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10 Murderously Dysfunctional Families

by Dawn M.
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Family are supposed to be the people we can rely on above all else. And yet there have been quite a few families who have descended into a horrific existence of abuse and murder. For some, a life of crime is indoctrinated through cruelty and abuse—leading to the death of innocent victims.

10The Kimes


The future Mrs. Sante Kimes was born in Oklahoma in 1934. Raised in government care, she eventually turned to a life of prostitution. In what seemed like a fairytale ending, Sante’s luck changed when she met and married millionaire Kenneth Kimes, eventually giving birth to a son, Kenneth Jr. But Kenneth turned out to have a shady side and Kenny Jr. was doomed to a life of crime from the beginning, growing up learning the ins and outs of insurance fraud from his mother. Sante also had an unusual way of acquiring domestic help—she lured young Mexican girls to her home with the promise of well-paying, respectable jobs and then imprisoned them, torturing them into working as her virtual slaves. Thankfully, one of the girls escaped and ran to the police. Sante went to jail for just five years.

On her release, Sante decided there would be no more jail time—she would kill those who knew about her illegal actions. She is subsequently known to have murdered at least three potential witnesses to her insurance fraud. Shortly after Kenny Jr. left home to attend university, Kenny Sr. died. Although Sante was never implicated, she hid the death from her son to conceal the fact that he, not Sante, was the sole heir to the rapidly dwindling Kimes assets. Instead, she drew her son further into her criminal enterprises. In 1998, Sante and Kenny Jr. pretended to be interested in renting the luxury New York apartment of 83-year-old Irene Silverman. Once inside, they murdered Irene and posed as tenants, telling anyone who inquired that Irene had gone on a long vacation. They were eventually arrested and convicted of the murder, as well as a host of other crimes. Sante got 120 years, five less than her son.

Read about more heart-stopping stories just like these in Murder in the Family: 15 True Australian Accounts of Domestic Tragedy at!

9The Walkers


Albert Walker was a loving husband and father of four, a churchgoing man who owned a local financial services company in Ontario, Canada. Then, one day in 1990, Walker and his daughter Sheena boarded a flight for England, taking the majority of the company’s assets with them—millions of dollars in investors’ money. Now all the pair needed were new identities. Enter Ronald Platt, an Englishman who had spent time in Canada as a youth and was eager to return. Albert, ever the gentleman, offered to pay for Platt’s passage to Alberta—in exchange for his birth certificate and driver’s license. For the next six years, Albert and his daughter lived as Mr. and Mrs. Platt. During this time, Sheena gave birth to two children. It is believed that Albert was the father.

They might have got away with it for even longer had Ronald Platt not decided to return to England. To keep his secret hidden, Walker felt he had no choice but to murder Platt, dumping his body at sea. He also began stockpiling gold bullion and made plans to leave England. Unbeknownst to Walker, Platt’s body had been caught in a fishing net and identified by the serial number on his Rolex. Curious as to why a dead man was apparently buying gold bullion, the police quickly began to unravel the twisted tale of the Walkers, descending upon the couple’s idyllic farmhouse to find Sheena stuffing gold bars into a diaper bag. Sheena subsequently claimed that her father had “hypnotized” her, escaping jail by agreeing to testify against him. She later moved back to Ontario to live with her family, while Albert went to jail for embezzlement and murder.

8The Shafia Family


In 2009, Mohammad Shafia, along with his wife Tooba and son Hamed, murdered four female members of their family in what was dubbed an “honor killing.” The victims included the three teenaged daughters of Mohammad, a wealthy Afghan businessman living in the Montreal area, as well as his first wife, Rona Amir.

Mohammad had wed Rona in an arranged marriage in Afghanistan. When the couple discovered they were unable to conceive, Rona encouraged Mohammad to marry Tooba, who bore him seven children. The family moved to Canada, where the two oldest daughters, Zainab and Sahar, grew increasingly Westernized. There were fights over everything from boys to clothes and both girls were reportedly beaten by their father and brother. Finally, Zainab, sick of the abuse, fled to a women’s shelter and began making plans to marry her boyfriend. The family coaxed her home by promising to allow the wedding. In reality, they were making plans to kill her. When it was discovered that Sahar also had a boyfriend, she was added to the hit list. Rona and 13-year-old Geeti were also added, since they could not be counted on to keep the murder secret.

The murders were carried out during a family road trip. The exact details remain unclear, but it seems as though the four women were incapacitated and placed in the family’s Nissan, which was then pushed into the Rideau Canal. All four drowned. Mohammad, Tooba, and Hamed are all currently serving life sentences for the crime.

7The Wessons


Marcus Wesson was the husband, father, grandfather, or uncle of everyone living in his home—all in all he had seven children by his daughters and nieces. Life with Marcus was sickening—not only were the children not allowed friends, or even acquaintances, but punishment was administered with a baseball bat. When the girls reached the age of nine they began to be molested by Wesson; he eventually “married” three of his nieces and two of his own daughters.

Indoctrinated into the Wesson children was a fear and distrust of all outside authority—they were told that if the government ever came to split up the family they were to kill each other immediately. Marcus even kept 12 coffins in the house for the occasion. Of course, Marcus himself would remain alive to “explain their decision to the public.”

Two of Wesson’s nieces, Ruby and Sofina, eventually fled the household, leaving their small children behind. Knowing that Marcus would not stop his abusive practices, the two women eventually attempted to retrieve the children, triggering a violent confrontation outside the family home. The police were called, but could not enter the house without a warrant, as they did not feel any lives were immediately at risk. They were wrong.

At one point Wesson told the police he wanted to say goodbye to the children and ducked back inside the house. When he emerged he was covered in blood. As the officers raced into the building they found all nine children were dead, their bodies piled on top of one another. The body of Marcus’s daughter Sebhrenah lay on top of the pile, a pistol still clasped in her hands.

Although it seems that Sebhrenah actually shot all of the children before turning the gun on herself, Marcus Wesson was found guilty of nine counts of murder, as well as countless sexual assault charges. Several of his remaining children took the stand in his favor.

6The Sexton Family


Eddie Sexton was a violent psychopath who brutally physically and sexually abused his wife and 12 children, even marrying his own daughters in wedding ceremonies in the family’s living room. He exerted control through brutal and often humiliating physical punishments and occasionally claimed to be Satan himself. The Sexton family also indulged in more mundane criminal activities such as insurance fraud—it was not uncommon for the family’s residence to mysteriously burn down. Eddie was eventually arrested on suspicion of abusing his daughters, but the couple managed to regain their youngest children from the authorities and fled Ohio in a mobile home. They were joined by Eddie’s adult daughter Pixie, her husband Joel Good, and their young baby Skipper Lee.

While the family hid out at a mobile home in Florida, Skipper became ill and began crying inconsolably. When Pixie could not quiet the baby, Eddie told her that he would hurt the child unless she shut him up. Terrified, Pixie covered Skipper’s mouth with her hand and suffocated the child.

The next morning the baby’s father, Joel, was sent to bury his son in the woods. Joel, obviously distraught over the death of his child, wanted to return to Ohio. At some point Joel also discovered that Eddie was the true father of Pixie’s two oldest daughters. This sealed his fate, as Eddie ordered Pixie and his son, William, to kill Joel. The family also made attempts to kill Eddie’s oldest son and his brother Otis. Thankfully, the family did not escape justice—the authorities caught up with them just as they were hatching a plot to kill a neighboring camper and steal his RV. Eddie and William were prosecuted for the murders of Joel and Skipper Good, as well as a multitude of other crimes.

5The Northcotts


In 1926, ranch owner Gordon Stewart Northcott visited family in Saskatchewan, bringing his 14-year-old nephew Sanford Clark back to his ranch in Wineville, California. This was to be the beginning of a horrifying ordeal for poor Sanford, who became the victim of unimaginable sexual, physical, and mental abuse at the hands of his uncle. Gordon’s mother, Sarah Louise Northcott, did nothing to protect the boy. When Sanford’s sister came to visit from Canada, she discovered the abuse and reported it to the LAPD, who took Sanford into custody. They had no idea of the true scale of the horrors they were about to uncover.

Sanford told the police of dozens of child murders committed by his uncle, with the willing participation of his mother, Sarah. The pair forced Sanford to assist in their crimes. By the time authorities got back to the ranch Gordon and his mother were long gone, but the evidence of their crimes was not—a search yielded bone fragments and personal effects belonging to several missing children. Walter Collins, whose disappearance inspired the movie Changeling, was one of the boys that the Northcotts supposedly murdered. Gordon Northcott was eventually caught and executed for his crimes, while his mother received life in prison. Poor Sanford was eventually returned to his parents in Canada and went on to live a normal life.

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4The Lefranc Family


In 1998, a chance remark led to police in Illies, France discovering a gruesome tale of rape and murder. Paul Lefranc, 76, had not only been confined by his family to living in a rabbit hutch, he was also forced to share his meals with the dog that the family had trained to attack him—when the police finally investigated the old man was covered in bites. The family matriarch, “Fat Lucie,” also allowed her two oldest sons to repeatedly rape her daughter Patricia, who was terrorized into silence. Patricia says she gave birth to as many as six children as a result of the attacks. Her brothers then murdered the infants and buried them in the garden. Both were charged with rape and murder, while “Fat Lucie,” Patricia, and youngest son Dominique faced a variety of charges ranging from accessory to murder to failure to report the crimes. The abused father was put into a care home for his own safety.

3Futoshi Matsunaga And Junko Ogata


In 1998, a 21-year-old woman escaped from an apartment in Fukuoka, Japan. She told police she had been held against her will for almost two years and tortured with electric shocks. Seven others, including her father, were already dead.

The murders, which shocked Japan to the point that many newspapers would not even report on the details, were carried out by Futoshi Matsunaga and his common-law wife Junko Ogata. The victims included six members of Ogata’s family. Many were starved to death or died after receiving repeated electric shocks and brutal beatings. The youngest victim was just five years old. Another was just 10. Police were unable to determine whether she was electrocuted or strangled.

Authorities suggested that Matsunaga, a career criminal, had imprisoned his victims in the apartment in order to gain money, both by stealing their savings and by forcing them to borrow money and give it to him. Matsunaga himself claimed he had not intended to kill any of the deceased, referring to them as his “money trees.” Nonetheless, one by one, they were starved, shocked, or beaten to death and their bodies thrown into the ocean. Matsunaga carried out few of the murders directly, preferring to threaten Ogata or one of his prisoners into performing the deed. Both were sentenced to death, although Ogata’s sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

2Inessa Tarverideyeva, Roman Podkopaev, And Their Daughters


Inessa, a nursery school teacher, and her husband Roman Podkopaev, a qualified dentist, were found guilty of leading a vicious gang responsible for the deaths of at least 30 people across southern Russia. The couple’s oldest daughter, Viktoria, and an unnamed teenage daughter are also believed to have been part of the gang. One of their most vicious murders occurred in 2009, when the couple killed the family of police commander Dmitry Chudakov, who were sleeping in their vehicle on their way home from a holiday on the Black Sea. Inessa shot Chudakov and his wife while Padkopaev stabbed their two children to death. Rumor has it that Inessa liked to go after police officers as one had left her for another woman

Inessa and her family were highly organized, using information from Podkopaev’s sister and brother-in-law, who had police connections, to organize their crimes around police activity. Another victim was police officer Ivan Shakhovoi, who was shot and killed when he attempted to stop members of the gang fleeing the scene of a crime.

Podkopaev was eventually killed in a bloody shootout with the police and Inessa was arrested. A search of the family home uncovered rifles, grenades, shotguns, silencers, and ammunition. Inessa and Viktoria have confessed to their crimes.

1The Knorrs


Theresa Cross was born in California on March 12, 1946, marrying Clifford Sanders at the age of 16. The marriage was a rocky one, but settled down for a period after the birth of their first child. But then, during an argument over Clifford’s alleged infidelity, Theresa picked up a gun and shot her husband dead. When the police arrived, Theresa insisted she had been acting in self-defense—she was pregnant and couldn’t let her husband hurt her unborn child. When a jury found her not guilty, they couldn’t have known the horrors that would follow.

Theresa gave birth to a daughter, Sheila, and later married Vietnam veteran Robert Knorr. The couple settled in Sacramento and had a daughter, Suesan, followed by two sons, William and Robert. As well as constantly accusing her husband of cheating, Theresa vilely mistreated their children; slapping them, locking them in closets, and force-feeding them until they were sick. The couple divorced while Theresa was pregnant with their youngest daughter, also called Theresa. Robert tried to see his children but was continually thwarted by his ex-wife. Eventually, he just gave up.

Theresa then married Chet Harris, before immediately divorcing him in a jealous rage after he started spending time with her daughter Suesan. After the divorce Theresa’s drinking and abusive nature grew worse. By now she was throwing steak knives at her children, holding guns to their heads, and forcing them to beat one another.

By 1982, Theresa was losing her grip on reality, accusing Suesan of using witchcraft to make her gain weight and frequently chaining the girl to her bed at night. The situation escalated until Theresa shot her daughter in the chest. Refusing to call an ambulance, Theresa had her other children place Suesan in the bathtub and patched her wound with gauze. Although Suesan eventually recovered, the bullet remained in her.

The abuse continued to intensify, culminating in Theresa stabbing Suesan in the back with a pair of scissors. When Suesan begged to be allowed to move out, Theresa agreed, on one condition—she wanted to remove the incriminating bullet from her daughter’s back. She succeeded in knocking her daughter out with a combination of prescription drugs and liquor and ordered her 15-year-old son to cut the bullet out. Although she survived the operation, Suesan’s condition quickly worsened until her mother realized that she was dying. She had her sons tie Suesan’s arms and legs and load her into the car. They drove out to an isolated hillside in the country, where Theresa casually set her daughter on fire and drove away.

With Suesan out of the way, Theresa’s attentions turned to her daughter Sheila, who she forced into prostitution. She eventually flew into a rage after becoming convinced she had contracted an STD from the toilet seat she shared with her daughter. In order to get Sheila to confess, Theresa locked her in a tiny closet without food or water. Six days later, Theresa opened the closet to find her daughter dead. Sheila was packed into a cardboard box and dumped by the side of the road.

Deciding it was time to leave the scene of the murders, Theresa packed up and ordered her kids to set the house on fire. Amazingly, she got away with it until 1992, when her only surviving daughter, the now-adult Theresa, was watching America’s Most Wanted and was inspired to tell the police about her grim childhood. The authorities finally caught up with the older Theresa in Salt Lake City. She died in prison in 2011.

fact checked by Jamie Frater