For the families and friends of those who have had their lives ended by twisted serial killers, they will likely never be at peace. The hideous crimes that follow must haunt them forever, but what is even worse in these following cases is knowing that the killer is sat in a cell somewhere still living and breathing. These are the following ten most prolific serial killers who are still alive today…
10. Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka
Convicted serial killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka both raped and murdered at least three women. The married couple gained worldwide media attention during 1991 to 1992 for killing Ontario teenage girls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, then raping and killing Karla’s own sister, Tammy.
After Bernardo was arrested in 1993, Homolka told investigators that she was unwilling to murder anyone and that she had been badly abused by her husband. She struck a deal with the prosecution and was sentenced to 12-years for manslaughter for a guilty plea bargain. Homolka scored only 5/40 on the Psychopathy Checklist, whereas Bernardo scored 35/40. Many believed that Homolka was another one of Bernardo’s victims and should have not been charged at all.
What Homolka had forgotten to do was destroy the shocking videotape of the murders that clearly proved she was a more than willing participant alongside her husband. Behind bars and knowing it was too late, Homolka just had to sit and hope nobody ever played the tape. Unfortunately for her, the tape had been found and her real involvement in the murders unraveled.
Although, as she had made a plea deal she still only served 12-years instead of life. In 2007, she was released and moved to Quebec where she remarried and had a son. More recently in 2012, a journalist found Homolka was living in Guadeloupe, under the name Leanne Bordelais, with her husband and their three children. She will now be 46-years-old.
Paul Bernardo is now 51-years-old and remains behind bars at Millhaven Institution in Bath, incarcerated in the segregation unit. He is not eligible to apply for parole until 2018.
9. Peter Sutcliffe
Peter Sutcliffe, also known as “The Yorkshire Ripper” went on a five-year killing spree between 1975 and 1980 in the north of England. He murdered thirteen women and attempted to murder seven others. Although Sutcliffe claimed to have been told by God to carry out these brutal attacks, many believe the real reason was because he’d been conned out of money by a prostitute and her pimp – seeking vengeance in the most sinister way.
Although most of Sutcliffe’s victims were prostitutes, his final two victims were students. His technique was to creep up behind his victims, hit them on the back of the head with a hammer then sexually assault them as they died.
The Yorkshire Ripper case was so high profile that it garnered a lot of press attention and, in turn, an unprecedented amount of tip-offs as well as fake letters and hoax phone calls. Sutcliffe was questioned nine times during the investigation but no charges were brought forward due to the lack of evidence.
Then in January 1981, he was arrested was actually only caught because he was arrested Sutcliffe when in the company of 24-year-old prostitute Olivia Reivers in the driveway of a brothel in Broomhill, Sheffield in South Yorkshire. He was taken into police custody after the report on his number plates came back revealing they were fakes – Sutcliffe’s dodgy number plates had finally got him busted. Police then searched the car and they found knives, a hammer and also a rope in a toilet Sutcliffe had just used. It was enough for a trial.
He is currently serving a life sentence at Broadmoor Hospital and is now 69-years-old. Although in 2015, he was controversially classed as “no longer mentally ill” and could be released from Broadmoor Hospital and sent to prison for the rest of his life sentence.
8. Dennis Nilsen
Former soldier and policeman, Dennis Nilsen strangled at least fifteen boys and young men in London between 1978 and 1983. After keeping their corpses and sleeping with them beside him in bed for several days because he was “lonely”, Nilsen would dispose of the remains of his victims by either burning them on a bonfire or cutting them up and flushing them down the toilet.
He is currently serving a life sentence at HMP Full Sutton maximum security prison in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, and is 70-years-old.
Nilsen was actually partly responsible for the discovery of his grim pursuits. He wrote a letter of complaint to his estate agents, complaining that he and his fellow residents of the rented digs found the living conditions “intolerable” because the drains were blocked. Despite the fact, he had blocked the drains himself with the remains of his own victims.
A maintenance company named Dyno-Rod were called out to investigate and that was when the grisly discovery was made. On opening a drain cover, Michael Cattran found a flesh-like substance and several small bones. Nilsen suggested that people had been flushing the remains of their KFC as Cattran and his supervisor left for the evening. When they returned the following morning, all trace of evidence had been removed presumably as a last minute panic by Nilsen. However, he had overlooked cleaning the main pipe leading to the drain which still contained more remains.
Police was called and, on entering Nilsen’s flat to make inquiries, they immediately identified the smell of rotting flesh. When asked about the smell, Nilsen told the police he wanted to confess.
7. Robert Pickton
Robert “Willie” Pickton was a former multi-millionaire and pig farmer who became a convicted serial killer in 2007. His victims were six women, mostly prostitutes from Downtown Eastside, Vancouver, whose remains he fed to the pigs on his farm. He is currently serving a life imprisonment sentence and is 66-years-old.
It is believed he could have killed up to 49 women after The Crown reported that Pickton confessed to an inmate he was aiming for the “big 5-0”. He also added, “I made my own grave by being sloppy. Doesn’t that just kick you in the ass now?” His confession was caught on tape as the inmate was actually an undercover investigator. He also confessed how he committed the murders. Revealing, “I filled the syringes up with antifreeze and you inject the stuff and you’re dead in about five to 10 minutes.”
Then in February 2016, there was a huge public backlash when online retailer Amazon released a book titled Pickton: In His Own Words for $14.99. Publisher, Outskirts Press, received a lot of complaints after they had printed the 144-page memoir, but they quickly pulled the sale from the website. They claimed, “We have a longstanding policy of not working with, nor publishing work by, incarcerated individuals. Outskirts Press apologizes to the families of the victims for any additional heartache this may have caused.”
The publishers were under the impression the book had been penned by author Michael Childres, but this was actually a manuscript written entirely by Pickton, which he had somehow managed to smuggle out of prison. Pickton pleads his innocence throughout the book, which is now out-of-print and no longer available online.
6. Robert Yates
Robert Yates from Spokane, Washington, murdered at least 13 women, all of whom were prostitutes, from 1996 to 1998. He is currently is on death row at the Washington State Penitentiary and is now 63-years-old.
Between 1996 and 1998 in Spokane, Yates would pick up prostitutes in the “Skid Row” area. He would then have sex with them, often also doing drugs with them, and then killing them (typically via gunshot wound to the head) before dumping the bodies. He was finally caught when he picked up a prostitute who managed to escape after she was attacked, shot and also robbed. In 1998, she was able to give police a DNA sample which helped them solve the case of all the killings in the area.
His wife Linda Yates (pictured above) did suspect something – that he was having an affair. She revealed to The Spokesman-Review that she found her husband throwing several credit card statements into the fire at their home. Then she noticed charges for motels where customers could pay by the hour. Linda said, “I was raised with old-fashioned values. When you marry, you marry. Apparently, he didn’t take it seriously like I did.” Her suspicions were right, Yates was having an affair but even worse than she imagined – it was with prostitutes that he would shoot in the head and bury in rural locations afterward.
5. Rosemary West
Rosemary West was born into an abusive family and was repeatedly raped by her father from a young age. She met her future husband Fred West at a caravan park when she was around 16-years-old. By this point, he had already murdered two of his ex-partners and before long the pair had moved in together, with Rose working as a prostitute at her husband’s insistence, and often while he watched. She regularly fell pregnant with both her husband and her customers, giving birth to eight children in total, as well as looking after Fred’s daughter and stepdaughter from previous marriages.
In 1973, the pair were fined for the indecent assault of beauty queen Caroline Roberts, who was abducted and raped before escaping their house. Soon the couple realized that if they wished to continue their crimes, their victims should not be allowed to live to tell the tale. Their usual tactic was to offer a woman on the street a lift home, take her back to their house and murder her, before burying her body in their cellar or back garden. Rose West’s gender was crucial in allowing the pair to commit their crimes; women traveling alone at night were more likely to accept a lift from a couple than from a single male driver.
The pair killed eight women this way before suspicion was aroused by the absence of their 16-year old daughter, Heather, from the family home; the other West children were overheard at school discussing how they would ‘end up under the patio like Heather’ if they didn’t put up with their father’s sexual abuse.
When police searched the West home they found the remains of ten women and girls – including those of Heather West and Charmaine, Fred’s step-daughter. Although Fred initially confessed to all the murders, protesting his wife’s innocence, before hanging himself in his cell, it quickly became apparent that Rose played a far more active role in their crimes. Fred’s daughter from a previous marriage, Anne-Marie, testified in court that both her step-mother and her father had been sexually abusing her since the age of eight; Charmaine was found to have been killed in 1971, at a time when Fred was in prison with Rose alone acting as her carer.
Rose was eventually charged with ten murders and imprisoned for life, where she remains, making her – after the death of Myra Hindley in 2002 – the only female prisoner serving a ‘whole life’ tariff. She is currently incarcerated at Durham Prison in England.
4. David Berkowitz
David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam, shot and killed six victims, and wounded seven more, in New York City, between the summer of 1976 and July 1977. As the police hunted him down he wrote taunting letters and achieved worldwide notoriety. When he was finally arrested in August 1977, he claimed he was obeying the orders of a demon, which took the form of a dog named “Harvey” that belonged to his neighbor, “Sam”.
Intense coverage of the trial earned him celebrity status and almost every media outlet wanted to interview him. Publishers also offered him huge sums of money for his story. In response, the New York State introduced the new “Son of Sam laws”, which stops criminals from profiting financially from any publicity surrounding their crimes. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
After years of believing he was part of a satanic cult, Berkowitz has since penned a new book in prison: Son of Hope. 10 years into his sentence, he met a fellow inmate who encouraged him to share “Christ’s love, hope, and forgiveness.” Berkowitz now claims he has fully accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and has been a Christian for more than 18 years. The description reads that this “prison journal offers irrefutable evidence that God has indeed done a marvelous and miraculous work in this man’s life.”
As of 2015, Berkowitz remains serving his sentence at Sullivan Correctional Facility and he is now 62-years-old.
3. Dennis Rader
Dennis Rader is known as the BTK killer which stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill”, his infamous signature when it came to his victims. He would taunt the police during his killing spree with letters describing the details of the killings and where the murders took place. During his 16-year killing spree, Dennis Rader murdered ten people, yet he still managed to outwardly appear like a pillar of his community in Pittsburg, Kansas.
It was actually Rader’s gloating that proved to be his undoing. In 2005, the hunt for the “BTK killer” had died down due to lack of evidence and so had the media attention. Rader, possibly frustrated with the lack of interest, wrote to the police asking if they could trace information off a floppy disc. His letter read: “Look, be honest with me. If I send you a disk will it be traceable? Just put (the answer) in the newspaper.” The police claimed they could not trace him through a floppy disc and their trap was set…
When the police received the floppy disc, they were able to find out that the author of the letter was called Dennis, he owned a black Jeep Cherokee and that he was involved with the local Lutheran Church. However, this information wasn’t enough to convict. Controversially, the police acquired DNA from Rader’s daughter’s smear test. That DNA matched evidence found under the fingernails of one BTK victim. DNA evidence plus Rader’s letters led to an arrest.
Rader is currently serving ten consecutive life sentences at El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas. He is 71-years-old.
2. Gary Ridgway
Gary Ridgway is better known as the Green River Killer. He was convicted of killing 48 women and girls, later confessing to nearly twice that number making him one of the most prolific American serial killers in history. Most of his victims were vulnerable, either working as prostitutes or teenage runaways. The media labeled him the Green River as his identity went unknown for quite some time. He would strangle his victims, then dump the bodies in forested areas, returning days later to have sexual intercourse with the corpses.
Judith Lynch was married to him between 1988-2002. On November 30th, 2001, detectives told her of the crimes Gary had committed. She remembers saying to them “No I don’t believe that. He’s always been so, so gentle and caring.” She told her husband she would stand by him and testify in court. During the trial, she could see images of slain women, locations and places on maps, and taking into account her husband’s plea deal – she finally had to admit to herself that her loving husband really did have a twisted alter ego.
In 2001, as he was leaving the factory where he worked in Renton, Washington, he was arrested for the murders of four women whose cases were linked to him through DNA evidence. He entered a plea bargain where he agreed to disclose the whereabouts of still-missing women and was spared the death penalty because of this. He is currently serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole at Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla, Washington and is now 67-years-old.
1. Edmund Kemper
Edmund is one of the few serial killers who have an IQ which is considered to be at genius level; psychological tests found his IQ was 136 but in later tests, his score was found to be as high as 145. Standing at 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) tall, weighing over 300 lbs (140 kg) and with such a high IQ, this allowed him to overpower his victims both mentally and physically. Investigators labeled him a “natural born killer.”
Above: as seen in Netflix’s hit show Mindhunter
Also known as The Co-ed Butcher, Kemper abducted and murdered several women in the early 1970s in Santa Cruz, he also murdered both of his grandparents and his own mother. His total victim count is believed to be 10 and he often kept the severed heads of his victims for several days before disposal.
He eventually turned himself in and even requested the death penalty for his crimes. As capital punishment was temporarily suspended in California, he instead received eight life sentences and he has since been incarcerated at the California Medical Facility where he remains today now 68-years-old.