When Albert DeSalvo confessed that he was the Boston Strangler a whole city breathed a sigh of relief.</br></br> Over a two-year period between June 1962 and January 1964, a violent, depraved killer held Boston in a grip of fear, raping and murdering 13 defenseless women, many of them elderly and living alone.</br></br> Victims aged between 19 and 85 were often sexually assaulted and strangled with their own stockings.</br></br> When DeSalvo was arrested for the sexual assault of a young woman in late 1964, many other women came forward identifying him as the man who had assaulted them.</br></br> DeSalvo initially wasn’t suspected as the Boston Strangler but while in custody for the rapes he admitted to cops that he also had carried out the unsolved murders. Some details provided by DeSalvo were so accurate prosecutors believed his testimony. </br></br> As there was no physical evidence to substantiate his confession, DeSalvo was charged with the “Green Man” rapes and break-ins and sentenced to life in prison in 1967.</br></br> On Nov. 25 1973, he was found stabbed to death in the prison infirmary. Nobody ever was convicted of his murder.
The Zodiac Killer mercilessly taunted cops with letters and spooky cryptograms while snuffing out at least five lives in the San Francisco area in the 1960s — and he always stayed one step ahead of the law.</br></br> In one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the last century, the killer delighted in boasting about his bloody exploits.</br></br> “I like killing people because it is so much fun,” he wrote in one coded message sent to three local Bay Area newspapers following two 1969 murders.</br></br> Four men and three women were targeted in attacks in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Five were killed and two were injured — although the Zodiac Killer bragged in his letters that he was responsible for 37 deaths. </br></br> While the police have had several suspects over the years — and books have speculated on the identity of “Zodiac” being anyone from Unabomber Ted Kaczynski to a rare book dealer — nobody has ever been arrested and charged with the murders.
John Wayne Gacy was every child’s worst nightmare — a sinister serial killer who dressed up as “Pogo the Clown.”</br></br> The killer clown murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in a series of killings carried out between 1972 and 1978 in Chicago, Illinois.</br></br> He would put on his clown costume for kiddie parties, charity events…and sometimes while carrying out the grisly murders in his Norwood Park Township home.</br></br> Gacy lured the young males to his house with a promise of construction work and then choked them to death with a tourniquet. Only one — his first — was fatally stabbed.</br></br> All but four of his known victims were hidden in his house — 26 of them in the crawl space and three others elsewhere on the property.</br></br> Gacy was eventually arrested and found guilty of 33 murders and sentenced to death. He died by lethal injection on May 10, 1994, at the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Ill.
Charming philanderer Ted Bundy, suspected of as many as 100 murders of young women across seven states, was the very definition of “heartless evil,” according to Polly Nelson, a member of his defense team.</br></br> The cold-blooded serial killer’s charisma and intelligence made him one of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century.</br></br> He preyed on young women, often feigning injury or disability to win their trust before taking them to secluded spots where he beat and raped them, sometimes after they already were dead.</br></br> Rather than feel any guilt or remorse, he reveled in the pain he caused and decapitated at least a dozen victims and took some of the heads home as grisly souvenirs.</br> Although he was executed by electric chair on Jan. 24, 1989, Bundy had confessed to 30 homicides between 1974 and 1978. Investigators are convinced there were many more victims, with some estimates as high as 100.
Dennis Rader lived a chilling double life as a churchgoing, married father of two and Boy Scout Leader and a merciless serial killer who terrorized his neighborhood for almost two decades.</br></br> While Rader appeared to be a model citizen, his murderous alter ego bathed in his notoriety and even came up with his own moniker, The BTK Killer, which stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill.”</br></br> He killed his 10 victims in and around Wichita, Kan., between 1974 and 1991 but he wasn’t caught until 2004.</br></br> He is still serving 10 life sentences in a Kansas prison having escaped the death penalty because the murders happened before the state’s 1994 reinstatement of capital punishment.
The Son of Sam plunged New York City into panic in the mid-1970s and sparked one of the biggest manhunts in the Big Apple’s history.</br></br> The random shooting spree became all the more notorious because the gunman, David Berkowitz, left brazen letters taunting the police and boasting that he would carry out further crimes.</br></br> Using a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver, he killed six victims and wounded seven others.</br></br> After his arrest in August 1977, Berkowitz claimed he was following the orders of a demonic neighbor called Sam who sent murderous messages to him through his dog, Harvey.</br></br> He has since claimed he was part of a satanic cult that orchestrated the incidents as ritualized murders. However, nobody else has been arrested in connection with the killings.
When the media came up with the nickname “The Hillside Strangler” for a monster who raped, tortured and murdered women in the hills around Los Angeles, they assumed it was one man.</br></br> Twelve women and children — aged from 12 to 28 — were killed during a four-month period from late 1977 to early 1978.</br></br> The victims were discovered posed in lascivious positions on hillsides in Los Angeles.</br></br> Only later did police discover the Hillside Strangler wasn’t one man but two cousins, Angelo Buono Jr. and Kenneth Bianchi, who shared the same sick predilection for the torture and degradation of helpless women.</br></br> Their downfall came after the two men argued and Bianchi moved to Bellingham, Wash., where he strangled two female students in January 1979. Without his partner to help clean up, Bianchi was quickly caught and was linked to the Hillside Strangler deaths.</br></br> Both were sentenced to life in prison. Buono died behind bars from a heart attack on Sept. 21, 2002 at the age of 67.
Even when compared to other serial killers, “Milwaukee Cannibal” Jeffrey Dahmer’s horrific murders are shocking.</br></br> The gay loner killed at least 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. In many cases, he drugged and strangled his victims to death and then had sex with their bodies and ate their flesh.</br></br> He also preserved some of their body parts, keeping heads in his refrigerator, private parts pickled in glass jars and a collection of skulls and skeletons that he used for grisly experiments.</br></br> After a killing spree which lasted for 13 years, Dahmer was arrested and found guilty of 15 counts of murder on February 17 1992 and sentenced to 15 life sentences. He had been behind bars for just two years, however, when he was beaten and killed by African-American inmate Christopher Scarver.
Over a two-year period, teachers’ son Wayne Williams is believed to have murdered 27 children aged between 7 and 14 in Atlanta, Ga.</br></br> Nicknamed the “Atlanta Monster,” Williams has never been formally charged with the killing spree and continues to plead his innocence from behind bars where he is serving a life sentence for the murder of two adults.</br></br> The first boy went missing on July 21, 1979. Four days later, another teen went missing. Both later were found dead, but they were just the beginning.</br></br> The breakthrough finally came on May 22, 1981, when a police cadet heard a loud splash and saw a car speeding across the nearby bridge moments later. </br></br> The car driver was 23-year-old Wayne Williams, a freelance photographer and radio producer.</br></br> Although he was allowed to go free, two days later the body of 27-year-old Nathanial Cater washed up and forensic experts matched up hairs from his body to Williams’ home, car and a dog. He was also linked with the death of a second man, Jimmy Payne, 29.</br></br> Following the trial, the Atlanta Child Murders Task Force concluded there was enough evidence to link Williams to 20 of the 29 deaths, according to the FBI.</br></br> Williams claims to be innocent of the child murders, but law enforcement point out that Williams’ arrest marked the end of the killings. “The murders stopped and there’s been nothing since,” said Joseph Drolet, the prosecutor in the case.
The Green River Killer eluded the authorities for 19 years to become the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history.</br></br> Gary Ridgway was married three times and fanatical about religion, but most of his known 49 victims were prostitutes. After he was caught due to DNA evidence in 2001, he boasted his murder tally was at least 71 — but he confessed it was so many he couldn’t remember the exact number.</br></br> Ridgway’s killing spree began in 1982 when young runaways and hookers began disappearing in Washington State. He would strangle the women, either with his bare hands or a ligature, and then dump their bodies, often returning later to have sex with them.</br></br> The media gave him the nickname after the first five victims were found along the Green River in King County, Wash.</br></br> On Dec. 18, 2003, the Green River Killer was sentenced to 48 life sentences with no possibility of parole.
Aileen Wuornos had the distinction of being America’s first female serial killer — and being portrayed on screen by Oscar winner Charlize Theron in the movie “Monster.”</br></br> But the reality of Wuornos’ hardscrabble life was a far cry from Hollywood.</br></br> Sexually abused and thrown out of her family house as a teen, she worked as a prostitute along Florida’s highways before committing her first murder.</br></br> She killed seven men in the state between 1989 and 1990, insisting later that all the murders were in self-defense fighting off men who tried to rape her.</br></br> Her protestations carried little weight with a Florida jury that sentenced her to death in 1992.</br></br> She was administered a lethal injection on Oct. 9, 2002.
We’ve covered mobsters and gangsters, and we’ve looked into high-profile murder, kidnapping and missing person cases. Now we’re setting our sights on serial killers. These sick monsters are the most feared criminals in our society, yet they also hold the most fascination for the general public. They choose the most vulnerable and unsuspecting among us and, one by one, taunt, torture and slaughter. Their thirst for blood is insatiable. From the murderous sprees of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy to the killings perpetrated by the man known only as the Zodiac Killer, here is an inside look at the 11 most infamous serial killers of all time.
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by Dennis Adler / Sep 3, 2015