5 Flagrant Murders That Killers Got Away With
Sometimes, we’re all but certain a murder suspect did it, and they’re found not guilty anyway. They had motive, means, and opportunity. They sport a suspicious mustache. When you ask them if they did it, they say, “I don’t know. Did I?” Then they chuckle to themselves and walk away into the night.
But there's being all but certain someone did it, and then there's being actually certain they did it, like in the following cases. These guys did it all right, and no one’s disputing that, not even themselves. But the murderer manages to get off anyway.
Bootlegger Shoots His Wife In Public
George Remus made millions legally producing alcohol “for medicinal purposes,” during Prohibition. This alcohol kept getting “stolen” by the mob, and proceeds from the eventual illegal sales somehow found their way to Remus’ accounts. You might know the guy from his portrayal n HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. It can be hard to keep all the gangsters straight in that show, but audiences remember George Remus’ name, thanks to his habit of always referring to himself in the third person, like a less evil Elmo.
In 1927, George Remus got away with murder, and this surprisingly did not result from his mob connections intimidating jurors. Those mob connections, for starters, did not protect him from getting arrested for bootlegging in 1925, or stop a judge from sending him to prison for two years. While he was inside, an undercover agent named Franklin Dodge posed as an inmate to learn more about the man’s business, which continued to operate. He learned that Remus’ wife Imogene now had full control of his fortune.
Dodge figured this was an opportunity too great to approach using official means. He quit his job, pursued Imogene romantically, and convinced her to split the money with him. When the bootlegger left prison, he tried to return to this distilling empire, and discovered that his wife had used her legal authority to cut him out totally.
He tried suing her. That didn’t seem to be working. So while on their way to court, he chased her through Cincinnati in a car, then went after her when she left her vehicle and entered a public park. He punched her then shot her to death, saying, “You degenerate mass of clay, take this.” Then he went straight to police headquarters and turned himself in.
Remus represented himself at his trial, blaming his actions on “transitory maniacal insanity.” Which might sound routine enough to you today, but you see, George Remus invented the temporary insanity plea. He was a defense attorney by trade, before he (like Dodge after him), discovered the real money lay in liquor. He created the plea for a client of his who’d murdered his wife, and who initially tried to paint the crime as a suicide pact. The plea worked then, and he figured it could work for himself too.
When Remus described himself as temporarily insane, his argument avoided any psychiatric details. Mostly, he just described his wife’s actions as so terrible, they’d be enough to drive any man nuts. The jury believed him and acquitted him after 19 minutes of deliberation, describing him as “a dangerous psychopath because he is unmoral.” That is not the precise definition of insanity we use today.
We’ve explained before that being found not guilty due to insanity doesn’t mean you’re a free man—you get committed to psychiatric care, possibly for life. Well, George Remus was committed to an asylum. For seven months. Then he went on to live another happy 20 years, remarrying and returning to the legal profession.
A Gold-Melting Crook Killed The Officer Investigating Him, In Self-Defense
“Never run from the cops,” is advice we all tell our kids. If you run, you will die. Moreover, definitely never attack a cop. Attack a cop, and you will even more certainly die. But in 1985, British man Kenneth Noye killed an officer on his property who was investigating him and managed to escape any punishment.
In Noye’s defense, Detective Constable John Fordham was not in uniform during the killing. When the officer surveilling him disturbed the home’s rottweilers and woke him up, Noye may have mistaken him for any old intruder. On the other hand, Noye didn’t just fire at the presumed intruder from a distance, like so many homeowners claiming self-defense. He stabbed Fordham to death, which meant leaving the safety of his home and engaging in close-quarters combat. He stabbed Fordham ten times.
Noye was acquitted thanks in part to namedropping a different police officer, Scotland Yard commander Ray Adams, whom he called a friend. Years earlier, Adams had got Noye off a bribery charge, by maybe lying to a judge about Noye being a criminal informant. So yeah: Noye was acquitted of the murder charge. This case is really so strange, though, because Noye was still guilty and got convicted over the crime for which Fordham was investigating him.
In 1983, six robbers stole $100 million in gold and jewels from a Brink's warehouse. It was a crazy heist, which we’d love to tell you more about when you have the time: The robbers poured gasoline over security guards’ crotches and threatened them with lit matches into complying. Though not one of the gang, Noye later melted the bullion down for them to help them fence it. Fordham was correct in surveilling Noye that day, a court convicted Noye for his part in the robbery, and Noye received a sentence of 14 years.
In case this sounds like the tale of a mere accessory to robbery committing a single act of violence, you need to hear Noye’s final claim to fame. In 1996, now out of prison, he got angry at another driver when in traffic, confronted him, and murdered him. The weapon? Noye’s trusty knife of course. A court sentenced him to life this time—but not before taking two years to find him, because Noye first fled the country.
Inept Air Traffic Controller Murdered In Front Of Family
In July 2002, two planes crashed into each other over Germany. The fault for this kind of disaster usually falls on the air traffic control service, possibly on one controller mourning his daughter who died of a heroin overdose. During this disaster, one single air traffic controller was on duty: Peter Nielsen.
He assigned the two planes the same altitude. He did spot his error, and at the last minute, he told one of the planes to descend. Unfortunately, the other plane also now descended, following instructions from its own computer. If both planes listened to their computers, they would have avoided each other, and they would have avoided each other had both listened to manual instructions. As it was, the passenger jet and the cargo plane smashed into each other in midair, killing all aboard both vessels.
Among those who died were Svetlana Kaloyev and her two children, Konstantin and Diana. That family was survived by one man, Vitaly Kaloyev, who’d lost his wife, son, and daughter all at once. And so, Vitaly Kaloyev plotted to kill the man responsible.
That wasn’t so easy. Vitaly lived in Russia, while Peter Nielsen lived in Switzerland. Vitaly had to track down the man, travel to Zurich while posing as an ordinary tourist, and then find Peter’s suburban home. He then stalked the home, and when Peter arrived, he stabbed him to death in his garden. Peter’s own wife and children witnessed the murder.
Unlike the other murderers in this article, Vitaly Kaloyev did serve time for his crime. He spent two years in prison. We still include him here because that’s rather less than the typical penalty for someone who, like Vitaly, is convicted of premeditated murder. Vitaly did not plead insanity, and he claimed not to have planned the attack in advance. His carrying an 8-inch blade with him to the meeting undercut that claim (despite how cool Swiss Army Knives are, not everyone in Zurich carries blades, particularly not tourists fresh off their flights).
In Vitaly’s hometown, people generally believed that he had acted not just with justification but heroically. When he returned from his Swiss prison stay, his hometown welcomed him with a banner. The local government gave him a lifetime honorary appointment and a medal that goes to people who respect law and order. Yeah, you show ’em, Vitaly, making that widow and her children feel the same pain you feel. That’ll teach ... that’ll teach somebody something, we’re sure.
A Murder Committed In Front Of TV Cameras
You’ve heard of one revenge murder captured on TV: Lee Harvey Oswald’s. Well, two, if you count both the murder of Oswald and the murder he committed, and either way, the killer faced some serious consequences. Jack Ruby was sentenced to death (he later died of illness while awaiting a retrial). It doesn’t matter what crime your target committed; officially, “he deserved it” is not a valid defense for murder. One school of thought even says you commit a bigger crime against the state if you kill someone in their custody rather than if you just kill some random innocent, so we have to punish you extra hard.
In 1984, Louisiana man Gary Plauché murdered karate instructor Jeff Doucet in front of TV cameras. Like Oswald, Doucet was in police custody at the time, as he was being led in handcuffs through an airport on his way to trial. Gary shot him in the ear from just a few feet away. The news cameras captured the murder (footage remains available today), with Doucet cleanly framed in the foreground and Gary, behind him, taking out his gun and firing.
This was the section of the airport outside of security—this was the lax security era of the 1980s, not the zero security era of the 1970s. Gary wore a cap and talked at a payphone to blend in. He avoided the officers’ attention, though the officers did know who he was. After he shot Doucet, one officer apprehending him said, “Gary, why?”
If that officer knew Gary, he surely did know why. Doucet was facing trial for kidnapping Gary’s son Jody, following an entire year of molesting him.
Gary received just a suspended sentence, no prison time. He accepted a plea bargain for manslaughter, which prosecutors probably offered him under the assumption that if they went to trial, a jury might have acquitted him no matter what instructions the judge gave. He lived 30 years more after this. Jody, meanwhile, grew up, became a sexual assault counselor, and after his father died published a book titled Why Gary Why?.
A Guy Killed His Mother-In-Law And Immediately Admitted It
On May 23, 1987, a 24-year-old Canadian named Kenneth Parks entered his in-laws’ bedroom. He beat his mother-in-law with a tire iron then stabbed her to death. He followed this up with an attack on his father-in-law, stabbing him and closing his hands around the man’s neck. Then he left so quickly that the father-in-law, still alive, was unable to identify him. Parks next immediately drove to a police station, telling the officers he’d woken with blood on his hands and so thought he might have killed some folks.
At his trial, Parks claimed to have attacked his in-laws while sleepwalking, as he’d had issues sleepwalking all his life. We’ll let you take a moment to consider whether someone can successfully attack two people while sleepwalking. Then we’ll inform you that the situation was actually a lot weirder than that. Parks and his in-laws did not live in the same house. He lived 14 miles away. To reach them, he had to drive that entire distance and key into their house, in addition to entering their room, locating weapons, and stabbing them.
Sleepwalking is pretty strange, but here’s the thing with it: When you sleepwalk, you are unable to take in most sensory info and process that. Most notably, you cannot see. If you can see, you are not asleep. The defense in this case contended that despite not being able to see and not being conscious, Parks drove his car that length (and went all murdery on the couple). Sure, when you drive a familiar route, you kind of go on autopilot, but try doing it with your eyes closed. Unless you have some practice with driving in this manner, your muscle memory will not get you very far. Parks even claimed he'd been asleep while confessing to police, which is absolutely not how sleepwalking works.
The prosecution argued that maybe Parks had mentally blocked out the murder right after committing it, which might explain why he so readily went to the police. If so, they could consider this. But whatever state he was in while driving (dissociative fugue, automatism), it wasn’t sleepwalking. Doctors testified that he had a history with sleepwalking, but they had no way of proving that he was sleeping during this specific incident. In the end, the jury believed him and acquitted him on the sleepwalking defense. No plea needed for this one, and no psychiatric commitment, as no one was arguing he was insane.
The first acquittal was for killing his mother-in-law. The attack on his father-in-law was a separate trial and an easy win for Parks. Now that he’d established he’d been sleepwalking, the prosecution had to prove he’d woken between the two attacks, which was impossible for them. An hour after this second acquittal, Parks went before a different judge. To plead guilty to a different crime.
He’d stolen over $30,000 from his employer and gambled it all away at the track. He was under this accusation during the murder as well. But the charge (and having separately depleted all his family’s savings through compulsive gambling) provided no motive for murder, his defense argued. In fact, it helped explain his motiveless actions: He’d sleepwalked, sleepdrove, and sleepkilled because he’d been feeling so stressed lately.
We don’t know if any of you reading this are looking for convincing excuses for why you killed your mother-in-law. A bunch of you have trouble sleeping, though, and we now know the secret to deep sleep: extreme stress, brought about by grand larceny.
Top image: WBRZ-TV