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Ten 21st-Century American Serial Killers Who Got Away with It

by Selme Angulo
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

The heyday of American serial killers may have been back in the second half of the 20th century—specifically in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s—but serial killing never stopped from there. And it seems like it would in some respects, right? DNA technology is better than it has ever been and is routinely solving decades-old murders. Genealogy websites have certainly helped with that, and cops are willing to use them to seek justice.

Plus, just about every building everywhere has multiple security cameras attached to it now—or at least it seems that way. Pretty much everything you do is caught on camera. That might make killing a lot of people hard to do, right? Big Brother is always watching…

Sadly, there are still serial killers out there roaming the streets. There have even been some pretty prolific serial killers who have been operating with impunity in the last couple of decades alone! In this list, we’ll take a look at ten terrifying 21st-century serial killers who have been finding and murdering victims without getting caught. You won’t look the same way at the next stranger you pass on the street after you read this list!

Related: Top 10 Facts About The Serial Killer Time Forgot

10 Little Rock Slasher

Serial Killer Series | Little Rock Slasher | Currently Unsolved

Between August 2020 and April 2021, three people were murdered, and a fourth person was wounded but survived in stabbing attacks in the city of Little Rock, Arkansas. All the stabbings occurred on random early mornings between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. in the same neighborhood in the Arkansas city. And while CCTV footage may have captured various images of the killer walking through neighborhoods at the time of the attacks, it is unclear who that person is. They have never been identified or captured—at least not for these crimes.

Police made headway in the case after the fourth victim involved thankfully survived her wounds. She described the stabber as a tall, thin black man who was likely in his early 20s. He apparently came up to her while she was walking in town and, without provocation and without saying a word, began stabbing her.

Little Rock police jumped into action and began adding patrols around the city, especially the area in which the stabbings occurred. Vigilante groups even promised to hunt down the stabber. But so far, no arrests have been made. Thankfully, there hasn’t been a confirmed stabbing linked to the killer since April 2021, either. The hope is that he has stopped his attacks. Now, detectives are trying to find him while they pray he doesn’t start back up again.[1]

9 South Memphis Prostitute Killer

The Memphis Murders | Unsolved Serial Killer Documentary – Crime Scene Locations

Between the end of January and the end of February 2011, a serial killer was operating in a South Memphis neighborhood. Over just a month, he shot four female sex workers who were plying their trade in a rough neighborhood in the Tennessee city. The shootings all occurred inside or very near Mt. Carmel Cemetery. People visiting the cemetery in the daylight hours would find the dead bodies of the prostitutes littered within the cemetery and call the cops. Upon arrival, at each scene, detectives found the same thing: A sex worker shot and killed with little else to go on.

In February 2011, the shooter’s lone surviving victim managed to escape his clutches. She was shot, but she ran away and eventually made it to a hospital, where she recovered. She told police that the shooter was a young black man, likely in his early 20s. He wore his hair in very distinctive cornrows. She also gave cops the model of his car: a dark vehicle that was either a Dodge Charger or a Chrysler 300.

Memphis police suspected, of course, that all four cases were linked. They were further encouraged when they lifted common DNA from the same man at each scene. There were two problems with that, though. For one, the women were all sex workers. Thus, cops couldn’t definitively rule out yet that the same innocent “John” had paid for their services earlier in the night before they were killed.

Furthermore, the DNA they recovered didn’t lead back to anyone in any known criminal database. Yet. Cops hope that DNA will eventually prove to be a match for someone after a future arrest or run-in with the law. But for now, the three murders and fourth shooting are all unsolved.[2]

8 Boca Raton Town Center Murders

Boca Raton Mall Mystery – Dark Minds – S02 EP06 – True Crime

Throughout 2007, there were several high-profile kidnappings and murders at the Boca Raton Town Center Mall in South Florida. They drew national attention at the time for being so brazen and carried out in the middle of the day—and they drew even more attention after cops failed to figure out who was behind them.

It all started in March of that year when a 52-year-old woman was kidnapped at the mall, taken by force from the parking lot along with her vehicle, and murdered. Then, in December, another even more terrible tragedy struck: A 47-year-old woman and her 7-year-old daughter were both kidnapped from the mall, as well. They were later found bound in rope, and both were shot to death in the head in the woman’s SUV.

After the second deadly kidnapping, police also revealed that there had been a third one at the mall, which took place in August. In that incident, which cops thought was at least very similar if not directly related, a mother and her two-year-old son were kidnapped and tied up in their car. Thankfully, they were left alive and (physically) unharmed by the attacker.

Still, no one has ever been arrested for the three murders that went down at the mall. And today, cops are still as confused as they’ve ever been about who was behind them, why they carried out the awful attacks, and how they got away with it.[3]

7 Eastbound Strangler

the eastbound strangler | unidentified serial killer

The Eastbound Strangler was a serial killer operating in and around Atlantic City, New Jersey, in October and November 2006. The killer has never been identified despite a considerable reward being offered by authorities for information related to the slayings. And even more mystifying is the fact that the killer stopped murdering women nearly as soon as he began. But sadly, within just a month, four sex workers were found strangled to death.

All four women were found at the same time and in the same place: on November 20, 2006, in a drainage ditch in Atlantic City. The ditch was behind the Golden Key Motel in Egg Harbor Township, just on the outskirts of the famed gambling and casino town. All four women were waterlogged in shallow water in the ditch. They’d all been placed face down by the time cops arrived. They were all roughly 60 feet (18.3 meters) apart from each other in a line in the ditch, with each body positioned accordingly. They had their clothing on, but their shoes and socks had been removed.

The so-called “Eastbound Strangler” got his name for two reasons: For one, despite decomposition, all four women were determined to have been strangled as their likely cause of death. And second, all four bodies were pointed to the east, hence the directional name. Other than that, cops had virtually nothing to go on. The women were sex workers, and it was difficult to track down exactly when they’d gone missing and who they last saw before their lives were snuffed out.

Several people have been questioned for the murders. Police have even twice looked into whether they are related to the more notorious Gilgo Beach serial killings that took place simultaneously on Long Island, but cops have definitively ruled that out.[4]

6 The Jeff Davis 8

The unbelievable case of “The Jennings 8”

Between 2005 and 2009, the bodies of eight women turned up in various swamps and canals around the small town of Jennings, Louisiana. Situated in Jefferson Davis Parish, Jennings is an oil town in far southern Louisiana between Lafayette and Lake Charles. It’s small, rural, and mostly forgotten and neglected. That is until women started dying there in droves, which attracted the attention of both local and state cops.

With Jennings being such a small town, most of the women knew each other or at least knew of each other. But aside from that, it was difficult for investigators to make a connection between their deaths. It didn’t help that the bodies were found in such an advanced state of decomposition that even determining things like an actual cause of death was nearly impossible.

Then, with investigators stumped, the media got involved. Investigative reporters and long-form writers took up the case. They discovered that police investigations were plagued by major mistakes and missing evidence. The sheriff’s office isn’t even technically sure whether it is one serial killer who is responsible for all eight bodies or if multiple killers are operating around town. Honestly, we’re not sure which of those options is more terrifying.

Then, there’s this: Reporters diving deep into the case have interviewed people who claim the cops are involved in the killings. Allegations of crooked officers, shady sheriff’s deputies, and illicit drug rings being run out of law enforcement spaces have cropped up and persisted. To this day, the killer (or killers) has never been caught.[5]

5 West Mesa Bone Collector

UNSOLVED: West Mesa Bone Collector

The so-called West Mesa Bone Collector came to prominence in 2009 after the remains of at least eleven different women were found in the desert outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. Several people have been theorized as suspects, but nobody has ever been officially charged. And while authorities remain as stumped today about it as they’ve ever been, they wonder if the murders were committed as part of a sex trafficking operation that ran kidnapped women between Mexico, Central America, and the southwestern United States.

Based on satellite imagery and the timetable for suburban housing development on the western outskirts of Albuquerque, cops have been able to determine that the bodies of the eleven women were buried on an arroyo bank at various points between 2001 and 2005. Satellite images taken between 2003 and 2005 show various spots where tire marks and patches of disturbed soil were kicked up—in exactly the same place where the bones were later found.

A housing development began to expand on the land in 2006. Over the next three years, as it grew, it disturbed the previously unknown burial site and exposed the bones. A woman walking her dog in 2009 following a rainstorm and a flood then discovered even more bones that had surfaced. In the end, cops discovered eleven bodies of women and possibly underage girls. In addition, one fetus was also found to be buried in the area.

The women were determined to be roughly between the ages of 15 and 32 based on their bones. All the women who have since been positively identified through DNA testing were known to have been prostitutes, sex workers, and/or drug addicts. Anonymous tips have since come into Albuquerque cops that have claimed the women were victims of a suspect from Central America operating a massive prostitution ring.

The veracity of those tips is still unclear, though; to this day, cops have no leads on who might be the killer.[6]

4 Main South Woodsman

Unsolved: Worcester – Season 5, Ep. 9 – The Main South Woodsman Serial Killer – Part 1

The so-called Main South Woodsman was an unidentified serial killer working in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, between 2002 and 2007. He was called that because he picked up most of his victims—between three and five prostitutes at least, based on police investigations of possibly linked crimes—from the Main South area of the city.

All his victims were Hispanic women aged between 29 and 42. They were engaged in prostitution work in their lives and were known to police through that. Many of them were also drug addicts. Cops and the FBI were able to develop a remarkably deep psychological profile of the killer based on the murders.

They determined he was likely a blue-collar worker, like a truck driver or a maintenance man. Additionally, he likely drove a pickup truck or sport utility vehicle based on various witness tips. He was almost certainly a frequent guest along the streets of Worcester’s red light district. And he likely lived in or very close to Worcester, so he knew the area and its prostitutes very well. Unfortunately, all that and years of begging people in Worcester for help turned up nothing concrete.

In 2008, cops finally identified a person who they believed to be a suspect in the murders: Alex Scesny. He had a documented history of sexual abuse earlier in his life. Additionally, he had already been convicted of the murder of another prostitute in a separate case. But while Scesny rots away in prison, charges in the Main South killings have not been brought against him.

Aside from the cops publicly revealing him as a person of interest, they have not determined any further or more definitive connections that would definitely link him to the killings. So these serial slayings remain unsolved.[7]

3 Chicago Strangler

The Chicago Strangler & The Unforgotten 51

In the last 23 years, at least 50 women have been strangled and dumped in and around the city of Chicago. They have all been Black women, and many were employed as prostitutes and sex workers. They were all killed in more or less the same way: strangled, then either partially or fully stripped and dumped in abandoned buildings, along alleyways, or in garbage bins.

Police took notice of the spate of slayings in addition to all the usual Chicago fare and moved to investigate. In turn, several dozen of the killings were found to have led to the arrest of more than a dozen different perpetrators—so at least some of the murder victims will receive some kind of justice for their deaths.

But that still leaves dozens more slayings that have been completely unaccounted for, with no known suspects. And the community is concerned that somebody out there is killing sex workers in Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods. Worse still, if any of the slayings are linked, the killer has been getting away with it for two decades.

Community activists in Chicago have called for better police work on the case. The Murder Accountability Project has used its algorithms and pattern recognition data analysis to determine that many of the cases may be linked together, too, based on the proximity and timing of the crimes. Still, no further headway has been made on this possible active serial killer—or serial killers.[8]

2 Kauai Serial Killer

Kauai’s cold case unit focuses on island’s unsolved murders

The Hawaiian island of Kauai is known as the Garden Isle and is one of the most beautiful and tropical places in all of the United States. But for several months through the summer of 2000, it was a nightmare for women living there. Between April and August of that year, two women were stabbed to death by an unknown perpetrator. A third was attacked and just barely survived the attempted slaying.

She was able to give police enough of a description that they released a pretty detailed composite sketch of the suspect. Plus, Kauai cops were able to recover the suspect’s DNA from rape kits used on the survivor, as well as with the two deceased victims. Unfortunately, they haven’t matched the DNA with any sample on file, and the killer has gone on undetected.

During their investigation, police questioned the seventy registered sex offenders on the island, but none of them were deemed worthy of a follow-up. They eventually identified a prime suspect who had previously been convicted of rape and kidnapping on the island of Oahu seventeen years earlier. He’d been paroled from prison in 1999 and immediately moved to Kauai.

He was eventually arrested later in 2000 for violating his parole, and his DNA was taken and compared with the samples from the killer. Unfortunately for police, the DNA match was inconclusive, and he was never charged with the killings. Regardless, the Kauai serial killer—the only one in the island’s history—vanished from there, and he’s never been heard from again.[9]

1 The I-70 Killer

The I-70 Serial Killer – Dark Minds – S02 EP05 – True Crime

The I-70 Killer is an unknown serial killer who preyed upon victims across the Midwest throughout the spring of 1992. He shot at least six store clerks in small towns and at truck stops in the Midwestern United States that spring. All the shooting sites were along the Interstate 70 Highway corridor. He was never caught at the time, though.

Chillingly, in late 1993 and early 1994, a very similar spate of shootings occurred throughout Texas. Cops there weren’t sure that it was the same person, but the murders all followed the same general playbook. So a task force was set up, state police departments and local sheriff’s offices began to communicate, and the law enforcement world worried they had a multi-state, multi-year serial killer operating undetected.

Those cases are all from the 1990s, though. So, in light of the topic of this list, why are we referring to them now? Because the killer struck again nearly a decade later—after the turn of the new millennium. In 2001, a store clerk at a gas station just off I-70 in Terre Haute, Indiana, was shot and killed. Cops weren’t sure that the murder was connected to the others until November 2021, when they determined definitively that it was the work of the same person.

There was another development, too. Security camera footage caught the killer walking up to the store before the 2001 slaying. The murder in that 2001 store happened only seven blocks away from a prior murder attributed to the killer more than a decade ago. So the unknown assailant came back and repeated his stalking on familiar ground, but years later.

The security camera footage in the 2001 slaying has given cops a whole host of new leads. They have been able to identify several persons of interest in the case. Some investigative tips have even led them to deduce that the killer may be living in Indianapolis. But despite all those leads and considerable man-hours put into the case, an answer has not yet come.

As of the middle of 2024, even with a possible person of interest being looked into by detectives, no arrests have been made for any of the murders. Furthermore, the police have yet to even publicly identify that person of interest or any potential suspect.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen