Crime is not a seasonal affair. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day or Easter, there’ll be people out there breaking the law. Whether it’s speeding, assault, burglary or murder.
When it comes to the more serious and bloody end of the criminal spectrum, the end that features such heinous acts as taking a person’s life, there is one square on the calendar that stands out above all others… Halloween.
Does October 31st - a day so intrinsically associated with horror and the grotesque - really offer up more murder than any other date in the diary? It’s hard to say. But what’s undeniable is that All Hallow’s Eve certainly brought out the very worst in these folks…
Here are 13 of the most horrendous Halloween homicides:
A row over a missing bag of candy ends in murder
You could forgive a 5 year-old becoming enraged after losing a bag of trick or treatin’ sweeties and throwing a tantrum. But a 55-year-old? Ledell Peoples lost his cool on Halloween night 2011 in a domestic disturbance in Chicago’s South Side that turned very ugly indeed. Not able to track down his bag of Hershey’s, Jolly Ranchers and Tootsie Rolls, he accused his partner, 49-year-old Maria Adams, of stealing them from him. As way of response to the accusation, she threw a plate at his head. Peoples picked up a knife and repeatedly stabbed her. She died in hospital and her killer got 30 years. Over some sweets.
A Halloween tradition leads to a bullet in the head
Chucking eggs at houses and cars is a classic - if rather juvenile and annoying - Halloween prank. But after a long day at work and an evening of trick or treating with his girlfriend and her young son, 21-year-old Karl Jackson was in no mood for his car to get egged on Halloween night 1998. Unfortunately for all concerned, it was. South Bronx is a tough neighbourhood, so when Karl got out of his car to remonstrate with the kid who went sunny side up on his vehicle, he took a risk. Sadly, the risk didn’t pay off. 17-year-old Curtis Sterling shot Karl in the head, killing him instantly. Sterling was arrested, charged and imprisoned for murder. Every Halloween, Karl Jackson’s mother sends her son’s killer a card telling him she’s glad he’s rotting in prison.
Amarillo, Texas. On October 31st 1981, 76-year-old nun Sister Tadea Benz was raped and strangled in her convent. On November 9th, Johnny Frank Garrett, who lived across the street from her, was arrested for the abominable crime. On February 11th 1992, he was executed via lethal injection by the State of Texas.
Garrett's final meal was ice cream. His final words were: "I'd like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me. And the rest of the world can kiss my a*s."
Since his execution, there have been various doubts raised surrounding his guilt. Increasingly, many people believe that Johnny was innocent. Not that that helps Johnny now, of course.
A Halloween house of horrors
The scene Ohio teenager Devon Griffin walked into 'was like something out of a haunted house,' he later said. Returning home from church on Sunday October 31st 2010, Devon found his brother Derek, mother Susan and Susan's new husband William Liske all dead, savagely murdered.
There was only one suspect... William Liske Jr. Suffering with schizophrenia and with a documented history of violence and wildly unpredictable behaviour, the 24-year-old was quickly found at a local halfway house and arrested. He confessed, admitting to all three murders. Liske, it transpired, had shot his father five times, bludgeoned his older stepbrother Derek to death with a hammer and then raped and shot his stepmother Susan.
Liske Jr. would take his own life in prison in 2015.
The final vile murder of the 'Tool Box Killers'
Shirley Lynette Ledford was the fifth - and thankfully final - victim of LA serial killers Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris. The two men are some of the cruellest serial killing duos ever to disgrace the planet. Known as ‘The Tool Box Killers’ because of their vile and perverted penchant for tool-based torture, the sick pair would often tape-record their crimes.
On Halloween night 1979, Bittaker and Norris snatched 16-year-old Shirley from a gas station, where she was hitchhiking home after a Halloween party. They beat her, raped her, tortured her externally and internally with pliers and eventually strangled her with a wire coathanger. Finally, as a final insult, they dumped her lifeless body on a random front lawn.
Both men were caught a month after killing Shirley so viciously. They are still imprisoned in maximum security institutions to this day. Both remain unrepentant.
'The Man Who Killed Halloween'
Heard the old wives’ tale of the poisoned sweets at Halloween? Supposedly given out by a crazy neighbour, the candy will kill any kid that eats it… Luckily, it’s not a real thing. Although it was once. In Texas in 1974.
Ronald Clark O’Bryan laced five Pixy Stix with potassium cyanide and planned on killing five local kids. Among them, his son. Why? Well, the plan was to blame the poisonings on a neighbour, see him imprisoned and O’Bryan could collect the insurance policy he’d taken out on his young son.
11-year-old Timothy ate his cyanide-filled sour candy on his dad’s suggestion. It had enough poison in it to kill two people. Within an hour he was hospitalised and declared dead. Luckily for the other four children, fast-thinking and acting local detectives figured out what had happened due to the smell on young Timothy’s breath and confiscated the other Pixy Stix before they could be consumed.
On the 31st of March 1984, Ronald Clark O'Bryan - dubbed 'The Man Who Killed Halloween' - was put to death by the state in Huntsville, Texas. As the liquid chemicals entered his veins, a baying mob of 300 locals shouted ‘Trick or treat!' and threw hard candy at a small group of anti-death penalty protesters.
Smiley face murder?
Like all the other poor murder victims here, Chris Jenkins died at Halloween. Unlike all the other poor murder victims here, Chris Jenkins could very well be tied into a widespread crime phenomenon. One known as the Smiley Face murder theory.
University of Minnesota student Jenkins disappeared on Halloween 2002, turning up in the Mississippi River, still wearing his Halloween costume, some four months later.
His death is believed by local police to have been the result of accident or suicide, but the similarities between Jenkins’ death and those of many other young men found in water across North America have led many to wonder if there’s not
A Halloween costume… the perfect disguise
Los Angeles hairdresser Peter Fabiano opened his front door to trick or treaters on Halloween evening 1957. Before he could reach for a few gobstoppers to throw into the brown paper bag that one was holding, bullets blasted out of the bag and into his chest. He’d been shot to death with a .22 calibre pistol. The pair were Goldyne Pizer and Joan Rabel. Both pleaded guilty to murder and served lengthy prison terms. The two women were lovers. Joan was also seeing Fabiano’s wife Betty, though. Jealous and enraged, she plotted to get Peter out of the picture, with Pizer’s help. The date was picked as it was seen as the perfect night to skulk the neighbourhood in disguise. And it was. Not that it helped them get away with it, of course.
The neighbour from hell
Halloween night, 1973. The city of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Nine-year-old Lisa French, dressed up as The Littlest Hobo, went trick or treating. She only got next door. Neighbour Gerald Turner opened up, took little Lisa into his home and shut the door behind her. Turner then raped and killed her, stuffing her tiny body in a plastic bag and dumping it in a nearby field. As of 2018, ‘The Halloween Killer’ has been eligible for parole, but the state continues to refuse his release. Their (rather understandable) argument is that he is ‘a sexually violent person and should not be released back into society.’
All Trick, No Treat
When 12-year-old trick or treater T.J. Darrisaw knocked on Quentin Patrick's door in the city of Sumter, South Carolina, on Halloween night in 2008 - he expected candy. What he got was 29 bullets through his front door from a fully automatic AK-47. 11 of which hit him, killing him instantly. The poor kid's dad and younger brother were also hit but pulled through and survived. It turns out that Quentin Patrick was a convicted drug dealer that had upset a rival gang of dealers and was fully expecting retribution. What he got was blood on his hands and 30 years inside.
Halloween Murders ‘Predicted’ by Son of Sam
David Berkowitz, responsible for New York City's 1977 'Summer of Sam' reign of terror, is a man who knows murder. He certainly knew about the murders of Ronald Sisman and Elizabeth Platzman. And in advance.
How? Well, Berkowitz didn't plan and kill the Manhattan couple. He was in jail when he 'predicted' their Halloween 1981 deaths. So how did he know they were going to be shot in the head, execution-style? Well, he had long since claimed that he was only partly responsible for the killings attributed to him. Berkowitz says that he was part of a satanic cult and that Sisman had a video of one of the Son of Sam shootings that was going to make its way to authorities. So the cult killed him to protect themselves.
Is there any truth to them rumour? Well, one of the greatest books of crime non-fiction ever, Maury Terry's The Ultimate Evil, argues in great detail that there is.
The full truth will almost certainly never emerge.
Scream if You Wanna Die Faster
Killers in masks - it's mostly just a movie thing. So it makes sense that on one of the few times a real-life murder is committed by a masked man, that mask is from a film. In the unlawful killing of 19 year-old Brooklyn man Anthony Seaberry in 2013, the killer was sporting a ghost face mask as seen in the popular horror pastiche Scream and its sequels.
The case remains unsolved, although it's thought by some that the shooting was tied in with other shootings across New York City that night for which a man was later shot and killed by police officers.
A Truly Unwelcome House Guest
Adriane Insogna, Leslie Mazzara and Lauren Meanza spent most of Halloween night 2004 handing out treats to door-knocking kids at their home in Napa, California. At approximately 11pm, the three women retired to bed.
There would be one more person knocking on their door that night.
Meanza, after hearing a blood-curdling scream, ran out of the house and drove away. Mazzara and Insogna were left in the house. Both had been savagely stabbed to death by Eric Matthew Copple, a friend of one of the women.
Copple turned himself in to police and confessed, but explained his motive for the double slaying. He is now serving a full life sentence without the possibility of parole.