5 Terrifying Serial Killers Who Never Got Caught
A truly good serial killer tale ends with the murderer behind bars, still cackling maniacally and ready to somehow seduce us all. Except, of course, when the serial killer never gets caught. These killers are still cackling maniacally, only they're doing so right outside your window as you sleep. Here are their stories.
The February 9th Killer
If the following tale concerned just one murder, perhaps we would forever know the man responsible as The Cheetos Killer. Or, more likely, most of us would never have heard of the case so wouldn't know him by any name whatever, but if we did know him by a name, it would have been The Cheetos Killer.
On February 9, 2006, a witness spotted the man in Taylorsville, Utah, carrying a bottle of Coke and a bag of unidentified snack food. This witness saw him talk to 29-year-old Sonia Mejia outside her apartment building then smack her head and force her in with him, but the witness didn't report the incident soon enough to do any good. Sonia's husband later came home. Outside, he found a Coke bottle and a bag of Cheetos by the door. Inside, he found Sonia stripped and strangled to death on the bed, a wire around her neck and Cheetos dust on her breast.
The John Doe responsible would eventually be charged with double homicide (because Sonia had been six months pregnant) along with sexual assault. But the police didn't have a whole lot of leads, and the case didn't progress. Then came February 9, 2008. Just a mile away from the scene of Sonia's death, another woman was found dead in her apartment. Damiana Castillo, 57, had been smothered with a pillow. And investigators asked themselves: What are the chances that two women so close to each other would both be murdered on February 9?
Answer: It's not that unlikely, really. No more unlikely than, say, one getting murdered on Feb 9 and the other getting murdered on Feb 3. But on the off-chance that more than an imagined pattern connected the two deaths, investigators compared DNA from the two crime scenes and found that ... yeah, the same man murdered both.
Ten years later, the DA's office announced that they'd located the culprit, and they just had to fetch him from a different jurisdiction. But it's been over two years since then with no news, and police now again label the case as unsolved, so it sounds like that didn't pan out. Now we're left just pondering what led Cheetos Man to kill on that date. Maybe he gets bitter before Valentine's Day, or bitter after Groundhog Day. Maybe the first time was just chance, and then he celebrated the anniversary with a sequel. Or maybe Feb 9 is his birthday, and he figures he can do a little murder that day, as a treat.
The German Saw Man
No, we're not talking about one of those fictional chainsaw killers, since a chainsaw really is rather an unwieldy weapon. Nor about that Jigsaw killer, who didn't even use a saw all that often. We're talking about the Saw Killer of Hanover, who killed a total of ... uh, we aren't actually sure. At least six people that we know of, but we're a little short of information about the victims because we've been unable to identify a single one of them.
The German city of Hanover (population: half a million) discovered the first sawed body in 1975. Someone had killed a young woman and had chopped off her legs, arms, and breasts. Then they'd tied all the body parts together in a bundle. Approaching this as a reasonable person, you might assume that the murderer dismembered the body to dispose of it, to avoid detection. And yet he chose to drop his crafts project off in the one body of water where it was most likely to be spotted: the local hydroelectric power plant.
The second body turned up the following year, and this time, the killer didn't wrap all the body parts together. He put the dead woman's leg in the dumpster of a girls' school and dropped other parts in the river. As for the torso, he made sure to leave this where people would definitely find it: He placed it in front of a radio station, during a public concert held in the same complex. In 1977, the killer chopped up four more people -- two more women, a teenage boy, and a 50-year-old man. Two times, he again chose the hydroelectric plant as his dumpsite, and overall, police were convinced this was what's known as an "exhibitionist killer."
Investigators never managed to identify any of the victims, despite being able to note tattoos, other distinguishing marks, and sometimes fingerprints. You'd think it'd be easy to match these bodies with unsolved murders or disappearances in the city, but no. Was the Saw Man killing victims in various other cities and then for some reason transporting them all to Hanover to be discovered? Police also mused on the theory that he wasn't killing at all, but had dug these bodies all up from graves, but no reports of grave robbing presented themselves, and the victims appeared to be freshly dead in each case.
Judging by the way he'd sawn the bodies, the killer didn't appear to have medical experience, which is usually a possibility when you learn someone has skill in the field of dismemberment. But the way he cut at the joints suggested he did have some knowledge on the matter: perhaps he was a professional butcher.
The Menstruation Murderer
All three victims of the serial killer we're about to discuss were patrons of a Glasgow dance club known as the Barrowland Ballroom. The first woman, 25-year-old nurse Patricia Docker, was found strangled in a doorway one morning in February 1968. She was naked, and her missing clothes never turned up. The next two died the following year, two months apart. Both went to Barrowland for the evening, both left the club with what sounds like the same man, and both were later found strangled with their own stockings.
We've actually told you about this Glasgow killer before -- a man dubbed Bible John, because according to a witness who heard him talk to his final victim, he kept quoting from the Old Testament, sharing Moses' condemnation of adultery. As strange a point as that was, especially from a man ostensibly looking to hook up, we neglected to mention one noted aspect of this case: all three victims were menstruating while they were killed. Prompting you to ask 1) Really, is that something autopsies check for, and also 2) Huh. What are the chances that three randomly selected murder victims would all be on their periods?
The answer to the first question is, "Yes, though it's rarely worth reporting." And the answer to the second question, according to the same spoilsport statistician we contacted for the February 9 case, is, "Not especially unlikely, really. Do the math." However, whether or not someone's menstrual state should matter at all following their murder, it appears that it did mean something to Bible John. In each case, police found pads or tampons arranged on top of or under the body.
One theory says John asked clubbers whether they were on their periods and sought out only those who were. When clubbing, that would be an odd way to start conversations, but not necessarily odder than anti-sex biblical screeds. Maybe the murders were religious madness (the law of Moses had some strange ideas when it came to the Red Sea). Or maybe, says another theory, each woman used being on her period as an excuse for why John should not rape her, then he decorated the body with her own tampons to underline just how badly that excuse failed.
Bible John sparked the largest manhunt in Scottish history. Because unlike with many serial killers, we had a detailed description of him, thanks to various witnesses from all those nights at the Barrowland Ballroom.
Listen, when we learned there was a serial killer named Charlie Chop-Off, we were pumped, because that's a funny name. Then we looked into his story, and we now wish we'd never heard of him. So, right now, what we'd like for you to do is simply read the name "Charlie Chop-Off," chuckle to yourself, and then read no more. Maybe sing the name to yourself. "Charlie, Charlie Chop-Off!" you can belt out, to the tune of "Davy Crockett." Take from this article only that moment of unashamed joy.
What, you're still here? Fine. We're talking now about another series of murders that took place over the course of three years a few decades ago, these ones all in Manhattan. The first was in March 1972, and the victim was Douglas Owens, a Black nine-year-old, who Charlie Chop-Off stabbed 38 times. Charlie Chop-Off also cut the boy's penis. He did not sever the penis completely. We clarify this only because the next three boys Charlie murdered (two Black, one Puerto Rican), he made it a point to sever each of their penises totally and take the organs with him.
Media attention was muted at first, greatly angering locals, who pointed out that a comparable crime against even one white girl would have led to headlines nationwide. As police got around to investigating, work was slow, and people got mad. Cops settled on one person of interest, and the locals got ready a lynch mob to step in if the cops weren't ready to act. We mean that literally -- the mob carried nooses -- and when cops realized they had the wrong man, they had to smuggle him out wearing a police uniform to keep the crowd from killing him anyway.
They never convicted anyone for the murders. The closest they got was a man named Erno Sotto, and to this day, you'll see some sources concluding he was the culprit. But Sotto was half a foot taller than the killer, according to a fifth victim Charlie attacked but released. Also, Sotto was in custody in a mental facility during at least one of the murders. "Maybe we let him slip out of our sights," said the hospital, and people were happy to accept this possible explanation for some reason.
The Two Doomsday Cultists
You've all heard of Jonestown. The massacre killed 909 people and went down in history. But 20 years after Jonestown came another mass killing that was similar in many ways and yet remains largely forgotten today. It actually narrowly beat Jonestown in its death count (923), and while Jim Jones died along with his followers, the leaders of this next cult are likely still wandering the earth today.
The cult called itself The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. Not all groups that preach the Ten Commandments are cults, but when a group says you must stop speaking altogether to avoid bearing false witness, and must also for unclear reasons never use soap, you're probably in a cult. In the final days of 1999, The Movement preached that the end was nigh, and the righteous thing to do was to sell all your property and donate the proceeds to the Movement. Then Y2K came, the world didn't end, and suddenly a great many angry followers were demanding their money back.
The cult leaders -- high priestess Credonia Mwerinde and holy dude Joseph Kibweteere -- announced that they had made a small error. Actually, the world would end on March 17, 2000, and everyone was invited to a huge party! And so on St. Patrick's Day in 2000, the Movement hosted a total blow-out in the Ugandan town of Kanungu. The party was awesome. They roasted three bulls for the occasion. Then the building they were all in caught fire, and 530 died.
At first, people thought this was a tragic accident of the highest order. But then news trickled in about what was going on among sects of the Movement who hadn't managed to make an appearance in Kanungu. One cult compound turned out to contain 150 piled bodies, as did another, while 80 more were found at a farm. Rumors described these as mass suicides, but they were soon determined to be murders -- some stabbings, most by poison.
Suddenly the fire didn't look accidental at all. Someone had boarded the windows from the outside to prevent anyone from escaping, and it turned out cult leaders had bought incendiary supplies before the party, even beyond what is usually needed to roast your average-size bull. Police at first had assumed Mwerinde and Kibweteere died in the fire, but on closer examination, their bodies didn't definitively appear among the charred corpses.
And so police put out a warrant for the pair's arrest. It's been 20 years now, and the police haven't had a chance to execute that warrant. Reports still trickle in now and again of sightings of the cult leaders. They may still get caught, if the world doesn't end first.