I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
The term "serial killer" was unknown until the FBI's Behavior Science Unit agent Robert Ressler coined it in 1973 to define someone who murders three or more people, without motive, and in a predictable pattern.
According to former chief of the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, John Douglas, there are 25 to 50 active serial killers in the United States at any given moment yet these predators are responsible for only about one percent (1%) of all homicides in the U.S. in any given year.
The following are the condensed true stories of 50 of these rare killers from the United States of America.
1. Roger Reece Kibbe a.k.a. the I-5 Strangler
Between 1977 and 1987, Kibbe raped and murdered seven women in California. His signature was ripping the clothes off the women's bodies then cutting them into irregular shapes with his late mother's scissors. A plea bargain netted Kibbe life in prison. He is presently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison.
2. David Edwin Mason
In 1980, Mason robbed and beat to death four septuagenarians in four separate crimes. While in jail awaiting trial for those murder charges, Mason accumulated another after killing his cellmate. He was sentenced to death and executed in the gas chamber on August 24, 1993.
3. Paul John Knowles a.k.a. The Casanova Killer
In a 1974 cross-country spree, Knowles killed at least fifteen people; some of his victims being children and another being Florida state trooper Charles Campbell. Before he could be tried on murder charges, Knowles was shot and killed trying to overtake two officers while being transported elsewhere.
4. Herbert Richard Baumeister a.k.a. The I-70 Killer
Baumeister had a wife and children, was well-educated, and owned a successful business; not the first person one would suspect in a 1992 string of Indianapolis slayings of gay men. When one man escapes, Baumeister becomes a suspect. Escaping to Ontario, Baumeister committed suicide before he could be arrested.
5. Faryion Edward Wardrip
Between 1984 and 1986, Wardrip raped and murdered five Witchita, Texas area women. He almost got away with four of them except for the dedication of a cold case investigator who identified Wardrip as the killer of the other four with DNA. Wardrip is currently serving a life in sentence.
6. Dayton Leroy Rogers a.k.a. The Molalla Forest Killer
Rogers' modus operandi between 1983 and 1987 was to pick up a prostitute and take them to Oregon's Molalla Forest. Once there, he would tie the women up, then rape and murder them. Rogers was sentenced to death and is currently sitting on death row in an Oregon prison.
7. Paul Dennis Reid a.k.a. The Fast Food Killer
Texas native Reid went to Nashville in search of a country music career, but he would gain a death sentence instead after murdering seven people during a string of robberies of area eating establishments in 1997. Reid died in prison from pneumonia in 2013 before his death sentence could be executed.
8. Harvey Carignan a.k.a. The Want Ad Killer
Using classified ads to lure his victims, Carignan sexually assaulted and murdered at least five women in Washington and Minnesota in the 1970s. He was previously sentenced to death in Alaska for a 1949 murder but it was overturned on a technicality. Today Carignan is incarcerated in a Minnesota prison.
9. Joseph Paul Franklin a.k.a. The Racist Killer
Franklin's moniker sums it up well. Between 1977 and 1980, Franklin gunned down as many as 21 blacks, Jews, or anyone else he felt was inferior to him. He was sentenced to death in Missouri for a St. Louis murder. He was executed by lethal injection in 2013.
10. Rodney James Alcala a.k.a. The Dating Game Killer
A year after he appeared on a 1978 episode of The Dating Game, Alcala would be charged with murdering a 12 year-old California girl and his DNA later matched to several more victims, both in California and other states. He is now an active member of California's death row.
11. Sean Vincent Gillis
Gillis was one of two serial killers preying on the women of Baton Rouge, Louisiana during the 1990s. His rape and murder spree claimed the lives of eight women. Gillis was sentenced to life in prison and is currently a guest of the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
12. Timothy Wilson Spencer a.k.a. Southside Strangler
In the Fall of 1987 in Virginia, Spencer invaded the homes of four women where he sexually assaulted and strangled them to death. DNA found on the bodies identified Spencer as their killer. He was sentenced to death and was executed by electrocution on April 27, 1994.
13. Herbert William Mullin
Mullin's last victim was killed for no reason other than Mullins spotted the weeding his yard as he drove past. Captured moment later, Mullins was charged with that man's murder plus nine other California homicides. He was sentenced to life in prison and is house at Mule Creek State Prison.
14. Bobby Joe Long
In 1981, Floridian Bobby Joe Long responded to classified ads for appliances which resulted in more than 50 women sellers being attacked and sexually assaulted in their own homes. In 1983, he upped his game to murder. Long is currently sitting on death row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.
15. Benjamin Tony Atkins a.k.a. Woodward Corridor Killer
Atkins claimed he hated prostitutes after being raised by a prostitute mother and why he raped and murdered eleven Detroit prostitutes in the early 1990s. He was given eleven life sentences, which turned out to be much shorter than expected; Atkins died of HIV on September 17, 1997 in prison.
16. Chester Dewayne Turner a.k.a. Southside Slayer
In March 2002, Turner sexually assaulted a 47 year-old woman for two hours, afterwards threatening to kill her if she called the police. That crime netted him 8 years but California's mandatory indexing of inmate DNA profiles would gain him a cell on death row.
17. Kendall Francois a.k.a. The Poughkeepsie Killer
During the late 1990s, Francois was charged with the murders of seven Poughkeepsie prostitutes. Detectives said Francois would bring the prostitutes to his Fulton Avenue home where he sexually assaulted then murdered them. He was sentenced to life and his ended on September 11, 2014 from natural causes.
18. Cleophus Prince Jr. a.k.a. The Clairemont Killer
Prince's modus operandi was to enter through an unlocked door or window of a home where he knew a woman was alone. Once inside, Prince would sexually assault the women before stabbing them to death. He was sentenced to death in 1993 and is presently housed at San Quentin.
19. Richard Trenton Chase a.k.a. The Dracula Killer
There's no other way to say it: Richard Chase was insane. Literally. In the span of only one month, Chase would murder and cannibalize seven people in Sacramento, California in the late 1970s. He was sentenced to death in 1979. Chase committed suicide by overdose in 1980.
20. Earle Leonard Nelson a.k.a. The Gorilla Man
In 1927, Earle Nelson was a Navy reject and mental hospital escapee when he began renting boardinghouse rooms in the US and Canada where he was often alone with the female owner. After gaining her trust, he would strangle her to death. He was hanged in Manitoba in January 1928.
21. Gary Ray Bowles
Bowles left home at age 13 to escape his abusive stepfather and turned to prostitution to support himself. Over the course of six months in 1994, Bowles robbed and murdered six men in a multi-state spree. He is currently on death row Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida.
22. Harrison Graham
In August 1987, residents of a Philadelphia apartment building were complaining about the foul smell coming from a fellow tenant's apartment. It was soon discovered the smell was rotting corpses in the apartment of the recently-evicted Graham. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
23. Edward Wayne Edwards
Ten years after he published a book about being a reformed criminal, Edwards took to murdering for financial gain; three in Ohio and a couple in Wisconsin. Convicted of the Ohio murders, Edwards was sentenced to death in March 2011 then died of natural causes one month later.
24. Gerald Parker a.k.a. The Bedroom Basher
It may have taken almost two decades but the killer of five Orange County, California women and an unborn baby during an attack on the mother was identified as Gerald Parker. Parker was convicted of the murders and in 1999 sentenced to death. He is currently on California's death row.
25. Robert Andrew Berdella a.k.a. The Kansas City Butcher
In 1984, Bob Berdella was friends with many of the city's male prostitutes so when he decided to become a killer, he didn't have to look far for victims. Berdella held the men hostage and repeatedly raped and tortured them. Sentenced to life in prison, he died in 1992.
26. Joseph Naso
A handwritten diary with the geographical location of his victims' bodies would be earned Joseph Naso a death penalty sentence in 2011 for the rape and murders of six women he committed between 1977 and 1994. Naso is presently a member of California's death row.
27. Michael Bruce Ross a.k.a. The Roadside Strangler
In his final year of college, Ross committed his first rape and his first murder soon thereafter. Between the years 1981 and 1984, Ross raped and murdered eight more women. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Ross spent 18 years on death row until executed in 2005.
28. Mack Ray Edwards
Between the years 1953 and 1968, Edwards murdered six California children; his oldest victims being only 16 years-old. Edwards pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and was sentenced to death. He committed suicide in his prison cell by hanging himself on October 30, 1971.
29. John Floyd Thomas, Jr. a.k.a. The Westside Rapist
It would take more than 30 years for seven of rapes and murders Thomas' committed in California caught up to him but when they did, it was enough to stop him forever. Thomas pleaded guilty to seven murders to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison.
30. Jerome Henry Brudos a.k.a. The Lust Killer
Wearing women's clothing, Jerry Brudos attacked raped and murdered four Oregon women in 1968 and 1969. He kept mementos from his kills, including shoes, underwear, and even the bodies, temporarily, in a garage off-limits to his wife. Brudos was sentenced to life and died of liver cancer in 2006.
31. Robert Shulman
Postal worker Robert Shulman was convicted of murdering five New York prostitutes between 1991 and 1996. In addition to multiple life sentences, Shulman was also sentenced to death but it too was later commuted to life. He died in prison of natural causes on April 13, 2006.
32. Lorenzo Jerome Gilyard, Jr. a.k.a. The Kansas City Strangler
Gilyard was carrying on a family tradition when he murdered at least 12 prostitutes in the Kansas City area. Following a trial on seven of the murder charges against him, Gilyard was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. He's currently housed at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri.
33. Melvin Davis Rees
An anonymous tip in 1960 revealed Rees as the rapist and murderer of two women and killer of three additional victims. Homicide was another part of the human experience in which he wanted to take part, was Rees only motive. Sentenced to life in prison, he died in 1995.
34. Daniel Lee Siebert
His fingerprints would expose a teacher's alias to be that of ex-convict Daniel Siebert. This information came to light during an investigation of the murders of two students who attended the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. Siebert was sentenced to death but died from cancer in 2008.
35. Kenneth Allen McDuff a.k.a. The Broomstick Killer
The first time McDuff was convicted of murder, he was sentenced to death but it was commuted to life, allowing for parole. After release, McDuff would murder at least six more women. Again he was sentenced to death. Texas kept its promise and McDuff died by lethal injection in 1998.
36. Elias Abuelazam
During the summer of 2010, Flint, Michigan black men were being preyed upon by an Israeli-immigrant named Elias Abuelazam. Although he stabbed at least four men to death, it only took one conviction to earn him life in prison without possibility of parole.
37. Daniel Harold Rolling a.k.a. The Gainesville Ripper
In 1990, Rollings would break into the homes of young Gainesville, Florida women where he would rape and murder them. Once captured, Rollings would be linked to a 1989 Shreveport, Louisiana triple homicide. He was executed by lethal injection in Florida on October 25, 2006.
38. Rory Enrique Conde a.k.a. The Tamiami Trail Strangler
While he was in away in Court on a shoplifting charge, a prostitute Conde was holding hostage at his home made enough noise to get the neighbor's attention. Convicted of six prostitute murders in Miami, the Columbian immigrant was sentenced to death and is now on Florida's death row.
39. Christopher Dwayne Peterson a.k.a. Obadyah Ben-Yisrayl a.k.a. The Shotgun Killer
Between October 30, 1990 and December 18, 1990, there were seven murders in northern Indiana whereby the victims were killed by shotgun. Peterson was convicted on four of the murders, acquitted by jurors of three, and received one death sentence, later commuted to life. Peterson maintains his innocence.
40. Robert Christian Hansen a.k.a. The Butcher Baker
Alaskan Robert Hansen is known to have sexually assaulted at least 30 Anchorage women and murdered seventeen of them; however, he was convicted of only three counts of homicide. He was sentenced to 461 years in prison. He served less than 30 years before dying of health complications in 2014.
41. Nathaniel White
While awaiting sentence on a conviction for abducting a 16 year-old girl, White murdered and sexually assaulted six Hudson Valley, New York women. Failing in his plea of guilty by reason of insanity, White was sentenced to 150 years to life in prison. He is currently housed at Attica.
42. Carroll Edward Cole
When Cole knew he was caught, he started talking; confessing to the murders of 14 women, including his wife, across Texas and Nevada. Convicted of three murders in Texas, he was sentenced to life but Nevada executed him by lethal injection on December 6, 1985 for the murders there.
43. Donald Henry Gaskins
Gaskins chose his niece and her friend as his first rape and murder victims. The last victims would be an 8-months pregnant woman and her one year-old child. Convicted on eight murder charges, he was sentenced to death. He died in South Carolina's electric chair in September 1991.
44. Richard Francis Cottingham a.k.a. The Torso Killer
“You have to take it. The other girls did, you have to take it too," were the words Cottingham spoke to his last and only surviving victim, referring to the violent assaults on six other New York area women. Cottingham is currently serving life in prison.
45. William Lester Suff a.k.a. The Riverside Prostitute Killer
Suff served only 10 years of a 70 year prison sentence he received in 1974 for beating his infant daughter to death. Released in 1984, he would kill twelve California prostitutes until he was arrested in 1992. Suff currently resides on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
46. Leslie Irvin a.k.a. The Mad Dog Killer
After serving a sentence for burglary, Irvin rekindled his career with a added flair: he killed his victims to keep them from testifying. His plan worked until he murdered family members and a witness saw his car at the scene. Sentenced to life, Irving died of lung cancer in 1983.
47. Michael Hughes
Hughes was sentenced to life for three of his California rape and murder victims, but fifteen years later he would be tried for four more identical crimes and was sentenced to death. Hughes is currently awaiting execution while housed at San Quentin State Prison.
48. Joseph L. Taborsky
In the 1950s, Taborsky robbed and murdered six people in Connecticut. He was sentenced to death in 1951 but it was overturned when the sole witness (Taborsky's brother) was declared insane. He was electrocuted by Connecticut on May 17, 1960.
49. Charles Ray Hatcher
Between 1969 and 1982, Hatcher murdered sixteen people, mostly children, in Missouri, Illinois, and California. Hatcher requested a death sentence during his fourth Missouri trial but the jury refused so Hatcher hanged himself in his Missouri State Penitentiary on December 7, 1984.
50. Joseph Edward Duncan III
Duncan's first crime took place when he was only 15 years old and would begin a string of five child sexual assaults and murders total between 1980 and 2005. He received three death sentences for his crimes. Duncan is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute in Indiana..
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Kim Bryan
Suzie from Carson City on April 29, 2020:
Hey, Stranger......Yes, I know, I've been the one MIA. I have perfectly legitimate explanations, but at the moment, I'm attempting to play a bit of "Catch-up."
This was an interesting one to start with. Hope you & yours are staying safe and healthy. Hang in there. It can't last forever......can it?? Paula