What could be worse than a serial killer on the run? A serial killer on the run that might not ever be caught.
In 2018, following a 40-year-long manhunt for the Golden State Killer (also known as the East Area Rapist), 74-year-old Joseph DeAngelo was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He plead guilty to 13 murders in a deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty. Yet there are still many more out there like DeAngelo who have avoided capture for far too long.
For these following world’s deadliest serial killers, they are perhaps already inside prison for other crimes or perhaps dead. Or, in the worst-case scenario, still roaming the streets hunting for victims.
8. The Man from the Train (25 -100 victims)
One of the most elusive serial killers ‘The Man from the Train’ is believed to have murdered as many as 100 victims. Between 1898 and 1912, innocent families were bludgeoned to death with an axe as they laid sleeping in their beds. The string of murders all seemed eerily connected as the families lived within walking distance to a train station.
The killer also covered victims with sheets or blankets (likely to prevent blood spatter); then moved or stacked the bodies after the murders; before covering windows from inside the house with sheets or towels. There was also nothing stolen from each victim’s household.
True crime author and statistician Bill James applied analytics to try and solve the century-old mystery. He discovered the alarming connection after researching thousands of newspaper articles, court transcripts, and public records. The brutal slayings are also refered to as the ‘Villisca axe murders’. James also suggests the killer is a potential suspect in the 1922 Hinterkaifeck murders in Germany.
7. Manchester Canal Pusher (60 – 85+ victims)
One mystery that has yet to be solved in North-West England is why dozens of bodies of young men have been pulled from the waterways in Manchester city? Many believe this to be the deadly work of the ‘Manchester Canal Pusher’ whose crimes can be traced back to 2015.
Along the 10-mile-long stretch of canals and waterways, there is no lighting and the areas are isolated enough that if a victim is pushed into the water – nobody will hear them scream. Locals have called it a ‘death trap’. The reported deaths since then have reached almost triple figures yet many are still stated as ‘open conclusion’.
One victim named Tom told BBC News he was cycling along the waterways when a man reached out his arm and pushed him into the cold water. As he desperately tried to pull himself out, the man kicked his hand away. Eventually, he managed to climb safely out of the water and reported this to the police, yet, they still deny there is an active serial killer in the area.
6. Denver Prostitute Killer (17 – 27+ victims)
The Denver Prostitute Killer is a serial killer believed to be responsible for murdering at least 17 women and girls between 1975 and 1995. Many of the victims were vulnerable – hitchhikers, prostitutes, runaways, or drug addicts. They were found around the Denver metro area; beaten and strangled, but in some cases, the bodies were so badly decomposed no exact manner of death couldn’t be determined.
The victims were driven long distances after they were killed along busy roads. One police report said: “The suspect is brazen enough to actually transport a deceased corpse far enough in a vehicle to be in a somewhat rural or isolated area.”
Then in 2012, detectives reopened the case in the hope that updated technology might identify new suspects. Marv Brandt, a cold-case investigator for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said, “Sexual assault, strangulation and a desire to shock police were elements that drove the killer. That person might be 60, still capable of finding more victims.”
5. Atlanta Ripper (15 victims)
From 1911 to 1912, the unidentified Atlanta Ripper targeted 15 young African-American women. The victims were walking late at night in secluded areas when the killer launched and fatally stabbed them to death or cut the jugular vein. Many of those who were slain also had their clothes removed and piled neatly beside the bodies.
One victim, Emma Lou Sharp, managed to survive an attack and described the killer as a “tall, dark, broad-shouldered man wearing a broad-brimmed black hat.” Surprisingly, Sharp’s mother – Lena Sharp – was one of the Atlanta Ripper’s previous victims. Detectives warned women in the area to stay off the streets late at night. Despite a huge reward offering and a couple of arrests, the Atlanta Ripper was never caught.
Then decades later, like grim history repeating itself, the Atlanta Child murders of 1979 to 1981 took place. At least 28 black children, adolescents, and adults were killed. Wayne Williams was charged with two of these murders and immediately after his arrest, the child murders stopped which lead many to believe he was the real serial killer.
4. Cleveland Torso Killer (12 victims)
More than 80 years has passed since the Cleveland Torso Killer terrorized the city in Ohio and still nobody knows who was responsible. The gruesome murders took place from 1935 to 1938, 12 bodies were dumped in the Kingsbury Run, a creek that runs to the Cuyahoga River.
The serial killer preyed on the vulnerable as many of the victims were not reported missing right away; they were mostly homeless or working as prostitutes. The bodies were found decapitated and without limbs; only the torsos were left behind gaining the killer such a frightening nickname alongside his other moniker ‘Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run’.
One coroner noted the lack of hesitation marks when decapitating the bodies indicated a strong, confident killer, very familiar with the human anatomy. The victim would have died instantly as the head was removed with one clean blow. These crimes that plagued Cleveland abruptly stopped as quickly as they started and the city has never seen such a grisly spree of crimes ever since.
3. Long Island Serial Killer (10 – 16 victims)
A serial killer known as Long Island Serial Killer is believed to have stalked victims in New York City as far back as 1996. Although the real victim count is difficult for authorities to confirm, they believe he has claimed the lives of as many as 16 victims. Known also as Gilgo Beach Killer and Craigslist Ripper; he uses the internet to lure his victims to their deaths via websites that advertise call girls.
Investigators are on the hunt for a sexual deviant who will very likely kill again. In a chilling twist, the killer also kept many of the victim’s cell phones so he could call their family members and taunt them about the murders. The killer never stayed on the line long enough for the police to trace the call.
During a press conference held at Suffolk Police Headquarters in Yaphank, New York, authorities stated: “There has been a tremendous amount of effort put into solving this case and I can tell you that everyone involved is motivated by one goal: to deliver justice to these victims and to give them some sense of peace and some sense of closure.”
2. New Bedford Highway Killer (11 victims)
In 1988, eleven women vanished from the streets of New Bedford, Massachusetts. One year later, the remains of nine victims had been discovered along Interstate 195 and two local highways. Robert St. Jean, the chief investigator for former District Attorney Ron Pina, said, “They were mostly skeletal remains. Even identification was a real chore.” Two of the women were never found.
Murder charges against one suspect, attorney Kenneth Ponte, were dropped for lack of evidence. Another suspect committed suicide. Residents of New Bedford continued to live in fear as they felt terrorized by the serial killer. One local told Boston Local News, “He might start off with drug addicts and prostitutes. Then you start thinking, maybe he’ll just target anybody.” The case is still cold.
1. Skid Row Stabber (10 victims)
A serial killer dubbed the Skid Row Stabber killed 10 homeless men in downtown Los Angeles in 1978. Only a few years before, a killer known as Skid Row Slasher was convicted of killing eight homeless men, and police feared these were copycat murders.
In 1979, Bobby Joe Maxwell was accused of being the Skid Row Stabber. A knife found in his possession was consistent with the wounds of the victims but there was no evidence the knife had been used as a weapon. No witnesses could identify Maxwell at trial and the only forensic link was a palm print on a bench near one of the crime scenes. He was still found guilty.
Los Angeles prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against Maxwell in 2018 and he was released from prison after 40 years. Leaving the ongoing unanswered question – who really was the Skid Row Stabber?