5 Unbelievable Real-Life Crimes Straight Out Of Movies and TV

5 Unbelievable Real-Life Crimes Straight Out Of Movies and TV


They say truth is stranger than fiction. That's clearly a lie. For example, fiction offers us Being John Malkovich, in which a portal allows anyone to be John Malkovich. No true events are as strange as that, not even the strange real life of the actual John Malkovich.

So when true events do manage to at all recreate some of the stranger stories from fiction, that's pretty impressive. For example, consider the following eerie cases. (Warning: uh, lots of murder.)

Woman Synthesizes Ricin, Breaking Bad-Style, To Poison Neighbors (Then Kills Again)

The fictional plot: 

As time goes by, we have to acknowledge that Breaking Bad was a deeply flawed show, because at no point did they properly teach us how to cook meth. Sure, they'd include subplots about stealing methylamine or using some catalyst or another, but when the time came to actually demonstrate the cook, they'd always cut away or do a montage rather than giving us a true tutorial. Why, a cynic might say the show was intended purely as entertainment and never aimed to instruct us on meth production at all!

Breaking Bad logo


If so, why air it on the Assemble Meth Channel? 

The writers did slightly better with a different chemical substance: ricin. Here too, they neglected to offer us as much detail as they could have, but they did reveal that you can synthesize the powdered poison ricin from castor beans, a fact few of us knew. Breaking Bad was really proud of its ricin. It introduced the poison to deal with a very specific situation, but it kept bringing it back right until the finale. By this point, Walt also had millions of dollars, criminal contacts, a Nazi-killing robot, etc., but they knew we wanted to see him kill using homemade ricin, out of nostalgia.

The real-life plot:

In 2012, Wisconsin woman Kore Adams made ricin from castor beans, to kill her neighbors. We have quite a lot of evidence for this. We have the testimony of her husband, who said "she was brewing ricin for use against their enemies." We have a storage unit she rented, containing a safe stolen from the neighbors, and inside the safe, she stored castor beans. We have Word documents that she created on her computer, titled "Making Ricin," containing the steps for making ricin.

Kore D. Adams.

Wagoner County Sheriff's Office

She didn't have a confession in her pocket labeled "My Evil Plan," but it was close. 

However, it took a while to catch her. It was 2014 when she broke into her neighbors' home, stole a credit card, and scattered a bunch of ricin dust. But the neighbors didn't ingest enough to get sick, so even after they figured out Adams was the burglar, no one realized she'd also tried to murder them. No, that only came out years later, when Adams also got in trouble for murdering her roommate.

Apparently, the roommates "didn't get along" (this was the same motive eventually presented for her trying to kill her neighbors), so Adams beat her to death. Lacking hydrofluoric acid to dispose of the remains, she then cut off the head and chopped the body into pieces, stored the pieces in a freezer, and dumped the freezer in the Arkansas wilderness.

Fly-tipped chest freezer on Green Lane.

David Lally

To be fair, this was April 2020, and we were all acting a bit odd. 

Police found the remains, traced them to Adams, and then discovered the safe and the other ricin evidence. It was now that the neighbors said, "Hey, she left a bunch of dust in our home during the burglary. Could someone check whether it's ricin?" Testing was possible because the dust was still there, in the wife's underwear drawer where Adams had sprinkled it. That meant the neighbors hadn't cleaned the underwear drawer in six years. Which makes sense. That drawer contains nothing but fresh laundry; it's the cleanest part of the house (but for the occasional pile of deadly ricin). 

Murderer Covers Tracks With Gas Line Fire (Then Kills Again)

The fictional plot: 

This past summer saw the release of a film in which Angelina Jolie plays a fire watcher, is dealing with trauma from a fire, and must lead a boy to safety through a giant fire. Inexplicably, they chose to give this movie a title that has the word "fire" nowhere in it. They went with the name Those Who Wish Me Dead, so they have no one to blame for themselves for the movie's failure. 

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Warner Bros. Pictures

Apparently, Firewatch was already taken, as was Firestorm

A pair of hit men, played by Littlefinger from Game of Thrones and Nicholas Hoult, kill someone and disguise the death as a gas explosion tearing apart a house. Then they set about covering up this murder by committing more murder, in ways that are even less discreet than the initial murder, so really, they're just digging themselves deeper. If this sounds like a comedy to you, no one told the writers or cast. 

The real-life plot:

In 2003, James Kidwell went on a date with someone he met online, and he first realized things weren't going so great when Rebecca Barney brought her 51-year-old husband along. She and husband Fred were going to separate but were still friends, and it's always safer to bring a friend along when you meet a strange man for the first time, right? It wasn't safer this time -- when Kidwell and Rebecca didn't hit it off, he tailed the couple to their home and murdered both of them

He cut the house's gas line and set the place ablaze to cover the deed up. But a passing neighbor, Kenneth Maxwell, spotted the fire and dialed 911, which meant authorities arrived and managed to get evidence before the fire consumed it. Kidwell spotted Maxwell finishing up his phone call and killed him with the same gun he'd used on Barney and her husband. Exactly what was the point in killing him after he'd already made the call is unclear. Kidwell ended up getting convicted for Maxwell's murder on top of the two other murders he'd already committed. 

James Kidwell mug shot


Based on these photos of him, taken one year apart, he adapted well to prison. 

If we made this into a script, we'd definitely have to include the detail that when police arrested Kidwell, he was in the middle of another date. And if we really want the story to leave you feeling weird, the script would have to mention that the prison removed all of Kidwell's teeth. For medical reasons, probably, but it does feel like someone wanted to punish him for all the filthy stuff he'd done with that mouth (police had found his saliva all over Rebecca's nude body). Kidwell requested that the prison provide him with dentures, because he was constantly constipated from swallowing his food without chewing, but they turned him down, saying he could always switch to a liquid diet. 

And speaking of prison life ... 

The Satanist Beheads An Inmate, Guards Peek In And Don't Notice

The fictional plot: 

HBO's Oz was the secret granddaddy of serialized cable dramas, and it was also the wackiest. Right at the start of the series, we're told that in this prison, "the guards are with us 24 hours a day. There's no privacy. Everybody sees what everybody's doing. Eyes are everywhere." And yet we spend the following years seeing prisoners constantly escaping the guards' notice and pulling off one ridiculous murder after another. 

Two dead inmates an episode feels about typical for Oz. Some of the more memorable incidents that guards avoid seeing include prisoners cutting off a guy's penis before murdering him and sealing away Luke Perry behind a brick wall ... twice

The real-life plot:

Of course, guards in real life often seem to mysteriously "miss" goings-on within prisons. The following case out of California is a little different from most. 

According to the guards' report, they did their regular round at Corcoran State Prison, passed the cell occupied by inmates Luis Romero and Jaime Osuna, and noted that both men were alive and well. In reality Osuna had murdered Romero -- not just murdered him but beheaded him with a shiv. And not just beheaded him but ... okay, this is your last chance to skip ahead. Still here? Fine: Osuna also cut out one of his cellmate's eyes, removed ribs and a bit of lung, and cut off a finger. He cut open Romero's face into a Joker grin and posed the body. He also made a necklace out of the collected body parts

Osuna had previously cut up a different inmate so bad that officers refused to photograph the injuries, for fear that Osuna would get a copy of the photo and treasure it. His motive in all this was simple: Osuna was a Satanist. Which is definitely a detail right out of a Hollywood plot, because in real life, Satanists are just followers of a pagan church and are perfectly nice people, right? Uh, maybe, but not Osuna. If only there was a way of guessing that from looking at him. Anyway, here's a picture of him: 

The Nerve Agent Used In A U.K. Assassination Attempt Was In A Perfume Bottle, Just Like Killing Eve

We hardly need to tell you about the hit BBC show Killing Eve. Why, it's on every critic's top 10 list, of course you've watched it! And of course we've watched it. Imagine if we wrote this article without watching the show. How ridiculous would that be. 


Killing Eve. Eve is the one on the right, obviously, because we have watched this show.

In the second episode of Killing Eve, Jodie Comer's assassin character Villanelle puts on a disguise and passes as staff at a political rally her target's attending. Picture the Hitman video game series if it was adapted well, unlike the actual Hitman movies. The target is a perfume mogul, so Villanelle kills her by getting her to sniff from a perfume bottle, which actually contains a deadly nerve agent. You can imagine a room of writers coming up with this idea pretty quick based on the prompt "female assassin," right after they come up with the name "Villanelle" for their female villain.

The real-life plot:

That episode's kill was inspired by the real-life assassination of one of Kim Jong-il's sons, who got doused with a nerve agent by a pair of lady assassins in 2017. But the writers didn't realize that a hit even closer to the one they were inventing happened just a month before the episode aired.

In March 2018, Russia sent assassins to kill double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter while the two were in England. You might well remember this famous story, including the part where the whole world concluded Russia did it, except for Russia, who blamed England. But though we heard early on that the two were struck with some kind of nerve gas, we didn't learn how it hit them till later in the year. That was when a random guy found what was responsible -- a perfume bottle. He found the discarded bottle and offered it to a woman. This woman, totally unconnected with the hit, sprayed it on herself and died

Biffa plastic bottle recycling dumpster bins a small car park on the west side of Grange Lane near the Broad Street junction in Littledean, Cinderford, Gloustershire.

Jaggery/Wiki Commons

He'd fished the bottle out of a trash bin, which he often poked through in search of "treasure."

You're welcome to celebrate the deadly perfume -- both the real one and fictional one -- by buying yourself a bottle of Villanelle perfume from Belgium. It doesn't actually have anything to do with Killing Eve, though, and is inspired by a poem (turns out "villanelle" is a type of poem, not another word for "villainess"). The retailer was surprised when fans suddenly started buying it, because she'd never watched the show herself. Ha, ha! Not watching Killing Eve. Imagine that. 

Guy Personally Kidnaps Criminal Across National Borders To Stand Trial

The fictional plot: 

In The Dark Knight, Batman makes a surprise trip to Hong Kong. Unlike every other time a blockbuster randomly goes to that neck of the woods, this was not an attempt for filmmakers to grab Chinese audiences (in fact, it was such a middle finger to China that Warner Bros. didn't release the movie there at all). It was instead an attempt for Batman to grab a Chinese fugitive, whom he then trussed up and delivered to Gotham PD. 

The government couldn't extradite the criminal, but Batman could because Batman knows no jurisdiction. While it makes a fine little illustration of the sort of ethical quandaries Batman punches right through in the name of catching baddies, that's absolutely not the way the real world works. Someone kidnapped and pulled over national borders by a vigilante would be considered a victim of all kinds of rights violations, and the case against them would fall apart. Right?

The real-life plot:

The year after The Dark Knight came out, a Frenchman named Andre Bamberski took a trip to Germany, and the target of his mission was the fugitive Dieter Krombach. This story was a little too cinematic to bury in a film's first act: rather than a creative accountant like Lau, Krombach was an evil stepfather, who had murdered Bamberski's daughter almost 30 years earlier.

It seems likely based on a medical examination that he also raped the 14-year-old girl, but this couldn't be entered into evidence because during the autopsy, doctors removed her vagina and disposed of it. Dieter Krombach, a doctor himself, was present during this autopsy. He wasn't actively practicing medicine, though, having lost his license years earlier ... for raping a 16-year-old patient. 

There was enough evidence to nail Krombach for murder, but that didn't do much good since Krombach hightailed it for Germany, and Germany had no plans of turning him over to France (apparently, the two countries are major football rivals). Years passed. Then Bamberski finally went to Germany, tied Krombach up, sneaked him across the border, dumped him in the street, and tipped police off about where he was. We're not sure what's more surprising -- that France now successfully sentenced Krombach or that Bamberski got off with just a suspended sentence, thanks to the obscure "because c'mon" loophole. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see. 

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