Stupid Ways Serial Killers Got Caught
We all make mistakes but if you are a serial killer…you really don’t want to be making any mistakes. Here are five stupid mistakes that got a serial killer caught.
Dennis Lynn Rader
Dennis Lynn Rader also known as the BTK Killer short for Bind, Torture, Kill killed 10 people.
In 1974 he killed four members of a family, Joseph Otero, age 38; Julie Otero, age 33; Joseph Otero Jr., age 9; and Josephine Otero, age 11. Their bodies were discovered by the family’s three older children, who had been at school at the time of the killings.
Rader killed three more women: Kathryn Bright in 1974, Shirley Vian Relford in 1977, and Nancy Fox in 1977. In 1978, he sent a letter to a television station claiming responsibility for the murders. He suggested names for himself including the BTK Killer which was used. He demanded media attention and it was announced a serial killer was at large.
Rader wrote a poem called “Oh! Death to Nancy” which was a parody of the lyrics of the song “O Death” an American folk song. In the letter, he said he was driven to kill by “Factor X” a supposed supernatural element that also motivated Jack the Ripper, the Son of Sam, and the Hillside Strangler to kill.
In one of his letters to the police, Radar asked if his writings on a floppy disk could be traced or not, the policed answered him in a newspaper ad saying it would be safe to use the floppy disk. Radar sent another letter after this which included, a gold-colored necklace with a large medallion, a photocopy of the cover of Rules of Prey, a novel about a serial killer, and the floppy disk.
Police recovered data in the floppy disk which Radar deleted, the metadata contained words such Christ Lutheran Church” and the document was last modified by “Dennis.” An internet search revealed that a “Dennis Radar” was president of the church council. When they drove by Radar’s home, they saw a black Jeep Cherokee which was seen in surveillance footage parked outside. Police obtained a warrant to test a pap smear taken from Radar’s daughter and it was a match and this was enough to bring him in for questioning and eventually sentence him to life in prison.
Randy Steven Kraft
Randy Steven Kraft also known as the Scorecard Killer, Southern California Strangler or Freeway Killer killed a minimum of 16 young men but is also believed to have raped and murdered up to 51 boys and young men.
Between 1971 and 1983, Kraft was believed to have killed 67 people. All were male between 13 & 35. Many victims were members of the united states marines corp and were found to have high levels of alcohol and tranquilizers. Kraft was lured into his car with an offer of life or alcohol and once in Kraft’s car they were bound, tortured, and sexually abused before being killed. He killed them usually by strangling them which earned him the name the Southern California Strangler or he bludgeoned them. Most of the bodies were found near freeways which is why he also got the nickname the Freeway Killer.
By 1975, 14 victims' bodies had been found across four counties and linked to the same killer. An FBI profile of the killer said the killer was a methodical, organized lust killer of above-average intelligence who exhibited an indifference to the “interests and welfare of society”. They also thought it was more than one person and someone who had a military background.
Kraft killed for the next few years but also took breaks in between. In 1983, two highway patrol officers spotted a car driving erratically and made the car stop. Kraft exited the car and throw a beer bottle onto the pavement, he failed a sobriety test and was arrested for drunk driving. An officer went to Kraft’s car and found a young man slumped with his eyes closed in the passenger seat. Many beer bottles and a bottle of Lorazepam were near his feet, the officer checked his pulse and found that he was dead.
Kraft was at first charged with drunk driving but after a search of his car and home which had blood, photos of young men, and a handwritten list of 61 coded notations. In his home, they found a roll of film that had shots of two of his victims. Over 700 witnesses and 250 physical exhibits pointed towards Kraft’s guilt. He was charged with 15 murders, two counts of sodomy, and one charge of emasculation. He got sentenced to death but is still alive at the age of 76, having served 32 years on death row so far.
Dennis Nilsen also known as the Muswell Hill Murderer killed 12–15 people.
Between 1978 and 1983 Nilsen was known to have killed at least 12 men and boys but he initially confessed to killing 16 people. He killed all his victims in the two places he lived in. He gave his victims food and alcohol then strangled them to death or if they instead became unconscious he then drowned them. He kept his victim's bodies with him for weeks or even months at times before he dismembered them and then burned the remains.
Nilsen would keep bodies underneath floorboards and this would attract insects and foul odor especially during summer. He placed deodorants beneath the floorboards and sprayed insecticide twice a day but it did little to cover the smell. He also removed their organs and disposed of them near a fence behind his flat or a park. When he burned his victim's bodies, to cover the smell he used an old car tye to mask the smell.
Nilsen then moved to a new flat because his landlord wanted to renovate. In this new flat Nilsen could no longer hide bodies under the floorboards and for two months didn’t assault anyone who came to his flat. He flushed flesh, organs, and small bones of three victims down the toilet. In 1983 bizarrely enough, Nilsen wrote a letter of complaint to estate agents complaining that the drains at Cranley Gardens were blocked, the same drains he blocked with his victims remains.
Police heard from the fellow tenants that the top floor flat where the human remains were flushed belonged to Nilsen. The police waited outside his home until he got back from work and explained that they needed to discuss the blockage in the drains. The police officers noticed the smell of rotting flesh upon entering and Nilsen asked why the police were interested in a blockage. The police told him it was blocked because of human remains. Nilsen pretended to be shocked:
Good grief, how awful!
One of the officers replied:
“Don’t mess about, where’s the rest of the body?”
Nilsen told them the body could be found in two plastic bags in a wardrobe and when asked whether other body parts were to be found Nilsen said this:
It’s a long story; it goes back a long time. I’ll tell you everything. I want to get it off my chest. Not here — at the police station.
When asked if the remains belonged to one or two people Nilsen replied:
Fifteen or sixteen, since 1978.
The police found that the two plastic bags contained two dissected torsos, various internal organs, a human skull, a severed head, and a torso with arms attached, but hands missing.
Nilsen was brought to trial on 24 October 1983, charged with six counts of murder and two of attempted murder, and got life in prison, dying at the age of 72.
Bobby Joe Long
Robert Joseph Long/Bobby Joe Long also known as The Classified Ad Rapist killed 10 people.
Long began contacting women through Penny Saver and other classified ads. His victim's bodies were normally found dumped near roadsides or in the woods. Long targeted vulnerable women such as sex workers and women who were alone, five out of 10 of his victims were sex workers, two were exotic dancers.
In 1984, Long abducted 17 Year Old Lisa Mcvey as she rode home from work on her bike. She was blindfolded and repeatedly raped in Long’s home, knowing the danger she was in, McVey left as many fingerprints as she could to help the police. McVey during this appealed to the childlike mind of Long, offering to be his secret girlfriend. She also told him that she was the only child of an ill parent.
After 26 hours, Long told her he must get rid of her and took her to some woods and held a gun to her head but after hearing her plead for her life he left her to go and drives away.
McVey gave the police a lot of information, such as his car, the time period where she heard him use an ATM machine and the police found fibers from her which linked to Long’s other victims. Long ended up serving one five-year sentence, four 99-year sentences, 28 life sentences, and one death sentence. 30 years after this sentencing, he was put to death.
Earle Nelson also known as “Gorilla Man,” the “Gorilla Killer,” and the “Dark Strangler killed 22 people.
When he was 10 years old, he got hit by a car while riding his bike and was unconscious for six days. As a result, his behavior became erratic, and he suffered from frequent headaches and memory loss. Nelson would also talk to invisible people, compulsively quote bible passages and watch female family members undress.
Nelson would sometimes entertain his family with his physical talents such as walking on his hands or lifting heavy objects with his teeth. In 1918 Nelson was committed to the Napa State Mental Hospital after behaving oddly and erratically during a brief stint in the United States Navy. A psychologist noted that he did not seem violent, homicidal, or destructive but spoke about hallucination and other paranoid delusions. He saw faces, heard music, and at times believed people would poison him as well as hearing voices telling him to kill himself. He also experienced headaches, fainted several times, and felt dizzy during their interactions.
After one of his murders, witnesses told police they had seen a “smiling stranger” outside the victim's apartment on the day of her murder. He was described as a dark and stocky man with long arms and large hands, because of this he was referred to as the Dark Strangler,” the “Gorilla Man,” or “Gorilla Killer.” in newspapers.
Nelson went into a barbershop and asked for a shave and haircut, when the barber was cutting his hair, he noticed scratches and dried blood on his scalp. When the barber inquired about them, Nelson became agitated and told him not to touch them. The barber told the police and they checked a boardinghouse Nelson recently stayed in and found a nude decaying corpse under the bed.
Police on the North Dakota border arrested a man named “Virgil Wilson” who fit Nelson’s description. He was so calm and cooperative that the police assumed they had the wrong man. He was put in the local jail but escaped that same evening, he made the mistake of trying to catch a train that was transporting police and was captured 12 hours after his escape.
Wilson had his fingerprints taken and photos of him were sent out to police departments around American which got positive identifications from witnesses in Illinois and California confirming he was Earle Nelson. His fingerprints and teeth matched fingerprints at crime scenes and bites on his victims, he didn’t admit guilt for any of his murders.
Nelson was wanted in six states and tried for two murders, two counts of attempted molestation, and one count of burglary. Nelson was hung at 7.30 am on the 13 of January 1928. His final words were: “I forgive those who have wronged me.”