Top 20 Serial Killers Who Were Never Caught

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Top 20 Serial Killers Who Were Never Caught

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco & Laura Keating
These murderers managed to escape prosecution. For this list, we'll be ranking the most infamous instances where high profile serial killers weren't brought to justice for their crimes. Our countdown includes The Bible Belt Strangler, The Butcher of Mons, Jack the Ripper, and more!
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Top 20 Serial Killers Who Were Never Caught


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 20 Serial Killers Who Were Never Caught.

For this list, we'll be ranking the most infamous instances where high profile serial killers weren't brought to justice for their crimes.

Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments.

#20: The Skid Row Stabber

The first serial killer on our list should not be confused with The Skid Row Slasher, a.k.a. Vaughn Greenwood. We're discussing The Skid Row Stabber, who reportedly had eleven victims to his or her name during their rampage in the late 1970s. The crimes all took place in or around Los Angeles' downtown "Skid Row" neighborhood, and targeted the area's substantial homeless population. Bodies were usually dumped or disposed of within various Skid Row alleys, and to this day no one knows the true identity of The Stabber. Bobby Joe Maxwell was arrested, tried and convicted of the Skid Row Stabber crimes, but the investigation was marred by corruption and circumstantial evidence, resulting in the ruling being overturned in 2010.

#19: The New Bedford Highway Killer

New Bedford, Massachusetts is known for its thriving fishing industry, and for being a setting in Herman Melville's classic work, "Moby Dick." It’s also infamous for having been the hunting grounds of the New Bedford Highway Killer in late 1980s. The targets were all women with drug dependency issues or who worked in the city's sex industry, and their bodies were all found along major highways in the surrounding New Bedford area. A number of suspects have come up over the years as potential candidates for The New Bedford Highway Killer, including a hypothesis that the Portuguese criminal known as The Lisbon Ripper perhaps could've done double duty after leaving the area. To this day, families of the victims remain desperate for answers.

#18: The Bible Belt Strangler

Also known as the "Redhead Murders," the case of the Bible Belt Strangler remains unsolved. The perpetrator of these crimes received the moniker of the Bible Belt Strangler due to the crimes being committed in states like Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi, between the years of 1978 and 1992. The case bears similarities to the New Bedford Highway Murders, as the victims were usually either hitchhikers or sex workers, and their bodies were dumped on the side of local highways. A trucker named Jerry Leon Johns is considered today as a likely suspect in at least one of the murders, but he died in prison before he could be indicted.

#17: The Rainbow Maniac

The Brazilian police dubbed this killer the Rainbow Maniac because he exclusivey targeted gay men who visited Paturis Park in Brazil’s Carapicuíba municipality. Authorities actually suspected that the Rainbow Maniac could be a state police officer, with almost every victim being shot multiple times, potentially by the same gun. A retired agent named Jairo Francisco Franco was tried for the crimes in 2011, but he was found not guilty. That was despite witness testimony that Franco frequented the area and was allegedly seen shooting one man 12 times.

#16: The Paraquat Murderer

Serial killer murders can be premeditated, opportunistic or completely random. But rarely are they this...indirect. The Paraquat Murders weren't actually directed at any one specific person, but rather a series of random poisonings in Japan during the mid 1980s. Paraquat is a type of herbicide that was used to commit the crimes. The killer spiked drinks that were left in or on top of vending machines in the Fukuyama, Hiroshima area. In total, twelve people died and over thirty additional victims were poisoned by the mixture, but survived. The Japan Soft Drink Bottlers Association wound up printing over a million warning labels for the vending machines. Darker still, the unsolved murder spree inspired a number of copycats.

#15: The Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murderer

Hitchhiking isn't a common occurrence today, but it's important to remember that for years many people used this method of travel to get where they wanted to go on a budget. Unfortunately, as the victims of the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders tragically found out, you never know who it is that’s picking you up. The case is unique for its list of official and potential victims, as well as the laundry list of high profile serial killers to whom these murders might be attributed. Ted Bundy, The Zodiac Killer and The Hillside Stranglers have all been named as potential suspects for the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders, but to this day no definitive name has been linked to the case.

#14: The Butcher of Mons

We're not sure what's worse about the Butcher of Mons: the brutality of his crimes, or the disturbing skill that went into the surgical destruction of the bodies. The Butcher struck the Belgian city of Mons in 1996 and '97, and left plastic bags containing body parts on the sides of local roads. There were similarities to the victims' histories, in that they all tended to congregate at the local train station, and had troubled backgrounds. Their remains were packaged with bright underwear, and seemed to be strategically dropped at places with names that translated to evocative phrases, like the "path of worry".

#13: Bible John

If you dance with Bible John, you may just be dancing with death. This Scottish serial killer tended to target young brunette women at a local dancehall in the city of Glasgow. Sketches and composite drawings paint a portrait of Bible John as a young man, while the official psychological profile references John's apparent puritanical nature. The killer would reportedly quote the Bible and condemn those married women who would frequent the dancehall, equating the act with adultery. The infamous Scottish serial killer Peter Tobin is believed by some to be Bible John, but to this day there's no definitive connection or answer in the case.

#12: The Monster of the Mangones

The moniker of “monster” is disgustingly fitting here. This Colombian serial killer is believed to have been responsible for the murders of at least 30 boys during the 1960s and '70s. The Monster’s reputation and reign of terror was such that he became something of a terrifying local legend. This was in part due to sadism involved in his methods, which included the use of syringes to extract blood. This led to suspicion that The Monster of the Mangones was the closest thing to a real life vampire Colombia had ever seen.

#11: The Monster of Florence

Italy has had a number of disturbing serial killer cases go unsolved. Among the most notable was the Monster of Udine, while another monster lurked in Tuscany… the Monster of Florence. The crimes were quite similar to the Son of Sam killings in New York City, as the culprit tended to target couples in parked cars. However, the Monster of Florence also removed organs from some victims. A turbulent police investigation followed. The conviction of one suspect, Pietro Pacciani, turned into an acquittal; yet, after Pacciani’s death, two alleged accomplices were tried and controversially sentenced to life in prison. To this day, the true identity of the Monster of Florence remains a mystery.

#10: The West Mesa Bone Collector

On February 2, 2009, the bodies of multiple women were found buried together. They were mostly sex workers, and had all gone missing between 2001 and 2005. The gruesome discovery was made by a woman on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who noticed a human bone while walking her dog. The investigation and excavation ensued and eleven bodies, bringing police to believe the work to be that of a serial killer. While there have been very few leads, investigators suspect that the killings might be linked to the yearly state fair, which draws large crowds, and sex workers to the area.

#9: The Atlanta Ripper

In 1911, the Atlanta Ripper began their killing streak. By the year’s end, anywhere from fifteen to twenty-one women’s deaths were connected to the murderer – or murderers. The victims of the Ripper were all dispatched the same way: their throats deeply slit. Each of the women was black and in their twenties. It wasn’t until the sixth murder that police began to consider the possibility of a serial killer. Some speculate that the lack of a lead, as well as racial prejudice of the time, led to the delay of the investigations, and their ultimately being dismissed. While several men were arrested, no charges were ever brought to court, and the case remains unsolved.

#8: Jack the Stripper [aka Hammersmith Nudes Murderer]

This murderer appeared and disappeared from the streets of London in the mid-1960s. This maniac earned the moniker “stripper” by virtue of his habit of undressing his victims before dumping them. The victims – and two other possible victims – were all between the ages of twenty-one and thirty, and frequently bore similar paint fleck marks, which was thought to point to where the murderer worked. However, despite evidence found, no arrests were made. John Du Rose, Chief Superintendent of Scotland Yard, had identified one Mungo Ireland as the most probable culprit. Unfortunately, around the time a possible link was made to Ireland, he took his own life. The truth of his guilt or innocence died with him.

#7: The Phantom Killer

The Texarkana Moonlight Murders have spawned several urban legends and films. But in 1946, for the residents of the twin-cities of Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas, it was all too real. The first attack came against Jimmy Hollis and his girlfriend Mary Larey, who had parked their car on a secluded stretch of road known as “Lovers’ Lane.” Sound familiar? Both survived, though Hollis sustained skull injuries and Larey was assaulted. About a month later, another couple wasn’t so lucky. Three weeks later, two teens were shot and killed. After that, a married couple was attacked, but only the husband died. Hollis and Larey were the best lead for the Killer’s appearance, stating he wore a white hood, but when he stopped, so did investigations.

#6: The Servant Girl Annihilator

Between 1884 and 1885, the people of Austin, Texas, were reeling in shock from a seemingly endless string of brutal murders. Each murder took place while the victims were in the so-called safety of their own beds. The Servant Girl Annihilator’s name was devised by writer O. Henry in a letter penned to a friend, remarking “Town is fearfully dull, except for the frequent raids of the Servant Girl Annihilators, who make things lively in the dull hours of the night…” That’s one way to discuss an axe-murderer. The murders ended suddenly on Christmas Eve, 1885. Some believe they only stopped as he had boarded ship to begin his reign of terror elsewhere…

#5: Oakland County Killer [aka The Babysitter]

Over the course of about a year in the late 1970s, two boys and two girls went missing in Oakland County, Michigan. Their bodies were later discovered in public areas. These crimes led to the largest murder investigation in US history up to that time. Several witnesses came forward, but provided no concrete leads. One witness claimed to have seen one of the boys talk to a man in a blue AMC Gremlin, prompting investigators to inquire after every Gremlin owner in the county. But answers about the killer, or killers, remain elusive.

#4: Charlie Chop-Off

This vicious killer was known for targeting African-American boys. He earned his ghoulish moniker from the brutal injuries he would inflict upon his victims. One of Charlie’s victims did, however, survive his attack, and in 1974 police apprehended a suspect, Erno Soto. Caught in the act of kidnapping a Puerto Rican boy, Soto was brought in for questioning. The surviving boy said he thought he looked like his attacker, but couldn’t be sure. Despite confessing to one of the murders, the Manhattan State Hospital – a psychiatric institution at which Soto was a patient – claimed Soto couldn’t be guilty, but did say it was possible he could have slipped out on their watch.

#3: The Long Island Serial Killer [aka The Craigslist Ripper]

This killer has been at it awhile. In 2010, a police dog in training located the first body. It wasn’t long before investigators found more in the area, alerting them to the possibility of a serial killer. As the area was probed further, bits and pieces of bodies were found up and down Gilgo Beach in Suffolk County, NY. All of the victims, disposed of over a twenty-year period, were associated with the sex trade, several of them soliciting services over Craigslist. Almost nothing is known about this killer, except that they are morbidly prolific. The investigation is ongoing.

#2: Jack the Ripper

One of the most notorious cases in history, this unidentified serial killer sent the Whitechapel district of London into a panic in the late Victorian era, after a series of ghastly murders were uncovered. It’s hard to think of another killer who has inspired as much lore, research, or theories over identity. In part because of the extreme brutality of the killings, and the taunts the killer sent the frustrated police, his name has taken on an almost fabled aspect. The most famous tease came in the form of the “From Hell” letter, which was sent with half a kidney of one of the victims – he claimed to have eaten the other half.

Before we name our number one pick, here are some dishonorable mentions

The Alphabet Killer
Victims United by Alliteration

The Cleveland Torso Murderer
Dismembered Drifters

The Axeman of New Orleans
Breaking, Entering & Axing

Stoneman
Stalked the Homeless Population in Calcutta

The Honolulu Strangler
Hawaii's First Serial Killer

#1: The Zodiac Killer

Undoubtedly the most elusive killer in American history, the Zodiac Killer is like something straight out of a Hollywood nightmare. Also one to pen letters to the police, he did so by way of puzzles and complex cryptograms, boasting about his feats and demanding that his letters be published – on page one – of the newspapers, or else the body count would rise. This killer would hunt his victims, usually young couples in secluded areas, before carrying out his work. Similarities in method and physical description have led some to postulate that the Zodiac and Phantom Killer may be the same. Regardless, the Zodiac has left a grisly legacy all their own.
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