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Ten Prolific Serial Killers of Modern Times.

A detailer look at the worst murderers of this era.

By Jason Zane SmithPublished 3 months ago 12 min read
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1. Harold Shipman: A British doctor who is believed to have killed an estimated 250 patients between 1972 and 1998. He was caught after suspicions were raised by an undertaker and was convicted in 2000 before committing suicide in prison in 2004.

Harold Frederick Shipman (14 January 1946 – 13 January 2004), known to acquaintances as Fred Shipman, was an English general practitioner and serial killer. He is one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history, with an estimated 250 victims. On 31 January 2000, Shipman was found guilty of murdering fifteen patients under his care. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order. Shipman hanged himself in his cell at HM Prison Wakefield, West Yorkshire, on 13 January 2004, aged 57.

The Shipman Inquiry, a two-year-long investigation of all deaths certified by Shipman, chaired by Dame Janet Smith, examined Shipman's crimes. It revealed Shipman targeted vulnerable elderly people who trusted him as he was their doctor. He killed his victims either by a fatal dose of drugs or prescribing them an abnormal amount. Shipman, who was nicknamed "Dr. Death" and "The Angel of Death", is the only British doctor to date to have been convicted of murdering patients, although other doctors have been acquitted of similar crimes or convicted of lesser charges.

Shipman began working at Pontefract General Infirmary in Pontefract, West Riding of Yorkshire, and in 1974 took his first position as a general practitioner (GP) at the Abraham Ormerod Medical Centre in Todmorden. The following year, Shipman was caught forging prescriptions of pethidine for his own use. He was fined £600 and briefly attended a drug rehabilitation clinic in York. He worked as a GP at Donneybrook Medical Centre in Hyde, Greater Manchester, in 1977.

Shipman continued working as a GP in Hyde throughout the 1980s and established his own surgery at 21 Market Street in 1993, becoming a respected member of the community. In 1983, he was interviewed in an edition of the Granada Television current affairs documentary World in Action on how the mentally ill should be treated in the community. A year after his conviction on charges of murder, the interview was re-broadcast on Tonight with Trevor McDonald.

2. Luis Garavito: Known as "La Bestia," Garavito murdered at least 138 young boys in Colombia in the 1990s. He lured them to remote areas and killed them through torture and decapitation. He was sentenced to 1,853 years in prison.

Beginning a series of torture-rapes on minors aged 6 to 16 in the autumn of 1980, Garavito was estimated to have raped and tortured a minimum of 200 minors, before committing the rape, torture, mutilation, and murder of an additional 189 minors in Colombia from 4 October 1992 to 21 April 1999, and a further four murders in Ecuador during the summer of 1998.

Apprehended on 22 April 1999 for the attempted rape of 12-year-old John Iván Sabogal, Garavito was held under suspicion for several months until he confessed on 28 October 1999. The court ruled that Garavito should serve sentences totaling 1,853 years and 9 days in jail. Between his Colombian and Ecuadorian victims, Garavito is confirmed to have murdered at least 193 minors in total, making him the most prolific serial killer and child molester in modern history. If his 2003 confession is to be believed, his murders of 23 minors and 5 adults would raise his murder victim count to 221.

3. Pedro López: Dubbed "The Monster of the Andes," López is responsible for the murders of at least 110 girls and young women in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru between 1969 and 1980. He was caught, declared insane, and later released in 1998.

Pedro Alonso López was born in Colombia in 1948, in the municipality of Venadillo, Tolima. Pedro López was the seventh of thirteen children born to Benilda López de Castañeda, a prostitute, and had a difficult childhood due to the violence of the household and the absence of a father figure. His father, Megdardo Reyes, was murdered in La Violencia six months before his birth.

López was banished from the house at age eight, when his mother caught him attempting to molest his sister. Homeless, López wandered the streets of Bogotá and was frequently sexually abused. After the incident, he joined a gang of street children for protection. At age twelve, he was adopted by an American immigrant family, but fled after he was sexually assaulted by a teacher.

In 1969, López was sentenced to seven years in prison for auto theft. During this period of incarceration, he was brutally gang-raped by four other inmates. Days later, López hunted down the inmates and killed them in retaliation. The killings were ruled as self-defense, and two years were added to his sentence.

4. Gary Ridgway: Known as the "Green River Killer," Ridgway is one of the most prolific serial murderers in American history. He was convicted of 48 murders but admitted to killing around 90. His victims were mostly runaways and prostitutes whom he would sexually assault before murdering.

Gary Leon Ridgway (born February 18, 1949) is an American serial killer known as the Green River Killer. He was initially convicted of 48 separate murders committed between the early 1980s and late 1990s. As part of his plea bargain, another conviction was added, bringing the total number of convictions to 49, making him the second most prolific serial killer in United States history according to confirmed murders.

Most of Ridgway's victims were alleged to be sex workers and other women in vulnerable circumstances, including underage runaways. The press gave him his nickname after the first five victims were found in the Green River before his identity was known.[3] He strangled his victims, usually by hand but sometimes using ligatures. After strangling them, he would dump their bodies in forested and overgrown areas in King County, often returning to the bodies to have sexual intercourse with them.[4]

Ridgway had been a suspect in the murders since 1982 when he was arrested for prostitution; however, investigators were unable to link him to the murders at that time. Later advances in DNA profiling allowed investigators to definitively link Ridgway to the murders, and he was arrested on November 30, 2001, as he was leaving the Kenworth truck factory where he worked in Renton, Washington.[4] As part of a plea bargain wherein he agreed to disclose the locations of still-missing women, he was spared the death penalty and received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

5. Ted Bundy: Bundy confessed to kidnapping, raping, and murdering numerous young women and girls during the 1970s. He was executed in 1989 after being convicted of killing three women, but it is believed that his actual victim count is much higher.

Theodore Robert Bundy (November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) was an American serial killer who kidnapped, raped and murdered dozens of young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier. After more than a decade of denials, he confessed to 30 murders committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978. His true victim total is unknown.

Bundy often employed charm to disguise his murderous intent when kidnapping victims and extended this tactic vis-a-vis law enforcement, the media and the criminal justice system to maintain his claims of innocence. His usual technique involved approaching a female in public and luring her to a vehicle parked in a more secluded area, at which point she would be beaten unconscious, restrained with handcuffs and taken elsewhere to be sexually assaulted and killed.

To this end, Bundy typically simulated having a physical impairment such as an injury in order to convince his target that he was in need of assistance with something or would dupe her into believing he was an authority figure. He frequently revisited the bodies of those he abducted, grooming and performing sex acts on the corpses until decomposition and destruction by wild animals made further interactions impossible. He decapitated at least 12 of his victims, keeping their severed heads as mementos in his apartment. On a few occasions, he broke into homes at night and bludgeoned, maimed, strangled and/or sexually assaulted his victims in their sleep.

6. Andrei Chikatilo: A notorious Ukrainian serial killer known as the "Butcher of Rostov," Chikatilo sexually assaulted, murdered, and mutilated at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990. He was convicted and executed in 1994.

Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo (Russian: Андре́й Рома́нович Чикати́ло, romanized: Andréy Románovich Chikatílo; Ukrainian: Андрій Романович Чикатило, romanized: Andriy Romanovych Chykatylo; 16 October 1936 – 14 February 1994) was a Soviet serial killer nicknamed The Butcher of Rostov, The Rostov Ripper, and The Red Ripper who sexually assaulted, murdered, and mutilated at least fifty-two women and children between 1978 and 1990 in the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, and the Uzbek SSR.

Chikatilo confessed to fifty-six murders; he was tried for fifty-three murders in April 1992. He was convicted and sentenced to death for fifty-two of these murders in October 1992, although the Supreme Court of Russia ruled in 1993 that insufficient evidence existed to prove his guilt in nine of those killings. Chikatilo was executed by gunshot in February 1994.

Chikatilo was known as the "Rostov Ripper" and the "Butcher of Rostov" because he committed most of his murders in the Rostov Oblast of the Russian SFSR.

7. Jeffrey Dahmer: Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991, engaging in acts of necrophilia and cannibalism. He was caught in 1991 and sentenced to 16 life terms in prison. Dahmer was killed by a fellow inmate in 1994.

Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer, (May 21, 1960 – November 28, 1994), also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal or the Milwaukee Monster, was an American serial killer and sex offender who killed and dismembered seventeen males between 1978 and 1991. Many of his later murders involved necrophilia, cannibalism, and the permanent preservation of body parts—typically all or part of the skeleton.

Although he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), schizotypal personality disorder (StPD), and a psychotic disorder, Dahmer was found to be legally sane at his trial. He was convicted of fifteen of the sixteen homicides he had committed in Wisconsin and was sentenced to fifteen terms of life imprisonment on February 17, 1992.[9] Dahmer was later sentenced to a sixteenth term of life imprisonment for an additional homicide committed in Ohio in 1978.

On November 28, 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death by Christopher Scarver, a fellow inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin.

8. John Wayne Gacy: Gacy, known as the "Killer Clown," sexually assaulted, tortured, and murdered 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978 in Chicago. He buried most of his victims in the crawl space under his house and was executed in 1994.

John Wayne Gacy (March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994) was an American serial killer and sex offender who raped, tortured, and murdered at least 33 young men and boys in Norwood Park Township, near Chicago, Illinois. He became known as the Killer Clown due to his public performances as a clown prior to the discovery of his crimes.

Gacy committed all his murders in his ranch house. Typically, he would lure a victim to his home and dupe them into donning handcuffs on the pretext of demonstrating a magic trick. He would then rape and torture his captive before killing them by either asphyxiation or strangulation with a garrote. Twenty-six victims were buried in the crawl space of his home, and three were buried elsewhere on his property; four were discarded in the Des Plaines River.

Gacy had previously been convicted in 1968 of the sodomy of a teenage boy in Waterloo, Iowa, and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, but served eighteen months. He murdered his first victim in 1972, had murdered twice more by the end of 1975, and murdered at least thirty victims after his divorce from his second wife in 1976. The investigation into the disappearance of Des Plaines teenager Robert Piest led to Gacy's arrest on December 21, 1978.

His conviction for thirty-three murders (by one individual) then covered the most homicides in United States legal history. Gacy was sentenced to death on March 13, 1980. He was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center on May 10, 1994.

9. Dennis Rader: Known as the "BTK Killer" (bind, torture, kill), Rader murdered 10 people in Kansas between 1974 and 1991. He taunted police with letters and was caught in 2005, receiving 10 consecutive life sentences.

Dennis Lynn Rader (born March 9, 1945), also known as BTK (an abbreviation he gave himself, for "bind, torture, kill"), is an American serial killer who murdered at least ten people in Wichita and Park City, Kansas, between 1974 and 1991. Although Rader occasionally killed or attempted to kill men and children, he typically targeted women. His victims were often bound, sometimes with objects from their homes, and either suffocated with a plastic bag or manually strangled with a ligature.

In addition, Rader stole keepsakes from his female victims, including underwear, licenses, and personal items. He often sent taunting letters to police and media outlets describing the details of his crimes. After a thirteen-year hiatus, Rader resumed sending letters in 2004, leading to his 2005 arrest and subsequent guilty plea. He is currently serving ten consecutive life sentences at the El Dorado Correctional Facility.

10. Edmund Kemper: Kemper murdered 10 people, including his grandparents and mother, in California in the 1970s. Standing at 6'9" tall, he was nicknamed the "Co-Ed Killer" for targeting young female hitchhikers. Kemper turned himself in and remains imprisoned.

Edmund Emil Kemper III (born December 18, 1948) is an American serial killer who murdered 8 people, including a 15-year-old girl, his own mother, and her best friend, from May 1972 to April 1973. Years earlier, at the age of 15, Kemper had murdered his paternal grandparents. Kemper was nicknamed the Co-ed Killer, as most of his non-familial victims were female college students hitchhiking in the vicinity of Santa Cruz County, California. Most of his murders included necrophilia, decapitation, and dismemberment.

Found sane and guilty at his trial in 1973, Kemper requested the death penalty for his crimes. Capital punishment was suspended in California at the time, and he instead received eight concurrent life sentences. Since then, he has been incarcerated in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

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About the Creator

Jason Zane Smith

Professional freelance writer and connoisseur of many subjects, I'll address topics in ways you may never have considered!

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