True Crime is seriously hip right now. With the Emmy-nominated miniseries The People Vs. OJ Simpson, the Amanda Knox documentary, and the competing JonBenet Ramsey shows flooding our TV screens, tales of brutal homicides are very chic. You can’t throw a stone without hitting an unsolved murder case, and we fans of true crime are reaping all the benefits. Though no one has reached Dahmer or Gacy or Bundy levels of fame, there are some seriously twisted tales of murder floating around. Here is a list of the most infamous sadistic serial killers apprehended since 2000.
'The Cleveland Strangler' Anthony Sowell
The Crimes: 11 Women Were Found Murdered and Dismembered in a Cleveland Home.
What Makes This So Brutal?Many residents of the neighborhood where registered sex offender Anthony Sowell lived in East Cleveland thought the awful smell was emanating from a nearby sausage shop. No kidding. However, when a woman alleged that she had been drugged, raped, and tortured by a man in September 2009, the police arrived with a warrant to find a home rivaling that of scene from a horror movie.
They expected to capture the current homeowner on a single count of rape but ended up finding much more than they bargained for. For example, there were two dead bodies on the floor in Anthony Sowell’s home. Sowell himself was arrested two days later, and a more in-depth investigation turned up four more bodies in the killer’s home. Some of them were so badly decomposed they could not be identified by common forensic methods. Officials said, “The bodies could have been there anywhere from weeks to months to years.” A grand total of 11 decomposing bodies were found in the home, murdered between 2007 and 2009. He was indicted, convicted, and sentenced to death in August of 2011.Sources:
‘The Grim Sleeper’ Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. The Crimes: Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. killed dozens of women in LA from the 1980s and beyond. What makes this story so brutal?
Several dozen unsolved murders went seemingly unnoticed in 1980s South Central Los Angeles in what eventually became known as ‘The Grim Sleeper’ murders. The worst part is, the only reason The Grim Sleeper case is not as popular or well-known as, say, The Night Stalker or the Green River Killer case is that the victims were black women, already marginalized in an 80s LA ravaged by crime and drug use. Had the victims been white, even if they were sex workers, people would have paid much more attention.
Local residents, mostly women, fought to bring attention to the case, in which a man was luring women into his car, sexually assaulting them, and then shooting them with a .25 caliber pistol. The horrors came to an end when Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. was arrested and charged with killing 10 people from 1985-2007. During the sentencing phase of the trial, prosecutors managed to link Franklin to other crimes, and it is believed that he shot and killed as many as 180 women during his violent reign of terror. Lonnie Franklin, Jr. was sentenced to death in August, 2016.
‘The Cannibal Monster’ Zhang Yongming The Crimes: A Chinese man sold the skins of his victims to local markets as ostrich meat. What makes these crimes so brutal:
Fifty-six-year-old Chinese farmer Zhang Yongming is suspected of killing at least 17 children and teenagers in the city of Kunming. He was captured when investigators were dispatched to probe into some missing young men in the province where Zhang lived. Although the ‘Cannibal Monster’ murders occurred from 2008 to 2012, the last six disappeared in the final 15 months before his arrest. When so many murders happen in such a short span of time, it is often known as a serial killer going ‘berzerker.’
He was described basically as a quiet man who kept to himself. He was originally sentenced to die in the 1970s for murder but was released in 1997 after receiving a commuted sentence. The kicker: he didn’t just eat his victims. He dried out their flesh as ostrich meat at the local market and kept victims’ eyeballs in wine bottles. Zhang was arrested in 2012 and promptly executed in January of 2013.
‘The Granny Ripper’ Tamara Samsonova The Crimes: Tamara Samsonova was arrested last year in connection with at least ten (and as many as fourteen) murders. What Makes this Story so Brutal:
Samsonova, who is in her sixties, is said to have perpetrated at least ten murders over the last decade or so years in Russia. One of her first victims was probably her husband, who disappeared in 2005 and was never found. Not just content with the apple of her eye, she is believed to have also offed her mother-in-law, as well.
Her most famed spree, though, is mostly related to the tenants who have lived with her. She would lure them to live with her, befriend them, drug and hack them to pieces, and then dispose of their bodies in the neighborhood.
She was captured after closed circuit televisions caught her dragging plastic bags of what appear to be body parts from her home. It gets more disgusting: There is video of Samsonova leaving her residence with a cooking pot believed to have contained a human head. She has since admitted to drugging and dismembering 79-year-old Valentina Ulanova, sawing her apart while the woman was still alive.
As the story unfolds -- and there is a diary, by the way -- we are learning that Samsonova may have actually cooked and eaten portions of her victims. She is currently in jail, awaiting trial.
‘The Green River Killer’ Gary Ridgway The Crimes: Gary Ridgway raped and murdered in upwards of a hundred women in the 1980s. What makes these crimes so brutal:
Okay, so I'm cheating with this one, BUT HEAR ME OUT. Although Gary Ridgway was most active between 1982 and 1993, he is one of the -- if not THE -- most prolific serial killers in American history. He was captured in 2001, so it would be absolutely ludicrous not to include him on this list. He is convicted of killing 48 women and could have murdered in upwards of 80. I’ll just leave that number here for it to sink in with you. 80. People.
We cannot know just how many Ridgway killed, because he simply forgot where he hid all the bodies. You see, when you get around to raping and strangling that many women over such an extensive amount of time, you tend to lose track of the details.
It gets worse. Way worse. He was fond of prostitutes and trolled a particular stretch of highway in Washington famous for sex trafficking. And sometimes -- sometimes he would bring his young son along. You know, to make his victims a little more comfortable. He would then drive to a secluded location, lure the woman into the woods, rape her, strangle her, and then return to the car containing his child.
In 2001, he led authorities to the spots where he had left the women. Over the years, he had killed lots of women, sometimes returning in the days after the crimes to copulate with the corpses, “until they began to stink.” And although he was able to avoid the death penalty by giving over his knowledge on the crimes, he nevertheless could not remember where he had stashed them all. So, though we are left with some closure over these crimes, we almost certainly will never know how many people Gary Ridgway actually killed.
‘The Werewolf’ Mikhail Popkov The Crimes: Former cop Mikhail Popkov killed 22 women in horribly sadistic ways in Russia. What makes these crimes so brutal:
Until Mikhail Popkov was arrested in 2012 for the murder of 22 women -- he has since confessed to killing “many” more -- the name bandied about when talking about Russian serial killers was maniac Andrei Chikatilo.
He began his reign of terror after finding used condoms in a trash can in his home and suspected his wife. He wanted to punish women after that, even if his wife wasn’t responsible for the presence of the prophylactics at all.
Popkov killed his victims with axes, screwdrivers, and dirty knives. He even once supposedly carved out the heart of one woman, hoping to ‘cleanse’ the streets of unseemly ladies. He targeted drunk women leaving bars in Siberia, using his status as a police officer to manipulate his victims, and forced them to strip naked before sexually assaulting and killing them.
If he is to be believed, his crimes date back to the early 90s and continued well into the 00s. The ongoing rumor is that the murders ended after Popkov contracted syphilis from one of his victims and became impotent, incapable of fostering the urge to rape and kill. His crimes ended when over 3,500 police officers were forced to take DNA tests and he was singled out for the vicious homicides, his sperm matching nearly 100% with DNA found in a victim. For some reason, it was beyond their mental grasp that a police office could be a killer. Since his arrest, he has admitted involvement in “dozens” of other unsolved murders, estimates going as high as fifty or more.‘The Long Island Killer’ or ‘The Craigslist Killer’ [Unsolved] The Crimes: The search for a missing woman turns up the bodies of 11 missing women What makes these crimes so brutal:
The story of the as-yet unsolved Long Island Serial Killer case begins and ends with Shannan Gilbert, a New York call-girl who disappeared in May of 2010. She fled from a “date” with a man she met on Craigslist and made a cryptic phone call to 911, obviously fearing for her life, and wandered into the darkness, never to be seen alive again.
What’s weird: during the resulting investigation, the bodies of 11 other women were found and linked to a single suspect. Get this, though: Shannan Gilbert was not suspected to be a victim of the Long Island Serial Killer. The search for her only led to the discovery of the other bodies.
What separates this series of killings is the impetus for the crimes. The killer used social networking site Craigslist to lure women and then rape and strangle them. Women who had become fed up with the violence of pimps had sought to make their own livings from scheduling dates via the internet, which only led them into the hands of this killer. There is currently no major suspect and no actual leads in the case, so the possibility of it being solve at this point is pretty low.
There’s a well-researched book about the case, called Lost Girls, which goes into great depth about the killings and the resulting investigation.
The Chillicothe, Ohio Murders The Crimes: Six women have disappeared from the once capital of Ohio in just over two years. What makes these crimes so brutal:
The Chillicothe murders began a little over two years ago, when the body of Tameka Lynch was found in May 2014. All of the missing women shared a commonality in that they struggled with drug addictions, including heroin, and a few of them turned tricks on the side. Another weird coincidence is that they knew one another and happened to run in the same circles.While drugs might play a factor in the disappearances, the likelihood that six women in a town of 25,000 would disappear within such a brief span of time without some forethought is highly unlikely.
The case is a complex mystery and may relate Bodies of four victims have been recovered, but those of Charlotte Trego and Wanda Lemons have not yet been found. Convicted sex offender Jason McCrary was arrested for the death of one of the women, Timberly Claytor, but is not linked in any way to the other disappearances. There is no clear suspect in the case, and it is unlikely the case is going to be solved any time soon.
The Daytona Beach Killer [Unsolved] The Crimes: Three women executed within months of one another, all with a large-caliber handgun. The crimes are reminiscent of the ‘Son of Sam’ murders. What makes these crimes so brutal:
In the Ridgewood Avenue area of Daytona Beach, Florida, three women with a history of prostitution were killed over a period of three months in 2005/2006 with the same weapon: a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber Sigma Series VE. The trouble started on or around Christmas Eve, when LaQuetta Gunther left her friend’s house with the hopes of returning to cook a massive Christmas dinner. She never made it back, an event which signaled the beginning of the as-yet unsolved Daytona Beach slayings. She was found nearby, “Partially nude in a hole behind two buildings, with a bullet shot through the back of her head.”
Two more victims were found within months of Gunther, all raped and executed in a similar fashion. In 2008, police found another woman who had been shot to death a month earlier and linked the homicide to the still-unknown killer. A registered sex offender with a bone-chilling record of raping and sodomizing innocent women was arrested and briefly held in connection with the killings, but he was later released when his DNA did not match what was found on the victims. The killer has never been caught, and police officers fear that he may yet strike again.
‘The Hollywood Ripper’ Michael Gargiulo The Crimes: A wannabe boxer stabbed several women to death in Hollywood. What makes these crimes so brutal:
Michael Gargiulo moved to Hollywood in 1998 with hopes of being a professional boxer. What he found instead was infamy for the deaths of as many as 10 women around the Hollywood area, resulting in the nickname ‘The Hollywood Ripper.’ His most famous crime: He allegedly stabbed one Ashley Ellerin 47 times at her home in February of 2001, the night she was scheduled to go to an after-Grammys party with her then-boyfriend, Ashton Kutcher.
Gargiulo was arrested in 2008. He has since been charged in the stabbing deaths of two women and linked to one more, but there is DNA to put him in contention for several more. He has purportedly “referenced” the murders of ten women while being held in the Los Angeles County Jail. Gargiulo’s arrest ironically linked him to a cold case dating back to Illinois in 1993, when a young woman was stabbed to death five houses down from where Gargiulo lived at the time. As of 2015, Gargiulo is awaiting trial for his crimes.