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10 Gruesome Cases Of Cannibalism In Modern-Day America
When we think of cannibalism in the United States, our minds often envision worst-case scenarios of survival, like the consumption of human meat as practiced by the Donner Party. While eating a deceased human being in order to prevent death by starvation may be viewed as a somewhat forgivable taboo, recent acts of cannibalism in America are much less justifiable and may develop into a horrifying addiction.
The most notable and frighteningly successful example of a modern-day cannibal in the United States is none other than the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. If you thought that the list ended with this well-known man-eater, be prepared to confront some more of the most despicable cannibals in contemporary America.
Note: We aren’t kidding when we say this list is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.
10 Hadden Clark
Hadden Clark was a considered a misfit and neighborhood oddball from the onset of puberty. Known for cross-dressing in private from a relatively young age, he had few friends and trouble relating to his peers due in part to unpredictable mood swings and erratic behavior. So, when six-year-old Michelle Dorr disappeared from her yard in 1986, it was quite surprising that Clark was not considered an immediate suspect, given his close proximity to the child on the day she vanished and his previous diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.
It was only after Clark was arrested and charged with the murder of 23-year-old Laura Houghteling in 1992 that authorities tied him to the disappearance of young Dorr. Clark had served as a handyman for Houghteling’s mother, a kindly religious woman who pitied the eccentric young man. It was Laura’s distrust and fear of Clark that ultimately led her mother to discontinue his services. This enraged Mr. Clark and was the motive for his murder of Houghteling.
It would be years after the disappearance and murder of little Michelle Dorr that Clark revealed that he had consumed parts of the young girl’s flesh and even bragged of making a keepsake necklace consisting entirely of the child’s finger bones.
Clark was sentenced to 30 years for the murder of Michelle Dorr and 30 years for the murder of Laura Houghteling to be served consecutively. In a completely unrelated case, Hadden’s older brother, Bradfield, was convicted in 1985 of strangling and dismembering a woman in California.
9 Omaima Nelson
An Egyptian-born former model, Omaima Nelson moved to the United States in the late 1980s in an effort to discover means to live a posh So Cal lifestyle. After relocating, she met William Nelson, a man 33 years her senior who had previously been convicted of smuggling marijuana. The couple married after just two months of dating.
Though Mrs. Nelson claimed that she was sexually abused by her husband and suffered from battered spouse syndrome, it wasn’t until 1991 that she sought her revenge: the murder, dismemberment, cooking, and cannibalization of William Nelson. These grisly acts, the 23-year-old Omaima claimed, were performed in accordance to various Egyptian beliefs regarding meeting her husband in the afterlife.
As if the murder and dismemberment of William Nelson at the hands of his wife were not gruesome enough, details of exactly how his various body parts were cooked and disposed of are far more disturbing. During her trial, a psychiatrist testified that Mrs. Nelson admitted to cooking her husband’s ribs “barbeque style” before sampling them. Authorities also testified that Mr. Nelson’s hands were fried in oil, as well as his head being boiled and stored in a freezer. Additional remains were put down the couple’s garbage disposal, which neighbors said ran nonstop for hours following the murder. Omaima later denied cannibalizing her husband’s remains.
Omaima Nelson was convicted of second-degree murder and the assault of a former boyfriend with a gun. She is currently serving a sentence of 25 years to life.
8 Marc Sappington
In July 2004, 25-year-old Marc Sappington was convicted on multiple criminal counts stemming from a PCP-fueled crime spree that occurred in April 2001. Sappington was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of acquaintances 25-year-old Terry Green, 22-year-old Michael Weaver Jr. and 16-year-old Alton “Fred” Brown Jr. He was also convicted of kidnapping and assault as a result of a carjacking gone awry.
While the lives of Green and Weaver were clearly taken much too soon, it appears that it was the teenaged Brown who suffered the worst fate. According to Sappington, voices told him to consume flesh and blood or he would die. This led to the dismemberment and consumption of a portion of Brown’s flesh. Sappington froze additional sections of the boy’s remains for later consumption.
Throughout the trial, Sappington’s attorney claimed that mental illness—rather than drug intoxication—is to blame for her client’s sudden violent outburst and sickening actions, as his mother was known to suffer from schizophrenia. Contrary to his attorney’s claims, Sappington admitted on video to only hearing voices describing violent acts while he was high on PCP.
Marc Sappington is currently serving three life sentences for the first-degree murder charges. He also received 6.5 years for the kidnapping charge and 2.5 years for assault related to the kidnapping. These sentences are to be served consecutively.
7 Otty Sanchez
Consuming the body of any human being is perhaps the most unthinkable crime one can commit, though Otty Sanchez took cannibalism to an even more despicable degree when she stabbed, decapitated, and ate portions of her three-week-old son in 2009.
In the early morning hours of July 29, 2009, Sanchez’s sister, Priscilla Garcia, made the ghastly discovery of the infant’s fate. Not only was the baby dead and extremely disfigured, but Sanchez had also stabbed herself in the heart and stomach in a failed suicide attempt.
San Antonio investigators collecting evidence at the crime scene have said that they could barely speak upon viewing the child’s remains. While Sanchez’s five- and seven-year-old nieces and sister slept in a nearby room, the woman began stabbing and decapitating her son with a steak knife and two swords. She later told police that the Devil made her kill and eat her son, including parts of the child’s brain. Three of the baby’s toes were also chewed off.
Following examinations by three separately appointed doctors, Otty Sanchez was found not guilty of murdering and mutilating her son by reason of insanity. The 32-year-old has been in the custody of a state mental institution since 2010.
6 Tyree Lincoln Smith
On January 20, 2012, the decomposing and severely battered body of 43-year-old Angel “Tun Tun” Gonzalez, a local homeless man, was discovered on a mattress in an abandoned apartment building in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Medical examiners determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head.
Thanks to the help of Nicole Rabb, Tyree Lincoln Smith’s cousin to whom he confessed the sordid details of his crime, police were eventually able to locate and apprehend the man guilty of the brutal slaying. He had traveled all the way to Lynn Haven, Florida.
Smith, 35, gave a confession which was both blunt and eerie. According to the arrest warrant in the case, Smith had been sleeping on the porch of an abandoned apartment building sometime in December 2011. The considerate Gonzalez woke the unfamiliar man and invited him inside the vacant building to get out of the cold. At some point after entering the building, Smith attacked Gonzalez with an axe, stating that the wounds to the victim’s “head were so severe that [Smith] was able to remove an eye from the man’s head along with pieces of brain matter and a piece of his skull.”
After killing Gonzales, Smith walked to a local cemetery and proceeded to eat the victim’s eye and bits of brain matter. The arrest warrant states that the killer made a repulsive comment comparing the flavor of the victim’s eye to that of an oyster.
In July 2013, Tyree Lincoln Smith was found not guilty of his crimes by reason of insanity. While Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky could have ordered Smith’s immediate release, he made the decision to sentence the man to 60 years in a psychiatric hospital.
5 Jieming Liu
At 79 years of age, it came as little surprise that Jieming Liu’s health was slowly deteriorating. He and his wife, Yuee Zhou, left China’s Hunan Province for the United States in November 2011 in order to live near their son, Yening Zhou.
Though Jieming Liu was never officially diagnosed with a degenerative condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, Yuee suspected such an ailment was affecting her husband and had confided in her son about his father’s failing health and worsening mental state. The growing concerns surrounding Jieming’s health caused Yening to become a regular fixture at his parents’ new home, checking in on his folks every day between 4:30 and 5:00 PM.
Yening’s daily visit to his parents’ home on April 5, 2012, revealed a violent, gut-wrenching scene. The elderly Liu sat on a rocking chair, his body, including his face, smeared with blood. At his feet lay the body of 73-year-old Yuee Zhou, face down and in a pool of blood. Upon realizing his son’s presence, Liu began to repeat the phrase, “This is not your mother.”
Yuee’s left arm had been severed below the elbow. The detached section of arm was missing the majority of its flesh, as was the upper arm to the extent of bone being exposed. Severed fingers and blood stains were strewn about the home, as well as bits of flesh scattered near Yuee’s lifeless body. Due to the nature of the crime scene and Liu’s appearance, prosecutors believed that the man had consumed some of his wife’s remains.
Liu was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for an evaluation following his arraignment on April 6, 2012, the day after Yuee Zhou’s horrific murder. He was then transferred to Lemuel Shattuck Hospital and died on May 5, 2012, exactly one month after Yuee’s death. Liu’s cause of death remains unknown.
4 Alexander Kinyua
Twenty-two-year-old Alexander Kinyua’s penchant for violence was already apparent when housemate Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie disappeared in late May, 2012. In February of the same year, Kinyua posted odd rants on his Facebook page referring to mass human sacrifice, making mention of the tragic Virginia Tech shooting and warning that “ethnic cleansing is the policy, strategy and tactics that will affect you, directly or indirectly in the coming months.” Just days before Agyei-Kodie’s disappearance, police say Kinyua attacked a fellow Morgan State University student with a baseball bat, leaving the man with a fractured skull and loss of vision in one eye. He was freed on $220,000 bail after the May 19 assault.
Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie was an immigrant from Ghana. He’d been taken in by Kinyua’s father, Dr. Antony Kinyua, while completing his PhD. Agyei-Kodie had been living with the Kinyua family in Maryland for roughly six weeks when he vanished while jogging on May 25, 2012. The Kinyuas reported the 37-year-old house guest missing the following day.
On May 29, Kinyua’s brother made a gruesome discovery in the family’s basement: two tins containing a human head and hands. Alexander Kinyua initially denied that the remains were human. When his brother later led his father to the basement to examine the findings, the tins were gone.
Police were called to the home and obtained a search warrant for the property the following day. Kinyua eventually admitted to using a knife to kill Agyei-Kodie, then cutting up his body and consuming his heart and sections of his brain. Additional remains of the man were located in a trash bin at a church near the Kinyua home.
Alexander Kinyua pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges in August 2013, but he was not found to be criminally responsible for the crime due to mental illness. He was remanded to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for an indefinite period.
3 Rudy Eugene
Dubbed The Causeway Cannibal, Rudy Eugene is at the center of a rather unique case. His victim, a 65-year-old homeless man named Ronald Poppo, survived the brutal attack that involved his face being bitten, chewed, and disfigured.
Naked and apparently bent on mayhem, Eugene encountered Mr. Poppo on May 26, 2012, when the drifter was sleeping peacefully under the MacArthur Causeway in Miami. For reasons unknown, Eugene began beating the homeless man, rolling his body about on the ground and eventually removing Poppo’s pants. Eugene then began chewing on the helpless man, causing the removal of roughly 80 percent of the flesh on Ronald Poppo’s face. The seemingly random and outright vicious attack was only brought to an end when a police officer was forced to shoot and kill Eugene, who repeatedly refused to follow requests to stop attacking Poppo.
Rumors spread quickly that Eugene had been high on bath salts during the time of the attack, a synthetic amphetamine cocktail of sorts that has caused similar incidents of rage and destruction. But a full toxicology screen showed that the deceased attacker had none of the common ingredients associated with the production of bath salts in his system on May 26. In fact, the only drug in Eugene’s system at the time of his death was marijuana.
Autopsy results also failed to reveal the presence of human flesh in Rudy Eugene’s stomach, though witnesses at the scene claim to have seen the 31-year-old swallow some of the flesh he chewed off of Poppo’s face.
As for Ronald Poppo, the 18-minute attack caused him to lose one eye and his nose, necessitating a number of extensive reconstructive surgeries.
2 Gregory Hale
Referred to by neighbors as “sick” and a “devil worshiper,” Gregory Hale did very little to hide his morbid obsessions with cannibalism and death. Hale was known to take home bones, blood, and eyeballs when employed at a meat processing plant and wrote of cannibalism and his devotion to a serial killer, Richard Ramirez, on his Facebook page.
Gregory Hale met 36-year-old Lisa Marie Hyder at a liquor store on June 8, 2014. The two went back to Hale’s parents’ rural Tennessee home and had sex. It was sometime after this encounter that Hale killed Hyder and dismembered her body. Hyder’s head and hands were placed into a plastic bucket, while her feet were placed into another bucket. An arrest warrant in the case states that Ms. Hyder’s torso was buried in a burn pile on the Hale family’s property.
Police were alerted to Hale’s activities after being informed by an unnamed source that the 37-year-old was seeking assistance in disposing of a body. Hale was subsequently arrested, admitting to authorities that he killed Lisa Marie Hyder and had eaten some of her body following her death.
Gregory Hale pleaded guilty in Hyder’s murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in January 2015.
1 Joseph Albert Oberhansley
Joseph Albert Oberhansley is no rookie when it comes to crime—including murder. While living in Utah in 1998, Oberhansley killed his 17-year-old girlfriend, Sabrina Elder, and attempted to murder his own mother, critically injuring her instead. Elder had given birth to the man’s child only days before her murder. In a plea deal, the killer was convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder for the incident. He served just 12 years before being granted parole in 2012.
Shortly after being paroled, Oberhansley moved to Jeffersonville, Indiana. There he met Tammy Jo Blanton, a woman that supported and stood by him despite his ongoing criminal activity. In 2013, Oberhansley was arrested for strangling a fellow bar patron and resisting arrest. July 2014 led to yet another arrest due to Oberhansley’s erratic driving, causing a slow-speed police chase. Tammy Jo Blanton posted his bail in both incidents, describing herself as his fiance during one of the felon’s many court hearings.
During the early morning hours of September 11, 2014, the dysfunctional couple’s relationship took a turn for the worst. Blanton had changed the locks on her house in an effort to keep Oberhansley out, leading her to call the police when the angered man attempted to get inside the home. He was told to leave by the responding officers, though he was not arrested for the incident.
By the late morning hours of September 11, co-workers became concerned with Blanton’s absence and asked police to check up on her. The woman’s mutilated body was soon discovered in the bathtub of her home, covered with a tarp. Blanton, 46, had suffered multiple stab wounds. Her skull and chest had been cut open, with the majority of her heart, sections of her lungs, and a large portion of her brain all missing. Investigators discovered further evidence of the nature of the crime: bloody plates, pans, and utensils located in the kitchen.
Still inside the home when officers arrived, Oberhansley eventually admitted to cooking a section of Tammy Jo Blanton’s brain and eating it, as well as consuming pieces of her heart and lungs.
Oberhansley is currently being held without bond. His trial was previously set to begin on February 6, 2015.
M. Gail Collier is a lover of true crime tales, psychological oddities and conspiracies of all sorts. She is currently working on a book based upon her correspondence with convicted serial killers. Contact her by email.