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Top 10 Stupid Mistakes That Ended A Serial Killer’s Career – 2020

by Nicholas Vrchoticky
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Stupid mistakes happen to us all. Generally, we walk away from them with a small life lesson, maybe some bumps and bruises, or wishing we would’ve just ordered the cheeseburger. We live low-stakes lives. But, with a high-stakes life, like if you happen to be a serial killer, a stupid blunder could destroy your entire career. Let’s look at the top 10 stupidest things that ended a serial killer’s career.

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10 Driving Under the Influence While a Dead Body Rode Shotgun

“Scorecard Killer” Randy Kraft, who was convicted of killing 16 people (investigators suspect as many as 67), was brought down in 1983 after being pulled over for erratic driving. When Kraft exited the car, he slung his beer bottle to the side and earned himself a ride downtown.

After Kraft was safely secured in the back of the police car, the arresting officer went to check on the passenger in the front seat. The young man wouldn’t wake up. Which, happens when you’re dead. One of many reasons not to drink and drive.[1]

9 Stealing a Car

Stealing a car is a pretty stupid thing to do when you’re a serial killer, and it got one famous murderer more than grand theft auto. Ted Bundy was arrested in 1978 by officer David Lee of the Pensacola Police Department. The officer ran the plates because the car was acting suspiciously, and that car turned out to be stolen. Bundy was arrested. Of course, that was after he’d murdered at least 30 people. You’d think evading police for 30 years would’ve made Bundy smart enough to avoid this amateur blunder.[2]

8 Getting a Parking Ticket

Of all the things that could lead to a serial killer’s arrest, a parking ticket should be low on the list. In the case of the Son of Sam, it was a minor citation tucked under a windshield wiper that provided the final clue to catching a murderer who’d terrorized NYC for a year, killing six people.

The parking ticket, along with eye witness testimony, placed David Berkowitz near the scene of Robert Violante’s murder in July of 1977, providing enough evidence for investigators to obtain the search warrant that led to his arrest. Berkowitz had a lot going on with the murder chargers, but I wonder if he ever paid that parking ticket…[3]

7 Clogging the Toilet

Clogged drains can do a lot more than annoy the neighbors in your apartment building. Depending on what you stuffed down them, they can also lead to your arrest.

Dennis Nilsen, who was convicted of six North London murders in 1983, moved to an upstairs apartment from his previous, ground-level flat. Without a yard in which to bury bodies, he had to come up with a new method of disposal. So, he did what any psychotic murderer would do, he flushed his victims’ decomposing flesh down to goldfish heaven. Just like “flushable” wipes, this quickly became a problem, clogging the drains for the entire building. Once it was discovered that human remains caused the blockage, investigators quickly flushed Nilsen out.[4]

6 Trusting the Authorities

It’s common for people with relationship troubles to say that trusting someone was their downfall. Dannis Rader was no exception.

Radar, known as the “Bind, Torture, and Kill” or “BTK killer”, eluded the police for thirty years and killed ten people between 1974 and 1991, before disappearing until 2004. After his reemergence, he taunted investigators with packages and coded messages, even leaving a note asking the authorities if he would be safe to communicate via floppy disk. Investigators responded with an ad in the Witchita Eagle assuring him he’d be super-duper, perfectly safe to do so. Guess what? They lied. They were able to pull all the information they needed to track the killer down from that floppy disk. Like they say, “love all, trust few, and, maybe, don’t strangle people.”[5]

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5 Dropping an ID at the Crime Scene

Rule #1 for getting away with murder is to keep your identity secret. So, if you go around dropping your ID at a crime scene, you’re probably going to get caught.

Peter Goebbels, whose serial killing was a product of his serial raping, must not have known rule #1. He had a short run, strangling four victims through 1984-85 in Berlin. Goebbels isn’t typically remembered for his killings. Instead, he’s known as “that one killer stupid enough to leave his ID at the crime scene.” Authorities don’t have to waste a whole lot of time investigating when you leave all your information at the murder. The only thing stupider than that would be releasing a victim because you thought they liked you.[6]

4 Releasing a Victim Who Pretended to Like Them

Most people agree that you shouldn’t kill people. They also agree that if you do kill people, you probably shouldn’t release a victim just because they pretend to like you.

Lisa Noland was 17 years old when she was captured by Bobby Joe Long and raped over a 24-hour period. As a former victim of abuse, Noland had developed the know-how to survive an abuser. So, like a pro, she played her part, lying and appeasing the lunatic until he believed she had feelings for him. He even gave her a ride home. She was blindfolded for most of the encounter, but letting a victim go breaks the serial killer code, and releasing Noland ultimately led to his arrest.[7]

3 Bragging About Their Latest Kill

Keeping your mouth shut is a necessary skill in the serial killer’s arsenal. It’s one field were bragging will end your career early. The Lainz Angels of Death, a group of nurses-turned-serial-killer, learned this the hard way.

The Lainz Angels of Death operated out of a hospital in Vienna, Austria. Under the direction of “Head Angel” Waltraud Wagner, the group poisoned, overdosed, and drowned at least 42 patients (possibly over 200). They were caught and convicted in 1989 after a doctor overheard them bragging and joking about their most recent kill. Due to Austria’s max sentence laws, all of the Angels of Death had been released by 2008.[8]

2 Going to the Barber With a Victim’s Blood Still in Their Hair

Most barbers offer shampoo services along with your shave and haircut, but it’s best to avoid them if you still have your victim’s blood in your hair. Earle Leanard Nelson, the “Gorilla Strangler,” never got that memo.

Nelson had been accused of killing 26 women by the time he was arrested in 1927. After killing victim Emily Patterson and losing some hair in the process, Nelson decided to get a post-murder shave and haircut. It never crossed his mind that the barber would notice the dried blood in his hair or the scratches on his scalp. So, when Patterson’s body was found, the barber was able to fill in Nelson’s description, linking him to the crime.[9]

1 Bringing Their Friend to See the Corpses

A turn in Tucson’s history: the case of the Pied Piper murders

Artists love to show off their hard work and, most of the time, their friends are happy to take a look. In the case of Charles Schmid, that “hard work” was a pair of teenage corpses that would mark the end of the “Pied Piper of Tucson.”

It’s been reported that teenage girls were drawn to Schmid, lured in, which is how he got the nickname “Pied Piper.” Schmid was only convicted of three murders, and he probably would’ve committed more had he not brought his buddy, Richard Bruns, to a gravesite to show him the corpses of the Fritz sisters. Naturally, Bruns turned in Schmid and Schmid was arrested. Someone should’ve told him that “show and tell” didn’t include murder victims.[10]

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About The Author: I write in dank holes like the basement troll I am. More often than I’d like to admit, you can find me staring at words for so long that I disbelieve their validity. Follow me on Twitter @NickVrchoticky

fact checked by Jamie Frater