, Ji Siguang, an actor playing a monk/crime fighter in a TV show called Shaolin Tigers, was arrested for an assault that happened 13 years earlier. And Siguang's brazenness makes Wu Gang look downright careful in comparison. Whereas Gang just made the mistake of appearing on one show, Ji Siguang did the only reasonable thing a person on the run from the law would do and took up a career in acting. Working under the name Zhang Guofeng, he managed to hide in plain sight, right on the television screens of millions of people for over a decade.
What we're saying is we should probably go check on those creepy-looking CSI: Miami guys.
He probably figured that after all that time, the authorities had surely forgotten about his crime. After all, it's not like the cops would hold a grudge over -- wait, what was his crime again? "Assault on a police officer"? Oh, shit.
#3. Eric Rudolph Is No Rambo
Hosting the Summer Olympics is a big deal for any city, and Atlanta got to do just that in 1996. Unfortunately, that meant they also had the less desirable honor of hosting a terrorist bombing. At the time of the bombing, suspicion fell on the guy who found the bomb, a security guard by the name of Richard Jewell, who was understandably less than enthusiastic about all the newfound notoriety. But that suspicion gradually lifted as similar bombs kept exploding in places like abortion clinics and gay clubs. Soon the authorities discovered who they were dealing with: ex-soldier, survivalist and crazy badass Eric Robert Rudolph.
Our software sometimes replaces "raving psychopath" with "badass." It's a known issue.
Rudolph's profile read like the way they described John Rambo in First Blood. He had been in the army and received training for airborne operations and survival. Not just military survival education, but lifelong "I know the woods of North Carolina like the back of my hand" type of survival. Authorities said that finding him would not be quick or easy, and it looked like they were right -- by 2003, Rudolph had managed to elude state and federal manhunts for five years without a problem.
"We checked under our desks and looked out the window. That -- uh, that's as far as we're going."
Dogs, hundreds of men, helicopters and infrared sensors all proved useless in tracking down the domestic terrorist. It was going to take something extraordinary to bring this manhunt to an end, and would surely result in Sheriff Brian Dennehy getting shot.
Ha, no, not really. On June 1, a rookie patrol cop named Jeff Postell spotted a strange person behind a Save-A-Lot supermarket wearing camouflage and carrying a big flashlight at three in the morning. As Postell approached, the figure jumped behind some milk crates and tried to hide. Unfortunately for the villain, Postell was simply a rookie and not, say, a small child. The cop ordered the mysterious figure out from behind his poorly chosen hiding place.
"If you can't see me, you can't arrest me!"
Amazingly, that dirty, loitering hobo turned out to be Eric Rudolph. The same Eric Rudolph they said would never be found, and even if he was, needed to be approached with caution, meekly submitted like a kitten. Turns out he also had an empty backpack, leading the cops to believe he was there on a dumpster diving mission. Hey, why didn't you think of that, Rambo? Ain't no need to go hunting in the wilderness when there are perfectly good expired Ding Dongs in the dumpster behind Save-A-Lot.
"Oh, you might kill to eat, Mr. Bloodbath, but I'm not as heartless."