10 Terrifying Killers Who Didn’t Act Alone
Not every killer works alone. Some of them work in teams, while others have recruited multiple accomplices to help them carry out their terrible crimes. In many cases, the role of the accomplice is well documented. But sometimes, we don’t know for sure that a killer had collaborators even if evidence strongly suggests that they did. In these cases, it’s up to us to decide whether justice was served in these crimes, or whether any accomplices are still out there.
10Mack Ray Edwards And An Unnamed Accomplice
Mack Ray Edwards was a child murderer from California. Over a period of 20 years, he murdered six children—often burying their bodies under the freeways that he was helping to build. He carried out his first murder in 1953 when he kidnapped, raped, and murdered an eight-year-old girl. By Edwards’s own account, he threw her body over a bridge only to later return to the scene and discover that she was still alive. So he had to kill her again.
Edwards was never suspected by the police. He was finally caught when he “enticed” a 16-year-old boy from his neighborhood. He and the boy kidnapped three girls and took them to a nearby forest. When one of the girls escaped, Edwards and his accomplice abandoned the crime and turned themselves in to a local sheriff’s station. There, Edwards confessed to the six other murders.
Police suspect Edwards might have committed as many as 20 murders, but we’ll never know for sure since he committed suicide in jail. The identity of his accomplice has never been released.
9Dr. Burnell Forgey And James Lee Crummell
Dr. Burnell Forgey was a psychiatrist from Newport Beach, California who had a penchant for taking on unconventional roommates. Forgey often invited convicted sex offenders to come and live with him, giving them a room in exchange for doing work around the house and at his office.
Forgey’s most notorious roommate was James Lee Crummell (pictured above) who, in 1979—while he was living with Forgey—kidnapped, raped, and murdered a 13-year-old boy. The boy was considered missing for 11 years when Crummell, for reasons unknown, showed police the boy’s skull and claimed that he found it while hiking. It was still another few years before police thought to look into Crummell’s background, only then realizing the person who brought them the skill was also a convicted sex offender.
Crummell is also suspected of another murder committed in 1995—again while living with Forgey. While it’s not known if Forgey knew about or sanctioned the murders, shortly before his death he confessed to sexually abusing one of his patients with Crummell’s help. All in all, these weren’t exactly people we’d like to share a bathroom with.
8William Bonin And Vernon Butts
William Bonin (pictured above) was a deranged and terrifying killer who was also gifted with powerful skills of persuasion. He was so good at persuasion, in fact, that he managed to convince more than one person to help him along during his crime sprees.
Bonin’s most prolific collaborator was Vernon Butts (yes, Bonin and Butts—laugh away), an amateur magician who dabbled in the occult. Butts assisted Bonin in nine murders, picking up young male hitchhikers before assaulting and murdering them. Sometimes, Butts would drive while Bonin committed his terrible crimes in the back of a van. Other times, they took their victims back to Bonin’s apartment.
After Bonin and Butts ended their association, Bonin kept right on killing. He worked with a series of three young men who helped him entrap victims. In all, he killed 21 people. None of his accomplices thought to turn him in, and police actually caught him in the act of committing a crime. During his trial, prosecutors and the media all took note of how Bonin had been arrested many times in the past but had always been released. (Not this time though—he was executed).
Bonin’s accomplices all claimed that Bonin possessed “Rasputin-like” powers over them, driving them to do things for him that no normal person would even consider. His skills at persuasion might also have influenced the judges and juries who let him off the hook time and again so he could continue his deadly career.
7Randy Steven Kraft
Randy Steven Kraft was called the “Scorecard Killer” because he kept a list of his victims. This list showed included 61 people, but investigators have yet to identify all of them and suspect there may be even more. Unlike serial killers who preyed on the vulnerable and weak, Kraft often targeted strong men who were capable of fighting back—namely, Marines whom he picked up hitchhiking. He would drug, torture, sodomize, and mutilate his victims, photographing the results before dumping their bodies on the sides of freeways.
It’s not known for sure whether Randy Kraft worked alone, but a lot of evidence—such as DNA collected from dead bodies and multiple footprints found at crime scenes—suggests that he had an accomplice. In addition, many of the Marines that Kraft targeted weighed in excess of 200 pounds, meaning he likely would have had trouble moving the corpses on his own. Finally, no one knows where Kraft got his photos developed, since he didn’t have a darkroom.
Police suspected a former roommate of Kraft to be one of his accomplices, but he died before he could be questioned. One other person has come forward and admitted to having committed some of the murders alongside Kraft, but he was committed to a mental institution instead of being charged with a crime.
6Joanna Dennehy And Three Accomplices
Joanna Dennehy has become one of the most notorious killers in England, where she is one of only three women ever sentenced to die in prison (the British phrasing for “life without parole”). During a brief but intense killing spree, Dennehy murdered her boyfriend, roommate, and landlord before traveling to another town and stabbing random strangers in broad daylight. She was said to be motivated by lust and sadism, and she was thrilled to be the target of a police manhunt.
She was also assisted by three accomplices, who provided her with transportation and helped her dispose of the bodies. At the trial of one of these accomplices, it was noted that even though he stood more than 2 meters (7 ft) tall and was intimidating in his own right, Dennehy had easily manipulated him into helping her commit her gruesome acts. A lawyer for the defense compared Dennehy to a “Shakespearean villain”—a terrifying, real-life Lady Macbeth who intimidated those around her and bent them to her will.
5Leonard Lake And Charles Ng
If Leonard Lake had invited us to spend the weekend at his cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills, we can only hope we would have turned him down. By the time his friend, Charles Ng (pictured above), joined him at the remote cabin, Lake had already constructed a torture dungeon and used it to kill two of his acquaintances. Together, they used the cabin for rape and murder, killing neighbors, coworkers, friends, and even relatives. They would often murder men and children quickly but kept women alive so that they could film their torture.
Lake and Ng were each terrifying people in their own right. Lake was a disturbed Vietnam veteran and sexual pervert who was obsessed with guns, survivalism, and the Apocalypse. Ng, an ex-Marine, was an arsonist who had been expelled from a number of private schools for his erratic behavior. Together, they became the stuff of our nightmares.
Their crimes were only discovered when Lake, caught shoplifting, committed suicide with a cyanide capsule hidden in his clothes. It was then that police discovered the bodies buried on the grounds around Lake’s cabin. Ng fled to Canada where he was later apprehended.
The Son of Sam murders terrified New York City in the late 1970s, as a mysterious shooter killed six people and wounded others. The shooter also wrote taunting letters about the crimes to police and the media.
Although David Berkowitz is the only one who has ever been tried for the Son of Sam killings, many believe that he had help (beyond a demonic talking dog, that is). One popular theory, which sometimes stretches into the realm of conspiracy theory, is that Berkowitz was a member of a Satanic cult. Berkowitz has even supposedly admitted as much, saying that on some of the murders he acted not as the gunman but as a lookout. He even named his neighbors—brothers John and Michael Carr—as fellow cult members. He also hinted that there were more out there.
Even if they don’t believe that a cult or conspiracy orchestrated the murders, some still don’t think that Berkowitz acted alone. Some former officers who investigated the case—as well as some of his victims—have said as much. Information given by eyewitnesses, such as the description of the shooter and the getaway car, is inconsistent with how Berkowitz looked and what he drove. As such, the Son of Sam case remains open.
The Carr brothers have both since died under suspicious circumstances. Unless more of Berkowitz’s supposed accomplices come forward, we may never know for sure whether the Son of Sam killed alone or not.
3Joseph And Michael Kallinger
Joseph Kallinger (pictured above) lived an absolutely demented life. As a child, he was repeatedly abused physically and sexually, both by his parents and by older children in his neighborhood. At 17, he married and had 10 children only to have his wife abandon him. He married again, but things only got worse. He burned down his family’s house, repeatedly tried to burn down their new house, and repeatedly abused his children—once, he even burned his daughter with a hot iron.
He never went to jail, however, with the court ruling him unfit to stand trial and placing him in psychiatric care. But in the 1970s, Kallinger started experiencing increased mental instability, including what he interpreted as visions and personal messages from God telling him to murder young boys. He told his 13-year-old son, Michael, about the visions and asked for his help. Michael—ever the eager teenager—responded, “glad to do it, Dad!”
The two soon embarked on a murder spree that took them from Philadelphia to New Jersey to Maryland and then back to Jersey. They tortured and mutilated their first (unnamed) victim. Then they drowned Joseph Jr., Michael’s younger brother. Their third murder was of a woman who refused to perform oral sex on Joseph. Along the way, they also committed several rapes, assaults, kidnappings, and burglaries.
Eventually, the Kallingers were caught when police recovered a bloody shirt from the scene of their third murder. Joseph went to prison, where he continued to violently act out, by setting fires and attacking other prisoners. Michael, because of his youth, accepted a plea deal and was placed on probation until he was 25.
2Henry Lee Lucas And Ottis Toole
Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole are two of the most terrifying killers ever to walk the Earth. The mere fact that they crossed paths, became lovers, and embarked on a murder spree together is almost too terrifying for words.
Lucas and Toole were both drifters with rough, depressing lives when they met. They were also both already experienced criminals, and their resumes included burglary, theft, arson, rape, and murder. It’s hard to know the number of murders the two men committed together—Lucas liked to claim credit for crimes he didn’t commit—but they might well have killed over 100 times. Although they worked together, each also had their own proclivities: Lucas was a necrophiliac, and Toole a cannibal.
Lucas’ victims even included Toole’s own niece. Lucas met her when she was 10 years old, and he quickly fell in love with her. He and Toole later abducted her and took her along for the ride during their cross-country murder spree. When she finally tried to leave, Lucas brutally murdered her. This spelled the end of Lucas and Toole’s association, but both men continued their killing sprees independently before being caught.
1John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy is one of the most notorious serial killers in American history. There’s a lot we still don’t know about his crimes, such as the identities and locations of all of his victims. We also don’t know whether or not Gacy killed alone—since he famously buried bodies in the crawlspace of his home, you might think he did. However, there is evidence that suggests that there were others involved.
One of Gacy’s victims was a man named Jeffrey Rignall. Gacy picked up Rignall and took him to his house, where he chloroformed, tortured, and raped him. But rather than kill him, Gacy left Rignall in a Chicago park. As documented by a law firm that’s still investigating the Gacy murders, “at Gacy’s trial, Rignall testified that one time when he regained consciousness Gacy was behind him and a second individual with brown hair, parted in the middle, was in front of him.” Rignall later repeated the story in a book about his abduction.
The firm also documents other evidence that may lead us to suspect that Gacy didn’t kill alone. For one, Gacy supposedly told police that others were “directly” involved in his crimes. It also appears that Gacy may be been outside of Chicago when some of the crimes took place, or he was otherwise not in a position to pick up certain victims. This means that someone else would have had to do so. Unfortunately, like with Kraft and Berkowitz, we may never know the full story behind Gacy’s horrific crimes.
T. Pikul is a librarian from Massachusetts. He wrote this alone.