Top 10 Unsolved Murders
Every year a large number of murders go unsolved, but some gain such infamy that they remain in the public mind for many years to come. This is a list of the ten most famous murders in modern history. The one rule I had for this list was that there had be a body – this excludes people like Jimmy Hoffa.
10. Oscar Romero
Oscar Romero was a prominent Roman Catholic priest and Archbishop in El Salvador during the 1960s and 1970s. After witnessing numerous violations of human rights, he began to speak out on behalf of the poor and the victims of El Salvador’s long and bloody civil war. After speaking out against U.S. military support for the government of El Salvador, and calling for soldiers to disobey orders that harmed human rights, Archbishop Romero was shot to death while celebrating Mass at a small chapel near his cathedral. It is believed that his assassins were members of Salvadoran death squads, including two graduates of the School of the Americas.
9. Olof Palme
Palme was a Swedish politician and prime minister (1982 – 1986). The nuclear accident in 1979 at Three Mile Island in the United States had a great impact in Sweden, and Palme contributed to a referendum (passed in 1980) to remove all nuclear reactors in Sweden. After being elected prime minister again in 1982, Palme tried to reinstate socialist economic policies in Sweden, and he continued to be outspoken on matters of European security. He was shot and killed while walking home with his wife after a visit to a cinema. The motive and identity of the killer remain a mystery.
8. The Boy in the Box
In 1957, an unidentified Caucasian male, probable age 4 to 6 years, whose nude body, wrapped in a cheap flannel blanket, was found lying face up inside a large cardboard carton just a few feet from the edge of Susquehanna Road in Northeast Philadelphia. The body was dry and clean. The boy’s arms were carefully folded across his stomach. The finger and toenails had been recently trimmed short and neat. His hair had been cut recently – very close to the head, in a crude, hurried way, perhaps as a deliberate attempt to conceal the child’s identity. Small clumps of cut hair clung to his entire body, suggesting that someone had groomed him while he was unclothed, probably either shortly before or immediately after death. There were many bruises all over the child’s body; particularly on the head and face. All of the bruises appeared to have been inflicted at the same time. Despite recent DNA investigations in to the crime, it remains unsolved.
7. Jack the Stripper
Jack the Stripper was the nickname given to an unknown serial killer responsible for what came to be known as the London “nude murders” between 1964 and 1965. His victimology was similar to Jack the Ripper’s. He murdered six — possibly eight — prostitutes, whose nude bodies were discovered around London or dumped in the River Thames. The victim count is ambiguous because two of the murders attributed to him did not fit his modus operandi. Like the Jack the Ripper killings, the Stripper’s reign of terror seemed to cease on its own, and there were few solid clues for police to investigate. Though his identity remains unknown, crime writer Donald Rumbelow notes that the killer could have been a young man who committed suicide in south London. This main suspect, who was also a favorite suspect of Chief Superintendent Du Rose, was a security guard on the Heron Trading Estate in Acton whose rounds included a paint shop where one of the bodies was thought to have been hidden after the crime. Though there was never any hard evidence to link him to the crimes, his family found his suicide inexplicable, and his suicide note cryptically said only that he was “unable to take the strain any longer”.
6. The Axeman of New Orleans
On May 23, 1918, an Italian grocer named Joseph Maggio and his wife were butchered while sleeping in their apartment above the Maggio grocery store. Upon investigation, the police discovered that a panel in the rear door had been chiseled out, providing a way in for the killer. The murder weapon, an axe, was found in the apartment, still coated with the Maggio’s blood. Nothing in the house had been stolen, including jewelry and money that were nearly in plain sight. The only clue that was discovered was a message that had been written in chalk near the victim’s home. It read: “Mrs. Joseph Maggio will sit up tonight. Just write Mrs. Toney”. Almost exactly a month after the Maggio murder came a second crime. Louis Bossumer, a grocer who lived behind his store with his common-law wife, Annie Harriet Lowe, was discovered by neighbors one morning, lying in a pool of blood. The Axeman murdered a total of eight people before the killings stopped. There was no evidence to link the only suspect, Joseph Mumfre, to the crimes.
5. JonBenét Ramsay
JonBenet Ramsays was a six-year-old girl known for her participation in beauty pageants in the United States. She was found murdered in the basement of her parents’ home in Boulder, Colorado, nearly eight hours after she was reported missing. The case is notable in both its longevity and the media interest it has generated in the United States. After several grand jury hearings the case is still unsolved. In December 2003, forensic investigators extracted enough material from a mixed blood sample found on JonBenét’s underwear to establish a DNA profile. The DNA belongs to an unknown Caucasian male. The DNA was submitted to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a database containing more than 1.6 million DNA profiles, mainly from convicted felons. The sample has yet to find a match in the database, although it continues to be checked for partial matches on a weekly basis.
4. Black Dahlia
Elizabeth Short (born 29 July 1924) was a 22-year-old American woman who was the victim of a gruesome and much-publicized murder. Nicknamed the Black Dahlia, Short was found cut in half and severely mutilated on 15 January 1947 in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. The murder, which has remained unsolved, has been the source of widespread speculation as well as several books and film adaptations. Sensational and sometimes inaccurate press coverage, as well as the horrible nature of the crime, focused intense public attention on the case. About 60 people confessed to the murder, mostly men, as well as a few women. As the case continues to command public attention, many more people have been proposed as Short’s killer, much like London’s Jack the Ripper murders of 1888.
3. Andrew and Abby Borden
On a Thursday morning, August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden left home to conduct his business, leaving in the house, besides his wife, an Irish maid (Bridget Sullivan) and his daughter Lizzie. On his return, he settled on a sofa for a nap. About 11:15 AM, Lizzie (according to her testimony) discovered her father dead, repeatedly struck in the head with a sharp instrument. Upstairs his wife’s body was found, even more brutally mutilated; examination proved that her death had preceded her husband’s by an hour or so. It was found that Lizzie had tried to purchase prussic acid (a poison) on August 3, and a few days later she was alleged to have burned a dress in a stove. Sullivan, who also has been suspected, later that evening reportedly left the house carrying an unexamined parcel. No weapon was found, though an axe found in the basement was suspected. Lizzie was arrested and tried for both murders in June 1893 but was acquitted, given the circumstantial evidence. She was nonetheless ostracized thereafter by the people of her native Fall River, Massachusetts, where she continued to live until her death in 1927.
2. The Zodiac
The Zodiac Killer is one of the great unsolved serial killer mysteries of all time, taking only second place to Jack the Ripper. Even though police investigated over 2,500 potential suspects, the case was never officially solved. There were a few suspects that stood out, but the forensic technology of the times was not advanced enough to nail any one of them conclusively. The Zodiac murdered five known victims in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29 were targeted. Others have also been suspected to be Zodiac victims, but there has been thus far no conclusive evidence to link them to the killer.
1. Jack the Ripper
Traditionally, Jack the Ripper is considered to have killed five women, all London prostitutes, during 1888. The Ripper generally killed by strangling his victims, then laying them down and cutting the arteries in their throats; this was followed by a varied process of mutilation, during which parts of the body were removed and kept. During the autumn and winter of 1888/89 a number of letters circulated among the police and newspapers, all claiming to be from the Whitechapel murderer; these include the ‘From Hell’ letter and one accompanied by part of a kidney. Ripperologists consider most, if not all, of the letters to be hoaxes. Over a century later Jack’s identity has never been wholly proven (there isn’t even a leading suspect), most aspects of the case are still debated and the Ripper is an infamous cultural bogeyman.
Bonus: Nicole Brown Simpson
Hmmm, maybe not!
Sources: FamousPeople, Biography.com, Wikipedia, Britannica, prairieghosts, crimelibrary