Show Mobile Navigation
Crime |

10 Infamous Prison Murders

by Robert Grimminck
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Prison can be a brutal and violent place, filled with potentially dangerous offenders living together in cramped quarters with very little to occupy their time. In such difficult circumstances it is hardly surprising that the authorities are unable to prevent the occasional shocking act of violence. This list explores 10 of the most infamous murders to take place behind prison walls.

WARNING: Please be aware that many of the crimes discussed in this article are of an extremely disturbing nature.

10Leslie Bailey


While prison murders occur for a variety of reasons—sadly often including race—there is a certain subset of the prison population that is targeted more frequently than others: pedophiles. The murder of Leslie Bailey is a good example. Bailey was in a gang of child molesters led by Sidney Cooke, now considered one of the most notorious pedophiles in England. The group would either hire rent boys or kidnap young boys for gang rapes. Cooke’s gang are suspected of killing up to nine different boys during these orgies.

Bailey, Cooke, and two other men were all involved in the kidnap, rape, and murder of a seven-year-old boy, who they lured away from a fair to a nearby trailer owned by Cooke. At the trailer they drugged and gang raped him before he died. His body has never been found—despite Cooke admitting to knowing the location. The other confirmed murder occurred when Cooke charged three men, including Bailey, £5 to rape a 14-year-old named Jason Swift, who died as a result. Bailey was the only one who confessed to the crimes. As a result, he was given two life sentences, while Cooke and the other men were only charged with Swift’s murder.

Bailey chose to be in a segregated area of the prison for his own protection. Despite this, on October 19, 1993, he was strangled to death by two inmates, Michael Cain and John Brookes. It has been theorized that the killing was carried out as a favor to one of the victim’s families, although—despite what television might have you believe—revenge-style killings orchestrated from the outside are not common.

In another twist, Cain, who was already serving a life term for murder, later had his sentence reduced by 10 years.

9Mitchell Harrison


On October 1, 2011, 33-year old Michael Parr and 24-year-old Nathan Mann lured fellow inmate Mitchell Harrison into a cell. The 24-year-old Harrison was serving an indeterminate sentence for raping a 13-year-old girl. The pair of convicted murderers held Harrison down and cut his throat with plastic cutlery and a razor blade. They then stabbed him in the eye with a pen, before proceeding to disembowel him. Their original intention was to cut out his liver and eat it, but they ultimately did not follow through on this plan.

Mann was serving 24 years for breaking into a nursing home, suffocating one elderly woman, and then punching another to death while she slept. Parr was sentenced to life for trying to suffocate a fellow patient at a Newcastle hospital. Both were violent offenders and questions have been asked as to why the three were left alone long enough for the murder to be carried out, especially since psych evaluations had already indicated that Parr had cannibalistic fantasies.

The murder of Harrison shows how brutal prison can be—all it took was a few minutes alone for him to become the victim of a horrifically savage assault. The crime shocked England and made headlines around the world.

8Charles Schmid

December 1965_2

Charles Schmid’s horrific crimes made him one of the most famous American criminals of the 60s. He was profiled in a Life Magazine article called “The Pied Piper of Tucson” and his story was the basis for a famous Joyce Carol Oates short story and Jack Ketchum’s “The Lost.” It’s also been adapted for film at least four times: The Todd Killings, Smooth Talk, Dead Beat, andThe Lost. But while Schmid’s crimes secured his notoriety, he didn’t live long to enjoy it—as you may have guessed from the title of this list.

In 1964, Scmid was a wealthy, popular, and charismatic 22-year-old living in Tucson, Arizona. A short man, he wore cowboy boots padded with newspaper and crushed beer cans to make himself look taller. He also wore pancake make up, painted a mole on his face, and used a clothespin to stretch his lip in order to look like Elvis. While his appearance may sound bizarre, Schmid had a magnetic personality to match his outrageous style and had many girlfriends, including some who would go to any length for him.

On May 31, 1964, Schmid, one of his girlfriends, and one of his friends lured 15-year-old Alleen Rowe to the desert. There, Schmid raped her and beat her to death with a jagged rock before the three buried her. Schmid’s motive was simply that he wanted to kill someone to see what it felt like. His friend and his girlfriend kept the secret, but Schmid eventually revealed the crime to another girlfriend, Gretchen Fritz. When Fritz used the information to blackmail him, threatening to go to the police if he left her, Schmid strangled the 15-year-old to death and then did the same thing to her 13-year-old sister, Wendy. Schmid then got another friend, Richie Bruns, to help him dispose of the bodies. By this point, Schmid was suspected of involvement in the killings by both the police and the Tucson Mafia, but no proof could be found until Richie, paranoid that his girlfriend would be next, confessed to his role in the crimes. At his trial, which was the subject of massive media attention, Schmid was sentenced to death, later commuted to life in prison.

Over the next five years, Schmid made three escape attempts, failing each time. Despite this—and not having his cowboy boots to make him look taller—he remained arrogant and frequently annoyed his fellow prisoners. On March 20, 1970, Schmid was stabbed 20 times and viciously beaten by two other inmates. He lost an eye and a kidney, dying 10 days later. Schmid’s criminal acts may have made him a celebrity of sorts, but many people feel he met a suitable end for murdering three inncocent girls.

7Roch Thériault


Roch Thériault is one of the most infamous criminals in Canadian history and with good reason—his crimes were horrific even by the standards of the other entries on this list. A 7th grade dropout, Thériault was intelligent and fanatically religious. In the 70s, he amassed a cult of around 40 people, who he called the Ant Hill Kids. Thériault used the women as concubines and impregnated many of them, fathering 26 children altogether. He demanded his followers obey him unquestioningly—some disciples were forced to cut off their own fingers with wire cutters to prove their loyalty.

Thériault was originally sentenced to two years in prison for the death of his two-year old son, Samuel, who died from a botched circumcision and beating. He then blamed the death on a cult member named Guy Veer and forced him to agree to be castrated by Thériault himself. Thériault’s second murder came was when he left one of his own infants outside in a blizzard. His third murder was one his concubines, Solange Boilard, who complained of an upset stomach. After trying to perform an enema by shoving a plastic tube up her rectum, Thériault sliced open her stomach and pulled out her intestines with his bare hands. He then made another member, Gabrielle Lavallée, stitch her up. Boilard died the next day. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of it. Claiming to have the power of resurrection, he ordered a disciple to drill a hole in Boilard’s head and then ejaculated into the hole.

Despite all the atrocities that he committed, Thériault’s crimes didn’t come to light until Gabrielle Lavallée escaped from the commune, only to return in 1989. As punishment for her escape, eight of her teeth were removed. Afterwards, Thériault stabbed her through the hand, pinning her to a table before amputating the arm. After years of torture, Lavallée finally turned to the police. Thériault was arrested and convicted later that year.

In 2011, at the age of 63, Thériault was attacked by Matthew Gerrard MacDonald, his 60-year-old cellmate. MacDonald strongly disliked Thériault for the horrifying acts he had committed, especially those involving women and children. He stabbed Thériault in the neck and then brought the shank to the prison guards, confessing immediately to the crime. He was given another life sentence.

6Richard Loeb


At the age of 14, a highly intelligent young man named Richard Loeb was admitted to the University of Chicago. There he met Nathan Leopold, a charismatic former child prodigy, who was also much younger than the other students at the University. The two quickly became inseparable and are thought to have been lovers.

Both Leopold and Loeb were obsessed with committing the perfect crime. On May 21, 1924, when Loeb was 18 and Leopold was 19, they decided to carry it out. The pair drove around looking for a victim before settling on Loeb’s neighbor, 14-year-old Bobby Franks, who they kidnapped and struck him over the head with a chisel. They then disposed of the body and delivered a ransom note to Franks’ parents, who had already contacted the police.

As it turned out, “the perfect crime” wasn’t quite so perfect. The pair were arrested and turned on each other, accusing the other of masterminding of the crime. On September 24, 1924, they were both given a life sentence for murder and an additional 99 years for kidnapping.

While in prison, guards were ordered to keep the pair apart but they eventually ended up together. In 1932, they started a school in prison and began teaching other inmates. Then, on January 28, 1936, Loeb was attacked in the shower by his cellmate, James E. Day, who slashed him 50 times with a straight razor. Day claimed the attack was triggered when Loeb made a pass at him, but this motive has been widely questioned, since Loeb’s throat was slit from behind.

Leopold washed the blood from his best friend’s body. In 1958, he was paroled and moved to Puerto Rico. He died in 1971, at the age of 66, from a heart attack. The Leopold and Loeb case would become the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 classic, Rope.

5Rocrast Mack


In 2009, Rocrast Mack was arrested for selling $10 worth of crack to an undercover police officer. He pleaded guilty and was given a 20-year sentence, to be served at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton, Alabama. Ventress was built to house 650 prisoners, but at the time of Mack’s death it held 1,665.

On August 4, 2010, prison guard Melissa Brown was doing a nightly headcount when she came across Mack and accused him of masturbating under his blanket. After Brown struck him twice with her baton, Mack hit back and bloodied her lip. He then ran away but complied when ordered to stop by another guard. Five other correctional officers then arrived on the scene. In the dorm lobby, in front of other prisoners, the six guards took turns beating Mack with their feet, hands, and batons.

Despite being in a coma, Mack was taken to the hospital surrounded by guards. The prison Chaplin called Mack’s parents to inform them of his condition, but when his father arrived at the hospital he was prevented from seeing his son on the warden’s orders. The warden relented after a few hours but the guards still would not allow Mack’s father to touch his dying son. Mack died the next day.

The ringleader, Lt. Michael Smith, who had been previously been accused of brutality on at least four occasions, was charged with murder. Two other guards, 43-year-old Matthew Davidson and 31-year-old Joseph Sanders, were also charged.

4Merle Clutts And Robert Hoffman


Two of the most infamous prison murders in US history happened on October 22, 1983, in Marion, Illinois. A 51-year-old prison guard named Merle Clutts was escorting former Aryan Brotherhood leader, Thomas “Terrible Tommy” Silverstein, back to his cell after a shower. Silverstein was slipped a shank, charged at Clutts, and stabbed him 40 times, killing him.

Eight hours later, in the same prison, 53-year-old Robert Hoffman and two other guards were transferring Clayton Fountain, also a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, when Fountain was given a shank by another prisoner and attacked the officers. Hoffman was able to save the other two guards before being stabbed himself. He then managed to make it back to his son, who was also a prison guard, before dying in his arms.

This was the first and only time two correctional officers were murdered on the same day in separate incidents in the history of the US penal system. At the time, Marion Prison was considered one of the most secure facilities in the country. After the murders, Marion went into a 23-year super lockdown, with inmates kept in their cells for much of the day. Both Fountain and Silverstein were already being held at the highest level of security after murdering two other inmates. This lead to the creation of ADX Florence Supermax prison as a way of dealing with the most violent and dangerous criminals in America.

3John Geoghan


In January 2002, Boston Catholic priest John Geoghan was convicted of molesting a young boy at a swimming pool in 1991 and sentenced to up to 10 years. After his conviction, the now defrocked priest was accused of molesting 130 other individuals during his 30 years as a priest. Eighty-six plaintiffs filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Boston over the crimes committed by Geoghan.

The 68-year-old Geoghan was put into protective custody in Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts. His cellmate was 38-year-old Joseph Druce, a self-proclaimed white supremacist who was serving a life sentence after killing a man who picked him up while he was hitchhiking. Druce claimed the man had made a sexual pass at him.

On August 23, 2003, Druce blocked the cell door, then strangled and stomped Geoghan to death. It has been theorized that the guards may have turned a blind eye to the murder, since only one officer was on duty, instead of the usual two. It has also been suggested that Druce may have been planning for the murder for some time.

2Zahid Mubarek


On March 31, 2001, the day before he was scheduled to be released, 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek was found bleeding and beaten. He died seven days later.

Mubarek had been sentenced to 90 days for stealing around $12 worth of razor blades. He was already incarcerated in Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution when 20-year-old Robert Stewart was moved into his cell.

Stewart was a dangerous offender with well-documented psychological problems. He had already stabbed another inmate to death and was fascinated with killing for racial reasons. Despite having records of over 186 incidents showing Stewart to be a violent, mentally unstable racist, prison officials still made the decision to pair him with Mubarek, who was of Pakistani descent.

On that soon-to-be-notorious night, Stewart broke the leg off a table and beat Mubarek to death. He was then moved to isolation, where he marked a swastika on the floor with the heel of his boot and was asleep 30 minutes later.

The murder was widely reported and caused a huge scandal in the UK prison system. In 2004, a Public Inquiry was opened to determine if Mubarek’s death was attributable to negligence on the part of prison officials. Since then, efforts have been made to improve conditions, especially for non-white prisoners.

1Albert DeSalvo

Albert DeSalvo just after his capture in Boston on February 25, 1967.

Between June 1962 and January 1964, 13 women were strangled to death in Boston. Most were elderly women who lived alone. Eleven of the murders were thought to have been committed by one individual (the other two were probably copycat murders). The victims were all sexually assaulted, most were strangled with their own nylons or undergarments, and there were no signs of forced entry. The serial killer was infamously dubbed the Boston Strangler.

Eventually, 29-year-old Albert DeSalvo was arrested for a seemingly unrelated string of sexual assaults. He would knock on women’s doors and claim to be a modeling scout. The victims would invite DeSalvo into their homes and he would feel them up while measuring them. He was eventually arrested for sexually assaulting a woman at knifepoint.

While being interrogated by the police, DeSalvo confessed to all 13 murders. DeSalvo had a history of sexual assault and of being able to gain entrance to women’s apartments. Despite this, many people, including some victims’ family members, do not believe that DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler.

According to the skeptics, DeSalvo confessed to the crimes because he liked to brag. When he was incarcerated in a mental institution, he conspired with another inmate to collect the reward money for the murders he claimed to have committed. DeSalvo was prepared to go to prison for the rest of his life, as long as he could ensure his family was secure financially.

On November 25, 1973, DeSalvo desperately wanted to talk to his doctor about the Boston Strangler case. They were due to meet the next morning, but DeSalvo was stabbed to death that night. Because of the level of security at the hospital, it has been suggested that the murder was a conspiracy between employees and inmates. Due to the lack of physical evidence, DeSalvo never stood trial for the Boston Strangler case. The murders did stop after DeSalvo was arrested. In 2013, a DNA test found that semen discovered on one of the victims was almost certainly his.

+Jeffrey Dahmer


Jeffrey Dahmer is the serial killer who became infamous for engaging in rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia. After killing 17 men and boys, he was convicted of 15 counts of murder and was given 15 life sentences, served at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin. On November 28, 1994, the 34-year-old Dahmer was cleaning a prison washroom with two other convicted murderers, 37-year-old Jesse Anderson and 25-year-old Christopher Scarver, when Scarver attacked Dahmer and Anderson with a broken broomstick.

Dahmer died shortly afterwards from massive head trauma. Anderson died two days later. Scarver claimed that God had told him to kill Dahmer. He was given two more life sentences.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian crime fiction writer. You can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

fact checked by Jamie Frater