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Ten Real-Life Plot Twists in Criminal Cases

by Stephanie
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Everyone likes a good plot twist in a movie or a book, right? Remember finding out Bruce Willis was dead in The Sixth Sense? What about the real killer’s reveal in Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects? A plot twist makes people think about the situation, sometimes even years later. The psychology lies in the fact that we all have blind spots and see the world in a certain way. And storytellers from the ancient Greeks to M. Night Shyamalan use that to their advantage, using their plot twists to lead us astray.

But… what about in real life? Here are ten real-life plot twists that will make your head spin!

Related: 10 of the Most Bizarre Crimes From Around the World

10 Jennifer Pan

Jennifer Pan’s revenge on her ‘Tiger Parents’

Bich (pronounced “Bick”) Ha and Huei Hann Pan, a Vietnamese couple, had the real-life representation of a successful family. They had two kids, Jennifer and Felix, and worked in the auto parts manufacturing business. They had expensive cars and a great house, and their kids made great grades.

On November 8, 2010, the family, excluding Felix, who was not home at the time, were robbed at gunpoint by David Mylvaganam and Lenford Crawford. The father was shot once in the shoulder and once in the face. Bich was shot three times in the head and pronounced dead at the scene. Hann, however, miraculously survived with a broken bone over his eye, bullet fragments in his face, and a shattered neck bone after being in a coma for three days. The daughter was not hurt at all but had been tied to a banister and was the one who had called the police.

Jennifer was interviewed by police on the incident while her father was in the hospital. She described how she could hear the robbers asking her parents for money and then hearing her mother crying. She was trying to get her phone out of her waistband when she then heard the gunshots. On November 12, the father woke up from his coma and remarkably remembered the whole event. He then told the police a very interesting fact: Jennifer had been talking to one of the robbers “like a friend” before the robbery occurred.

Jennifer had, in fact, hired her friends with her boyfriend’s help for $2500 to kill her parents.

Due to her protective parents, she felt burdened by the pressure they put on her shoulders. Her grades had dropped from straight A’s to mostly B’s with one F, but Jennifer continuously reprinted her report cards through high school to give to her parents every year until she graduated. However, because of the grades, she didn’t get into her dream college, so she only pretended to be accepted and “went to school” every day when she really went to the library, her boyfriend Daniel Wong’s house, or her job. Daniel had helped her repeatedly to keep the lies together.

Eventually, her lies fell apart, and she came up with a crazy solution: What if she killed her parents? Then she wouldn’t have to deal with the problems they were causing her. Thus, Daniel and Jennifer began to plan it all out. All those involved were arrested in 2011.[1]

9 Carolynne Watson and the Satanic Cult

The Twist Will Leave You Speechless: The Case Of Carolynne Watson & Julian Buchwald

Carolynne Watson (17) and Julian Mathias Buchwald (22) were kidnapped and brought six hours away to Australia’s Alpine National Park in 2008 by a satanic cult. The couple was celibate for both legal and religious purposes, and Julian was ready to propose to Carolynne for a second time. However, they ended up in the back of a van, only to be thrown out six hours later. Both had their clothes cut off with a knife and were then left outside together in a grassy field with their hands tied. Julian managed to get up, walk over to Carolynne, and untie her hands, allowing them to get up and wander around the field. They managed to find a bag stuffed with a sleeping bag, a toothbrush, a coconut, and a knife and shovel, along with a jar of peanut butter. The couple dove into a freezing river in fear of the kidnappers coming back and cautiously moved around barefoot and naked for a week around the field to avoid being found.

The nights were freezing, and they huddled together to stay warm while it rained outside, taking shelter in the sleeping bag Julian had found in the bag. One night, he suggested they get married “under the eyes of God” before they died, ending their celibacy. However, Carolynne refused the advance as she was determined to survive and was taken aback by Julian’s suggestion. Eventually, the couple found another bag containing their cut-up clothes, and they made it to a road where they were picked up by a farmer who took them back to his house and then went straight to the police with them to file a report.

However, instead of finding this cult, the police eventually arrested Julian. Why? I’ll give you a few seconds to try to figure it out.

After being pressed by police, it wasn’t long before Julian actually confessed to staging the whole thing. His initial explanation of the event was described as “amateurish in the extreme, in particular the failure to devise any plausible motive” for anyone to kidnap the couple. This ultimately led to the unraveling of his ridiculous story. Julian had wanted to pressure his girlfriend into marrying and having sex with him, as he was impatient that she said she had wanted to wait until she finished high school first. So he decided to kidnap her instead of talking to her about it, of course.

Julian was tried and found guilty in 2009 of kidnapping and torturing the victim for six days, earning him almost eight years of prison time. The most ironic thing is that Carolynne said she actually would have married him after she graduated.[2]

8 Delimar Vera

A Mother’s Intuition: The Incredible Story Of Delimar Vera

In December 1997, a fire in New Jersey, determined to be started by electrical cords, began to erase someone’s home—and take away someone’s child. Luz Cuevas, the mother, had frantically run through the house, trying to save her three children but found she could save all but one: her baby girl, Delimar Vera. The firefighting team announced that Delimar had died in the flames, and the family was devastated by the news. However, no one was more devastated than Luz.

She screamed to firefighters in Spanish that her daughter was alive but had been taken from her. Luz, for years, would tell anyone that would listen to her that her daughter had been kidnapped that night. The mother would gain sympathetic looks from all those who knew the truth and tried to help her get through it, but she would not listen.

One day in 2003, Luz went to a birthday party where she saw a girl named Aliyah who looked a lot like how her daughter might look at that age. She got a DNA sample for a test, and surprisingly, the test came back as a positive match.

The girl had been kidnapped six years before as a newborn by a woman named Carolyn Correa, who then set the house on fire to cover up the kidnapping. The mother reflected on the day of the fire, explaining how she had gone up to Delimar’s room and found her crib empty and was absolutely joyous to see her beautiful baby girl again. The daughter, however, did not speak Spanish at all, while the mother primarily spoke Spanish, leading to some difficulties in the transition of Delimar, who decided to keep her name as Aliyah, coming back home. Carolyn was arrested for kidnapping and arson soon after the discovery.[3]

7 Dolly Oesterreich

The Insane Story of Dolly Oesterreich

In August 1922, a robber named Otto Sanhuber broke into Dolly and Fred Oesterreich’s house, stole some expensive belongings, and locked Dolly in a closet. Fred fought back against the burglar, resulting in Otto shooting the man in the struggle. The neighbors reported the gunshot to the police, but the robber escaped. Dolly, now widowed, moved into another house and continued with her life.

Soon after, Dolly had an affair with a man named Roy Klumb, who she asked to get rid of a gun that closely resembled the one the robber used. She claimed she feared it would be mistaken for the same gun. She gave another gun to a neighbor to bury. However, when Dolly broke up with Klumb later, he went straight to the police with the story. In the summer of 1923, Dolly was arrested but released on bail with her lawyer’s help. Her lawyer was Herman Shapiro, with whom Dolly would also begin an affair.

However, it turned out that Klumb was not the first guy who Dolly had had an affair with. In fact, she had an affair with a repairman before Fred’s death. The repairman was Otto Sanhuber, and their affair started in 1913. However, to keep nosy neighbors from questioning her about the young man, she decided to have him live in her attic in secret. This made it so that he couldn’t leave, even after the Oesterreichs moved to Los Angeles in 1918. Four years later, Otto heard Dolly and Fred having an argument downstairs (most likely violent), so he went to confront the man with two pistols. Fred recognized Otto from the factory he had previously worked at and was, understandably, livid about seeing Otto in his home. They attacked one another, and Fred was killed. Otto locked Dolly in a closet and retreated upstairs to avoid the police.

After Dolly was bailed out, Herman learned that Dolly had been hiding Otto upstairs in the attic, claiming that he was her “vagabond brother.” Otto quickly admitted the true relationship between the two and claimed that “Dolly had enslaved” him. Herman sent Otto away and continued his relationship with Dolly. However, things eventually became difficult between them, and seven years later, Herman had gathered enough evidence to convict Dolly and Otto for the murder of Fred. The two were arrested and tried; however, no one served any time for the murder of Fred Oesterreich. Otto walked away a free man as the statute of limitations on the manslaughter had expired. There was a hung jury in Dolly’s conspiracy to commit murder trial, so off she went.[4]

6 Angela Diaz


Angela Diaz was constantly being harassed by her husband’s ex. The ex, Michelle Hadley, had impersonated her on Craigslist and responded to “rape-fantasy” ads that she had found, sending multiple attackers to Angela’s home.

The story began in June 2016 when Angela called the police crying, saying she had been attacked by a man who had tried to rape her. Angela then started receiving emails from an unknown source, though she suspected they were from Michelle. The emails had a biblical tone to them, referring to Angela as “Eve” and Michelle as “Lilith,” threatening Angela and her unborn child with the words “I hope you are scared of death tomorrow. Be prepared. Don’t sleep, be watchful of the Daughters of God. We will steal your child, and we will watch as it dies.” Angela was convinced of Michelle’s involvement when she received the message, “He is obsessed with me, I am his treasure princess, you are nothing,” from Michelle, leading to the woman’s arrest on June 24, 2016.

However, after looking more closely at the origin IP addresses that sent the messages at Michelle’s family’s encouragement, police found that the emails had come from Angela’s own phone. Even more, it was revealed through questioning that it was Angela herself who had responded to the ads on Craigslist and sent the attackers to her own home to rape her. After looking even further, it was revealed that the sonograms for Angela’s unborn child, depicting twins, had been bought off of Etsy! Angela was revealed to be a pathological liar; this was not the first time she had done this. She had manipulated several of her old friends and lovers before, even saying to her ex-boyfriend that she had cervical cancer and sending him pictures she got offline of going to chemotherapy.

But the story gets even more twisted. Ian Diaz, Angela’s husband and deputy U.S. marshal, was arrested in 2021 and charged with one count each of perjury, cyberstalking, and conspiracy to commit cyberstalking. It seems that the couple had planned the entire thing over property the former couple—Ian and Michelle—co-owned.[1]

Life lesson of the story: You can get anything off of Etsy.

5 Ryan Waller

Most F*CKED UP interrogation ever caught on tape (*MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY*)

In December 2006, local police were called to do a welfare check on a couple by a concerned relative. The relative, Don Waller, had called because his son, Ryan Waller, and his girlfriend, Heather Quan, had failed to attend a Christmas dinner and had not answered his phone calls. Now, pay attention to the time, as they are pretty important here.

When the police arrived at the couple’s house on Christmas night at 11 pm and knocked on the door, it took a while for Ryan to slowly open it. When he did, the officers saw a large bruise on his left eye and a cut on his nose. Ryan seemed disoriented, stating when asked that he didn’t know how he got the injuries to his face, but the officers’ attention fell to the woman lying on the couch in the darkened room. Ryan said she had been “sleeping” on the couch for a couple of days. When the officers stepped inside to check on her, they saw that she was, in fact, dead due to a single gunshot wound to the head.

The police immediately arrested a confused Ryan and threw him into the back of a police car for hours while more police arrived on the scene. Ryan sat in the police car for several hours before being transferred to the interrogation room in the Phoenix police station. The interrogation lasted an hour.

Throughout the interrogation, Ryan’s behavior gets weirder and weirder as more time passes. First, the interviewer, Office Dalton, reads Ryan his rights but then realizes that Ryan doesn’t know what these are. He asks Ryan if he’s ever seen a cop show on TV and is utterly confused when Ryan says “no.” When asked if he has a girlfriend, Ryan says no. When asked about his face repeatedly, Ryan would initially say that he didn’t know but would eventually state that he was shot in the face. Officer Dalton, baffled by this, told him that there was no way he could be alive if that happened and dismissed it as another lie.

When told that Heather was dead on his couch, Ryan becomes confused, agitated, and distraught. He suddenly begins to tell the story of what happened to them, stating that “Richie and his dad” had come over and that they hit Heather and him with “bows and arrows.” The story itself was filled with contradictions and changed multiple times, and the officer didn’t seem to trust it very much. Meanwhile, Ryan starts mentioning how his head hurts during the questions.

It wasn’t until about an hour into the interview at 5:52 am that Officer Dalton noticed something on Ryan’s nose. Bullet holes. Four of them.

After Officer Dalton noticed the bullet holes in Ryan’s face, Ryan was rushed to the hospital. One bullet had gone through Ryan’s nose on both sides and then ricocheted back into his brain, where it got lodged. The four pieces of his skull that broke off also got lodged in his brain. A second bullet bounced off his skull, though it broke off another piece as well. In the hospital, Ryan’s left eye had to be removed along with pieces of his brain.

On December 23, 2006, Richie and Larry Carver broke into the couple’s house by shooting Ryan in the head when he opened the door and then shot and killed Heather on the couch before fleeing. Richie lived with the couple until he started hitting on Heather. Ryan, obviously upset about this, kicked Richie out. Richie, enraged by this, decided to kill them. They stole several weapons and a computer out of the house before leaving Ryan for dead.

It seems that Ryan had woken up later that day with severe brain damage and wandered around his house in an empty-minded state. After police arrived and jumped to conclusions before checking his physical state, Ryan waited an additional eight hours before being taken to the hospital. Every second that went by resulted in irreversible brain damage, and Ryan could no longer live on his own without his parents as his new permanent caretakers. Ryan would die ten years later due to a seizure from his traumatic brain injuries.[6]

4 The Two French Men

On August 4, 2017, two bodies were found around a dinner table keeled over. Olivier Boudin and Lucien Perot had seemingly died simultaneously, and the news that a speculated murder had taken place terrified the country.

The two men had been heartily drinking and feasting on roast beef, canned beans, camembert cheese, and a baguette when both suddenly dropped dead. It wasn’t until the next morning when a neighbor spotted that the two men had not moved at all in a couple of hours. After trying to stir them by splashing water on their faces, she realized that they were, in fact, dead.

The police speculated that the tinned beans had been poisoned to ensure that the two men would succumb to death and sent the beans and the other food to the lab for examination. The results came back negative. When that failed, the country thought that perhaps they had committed joint suicide, which was immediately put down due to Lucien being in “good spirits” earlier that day. So, the country began to believe that Olivier had committed suicide and then asked his friend to do so as well.

Only a bit messed up, right?

Later in the investigation, the autopsy revealed that Lucien had choked on his roast beef due to missing teeth and not chewing correctly. Then Olivier, who had a heart condition called cardiomegaly, an enlargement of the heart, died of a heart attack after seeing his friend die in front of him.[7]

3 Agneta Westland

The Bizzare Case of Agneta Westlund

Agneta Westland went on a walk with her dog through the woods one cold September day in 2008. However, she did not return, as she decided to walk through the woods in typical horror movie fashion.

Ingemar Westland, her husband, became worried about her and set out to look for her after she did not return, only to find her battered body lying in the woods not far from a nearby lake. Ingemar, obviously devastated, called the police and led them to her body. The police immediately suspected and charged Ingemar with murder, arresting him on the spot. He was held in police custody for ten days but remained as the prime suspect for six months afterward.

Now, I know you know this story is about plot twists, and you’re starting to see the pattern, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you now. First, Ingemar was not the murderer. Of course not—why would he be? Police later determined it was actually a drunken… elk.

Yes, an elk. You can call it a moose if you would like.

Authorities collected samples of fur and saliva from Agneta’s body and sent them for testing, confirming that they did, in fact, come from a European Elk. It is theorized that the elk munched on some fermented apples, causing it to end up in a drunken and more aggressive state. Then, when Agneta was walking her dog, the dog barked at and antagonized the moose, causing it to attack her.

As for the antagonizing dog? Its whereabouts are unknown. The moose? It is still at large to this day. So do watch out for murdering drunken moose in Sweden![8]

2 Sharon Marshall

Girl in the Picture | Official Trailer | Netflix

In 1989, a couple who went by the names Sharon Marshall (21 at the time) and Franklin Delano Floyd (at least 29 years older) got married after their son Michael was born. They immediately started having marital problems, of course. Because Franklin was physically and mentally abusive toward her, Sharon understandably wanted to leave him. This, unfortunately, led to her death at the hands of Franklin in a hit-and-run accident in 1990. Franklin then kidnapped Michael and shot him twice in the head the same day.

However, this is not where the story ends.

After digging deeper into Franklin’s past, the police discovered some shocking revelations. Franklin had gone through a horrible past, where he was abused and raped in a children’s home, where he tried to escape but failed. Once 18, he worked at the Atlanta International Airport, where he kidnapped and molested a little girl and then escaped prison, later robbing a bank.

Until 1974, Franklin lived off the grid, evading police officers and keeping a low profile. He met a woman named Sandi Chipman and, under the alias “Brandon Williams,” married her and brought her to Texas. Sandi had three daughters and one son from a previous relationship before marrying Franklin, and they seemed to be getting along. It wasn’t until 1975, when Sandi went to jail for 30 days for writing bad checks, that she would return to an empty house. Franklin had kidnapped the children.

Franklin dropped three of the children off at an adoption center, where the son was adopted, and only found out he was Sandi’s son in 2020. Sandi was able to track down the other two daughters before anything happened to them, fortunately. The last and eldest daughter, Suzanne Marie Sevakis, however, remained missing.

Shockingly, police discovered that Sharon Marshall was, in fact, Suzanne and that Franklin had raised her as his own daughter and then turned her into his wife.

Franklin was not initially arrested for Suzanne’s death or kidnapping, despite this confusing story. Instead, Franklin was detained by police for an incident in 1989: the murder of Cheryl Ann Commesso. The police discovered photos of Cheryl’s dead and beaten body alongside photos depicting the physical and sexual abuse that Suzanne went through under the hands of Franklin’s “fatherly teachings”—and I use this term loosely.

Franklin is currently on death row for the murder of Cheryl and is being investigated for Suzanne’s death and kidnapping.[9]

1 The Father of a Murderer

Season 04 : Episode 04 : Bart Whitaker

On December 10, 2003, the Whitaker family was getting ready to celebrate the upcoming graduation of their son, Bart Whitaker, from college. When the family members heard a knock on the front door after Bart got home, they answered the door with a smile. Tragically, they were met with the barrel of a gun held by a masked robber who then shot and killed 19-year-old Kevin and Tricia, the mother. Bart and his father Kent were shot and rushed to the hospital together, but without two members of the family.

As police investigated the matter, they discovered something chilling—the murders had been orchestrated by someone else. The man who killed the mother and son was a hired hitman, tasked with killing the entire family.

Well, only three of them. Bart Whitaker was, in fact, behind the assassinations that night. It was also revealed that this wasn’t the first time he had tried to kill his family. Several previous attempts were made. Knowing the police were closing in on him, Bart Whitaker fled to Mexico for a year, living on the down-low. He was eventually caught by the Mexican police and sentenced to death.

However, Bart is not the plot twist of this story. Rather, his father’s reaction is. Kent, who wrote a book on the ordeal called Murder by Family, reflects on his time with Bart after the murder, where he speaks of Bart’s guilt eating away at him. He explains that Bart’s “self-image was so negative that his own life meant very little to him, and the lives of other people meant even less. He concluded that since we claimed to have given him life, all of his problems were really our fault.”

Kent said he forgives his son for killing the family and pleaded with the judge to not kill the only family member he had left with the words, “[I’m] not asking them to forgive him or let him go. [I] just want them to let him live.”. His pleading led to his son being let off death row just minutes before receiving a lethal injection. His sentence was changed to life in prison instead.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen