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10 Joyous Weddings That Ended Tragically

by Robert Grimminck
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Weddings should be the happiest day of someone’s life. In most cultures, they are giant celebrations filled with festivities. However, weddings can also be incredibly stressful and emotional. As a result, anything can happen, and it’s rare for everything to run smoothly. Then there are times when tragedy strikes and it turns the joyous event into one of the darkest days for everyone in attendance.

10The Wedding Of John Henry Thompson And Mildred Collins

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In the early morning hours of July 25, 1966, Mildred Collins was preparing for her wedding and reception that was to be held later that day in Baltimore, Maryland. She sent her husband-to-be, 25-year-old John Henry Thompson, out before 2:00 AM to get more rum. A short time later, Collins received a call from an unidentified man asking her to pick up Thompson. Not wanting to leave her home, where she was hosting out-of-town relatives, she told the man to get Thompson a cab.

The next morning at around 11:00, the man called again and told Collins to pick up Thompson at a home in Baltimore. Collins got a neighbor to drive her over and, when she got there, a woman answered the door armed with a knife. The woman told Collins that Thompson wasn’t going to marry her and then called her an insulting name. Collins, who carried a gun with her because of her work at a nightclub, started firing wildly into the home. She injured the woman who answered the door, the woman’s sister, and killed her husband-to-be. It turned out that the woman who answered the door was Thompson’s girlfriend, whom he had been staying with off-and-on up until a month before the wedding.

Despite claiming that the attack was done in self-defense, Collins was given a life sentence for murdering her husband just hours before the wedding. She also received two concurrent 10-year sentences for injuring the two women and for weapons charges.

9The Wedding Of Pedro III Of Kongo

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Photo via Wikimedia

Starting in 1665, civil war raged in the kingdom of Kongo in the west central part of Africa. The war was between different houses in the kingdom and times were treacherous for anyone connected to the royal families. Pedro III, a member of the House of Kinlaza, was originally made king in 1669 but was forced out for almost 10 years. In 1678, he invaded the Kongo capital with an army and killed King Daniel I, a member of the Kimpanzu house. After the battle, which destroyed the capital, Pedro claimed that he had the throne in Lemba while the members of the Kimpanzu house were forced into the Soyo area of the kingdom.

In 1683, the prince of Soyo negotiated a peace treaty between the houses of Kinlaza and Kimpanzu that would be made official by a marriage between the two houses. Pedro went to go meet his new bride and the wedding train. However, the wedding was a trap—Daniel’s brother, Manuel de Nobrega, had disguised himself as the bride. When Pedro approached, Manuel pulled out a pistol and shot him to death.

The deception had a ripple effect on the history of the kingdom of Kongo because it made it difficult for anyone to broker peace. The civil war finally came to an end in 1709 under the rule of King Pedro IV.

8The Wedding Of Frank Walker And Maud Goshorn

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Frank Walker and Maud Goshorn were married in a ceremony in Montgomery, Missouri on October 5, 1899. After exchanging vows, they went to the house of a relative where there was a dinner held in their honor. The feast was going well until, unexpectedly, a shotgun was fired and buckshot pellets came through the dining room window, striking the bride and groom and a small child. The child was severely injured, but the newlyweds were hit in the head. They died upright in their chairs, side by side, without saying any last words to each other.

Neighbors and wedding guests formed a posse and went looking for the shooter. They heard the sound of another shot and headed toward it. Near the front gate of the house, they found the body of Charles Rankin, a rejected suitor of the bride. He had taken off the rim of his hat and put it around the trigger of the shotgun. He’d put the barrel to his forehead and pulled on the rim of the hat with his big toe, which pulled the trigger and blew off the top of his head.

On his body, they found a note taking responsibility for the murders. It stated that he thought he would be going to hell for the murders and his own suicide.

7The Wedding Of Henry Spires And Rosie Harris

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On the morning of May 26, 1934, in Ramsey, Illinois, farmer Henry Spires traveled to the nearby farm of 69-year-old Thomas Hayes to pick up his wife-to-be, 17-year-old Rosie Harris. The wedding was set for 10:00 AM, but, when he arrived at the farm, Hayes became so enraged that Spires planned on marrying his housekeeper’s daughter that he grabbed a shotgun. Spires, Harris, and Harris’s 40-year-old mother, Myrtle Harris, fled to a neighboring farm.

The neighbor, 60-year-old William Roberts, was working in the fields when he first heard shots ring out. He ran in the direction of the shots and saw both Rosie and Myrtle dead. Roberts was able to wrestle the shotgun away from Hayes, but Hayes was also carrying a revolver. Hayes drew the second gun and shot his neighbor dead before turning the gun on himself. The lone survivor of the massacre was the groom-to-be; he managed to dodge the bullets by hiding behind a vehicle on the farm.

6The Wedding Of Suzanne Laitner And Ivor Wolff

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October 23, 1980 should have been an unforgettable, joyous day for the Laitner family because it was the eldest daughter’s wedding day. Sadly, those who survived the day would remember it for its horrors, not its happiness.

Earlier in the day, Suzanne Laitner married Ivor Wolff. After the ceremony, her parents, 59-year-old Basil and 55-year-old Avril, hosted a reception at their home in Dore, England. After the reception, Avril, Basil, and their 28-year-old son, Richard, went to a friend’s home for dinner. Their 18-year-old daughter Nicola, who had been a bridesmaid, stayed home because she was tired after the long day of festivities.

Unknown to Nicola, 42-year-old Arthur Hutchinson was outside the house watching her. Hutchinson had spent time in prison for attempting to murder his half-brother, and he was wanted for rape after escaping from a courthouse less than a month before. From outside the house, he watched the 18-year-old dancing in one of the bedrooms.

After the rest of the family returned, Hutchinson broke into the house and went to the room where he’d seen Nicola dancing, but that turned out to be her brother Richard’s room. Hutchinson stabbed Richard twice in the chest, killing him. Basil went to investigate the noise and was stabbed twice in the throat. Next, Hutchinson went to the downstairs bedroom and stabbed Avril 26 times. Finally, Hutchinson turned his attention to Nicola. Covered in the blood of her family, he raped her but left her alive.

Nicola gave an incredibly accurate description of the man who massacred most of her family and brutally raped her on the night of her sister’s wedding. He was arrested 39 days later when he was caught visiting his mother. He was sentenced to life in September 1984 with the opportunity to file for parole in 2002. However, his sentence was changed to a whole life sentence, meaning he will die in prison.

5Gladys Ricart’s Wedding

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September 26, 1999 was 39-year-old Gladys Ricart’s wedding day. Around 4:00 PM, she was doing a few last pictures with her friends and family in their Manhattan home. That’s when her ex-boyfriend, Agustin Garcia, walked into the party dressed in a suit. In front of her family and most of the wedding party, he shot the bride three times and left her to bleed to death on the floor.

The murder sent shock waves through the Washington Heights area where Ricart and Garcia lived. Garcia was a well-known and successful businessman who owned a daycare and a vocational school. Garcia’s lawyer tried to argue that there was a fight with the bride’s brother and the gun went off accidentally. Garcia also claimed that he had never planned to kill Ricart. He said that he thought they were still dating and that he didn’t know about the wedding until he saw the limousines outside her house. However, at her trial, it was revealed that he’d carried the gun with him in his briefcase and pulled it out before entering the house—all of which pointed toward intent to kill. During the shooting, a video camera was recording the celebration and captured Garcia firing three shots at Ricart after she handed out bouquets to her bridesmaids.

Garcia was convicted of first-degree murder and was given a 30-year prison sentence in February 2002.

4The Wedding Of Rogerio Damascena And Renata Alexandre Costa Coelho

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In December 2010, 29-year-old Rogerio Damascena married his fiance, 25-year-old Renata Alexandre Costa Coelho, in the middle-class city of Camaragibe, Brazil. The wedding went well, and about 200 people attended the party after the ceremony. At about 2:30 AM, the party was starting to die down and the remaining guests were getting ready to leave. Damascena told everyone to wait; he had a surprise for them. Police believe he went to his truck and got his revolver. When he returned, he hugged and kissed his new wife before shooting her in the head. He then turned his gun on his friends, killing his best man. Finally, he turned the gun on himself.

Damascena gave no indication that anything was wrong throughout the whole day, and by all accounts he was happy with the marriage. Police were baffled as to why Damascena snapped, but there is speculation that Damascena was a jealous person who may have thought his new wife was cheating on him with his best man, who was also his best friend.

3Balwinder Kaur Gakhal’s Wedding

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On the morning of April 6, 1996, Balwinder Kaur Gakhal was getting ready for her wedding with her family in their home in Vernon, British Columbia. During the preparations, 25-year-old Mark Chahal, who was Balwinder’s estranged brother-in-law, burst into the house with a gun in each hand. He started firing and murdered nine of his in-laws, including the 24-year-old bride-to-be and his estranged wife. A 60-year-old woman and a six-year-old girl were also shot, but survived.

After the massacre, Chahal tried to make an escape, but when he realized he couldn’t, he wrote a letter apologizing for murdering everyone and then shot himself in a motel room. The brutal mass murder shocked Canada. Chahal’s estranged wife had made formal police complaints about Chahal, saying that she felt threatened by him, but they’d never followed up on it. In the wake of the killing, authorities in British Columbia changed how they handle cases regarding violence toward women.

2The Kampala Wedding Massacre

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A private with the Uganda military police named Richard Komakech was attending a wedding in Kampala, Uganda on June 26, 1994. He asked a female guest at the wedding to dance, but she turned him down. After being rejected, he tried to force her to dance. However, other guests at the wedding intervened and reprimanded Komakech.

Instead of just taking the rejection like a sane person with a bit of humility, Komakech returned to the festivities a few minutes later armed with a gun. He opened fire on the wedding guests, randomly shooting anyone he could. Ten people died instantly, and he ended up killing 26 people and injuring another 13. One of the first victims to die was the woman who’d turned him down. After shooting the guests, Komakech turned the gun on himself and died along with the people he had massacred.

1The Srirangam Marriage Hall Fire

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January 23, 2004 was supposed to be one of the happiest days of 38-year-old Guru Raghavender and 35-year-old Jaishree Ramanathan’s lives. The couple and about 500 guests were celebrating their wedding at a hall in the Indian neighborhood of Srirangam. Since there were so many guests, they had to move to a makeshift part of the hall that had thatched roofing, which is a roof made from dry vegetation. It is believed that the fire started because the videographer’s equipment overheated and caused an electrical fire on the roof. Regardless of the cause, the blaze spread quickly. Part of the roof collapsed and killed people immediately. The flames also killed a number of other people and still more people were killed in the stampede to the one, narrow staircase. In total, 64 people, including the groom, were killed and 33 people, including the bride, were injured.

Five people, including the owner of the wedding hall, were convicted of various crimes. Four of them received rigorous prison sentences and were forced to pay restitution, while the fifth person was forced to pay a fine.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian crime-fiction writer. You can follow him on Facebook, on Twitter, or visit his website.

fact checked by Jamie Frater