Emily drinks too much coffee, watches too much TV, and hopefully writes good books.
Her random ramblings on this blog include pop culture, food, writing, books, thrifty living, cooking, wine, and movies older than your grandparents.
Even the most seasoned true crime aficionados probably don’t know about the similar and possibly connected murders which occurred following the months after the killing of The Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short). I surely didn’t. Hollywood & Crime uncovers these horrific murders for a crime-hungry, twenty-first-century audience.
In this podcast series, host Tracy Pattin along with a team of talented actors tell the stories of these murdered women and the investigations into these crimes. Seventy plus years later these cases remain unsolved.
The podcast focuses on several different women: an heiress, a WWII flying nurse, a wife out for a good time who met a gruesome end, and the would-be actress with a seemingly bad reputation, The Black Dahlia. Yet, they all were murdered in a similar fashion around the same time. How did such different women with different paths meet the same end? We may never know.
If these crimes happened in 2017, or even 2007 (this January marked the seventy-year anniversary of The Black Dahlia murder), we would probably know the killer (or killers) due to DNA technology and a better understanding of crime scene contamination. This was a classic serial killer case before the term serial killer was even in the lexicon.
As I listened to these stories I wondered why don’t we know about these murders, which at the time were called The Werewolf Murders, like we do The Black Dahlia or other well-known crimes before the 1970’s? In my mind, the 70’s were terrifying and the epitome of all things serial killer. I’m not sure why these cases aren’t more talked about considering how sensationalized they were at the time. The podcast implies that The Black Dahlia murder was more reported and talked about than the others at the time-history proves that correct, which is why these other murders aren’t as well-known.
This podcast also mentions the theory that Elizabeth Short’s murderer was a woman. This theory is one I’ve come across in my years of looking up weirdness and murder on the Internet. I did a little research while writing this and wasn’t able to come up with much other than this post and a short Wikipedia entry. I thought it was interesting the police didn’t rule out the possibility of a female murderer. The podcast doesn’t discuss this for very long, but I’m glad they mentioned the theory.
I can’t say much more without giving anything away. Besides, Wondery does a much better job talking about murder than I do. Give it a listen on iTunes or here.
Running a little behind. Sometimes life happens and blogging doesn’t. Continuing on with the theme of vampire killers…
Peter Kürten, the Vampire of Dusseldorf was a German killer who committed a series of murders and sexual assaults in 1929.
Peter Kürten was from an abusive background and started killing small animals as a teen, classic serial killer behavior. He repeatedly ran away from home and lived on the streets with petty criminals. Later, Kürten claimed to have committed his first murder at age 9, when he drowned a friend. He also admitted to killing an 18-year-old girl in 1899 before his killing spree which earned him his nickname began.
In 1900, he was sentenced to a prison sentence for fraud and attempted murder. A short four years later, he was drafted into the German Army and deserted soon after. Around the same time he started setting fires for his own sexual excitement and was eventually arrested again for arson and robbery. He served another prison sentence from 1905 to 1913. Upon his release, he robbed a tavern where he murdered a nine-year-old girl by slashing her throat. Two months later, he killed another girl and several days later was arrested again for arson and burglary.
After this release, he moved in with his sister who introduced him to a woman named Auguste Scharf, who had been previously convicted of killing her husband. Its as a match made in murder heaven. They married two years later. Kürten was soon bored with marriage and started having an affair with two different housemaids. The two women reported him to the police, one claiming he raped her. Off to prison again…
He was out in six months under the condition to relocate to Dusseldorf. On February 2, 1929, Kürten stabbed an elderly woman 24 times and she survived. Five days later, he strangled a nine-year-old girl, stabbed her with scissors, and set her body on fire. Another week passed before he killed again. This time it was a male, who he stabbed 20 times. It should be noted here that the randomness of the victims is not normal, or conclusive with serial killer behavior, as most have a victim profile and M.O.
Between March to July 1929, he attempted to strangle four women. He did not kill again until August, when he raped, strangled, and stabbed a woman after a date. Kürten was still married at the time. Fearful his wife would see the blood, he buried her body and attempted to nail it to a tree. Three months later, he sent a letter to the police claiming responsibility for the murder. He also drew a map to her remains, which eventually led the police to the burial site.
He soon killed 5 people in two days, including a five-year-old girl. He attached her teenaged foster sister who survived and was able to give a description to the police. Around this time, is when he started sucking blood from victims. A month later, he killed 4 women in hammer attacks and attempted 2 more. The first victim survived, the second escaped because his hammer broke. In November 1929, he killed another five-year-old girl, with a pair of scissors. She would be his last victim.
During this time, the public was outraged the vicious killer had not yet been caught. The Düsseldorf Police received 13,000 letters in 1929 and had interviewed 9,000 people about the murders and attacks. Kürten had the infamous cooling off period and didn’t strike again until May 1930. This time, he picked up a young girl and attempted to rape and strangle her. She was able to get away when he released his grip on her throat.
The girl did not go to the police. This led to Kürten being caught by pure accident. The girl who escaped wrote a letter to her friend describing what happened. She addressed the letter incorrectly. A post office worker opened the letter, read it, reported it to the police. The police contacted the girl who led them to Kürten’s apartment where the attack at taken place. Kürten was caught t in the lobby of his apartmetn builidng. He confessed to police and to his wife that he was The Vampire of Dusseldorf.
After his arrest, Kürten was interviewed by a psychologist, who noted his acts were for sexual pleasure and he had a blood fetish. This information was the first psychological study conducted on a sexually-motivated killer.Kürten admitted to switching weapons in an attempt to throw off the police. He was declared sane and was able to stand trial. Kürten plead not guilty by reason of insanity, which did not work due to his earlier diagnosis. A jury found him guilty on April 22,1931 and he was sentenced to death. He tried to appeal, but it was denied. He was executed in July of that year by guillotine.
In the moments leading up to his death, he asked: “Tell me… after my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.”
He probably died a happy man.
After his death, his head was mummified and is currently on display at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Wisconsin Dells.
Being from Kentucky, (we got lots of murder, y’all) I heard about this one a lot. During the week of Thanksgiving 1996, a group of teens calling themselves “The Vampire Clan” murdered a Florida couple, Naomi Queen and Richard Wendorf.
The leader of The Vampire Clan, Rod Ferrell claimed to be a 500 year-old vampire named Vesago. Sweet vampire name, by the way. Ferrell had become obsessed with vampires after playing the table top role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. The group, consisting of Dana Cooper, Charity Keese, and Howard Anderson believed they were actually vampires. Well, I did too briefly during the height of my True Blood binge, but I never killed anyone or drank blood.
Ferrell met Heather Wendorf, who was living with family in Kentucky and soon introduced her to the vampire clan. Heather supposedly had a rough home life which she described as “hell.” The group traveled from their home of Murray, Kentucky to Florida with plans to kill Heather’s parents in a ritualistic killing to honor their clan. Ferrell bludgeoned them to death with a crowbar. Originally, he had not planned on killing Heather’s mother Naomi. After she threw a hot cup of coffee at him, he changed his mind.
After the killings, the group traveled to Louisiana, where they were apprehended. Rod Ferrell confessed the three girls involved were innocent, but that Howard Anderson was not. Dana and Charity were both arrested for their involvement in the crimes and have since been released. Heather Wendorf was never tried as she was proven innocent. From 1998-2000, Ferrell was the youngest person in the United States on death row. His conviction was reduced to life in prison. Anderson was also convicted to life in prison.
There is also a local legend of sorts to go along with these murders. An abandoned house near Land Between The Lakes in Kentucky is the site of the Vampire Hotel. The stone structure is said to be haunted and that the vamp clan used to meet there and engage in Satanic rituals. From what I’ve read, there isn’t much proof the clan used to hang out there, although it does look like a perfect location for 90s Goth kids in Kentucky to get down.
This serial killing duo should probably be more talked about than it is. I recently read about this one a few years ago, and it has stuck with me since. Carol Bundy (no relation to Ted) and Doug Clark, known as the Sunset Strip Killers went on a killing spree in the summer of 1980, resulting in the death of at least 9 people.
Carol Bundy had a troubled childhood, and was seemingly destined for a life of crime. She was abused by her family and married to a 56 year-old man. By the time the killings began, she’d been married and divorced 3 times and had two young sons. Before the killings, Bundy had an affair with Jack Murray, her apartment complex manager and a country singer. Bundy even tried to bribe Murray’s wife to leave him. She also became obsessed with Murray, having elaborate fantasies about their life together.
Doug Clark was the son of a U.S. Naval officer who lived a life of privilege. He attended a Swiss boarding school as a child and traveled the world with his family. Clark showed signs of psychopathic behavior from a young age. He would often lie to his parents, and as a teenager, he would record himself having sex with girls and show the footage to his friends. Clark joined the Air Force in 1967. After he was discharged, Clark drifted and worked as a mechanic, all while calling himself “the king of one-night stands”. He moved to Los Angeles and met Carol Bundy in 1980.
Bundy and Clark met a bar in L.A. where Jack Murray would often perform. After spending a short time together, Bundy and Clark moved in together and soon discovered one another’s dark sexual fantasies. They had a very volatile and abusive relationship rooted in jealousy. Clark had a habit of seeking out divorced women with self esteem issues and essentially becoming a mooch, which is what he did to Carol Bundy.
This is where it gets super gross, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Clark started bringing sex workers back to their house for a threesome. He then lured an eleven year-old girl back to their house where he took sexually explicit photos of her. He also started talking about wanting to kill a girl during sex and convinced Bundy to buy them matching pistols. Clark claimed he wanted to feel vaginal contractions of a woman during death spasms. WTF.
In June 1980, Clark admitted to Bundy that he killed two teenage girls, Gina Narano and Cynthia Chandler, who he picked up on the Sunset Strip. He forced them to perform oral sex on him, shot them in the head, raped their dead bodies in a garage, and dumped them on the Ventura Freeway. They were found the next day. Bundy, growing apprehension, called the police claiming to have knowledge about the murdered girls, but refused to give them Clark’s name.
Twelve days later, Clark killed two more sex workers in the same fashion, Karen Jones and Exxie Wilson. This time, Bundy didn’t call the police. Clark kept Wilson’s head in the refrigerator. Bundy put makeup on the head, placed the head in a wooden box, and dumped it in an alley. It was found the next day. Clark had also killed another sex worker who was found three weeks after Exxie Wilson and Karen Jones were killed, making her her the first known victim. While all of this was happening, Clark was having a sexual relationship with the eleven year-old girl who lived next door, who be bribed with money and gifts to keep their relationship secret from everyone but Bundy.
A month later, Clark and Bundy went to go see Jack Murray after his performance at a local bar. Bundy hinted at what she and Clark had been doing. Murray threatened to call the police. Bundy later claimed she’d been joking and in exchange for not reporting them, Bundy offered him sex. Jack said he would only if there was another woman. Warning! Again, it gets more disgusting. Bundy brought the eleven year-old neighbor with her for the encounter. Apparently, all these people are scumbag pedophiles. Bundy refused to let Murray have sex with the girl, she believed that was only for Clark. It was then she decided Murray had to die.
Bundy psyched herself up to kill Jack Murray as a way to prove her devotion to Clark, as well as prove she was smart enough to kill on her own as Clark often berated her intelligence. On August 3, 1980, Bundy went back to the bar where Murray was performing again. She lured him into her van with the promise of sex with her and the neighbor girl. She shot and decapitated Murray in the back of her van. She took the head home with her in a plastic bag, believing the bullets in his head would lead back to her.
On August 20, Bundy broke down and confessed to a co-worker who called the police. Bundy, a nurse, had escaped from the hospital where she worked and was on the way to Clark’s work at the Jergen’s factory. When she arrived, she told Clark she was turning herself in. She offered him all her money so he could get away. Bundy and Clark had already been questioned in Murray’s murder, and Clark had given an alibi for Bundy. When Bundy left the factory, Clark called the police and recanted his statement about the alibi. Bundy soon called the police herself and turned them both in.
During questioning, Bundy confessed to the crimes and claimed to have enjoyed killing Jack Murray. Clark, on the other hand, was smug, arrogant and tried to claim Bundy was crazy, that they had never had a romantic relationship.He also claimed Jack Murray and Bundy had been committing the murders all along and that Bundy was trying to frame him. However, there was already too much evidence linking them together.
They were both found guilty of the murders. Doug Clark was charged with seven murders total and sentenced to death. He is still currently on death row in California. Carol Bundy testified against Clark in exchange for a shorter sentence. She received twenty-five years to life. She died in prison in 2003.
Doug Clark still claims his innocence and is still blaming the murders on Bundy and Jack Murray. He also denies ever having a romantic involvement with Bundy and believes DNA evidence will soon exonerate him. Good luck with that, buddy.
Look for a post about serial killer collectables, aka murderabilia soon!
In researching this, I couldn’t find any information about the eleven year-old girl. I can only hope she is living a good life now and is mentally healthy.
Carol Bundy’s behavior is baffling, even to a true crime weirdo. Roy Hazelwood, the famed FBI profiler who taught us everything we know about Forensic Psychology, has a study and theory on female accomplices, mainly to sex offenders. Hazelwood’s study claims these women suffer from low self-esteem and are focused on pleasing their male partners who are the instigators in the crimes.
Hazelwood developed a theory which includes the following processes that turned these women into accomplices:
Identification: Identifying a vulnerable, easily-controlled person
Seduction: Getting the woman to fall in love.
Reshaping the woman’s sexual norms: Introducing her to sexual images and acts that may offend or frighten her, but which she must do to please the man and keep him involved.
Social isolation: Cutting her off from family and friends.
Punishment: Physical, verbal, and sexual, which further erodes the woman’s self-esteem and ability to act on her own.
Thanks for sticking around and reading that (if you didn’t, I don’t blame you). Here’s a basket of smooshy-faced puppies to cheer you up.
Lovebirds Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck make up the killing duo dubbed the Lonely Hearts Killers. From 1947-1949, they are believed to have killed at least 17 women by answering lonely hearts, which was like Tinder but somehow even creepier (at least in this case).
It should be noted that in the forgettable 2006 movie about the killings, Beck is played by the always hot Salma Hayek. Go figure.
Fernandez was born in Hawaii to Spanish parents in 1914. He served in WWII in both the Spanish and British militaries. He had a wife and four children in Spain, which he abandoned during the war. After serving in the military, he decided to return to America. While on a ship, he fell injuring his frontal lobe. This injury is said to have affected his behavior, which led to the murders, a common occurrence in killers.
After spending some time in the hospital, he was arrested for stealing clothing and spent some time in jail. His cell mate thought him about voodoo and black magic, which Fernandez believed he could use to charm and manipulate women.
Martha Beck was a teen runaway from Florida. She became a single mother and worked as a nurse and a mortician’s assistant. The father of her daughter refused to marry her and she told everyone she was a war widow. Eventually, she married a bus driver from Pensacola, had a son, and was divorced six months later. Beck became enamored with romantic novels and movies. In 1947, she placed a lonely hearts ad, which was answered by Fernandez.
Beck and Fernandez soon fell in love, prompting Beck to abandon her children for him. He took this as a sign of love, and confided in Beck about his crimes. At this point, he had been robbing various women who answered his ads. Beck moved from Florida to New York to be with Fernandez. She posed as his sister when the women who answered the ads would come over, as to make them feel more comfortable.
They were only tried for 3 murders, all of which were committed in 1949. The first was Janet Fay, 66 who became engaged to Fernandez and lived with he and Beck. Beck attacked Fay with a hammer when she saw her in bed with Fernandez. Fay didn’t die immediately, so Fernandez strangled her with a scarf. When Fay’s family started looking for her, the killers fled to a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
There, they met and lived with a young widow named Delphine Downing and her two year-old daughter. On February 26, 1949, Fernandez drugged Downing with some sleeping pills. When her daughter started crying, Beck choked her, but didn’t kill her. Beck realized she might become suspicious of bruises on her daughter. Fernandez shot Downing while she was unconscious. Beck then drowned the daughter in a sink.
Beck and Fernandez were arrested on March 1, 1949. They were extradited to New York, as Michigan had no death penalty. Fernandez confessed and then retracted his statement. Police suspected them of 17 total murders, but were only tried for the murder of Janet Fay as the prosecutors wanted to pursue the death penalty (why they were extradited to NY).
Both were executed by the electric chair on March 8, 1951, professing their love for one another until the end.
The three name curse strikes again with Karla Faye Tucker, known for being the first women executed in the U.S. since 1984 (she was eventually executed in 1998), and the first in Texas since 1863. Tucker played the “I’m a murderer and turn to Jesus in prison and publicly talk about it to gain sympathy” card for all it was worth. Which, is a big change from the woman who claimed to have multiple orgasms from killing. This ignited a media fire storm that prompted many to protest her impending execution. Several days before her execution, George W. Bush, the then-governor of Texas blocked the final appeal.
Born into a troubled home in Houston, Texas, Tucker started smoking cigarettes at age 8 and by age 12 was already into drugs and sex. After her parents divorced, her mother became a rock groupie. Tucker married a local mechanic when she was 16 and was divorced soon after.
In her early twenties, Tucker started hanging out with a rough group of bikers. Some friends introduced her to a man named Danny Garrett. They started dating soon after. On June 3, 1983 at 3 a.m., after a night of drinking and doing drugs,Tucker, Garrett, and a friend, James Leibrant entered the home of Jerry Dean with the intent to steal his Harley Davidson. Dean was the estranged husband of Tucker’s best friend, whom she disliked.
Tucker went into the bedroom where Dean was sleeping. She sat on him while Garrett and Leibrant searched the house. Dean grabbed Tucker which led to Garrett hitting him in the head with a hammer he found on the floor. The blow caused Dean’s neck to become unhinged and distorted his breathing. Tucker was fed up and irritated with his ragged breathing, found a pickaxe (presumably at Dean’s home), and hit him in the throat with it. She later said took the ax to his neck to “stop him from making that noise”. Dean them finished him off with a hammer to the chest.
Garrett left the bedroom and went to finish loading up the motorcycle. It was then Tucker discovered a woman, Deborah Thornton, who had been with Dean the previous day. She’d been hiding in the room the while Dean was murdered. She was also killed by Tucker with a pickaxe to the heart.
In September 1983, Garrett and Tucker were tried and convicted for the two murders. Both were sentenced to death. Garret died in prison in 1993. While behind bars, Tucker became a born-again Christian. She married the prison paster in 1995. Between 1984-1992, several appeals and a retrial were requested unsuccessfully. Tucker tried to get her death sentenced overturned because she was on drugs at the time of the murder.
On February 3, 1998, after eating a last meal of a banana, peach, and a garden salad with ranch, Tucker was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas.
While Tucker’s death sentence was not overturned, her execution brought about a huge capital punishment debate. Many blamed a pre-poncho battling Dubya for her death. He was criticized for allowing a woman to be executed. And not just a woman, one who was reformed and born-again. Since the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States, only 16 women (11%) have been executed. 6 out of 11 have all been executed in Texas. The last was Kelly Gissendaner in 2015 in Georgia.
Continuing on with female killers, today’s post focuses on a killing spree which happened in my current city, where I’ve lived since 2010. Upon further researching this case, I learned one of the victims was murdered right down the street from my house.
On April 23, 1986, lovers LaFonda Fay Foster, 22 and Tina Marie Powell, 27 went on a violent murder spree leaving five people dead. Having three names also seems to breed murder. It started around 4:00 p.m.that day when Virginia Kearns called Lexington Police complaining of two drunk women who wouldn’t leave her apartment. When the police arrived, they also found Mrs. Kearns drunk. After questioning Foster and Powell, police determined them to be coherent and left. It should be noted now that both Foster and Powell were drinking and high on cocaine during all the events written below.
With the police gone, Foster and Powell headed to a party at a neighboring apartment where Foster tried to sell a knife she had with her. While they were at the party, Virginia Kearns left and went to a nearby drug store. Foster and Powell threatened her again and followed her to the drug store. The three women then returned to the Kearns apartment where they demanded money from Virginia’s husband, Carlos. He said he’d have to write them a check, which he did.
I’m not sure why this happened, but I’m guessing there were drugs involved. Based on the court deposition, it sounds as if this was a hostage situation. It’s an odd situation and doesn’t add up with other spree killings, considering the victims weren’t random. It also seemed as if The Kearns’ knew Foster and Powell. Otherwise, why would they get into a car with them? Carlos Kearns wrote Foster a check for $25. At the same time, two friends of Carlos’, Roger Keene and Theodore Sweet showed up at the apartment.
Foster then drove The Kearns’, Keene, Sweet, and The Kearns’ housekeeper, Trudy Harrell to a bait shop where she cashed the check. Foster and Powell claimed they were raising money to buy a gram of cocaine. Foster then drove the group to the home of a man named Lester Luttrell, presumably to get some money. Luttrell got into an argument with Foster. Foster shot a bullet into his house and drove away.
Four hours after this all began, Foster drove to a field where she and Powell made the five victims get out the car and lie face down in the grass. They then shot and stabbed Trudy Harrell, Carlos, and Virgina Kearns. Only Trudy Harrell died at the scene after being ran over by the car. Her body became lodged underneath the car and was dragged 225 feet. She was shot in the back of the head, stabbed five times in her face and chest, and her throat was cut.
The Kearns’ were forced back into the car. Sweet and Keene were not injured. Foster drove to a nearby bar, where she (again, presumably) knew the manager. She asked him for the some bullets, and he gave her four .22 calibers. He noticed the occupants in the back seat and blood on the driver’s side door.
After receiving the bullets, Foster took the group to a loading dock behind a paint store where she and Powell killed Virgina Kearns. She too, was shot, stabbed, and ran over. After killing Kearns, Foster went back to the bar and asked for more bullets. She was denied and drove to her father’s home in search of more bullets. Mr. Foster did not have any. While Foster was with her father, Carlos Kearns, Keene, and Sweet begged Tina Powell to help them. She claimed she couldn’t because Foster had the car keys and that she believed she could help them more by staying. This ties back to Powell’s defense, saying that Foster overpowered her and that she acted out of fear.
Foster left her father’s house and went to another bar. A witness claimed she asked her for some cash to buy cocaine, as well as some bullets. The witness saw Foster’s car and asked about the blood and occupants in the back. Foster told the witness she was going “to shoot them, too”, meaning Kearns, Keene, and Sweet. I believe it’s safe to assume at this point, the police had been alerted. The witness described Foster as having been drinking, but was in control of herself. Failing to get more money and bullets, Foster drove the remaining victims to another field (this is the one by my house). She killed the three men in the same manner as the women. Only this time, the car was set on fire. Roger Keene was found pinned underneath the car.
Foster and Powell, then walked to a nearby hospital. Powell called for a taxi and Foster went to wash the blood off. A nurse called the police after seeing them. The police were already at the hospital for unrelated reasons. They were arrested for public intoxication and taken to the Fayette County Detention Center, which on a lighter note has some FANTASTIC GOOGLE REVIEWS.
While Powell was being booked, Foster when to the bathroom where she flushed her bloody shoelaces and socks. She also exchanged sweatpants with another inmate. The police were already suspicious, and after obtaining Foster’s bloodied pants from the other inmate, they were able to link evidence back to the murders. While in jail, Foster bragged to fellow inmates about committing the crimes and admitted to destroying evidence.
During the trial, Foster tried to plead insanity. A psychiatrist found her to be sane, but “extremely emotionally disturbed”. Foster also had a long criminal record, including prostitution, burglary, and various drug offenses. Powell also had a criminal record, but it wasn’t as long or violent as Foster’s.
Both women were charged with five counts of murder. A year after the murders occurred, Foster was sentenced to death. Powell was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years. In 1991, Foster’s sentence was dropped to life without parole. In 2011, Powell was denied parole and must serve 10 more years. Foster is currently housed in the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women a.k.a PeeWee Valley Prison near Louisville, KY. Powell is on the other side of the state in the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex.
This is a new one for me. I found Bloody Babs while I was researching another murder. The case of Bloody Babs (Barbara Graham) was highly sensationalized by the press, as many female murderers are. This was also because she was the third woman executed in the gas chambers in California. How could I not write about someone named Bloody Babs? This story is a classic, sensationalized murder filled with scandal, intrigue, and made the female perpetrator into a femme fatal in the media. It’s not surprising the story was put on film in the 1958 movie I Want To Live! The movie strongly implies Barbara was innocent, which we will soon learn she was anything but. Even after she was sentenced to death, many still believed she was innocent.
Barbara Graham was born Barbara Ford in Oakland, California on June 26, 1923 to a teenaged unwed mother (sadly, a hallmark trait of later offending). Her mother was sent to reform school and Barbara was raised by extended relatives. As a teen herself, Barbara was sent to the same reform school her mother had been in.
She was released from reform school in 1939 and married Henry Kielhamer, a member of the Coast Guard. She enrolled in business college in 1940 and had two sons by 1942, the same year she and Henry divorced and he was awarded custody of their sons. She was married two more times, both ending in divorce. For the next several years, Barbara became what was called a “seagull”, a prostitute who worked around naval bases. At age 22, she started working at a San Fransisco brothel. Here, she met various career criminals and was soon involved in drugs and gambling. She served five years in prison for perjury after providing a false alibi for two of her criminal friends.
After her prison sentence, Barbara moved to Nevada and worked in a hospital and as a waitress. She soon moved to Los Angeles, where she married a bartender, Henry Graham and had another son.
This is when things really get murdery for Babs…
Henry Graham was a career criminal and a drug addict. Sounds like a real catch. During her marriage, Barbara met Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins, Graham’s criminal buddies. As if this story couldn’t get any more sordid, Barbara and Emmett Perkins started having an affair. Perkins told Barbara about a supposedly wealthy widow he knew, Mabel Monohan. The three conspired a robbery.
On March 9, 1953, Barbara along with Santo, Perkins, and two of their “associates”, John True and Baxter Shorter carried out their plan. Barbara gained entrance into Monohan’s home by asking to use the phone. When the door was opened, the men burst in, demanding money and jewels. Mabel Monohan was a bad ass and refused to give them anything. Barbara then pistol whipped her and the rest of the gang suffocated her with a pillow. They got away empty-handed, but later learned they had missed $15,000 worth of jewels and cash.
They were soon arrested for the crime. John True testified against them in exchange for immunity. Baxter Shorter also confessed and named Barbara, Perkins, and Santo. On April 14, 1953, a month after the crime, Shorter was kidnapped and presumably murdered. Barbara insisted throughout the whole ordeal she was innocent, which True claimed she was not. It was during this time, the press coverage of the crime grew and Barbara earned the nickname “Bloody Babs”.
Her claim of innocence was soon proven false. While she was in jail awaiting trial, she offered $25,000 to a fellow inmate, Donna Prow for a friend to provide an alibi for her. Supposedly, Prow and Barbara had an intimate relationship while in prison. This was after Barbara had served prison time for the same crime. Unbeknownst to her, Prow was essentially working as an informant with an undercover cop in exchange for a shortened sentence of her own vehicular manslaughter charges. The inmate agreed. The undercover officer posed as the “friend” and initiated a conversation with Barbara in which she confessed to the crime. The officer recorded the conversation. Prow was released early for her cooperation.
Barbara, Santo, and Perkins were all sentenced to death for robbery and murder. Santo and Perkins were also found responsible for a 1952 quadruple murder in Pulmas County, California. All three appealed their sentences, and none were granted.Barbara was transferred from the California Institution for Women to death row at San Quentin. On June 3, 1953 Barbara was supposed to be executed at 10:00 a.m. The execution was stayed by the Governor of California until 11:30 a.m. Graham protested,”Why do they torture me? I was ready to go at ten o’clock.” Santo and Perkins were executed the same day.
In 1960, Barbara Graham’s execution inspired California lawmakers to vote on suspend death penalty in the state. The bill failed to pass and was introduced due to the stay on her execution. This case is also believed to have sparked the anti-death penalty movement. Executions of women are met with controversy, as many believe women are not capable of violent acts. If you’ve seen the news (or read this blog), you’ll know this is entirely not true. The Chivalry Thesis states female offenders are treated more leniently for violence than their male counterparts, yet are more deceitful in their crimes. Barbara Graham, as well as many others, proves this wrong.
This starts the first in a series of posts about female killers, which are a source of fascination, and are often more interesting than their male counterparts. Even with the abundance of violent female offenders, it is still difficult for many to stomach women can be just as evil (if not more so) than men. This reminds me of a quote by Louis CK:
When girls go wild, they show their tits to people. When women go wild, they kill men and drown their kids in a tub.
Not all the time, but you know what I mean.
In the coming weeks, there will be plenty of women killing men, and a few drowning kids in a tub. Just giving everyone a fair warning.
What started as multiple burglaries, escalated to a ten-year reign of terror. His primary targets were women alone in suburban homes and later began attacking couples. His M.O. was to break into a home, wake up a couple by threatening them with a gun, force the female to tie up the male, rape the female, and eventually kill both. He was often known to stack dishes on the males back and claim if he heard them rattle, he’d kill everyone in the house. He would also stay in the house for hours, stealing coins, jewelry, and eating food from the victim’s refrigerators.
In Zodiac Killer fashion, he sent letters to the Sacramento Bee in December 1977 claiming his crimes and referring to himself as The East Area Rapist. In the same letter, he warned of another attack which he carried out. The letter includes a poem where he mentions Son of Sam. At the next crime scene, an essay about General Custer was found as well as a map of the neighborhood in which the crime took place in. The Zodiac Killer also referred to himself by his media nickname. Maybe E.A.R. was paying homage? We’ll never know. Although, writing to media outlets isn’t uncommon for serial killers of this magnitude.
He was also known to call victims before an attack. The super creepy audio below is a well-known recording which has made its way into many Internet list articles.
The crimes of the East Area Rapist theoretically stopped in 1986. All suspects have been cleared by DNA. The DNA of the killer is on file and has yet to match any in the F.B.I’s database. In 2002, Detective Larry Pool of the Orange County, California Sheriff’s Department visited death row inmates at San Quentin to collect DNA, believing the East Area Rapist had been arrested and sentenced for another violent crime. None of the samples collected were a match.
After barricading herself for seven hours, Brenda relented and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 1980. She killed the school’s principal and custodian.She also injuried eight children and one police officer.
When asked why she committed the crime, Brenda’s answer was simply, “I don’t like Mondays.”
Spencer’s parole has been rejected three times. She is currently housed in the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.
Fun fact: Manson Family killers Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten are also in the same prison. Susan Atkins was an inmate at the same facility until she was transferred in 2008.
Documentary filmmakers Rachel Mills and Joshua Zeman are back again for another murder-filled look into the darkest corners of America with The Killing Season. If you haven’t seen Rachel and Joshua’s other documentaries Cropsey and Killer Legends, stop whatever you’re doing and go find them. They are spectacular, creepy as hell, and two of my favorite documentaries. These guys are great. Josh Zeman and Rachel Mills could make a documentary about my own boring life and I’d watch it.
Their follow-up docuseries on A&E (thank you Arts and Entertainment Channel for taking a break from Duck Dynasty to air something actually important), explores the unsolved case of the Long Island Serial Killer a.k.a LISK as well as potentially connected murders in Atlantic City, Daytona Beach, and Oklahoma. Eventually, Josh and Rachel find themselves in Albuquerque, New Mexico investigating the West Mesa Murders.
What Rachel and Josh uncover is terrifying. The biggest takeaway from their research and findings is that the once headline-stealing phenomenon of serial killers are being overlooked by the current criminal justice system.
It’s true, we don’t hear about serial killers as much mass shootings, cybercrimes, and terrorist attacks, which are without a doubt the most prolific and troubling crimes in our society today. In a way, it makes sense for law enforcement to be more concerned about these crimes versus serial killings, considering they are the biggest criminal threat we face.
I once read an article about how society reflects crime trends (I don’t remember the name and I couldn’t find it). If you Google crime trends and society, there are numerous results. Anyway, I believe this article to be true. If you compare the troubled culture of the 1970’s, the excessive culture of the 1980’s, and the narcissistic social media obsessed culture of today, it makes sense how society can impact the types of crimes committed, mainly murders. Think of killers like BTK, who hid their double life in the shadows while appearing as upstanding and normal members of society. Then, compare him to people like James Holmes and Dylann Roof, who outwardly appeared to be “off”.
Today, the famed serial killers of the last century are treated like celebrities. We’re fascinated by their horrific acts because we feel so far removed from them, in reality we aren’t. We can’t comprehend that people could commit the horrific acts these serial killers did. The media has glorified them into American icons. While mass shooters could be anyone you see every day, and it’s something we don’t want to think about. The media doesn’t glorify them-we fear and pity them.
Another thing that comes into play when exploring the crimes in The Killing Season is victimology. If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to guess you’re familiar with the types of victims the “classic” serial killers chose-every day people in suburbia or certain types fitting their M.O. (such as John Wayne Gacy and boys and Ted Bundy and long-haired brunette women). While mass murderer can strike anyone at any time, if they aren’t mission driven in their act.
The serial killers explored in The Killing Season have a different type of victim, those who can’t be easily tracked. Mainly sex workers and drug addicts working and sometimes living on the street. Sadly, this is another reason why these killings often go over-looked, which is also mentioned numerous times in The Killing Season.
Much like technology, serial killers are evolving and the criminal justice needs to evolve, too and realize this is still a problem.