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10 Serial Killers Who Were Shockingly Released From Prison Early

by Cheish Merryweather
fact checked by Jamie Frater

When a serial killer is convicted of the most horrendous crimes, we often expect them to spend the rest of their life behind bars—most likely sat on death row. Yet the justice system will always find a new way to anger the general public.

These following serial killers committed the worst crimes imaginable and have been released back into society. Despite all the pleas of the victim’s families, these monsters are able to enjoy the taste of freedom once more. Even more shockingly, some of these serial killers then went on to kill again.

See Also: 10 Secret Prisons Governments Are Hiding From Us

10 Karla Homolka

Photo Credit: Allan Foster / Flickr

Canadian serial killer Karla Homolka, alongside her husband Paul Bernardo, raped and murdered at least three women in the early 90s. One of the victims was Homolka’s sister, 15-year-old Tammy, who she offered to Bernardo as a sadistic ‘gift’. The young girl was drugged with animal tranquilizers which caused her to choke on her own vomit.

Following Bernardo’s arrest in 1993, Homolka told investigators that she was an unwilling accomplice and acted of fear; believing she would also be killed if she didn’t comply. She was offered a plea deal for testifying against her husband and sentenced to only 12 years behind bars. Later, there were videotapes discovered that clearly proved Homolka was more than a willing participant in the murders.

In 2007, Homolka was released and moved to Quebec where she remarried and had two children. She has caused outcry amongst parents at a school in Montreal where she regularly volunteers. Breakfast Television Montreal reported that a woman known only as ‘Lily’ told them, “We don’t want her here. How would you feel knowing that your child is interacting with a person who is a serial killer? It’s not right.”

9 The Lainz Angels of Death

Photo Credit: Zaldylmg / Flickr

Austrian nurses—Waltraud Wagner, Maria Gruber, Irene Leidolf, and Stephanija Meyer—became known as the Lainz Angels of Death after killing 49 patients between 1983 and 1989 at Lainz General Hospital. Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky called their crimes “the most brutal and gruesome in Austria’s history”.

The hospital was the fourth largest medical facility in Vienna with over 2,000 staff members. Wagner, who worked in the special care unit, injected a patient with a lethal dose of morphine and following this initial murder, she continued her lethal game. Wagner recruited the other three women who also killed patients with morphine, insulin, and tranquilizers.

In February 1989, a doctor overheard the nurses giggling in a bar about their latest murder and he went to the police. The evil foursome was arrested and confessed to the murders. Wagner was convicted of 15 murders and Leidolf was convicted of 5 murders. Meyer and Gruber received a lighter sentence of manslaughter—they were released after only a few years. In 2008, Wagner and Leidolf were also released and have since changed their names.

8 Charlene Gallego

Photo Credit: California Department of Corrections / Wikimedia Commons

Charlene Gallego, alongside her husband Gerald Gallego, terrorized Sacramento, California, during the late 1970s as they kidnapped 10 victims whom they kept as sex slaves before killing them.

Charlene had been married twice and left her second husband because he was “too boring”. When she met Gerald, the pair fell insanely in love with each other as they bonded over their appetite for rough sex. They then began their twisted spree of kidnapping young teenage girls from the shopping mall by luring them into a van. The victims were then bound, tortured, murdered, and their bodies either dumped or buried.

In 1984, Charlene pleaded guilty to murder and received a sentence of sixteen years. Following her release from prison, she moved to Fair Oaks, California, and changed her name. Gerald died of cancer whilst awaiting execution.

During an interview following her release, Charlene said, “I see (the murders) every day. I always see it; it never goes away. There isn’t one more than the other. They’re all horrible, horrible memories, every single one.”

7 Nikolai Dzhumagaliev

Photo Credit: Le Rat et L’Ours / Flickr

In 1979, Nikolai Dzhumagaliev killed his first victim; he grabbed a woman from the streets of Kazakh SSR (now Kazakhstan) before slitting the victim’s throat and drinking her blood. He later stated, “I always loved to hunt, often went hunting, but this was my first time hunting a woman.”

The same year, he was arrested for shooting and killing a colleague following a drunken argument. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at Moscow’s Serbsky Institute and given a lighter sentence of manslaughter meaning he was able to walk free a year later.

Dzhumagaliev killed 10 victims in total and served up the remains to unsuspecting guests at dinner parties. In 1980, he had invited several friends to his home; killed one of them and began to dismember the body in the next room. His remaining guests fled in horror and when the police arrived; they found Dzhumagaliev on his knees, smeared with blood, naked and holding a hatchet. After searching the house, they also found a woman’s severed head.

He was sent to a high-security mental clinic in a village near Almaty, where he remains today and works as a repairman.

6 Juha Valjakkala


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In 1988, 23-year-old Juha Valjakkala and his 21-year-old then-girlfriend Marita Routalammi were traveling through Åmsele, Sweden. Around midnight, he stole a bicycle and was chased by the owner, Sten Nilsson, and Nilsson’s 15-year-old son to a local cemetery and when cornered—Valjakkala pulled out a shotgun and killed both of them.

Later when Nilsson’s concerned wife was looking for her husband and son—Valjakkala led her into the woods and slit her throat. Valjakkala and his girlfriend then went on the run but they were caught in Odense, Denmark, a week later.

During the trial, both Valjakkala and his girlfriend blamed each other for the murders. A psychiatric evaluation found Valjakkala was a psychopath and had extremely aggressive tendencies. He was sentenced to life in prison and his girlfriend received only two years for complicity in assault and battery.

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Finland decided that he would be released with a suspended sentence. In 2013, he changed his name to Nikita Bergenström. During an interview following his release, he said, “I wasn’t meant to kill anyone. The situation just got out of hand.”

5 Sybrand ‘Louis’ van Schoor


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In 1992, security guard Sybrand ‘Louis’ van Schoor is known as South Africa’s worst serial murderer. Schoor was convicted for shooting 39 burglars over a period of three years when he was working as a security guard in Cape Town. He responded to silent alarms that were triggered on the business premises then shot suspects with his 9mm Parabellum. All the victims were either black or mixed race.

The former policeman never received a single caution from authorities as it was recorded that he acted within the law. That was until he was finally brought to trial by the victim’s families for seven murders and two attempted murders. Found guilty of all crimes by Supreme Court, he was sentenced to jail in Fort Glamorgan Prison, East London, South Africa.

Then in 2004, he was released having served only 12 of his 20 years in prison. He held a press conference and expressed how happy he was to be free and urged the public not to judge him on his past. Schoor stated, “To the families and friends of my victims, I apologize if my action caused any hurt and discomfort.” He added, “I have done my time.”

4 Arnfinn Nesset

Photo Credit: gencat cat / Flickr

In 1977, Arnfinn Nesset was hired as a head nurse and manager at a large nursing home in Sør-Trøndelag, Norway. Yet by 1981, there were a lot of suspicions concerning the number of deaths amongst elderly patients aged 67 to 94-years-old. Nesset was questioned by police and he immediately confessed to murdering 27 patients by injecting them with the muscle-relaxing drug suxamethonium chloride.

Nesset was charged with 25 counts of homicide but then he reversed his confession and denied all charges claiming he was interviewed under duress. A frustrating six-month trial took place and the chief prosecutor Olaf Jakhelln described him as “an ambitious man, who wanted complete control over life and death (of his victims).”

In 1983, Nesset was convicted of killing 22 patients. A jury also found him guilty of embezzlement as he conned patients out of $1,800 during his time at the nursing home. The real victim count was believed to be around 132 innocent lives. Due to Norwegian law, the maximum prison sentence is 21 years behind bars and Nesset was released after 12 years for good behavior. He is now living in an unknown location under a different name.

3 David McGreavy

Photo Credit: Unknown / Wikipedia / Fair Use

In 1973, David McGreavy brutally murdered three children—aged 4, 2, and 9-months-old. He was dubbed the ‘Monster of Worcester’ as he impaled the bodies on a neighbors fence and told investigators he killed them because they would not stop crying.

The children’s mother, who lives in Hampshire, England, said McGreavy should have been handed a much longer sentence. She told the BBC, “They said he was going in for life and then they changed it for (a minimum of) 20 years, but he hasn’t done 60 years. He took three lives, not just one or two; three.”

McGreavy was shockingly released in June 2019. The parole board stated, “The panel will have carefully looked at a whole range of evidence, including details of the original evidence and any evidence of behavior change. We do that with great care and public safety is our number one priority.”

A psychiatrist confirmed that he was no longer a threat to the public, defending “his improved self-control and the fact that Mr McGreavy has learned to remain calm in stressful situations.” The triple child killer is now free to live in the UK under strict conditions.

2 Somkid Poompuang

In 2007, Somkid Poompuang was dubbed the ‘Jack the Ripper of Thailand’ for killing five women in cold blood. The victims were all nightclub entertainers and masseuses. Poompuang was sentenced to life but then released early from prison as he was considered a ‘model prisoner’.

Just seven months after his release, he murdered a hotel maid named Rasamee Mulichand. Poompuang had managed to start a relationship with Mulichand by telling her he was a lawyer. She allowed him to move into her apartment and he killed her in cold blood. Investigator Colonel Khajornrit Wongrat said: “She told her daughter and neighbors that she was going to marry the man on 15 December, which was the day she died. The boyfriend went missing on that day, too.”

A manhunt took place and a 50,000-baht reward was offered for any information. He was finally re-arrested after two students recognized him on a train in the Nong Sarai district. It is believed he will now stay behind bars for the rest of his life.

1 Pedro Lopez

Photo Credit: National Police of Ecuador (assumed) / Wikipedia / Fair Use

Colombian-born serial killer Pedro Lopez, known as the ‘Monster of the Andes’, began his criminal career stealing cars which landed him his first prison sentence. He was sexually attacked behind bars and later confessed he stalked everyone who had been violent towards him and killed them.

Following his release from prison, Lopez went on a murdering spree mostly targeting young girls in Peru. He was eventually caught by a native Ayachucos community who planned to execute the serial killer but an American missionary took pity on him and persuaded them to hand him over the state police.

In 1981, Lopez spent 14 years in Garcia Moreno Prison, Peru, then was released for good behavior. He moved to Ecuador and then Colombia where he began slaughtering on average three girls a week. By the time of his third arrest, he had already abducted and murdered more than 300 victims. Nobody believed he was capable of such horrors until a massive gravesite was uncovered with many of his victim’s bodies buried there.

In 1998, he was declared sane and released under $50 bail—his whereabouts to this day are still unknown.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Cheish Merryweather

Cheish Merryweather is a true crime fan and an oddities fanatic. Can either be found at house parties telling everyone Charles Manson was only 5ft 2" or at home reading true crime magazines. Founder of Crime Viral community since 2015.

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