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Top 10 Partners in Crime

by Jamie Frater
fact checked by dickensgirl

While most criminals work alone, there have been a number of very high profile criminal couples through history. This is a list of ten of the most infamous criminal duos. The list excludes killers who are children and high school killers. In no particular order, the top 10 partners in crime.


Menendez Brothers


The Menendez brothers grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, and attended Princeton Day School. Lyle attended Princeton University but eventually dropped out because of the expensive cost. Erik attended Beverly Hills High School in Los Angeles.

Lyle and Erik Menendez murdered their parents at their Beverly Hills home in 1989. After shooting their parents, the brothers drove off and dumped their shotguns on Mulholland Drive and bought tickets at a local movie theater to use as an alibi. When the brothers returned home, Lyle called 911 and cried, “Somebody killed my parents!” In the following months, the brothers led a life of luxury and lavish spending, adding to investigators’ suspicions that they were involved in their parents’ deaths. Prosecutors later alleged that the brothers spent about $1 million in their first six months as orphans. Both brothers were subsequently sentenced to life in prison. [Wikipedia]

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Caril Fugate and Charles Starkweather

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Caril Fugate lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, and in 1956, she started dating Charles Starkweather (five years her senior). Caril is the youngest female in United States history to be tried for first-degree murder. The extent of Caril’s involvement in this couple’s crimes is uncertain; Starkweather was executed still accusing her, and Fugate refuses to talk about it to this day.

Charles Starkweather was born with a mild birth defect, Genu varum, that caused his legs to be misshapen, and he also suffered from a mild speech impediment, which caused him to be teased, picked upon, and beaten up from an early age. Starkweather developed a severe inferiority complex and became self-loathing and nihilistic, believing that he was unable to do anything correctly, and that his own inherent failures would doom him to a life of poverty and misery.

On January 21, 1958, Starkweather went to visit Caril at her dilapidated house. Finding her not home, he argued with and shot to death Caril Ann’s mother and stepfather, as well as fatally clubbing Caril Ann’s two-year-old sister, Betty Jean. Charles and Caril drove to the Bennet, Nebr., farm home of August Meyer, 70, a Starkweather family friend, whom Charles shot in the head. Shortly thereafter, they got stuck in the mud and abandoned their car. When Robert Jensen and Carol King, two local teenagers, stopped to give them a ride, Charles forced them to drive back to an abandoned storm cellar, where both were shot and killed. The couple eventually took a road trip across the states killing a total of 11 people. Their story is the basis for the film Natural Born Killers. [Wikipedia]


Kray Brothers


Ronald “Ronnie” Kray (24 October 1933 – 17 March 1995) and Reginald “Reggie” Kray (24 October 1933 – 1 October 2000) were identical twin brothers, and the foremost organized crime leaders dominating London’s East End during the 1950s and 1960s.

The twins first attended Wood Close School and then Daneford Street School. There they said to have shown none of their future criminal tendencies. A teacher said of them: “Salt of the earth, the twins; never the slightest trouble to anyone who knew how to handle them.” They bought a local run-down snooker club in Bethnal Green, this was where they starting several protection rackets. By the end of the 1950s, the Krays were involved in hijacking, armed robbery and arson, through which means they acquired a small empire of clubs and other properties. In the 1960s, they were widely seen as prosperous and charming celebrity nightclub owners and were part of the ‘swinging’ London scene. The criminal activities of the twins came to the attention of the police several times, but the Kray name had such a fearsome reputation for violence that witnesses were too scared to come forward to testify. When Inspector Leonard “Nipper” Read of Scotland Yard was promoted to the Murder Squad, his first assignment was to bring down the Kray twins. By the end of 1967 Read had built up a substantial body of evidence against the Krays. Early on 9 May 1968, the Krays and a number of the senior members of their “firm” were arrested. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment, with a non-parole period of thirty years. [Wikipedia]


Leopold and Loeb


Nathan Leopold had already completed college and was attending law school at the University of Chicago when he and Loeb committed their crime (aged 19). He spoke five languages and was an expert ornithologist. Leopold planned to transfer to Harvard Law School in September, after taking a trip to Europe.

Richard Loeb was the youngest graduate in the history of the University of Michigan. He planned to enter the University of Chicago Law School after taking some post graduate courses.

Both Leopold and Loeb lived in Kenwood, a wealthy neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Loeb’s father, Albert, began his career as a lawyer and became the Vice President of Sears and Roebuck. Besides owning an impressive mansion in Kenwood, two blocks away from the Leopold home, the Loeb family also had a summer estate in Charlevoix, Michigan. Leopold, age 19 at the time of the murder, and Loeb, 18, believed themselves to be Nietzschean supermen who could commit a “perfect crime” (in this case a kidnapping and murder) without fear of being apprehended. On Wednesday, May 21, 1924, they put their plot in motion. The pair lured Franks, a neighbor and distant relative of Loeb’s, into a rented car. Either Loeb or Leopold first struck Franks with a chisel. Leopold or Loeb then stuffed a sock into Franks’ mouth. Franks died soon thereafter. Leopold and Loeb concealed the body and poured hydrochloric acid on it to make identification more difficult. They then returned to Hyde Park and burned Frank’s clothes. They then mailed a ransom note to the Franks. Before the ransom was paid, the body was found along with a pair of glasses linking the crime to Leopold and Loeb. They both confessed when their alibis broke down. Loeb was killed in jail, and Leopold completed his jail time and died in Puerto Rico in 1971, at the age of 66. [Wikipedia]


Ottis Toole and Henry Lee Lucas

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Ottis Toole was a native of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. His father left the family when Toole was young, and he claimed his mother was a religious fanatic, and that his sister dressed him in girl’s clothes. Toole also claimed his grandmother was a satanist who exposed him to various practices and rituals in his youth.

Henry Lee Lucas was born in Blacksburg, Virginia. He described his mother, Viola Lucas, as a violent prostitute. His father, Anderson Lucas, was an alcoholic and former railroad employee who had lost his legs in a train accident, and who suffered from Viola’s wrath as often as his son. Lucas reports that Viola regularly beat him and his half-brother, often for no reason.

Henry Lee Lucas was 15 the first time he killed in 1951, and the reason he murdered this teenage girl was to see what it was like to have sex with a human. In 1976, after years in prison, Lucas teamed up with arsonist and serial killer Ottis Toole, who enjoyed mutilating corpses. Later Toole claimed to have been a cannibal, but Lucas said that he’d abstained from that behavior because he did not like the taste of barbecue sauce. They traveled together from one state to another, and their favorite prey were female hitchhikers. For a while, Toole’s orphaned nephew and niece, Frank and Becky Powell, came with them. Then it was just Lucas and Becky, 13. When she argued with Lucas one day and slapped him, he killed her with a knife. Then he raped the corpse, dismembered it, put the pieces into a pillowcase, and dumped them in a field. The victims of these two men ranged in age from young children to elderly women, killed in every conceivable way and disposed of by dumping, dismembering, and incinerating. How many murders they actually committed will probably never be known. [Wikipedia]


The Hillside Strangler


Kenneth Bianchi’s biological mother was an alcoholic prostitute who gave him up for adoption at birth. Bianchi was deeply troubled from a young age, described as “a compulsive liar” who “had risen from the cradle dissembling.” He often worried Frances (his adoptive mother) with his penchant for trance-like daydreams. While intelligent (with an I.Q. of 116), he was an underachiever who was quick to lose his temper. He was also diagnosed with petit mal seizures when he was five. After Nicholas’ death, Frances went out to her work while her son attended high school.

Angelo Buono Buono was born in Rochester, New York. In the time leading up to the killings, Buono had already developed a long criminal history, ranging from failure to pay child support to assault and rape. When Buono was 41 he met Kenneth Bianchi in 1975. Buono persuaded his younger cousin to join him in prostituting the women and young girls they brought to bed, holding them as virtual prisoners.

The Hillside Strangler is the media epithet for two men, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, cousins who were convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing, and killing girls and women ranging in age from twelve to twenty-eight years old during a four-month period from late 1977 to early 1978 in the hills above Los Angeles, USA. The first victim of the Hillside Stranglers was a Hollywood prostitute, Yolanda Washington whose body was found near the Forest Lawn Cemetery on October 18. The corpse was cleaned and faint marks could be seen around the neck, wrists, and ankles where a rope had been. She had also been viciously raped. Between the two they murdered 10 (confirmed) victims. Bianchi is serving a life sentence in Washington. Buono died of a heart attack on September 21, 2002, in Calipatria State Prison where he was serving a life sentence. [Wikipedia]


Fred and Rosemary West


Fred West was a prolific petty criminal as a teenager. He moved from his parents’ rural home to live with an aunt until the Wests moved his family to Gloucester, where he took a job in an abattoir. He was fined for theft in Hereford in April 1961, and again in Newent in October. During this period West worked as an ice cream van driver. On November 4, 1965, he accidentally ran over and killed a four-year-old boy with his ice-cream van.

Rosemary West and her husband were convicted of a serious sexual assault in January 1973. For this, the Wests were fined for indecent assault of Caroline Raine, who escaped and reported the couple to the police, although no prison sentence resulted from their subsequent conviction. She had a voracious sexual appetite and enjoyed extreme bondage and sadomasochistic sex. She was bisexual, and many of their victims were picked up for her and her husband’s sexual pleasure. West also worked as a prostitute. Two of her children were fathered by these clients, in April 1982 and July 1983.

The crimes for which the Wests were convicted occurred mainly between April 1973 to August 1979. Charmaine West, (daughter of Fred’s previous wife Rena), who was murdered in June 1971, was buried at the Wests’ previous home of 25 Midland Road, Gloucester. One of the bodies found at Cromwell Street was that of their eldest daughter, Heather, who was murdered in June 1987. The police consider it highly unlikely that the Wests just stopped their sexually-motivated murders in 1979, or simply stopped killing in 1987. No one will ever know for certain if this was the case, but the murders almost certainly would have stopped in August 1992, when Fred West was arrested after being accused of raping his 13-year-old daughter three times, and Rosemary West was arrested for child cruelty. That case against them collapsed in June 1993 when their daughter refused to testify in court. Although she did not confess, the evidence against Rosemary West, which was all circumstantial, was overwhelming. She was tried in October 1995, after her husband’s suicide. The jury was unanimous: West was found guilty of ten murders on November 22, 1995, and the judge, Mr Justice Mantell, sentenced her to life imprisonment. [Wikipedia]


Bonnie and Clyde

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Bonnie Parker was born October 1, 1910, in Rowena, Texas. An honor roll student in high school where she excelled in creative writing, she won a County League contest in literary arts, for Cement City School, and even gave introductory speeches for local politicians. Described as intelligent and personable yet strong willed, she was an attractive young woman, small at 4 ft 11 in (150 cm) and weighing only 90 pounds (41 kg).

Clyde Barrow was born on March 24, 1909 in Ellis County, Texas. Clyde was first arrested in late 1926, after running when police confronted him over a rental car he had failed to return on time. Despite holding down “square” jobs during the period 1927 through 1929, however, he also cracked safes, burgled stores, and stole cars.

Bonnie and Clyde were notorious outlaws, robbers and criminals who travelled the Central United States during the Great Depression. Their exploits were known nationwide. They captured the attention of the American press and its readership during what is sometimes referred to as the “public enemy era” between 1931 and 1935. Although this couple and their gang were notorious for their bank robberies, Clyde Barrow preferred to rob small stores or gas stations. Though the public at the time believed Bonnie to be a full partner in the gang, the role of Bonnie Parker in the Barrow Gang crimes has long been a source of controversy.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed May 23, 1934, on a desolate road near their Bienville Parish, Louisiana hideout. They were shot by a posse of four Texas and two Louisiana officers. Questions about the way the ambush was conducted, and the failure to warn the duo of impending death, have been raised ever since that day. [Wikipedia]

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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Robert LeRoy Parker (Butch Cassidy) was born in Beaver, Utah to Maximillian Parker and Ann Campbell Gillies, English and Scottish Mormon immigrants, respectively, who came to the Utah Territory in the late 1850s. Parker left home during his early teens, and while working at a dairy farm, he fell in with Mike Cassidy (whose name he would eventually take in his honor), a horse thief and cattle rustler.

Harry Alonzo Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid) was convicted in 1887 of horse theft and sentenced to 18 months in the Sundance, Wyoming, jail. Because of this jail time he was called the Sundance Kid. Longabaugh likely met Butch Cassidy sometime after Cassidy was released from prison around 1896. They formed the “Wild Bunch Gang.”

Despite the Wild Bunch often being portrayed as mostly non-violent, in reality the gang was responsible for numerous killings during their robbery activities. On June 2, 1899, the gang robbed a Union Pacific overland flyer near Wilcox, Wyoming, a robbery that became famous and which resulted in a massive man hunt. Many notable lawmen of the day took part in the hunt for the robbers, but they were not found. The Wild Bunch would usually split up following a robbery, heading in different directions, and later reunite at a set location, such as the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout, “Robbers Roost”, or Madame Fannie Porter’s brothel, in San Antonio, Texas. Parker and Longabaugh eventually fled to Argentina where they may have committed additional robberies. Neither of the two were ever caught, and their remains have never been found. [Wikipedia]


Myra Hindley and Ian Brady

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Myra Hindley was believed to have been beaten by her alcoholic father, Bob Hindley, a paratrooper in the RAF during World War II, who was also alleged to have been violent towards her mother Nellie. She could write creatively, was quite athletic, and was considered a responsible girl, ironically in demand as a babysitter.

Ian Brady was adopted into a local family at a young age. His father has never been identified; his mother claimed that he was a journalist who died a few months before their son was born. He developed a fascination with Nazi Germany, Nazi pageantry and Nazi symbolism. By the time he was a teenager, he had been brought before the juvenile courts for incidents of burglary and housebreaking.

Brady was responsible for the murders of five children during the 1960s. In August 1987 he claimed to police that he had carried out another five killings and even said where he had buried the bodies, but the police were never able to prove whether these claims were true. The five murders that Brady admitted carrying out were committed with Hindley as his accomplice. These were the infamous Moors Murders, which are still some of the most reviled crimes in Britain decades after they happened, the judge at Brady and Hindley’s trials even saying they were the worst murders in the past century. As a result, Brady and Hindley became two of the most hated individuals in British criminal history. In evidence against them was a tape recording the couple made of the murder of one of their victims. [Wikipedia]

Notable Omissions: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Robert Thomson and Jon Venables (pending another list)

This article is licensed under the GFDL. It uses material from the Wikipedia articles cited above.

fact checked by dickensgirl
Jamie Frater

Jamie is the founder of Listverse. When he’s not doing research for new lists or collecting historical oddities, he can be found in the comments or on Facebook where he approves all friends requests!

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