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10 Baffling Wives of Serial Killers
When we hear about serial killers, one of the most difficult things to mentally grasp (other than the inhuman acts committed by the killers) is that many of the murderer’s wives were oblivious to their husband’s evil doings. Psychiatrists like to give us all kinds of excuses to justify the women’s supposed lack of knowledge—denial, submissiveness, etc.—but, are we really to believe these women didn’t even have the slightest suspicion their husbands were deranged, psycho-murderers? In some cases it just seems a little far-fetched.
Read what these 10 serial killer wives put up with and decide for yourself. Were they ignorant, accomplices, or victims?
For 26 years Linda Yates was married to Robert Yates, a serial killer from Spokane, Washington who killed at least 16 people. During that time she admits he often did some peculiar and shady things, and while she suspected him of infidelity, apparently she never fathomed he was a murderer—even after finding a blood-soaked seat in the back of their family van.
Supposedly, Robert explained the blood was from a dog he had accidently hit and then taken to the vet. Everyone knows bloody vans are a total serial killer cliché, yet Linda didn’t make the connection. If it was just the one incident, her ignorance might be understandable, but there were other signs too.
For one, he’d come home late from work covered in dirt, sweating, and smelling funny. Yet when he went on “hunting trips,” he’d leave the house reeking of cologne. Also, in an interview, Linda said she found it strange when her husband suddenly took an interest in their credit card statements, since she always paid their bills. When she looked into it, she discovered charges for peculiar places like, Al’s Spa Tub, a pay-by-the-hour motel with in-room hot tubs. Robert excused the charges by saying he went there to relax his muscles after long shifts at work. (Yeah, because people usually go to seedy motels named “Al’s” to relax . . . not to do drugs, have sex, and kill people.)
Other signs something wasn’t quite right: he drained the family’s money through unexplained ATM withdrawals, he became impotent with her yet had a stash of orgy-filled porn, many of his friends didn’t even know she existed, he flirted with other women at parties and called himself James Bond, and she caught him watching the neighbors having sex through a hole he made in their attic.
Okay, even if all the other stuff just led her to assume he was cheating and she chose to stay with him for the kids, or money, or whatever—peeping on the neighbors should have been a deal breaker. Right? To her credit, she did leave him temporarily after that; although, it didn’t do much good since she went right back to him and he kept on killing.
So, when was her “ah-ha” moment? When the police called and told her they found a body in her backyard.
Darcie Brudos spent eight years married to serial killer Jerome Brudos and never thought to call the police when local girls started turning up dead and her husband coincidentally brought home an actual female breast to keep as a paper weight. How do you explain away amputated body parts lying about the house? Of course, he did cast it in resin, so maybe she thought it was . . . hmmm . . . nope, we’ve got nothing—even in resin, a severed boob still looks like a severed boob.
While Jerome was certifiably crazy, Darcie undoubtedly had some mental problems of her own. She obeyed his every command, including when he ordered her to stay in the house and wear nothing except her birthday suit and a pair of high heels. ‘Sure, Jer, no problem.’ And apparently no warning flags came up when he forbade her from going into their attic or garage without first announcing her presence in an intercom and getting permission to enter. Besides it being odd that she couldn’t go into several rooms within her own house, the Brudos also must have had some unusually thick doors if Darcie never heard the faintest sound as her husband suspended girls from hooks in the ceiling, played dress up with them, sexually abused them, and eventually strangled them to death.
Furthermore, Darcie knew Jerome had a hankering for cross dressing, as he’d previously approached her in women’s underwear and heels, but she still said nothing when police reported that eyewitnesses had described the suspected killer as a large man in women’s clothing. She also turned a blind eye when she caught him developing photographs of naked women, and when he repeatedly left the house late at night to raid strangers’ panty drawers.
Obviously, Darcie knew something was going on or was in complete denial. The authorities must have thought she was in on it, because they arrested and tried her as an accomplice. A neighbor even said she saw Darcie help Brudos carry a victim; however, the neighbor’s testimony was discredited and there was no other evidence to prove Darcie was in on the murders.
She has always denied knowing anything about the killings and has since divorced Jerome (who’s now dead), changed her name, and moved along with their children to an unknown location.
Wherever they are, it’s a fair bet there’s some dysfunction in that family.
Until her husband, Gary Ridgeway, confessed two years after his arrest, Judith Mawson refused to believe he had killed 70 people and was the person authorities had nicknamed the Green River Serial Killer. Indeed, they were happily married for 13 years, and she even told reporters that “he made me smile every day” and was the “perfect husband.”
It seems Mawson may be the one woman on the list that was duped for good reason since, for the most part, their life was completely normal. They originally met at a bar and Judith described Gary as a perfect suitor who was polite, handsome, had a good job, and treated her well. Before getting married, they dated for two years and lived together for another year, which seems like a fair amount of time to notice if your boyfriend is a nut job. But, Gary gave no indication of his murderous habits. Once married, Judith said they had a completely ordinary life—he went to work and on the weekends they liked to have yard sales or camp, and they were always very affectionate to each other.
On the rare occasions when Gary left the house early or came home late, he always had work related excuses. Judith’s only real hint something was amiss was the first time she went to his house and found there was no carpet and he had a mattress and box springs on the bare floor. He explained that his tenants had destroyed the carpets and an ex-girlfriend had taken the bed back. She trusted him and was later horrified to learn he’d removed the carpet and bed because they had bloodstains from some of his victims.
When she found out the truth about her husband, Judith claims she experienced a rapid downward spiral where she drowned her grief in alcohol and pills. She’s since recovered and changed her name, and her one point of solace is she feels by loving Gary she actually saved lives, since during that time his kill rate dropped.
Cathy Wilson managed to get out of her marriage to serial killer Peter Tobin fairly early, as she married him at the young age of 16 and left him at 19. However, those were three hellish years. Despite his mental and physical violence towards her and his habit of bringing home prostitutes, roughing them up, and making Cathy watch it all, she never thought he would kill anyone, except maybe herself.
He was 20 years older than Cathy and treated her worse than garbage. Peter would do everything from throw his dinner at her to tossing her against the wall and nearly strangling her. She threatened to leave him, and he responded by not letting Cathy leave his sight and warning he would kill their toddler son if she went anywhere (he even dangled the child over the banister to make his point).
Like other serial killers, Peter pulled the old ban the wife from the basement routine. Confoundingly, dead bodies were the last thing on Cathy’s mind when horrible smells emanated from the basement and the drains repeatedly became clogged for no apparent reason. Still, Cathy thought he was only a “wife-beating husband” and not a sadistic serial murderer.
What’s perhaps most bizarre is, after Cathy finally mustered the courage to leave Peter, she still brought her son to him regularly for visitations (because dropping your kid off with a known wife-beater/child-dangler/prostitute torturer is always a great idea). It wasn’t until he was convicted of drug and sex charges that she cut off all contact. He was sentenced to 14 years for those crimes yet was only made to serve 10. Within days of his release he had already killed another victim. After that, it didn’t take police long to figure out Peter was the man responsible for multiple girls going missing.
Cathy finally became aware she was married to a serial killer when she saw his face on the news. She’s since written a book about the ordeal.
Mary Elizabeth spent 19 years married to Russell Williams—a panty sniffing, cross dressing, rapist, murderer—and apparently never thought he was anything except a stellar husband. To be fair, he was a well-respected colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and had an entire military base fooled, but still, she lived with the man.
And it wasn’t as if he didn’t leave any clues. The couple owned two houses and both were filled with mementos of his crimes. Like a true military man, he was detailed oriented and kept meticulous records of his crimes, complete with newspaper clippings, photos of his victims, and news videos, which he hid in places like the basement, the piano, and a duffle bag. Hidden or not, surely after 19 years a thorough bout of spring cleaning would have uncovered something.
What’s more, Russell was a notorious panty stealer and kept the rewards of his break-ins in virtually plain sight. Women’s underwear and sex toys were carelessly stuffed into bags and boxes in the basement and garage where it seems Mary Elizabeth could have easily stumbled onto them while, say, pulling out the Christmas decorations or looking for an old yearbook. For most couples, the house is a woman’s domain, and it seems unfathomable she walked by unidentified boxes and was never curious enough to look inside.
But, perhaps maybe she did know something. There were rumors she had a divorce application and a “domestic contract” that gave her full ownership of one of their houses; however no one can know for sure since she had all her legal and financial records sealed.
John Wayne Gacy had two wives, and Carol Hoff was the one who was around for the killing. She married him in 1972, which was right around the time he progressed from deranged boy rapist to a full blown serial killer.
It’s almost inconceivable that Carol never suspected her husband as a murderer, because all the signs were there. The biggest of which was the “awful stench” (as Carol described it) which permanently drifted up from the crawlspace of their home. Of course, the terrible smell came from the many dead bodies John continuously stashed under the house, but he told her it came from mice. Surprisingly, she saw no problems with that excuse. Even if she did believe it, what self-respecting wife wouldn’t nag their husband to ‘get rid of the damn rat smell?’ Not Carol. She just went on breathing in the scent of dead corpses for years and years.
Besides the stink, local boys and young men were turning up dead or missing on a regular basis, and several of the victims were people Gacy new personally (one guy even lived in their house for a while). Still, Carol never made the connection. It’s important to note that, before marrying Carol, Gacy had already served jail time for sodomizing a teenage boy. Even though Carol knew about his criminal record, she believed he was reformed (thanks in large part to his “good guy” public persona).
While John was jovial and charitable to outsiders, he was moody and bad-tempered towards his wife. By 1975, he flatly told her he was bisexual and the two of them would never have sex together again. After that, he stayed out late, brought teenage boys to the house, and kept homosexual pornography lying around. Soon after, Carol divorced John because she could “no longer cope with the marriage due to her husband’s unpredictable moods and bizarre obsession with homosexual magazines.”
So, let’s recap the clues Carol could have noticed: awful stench, dead and missing local boys, John knew some of the victims, he was a convicted rapist, he stayed out all hours of the night, brought teenage boys back to the house, obsessed with porn. Had the woman never seen a Lifetime Television movie? Well, at least she had the sense to divorce him, but c’mon . . . it never once crossed her mind that John was a killer?
For 34 years Paula Rader was married to Dennis Rader, the notorious BTK serial killer who eluded police for three decades. Like Linda Yates, Paula was shocked to learn her “family man” was a narcissistic killer who got his kicks playing cat-and-mouse with police.
Obviously Dennis was an expert at living a double life, but he most definitely left a few hints for Paula through the years. The most unbelievable was when she discovered a rough draft of a poem he had written about killing Shirley Vian Relford. The murder of Shirley was all over the news, and when Paula questioned him about the poem Dennis explained it was an assignment for a class he was taking at Wichita State University (Sadistic Poetry 101, perhaps). Granted this was 1977 and before the age of out of control political correctness, but even then no sane professor would ask students to write about a recent, horrific murder. Yet, Paula let the incident go. Later, Dennis mailed that same poem, dubbed “Shirleylocks,” to police as a taunt.
Furthermore, news agencies regularly published BTK’s notes and letters, and at one point Paula even told her husband that his poor spelling was just like the BTK killer’s. ‘Oh really, honey, what a coincidence.’
Other things she could have picked up on: his voice being played repeatedly on the news (he left a 911 message to inform police about one of his murders), people turning up dead the morning after he’d been out all night, and a box he kept in the house that was full of mementos from his crimes.
Either Paula was turning a blind eye or had zero women’s intuition.
Julie Baumeister, is arguably the most gullible wife in this list. She was given a smoking gun, or more accurately a human skull, yet still believed her husband, Herb Baumeister, when he said it belonged to a medical school skeleton owned by his anesthesiologist father. The couple’s son was the first to uncover the skull along with a pile of other bones buried in the backyard. Maybe if the skeleton was on one of those classroom-type stands and someone had cleverly put a ‘Bonaparte’ name tag on his chest, then maybe his story would’ve been believable—but buried in the backyard—how does that make the slightest sense?
Julie says the bones quickly disappeared after her son unearthed them and she simply assumed animals had carried them off. Evidently she wasn’t too concerned about the incident, as she said, “It wasn’t like I was sitting at home with nothing else to think about,” And, who can blame her? Why would anyone think twice about human remains in their yard?
As if that wasn’t enough, Herb was secretly very active in the Indianapolis, Indiana gay bar scene, and when several of his bar buddies turned up dead or missing, police eventually tracked the crimes back to Herb. He told his wife the authorities were falsely accusing him for theft and ordered her not to let them search their house. Later, the police talked to Julie alone and told her the real reason they wanted to search the home (her husband was a suspected serial killer), and she still staunchly refused to let them enter.
Months later, when Herb’s erratic behavior had escalated to an undeniably peculiar level (even to the oblivious Julie), she finally let police search their property. Although they found remains of 11 men, they could never arrest Herb because he committed suicide before they could apprehend him.
Alice Carignan gets props for being the one woman on this list who divorced her murderous husband the earliest. She spent just a little over a year as the wife of Harvey Carignan, a serial rapist and murderer nicknamed “Harv the Hammer” (it’s not hard to figure out how he got that name).
Harvey beat Alice and her two kids, and apparently her 11-year-old son was the smartest of all, because he grew tired of the abuse after a mere two months and left to go live with his real father. After finding a button from a woman’s dress in Harvey’s car and enduring about 12 more months of cruelty, Alice finally wised up too and in 1973 kicked Harvey to the curb. She is truly lucky she got out with her life intact as his next girlfriend was found dead in the woods with multiple hammer blows to the head.
It would have been nice if Alice was able to pick up on a few more clues, which could have helped police save some of his later victims, but at least she got out early enough to save herself from the mental trauma that undoubtedly comes when you realize you’ve spent decades sharing a bed with a serial killer.
When you’re married to a man for nearly 30 years and he’s committed over 50 murders, there has to be some kind of sign he’s demented. In fact, authorities think the Russian serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo, may have raped, murdered, and snacked on as many as 100 people, yet his wife Fayina still contends she never had a clue.
After the police presented mounds of evidence the “light bulb” finally went on and she started to remember some of the tell-tale signs she overlooked. For instance, she recalled the long business trips, nights away from home, repeated blood stains on his clothes, him getting fired from his teaching job for molesting children, and, oh yeah, the pesky police continually bringing him in for murder-related questioning. But hey, those things could happen to anybody.
Instead of thinking Andrei was going around having his way with kids, Fayina took his word for it when he told her he was sexually impotent and the two of them could not be intimate. Believing her husband didn’t like sex, she was completely dumfounded when police told her his murders were of a sexual nature.
That said, there’s still a possibility she willingly kept his secrets or enabled him. For example, on one occasion she gave him an iron-clad alibi when he was accused of killing a nine-year-old girl. Although, there was an eyewitness who swore to seeing Andrei with the girl, Fayina’s alibi pressured police into pinning the crime on someone else. Once the trial started and Andrei confessed to the murder, the alibi his wife provided started to look a bit fishy.