What drives someone to kill their entire family, especially when outwardly, they seemed happy? Whether the cases involve secret affairs, money issues or mental illness, family murders can be some of the most tragic and shocking.
These are some of the most infamous familicide cases.
1. Ronald Gene Simmons
It was the worst mass murder in Arkansas and the worst involving a single family in the whole country. On 22nd December 1987, Ronald Gene Simmons began by shooting and bludgeoning his wife and eldest son before strangling his three-year-old granddaughter. He then laid their bodies outside in a cesspit.
When four more of his children (aged between eight and seventeen) returned home later that day, he lured each of them away separately, on the promise of giving them presents, then strangled and drowned them all in a rain barrel.
Four days later the rest of his family came for their Christmas visit. Simmons proceeded to shoot his son and daughter-in-law, before strangling and drowning their son. Afterwards, he killed his daughter and her husband, as well as his grandchildren.
He lay out their bodies in his house, covered with coats, before going out for a drink. Then he came home, drank beer and watched TV, surrounded by the dead.
Two days later he drove into town and shot and wounded several others, killing Kathy Kendrick and J.D. Chaffin, before he was caught and arrested by police. He was later sentenced to death - something he didn’t fight.
He never gave a reason for his crime and was also accused of sexually abusing his daughter Sheila and fathering one of his granddaughters.
2. Chris Watts
Shanann Watts was pregnant when, in August 2018, she and her two daughters went missing. Her husband, Chris Watts, claimed they had disappeared. However, after he failed a polygraph test and his mistress came forward, he confessed to murder.
He claimed the crime was committed during a fight with Shanann, that he had asked for a divorce, then ‘snapped’ and strangled her. He then put her body in his truck and drove it, with their two daughters, to a remote work site. It was there that he murdered his children and dumped their bodies.
In 2019, he confessed the murder had been premeditated and that he had also given Shanann drugs to make her miscarry.
3. Christopher Foster
50-year-old Christopher Foster was known as a millionaire. He lived in a mansion worth £1.2 million, with 16 acres of land, riding paddocks and a lake. According to his sister-in-law, he had multiple affairs and had at least eight mistresses. However, by 2005, his finances had taken a turn; his liabilities outweighed his assets. He told police his former accountant was blackmailing him. In 2007, his company went into liquidation.
In 2008, after attending a barbecue, he killed his family. He shot his wife, Jill, in their bedroom, before going into their daughter's room and shooting her, too. Then he killed their horses and dogs, before pouring oil throughout his house, setting it on fire and shooting himself.
4. Neil Entwistle
In 2006, the body of Rachel Entwistle was found lying on the bed she shared with her husband, Neil, in their home in Massachusetts. With her was the body of their nine-month-old daughter, Lillian. They had been shot.
Neil Entwistle had purchased a ticket and flown home to England. The couple seemed happy and lived an affluent life in a large, luxury home. Entwistle, who worked in IT and sold computer products on eBay, claimed he had money in offshore accounts.
However, he was really in a vast amount of debt, being investigated by eBay after multiple complaints by customers they never received the goods, and trawling escort sites. A few days before the murder of his family, he had researched online how to commit murder.
Entwistle was arrested by the Met Police and extradited to the US, where he was found guilty of double murder.
5. Steven Sueppel
In March 2008, Steve Sueppel, a former vice president of a bank, attended Easter Mass with his wife, Sheryl, their four adopted children, his parents and in-laws. The following morning, police received an anonymous phone call asking them to come to the Sueppel house immediately.
When they got there, they found the bodies of Sheryl and the four children. They had been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Steven Sueppel had put in the call from his minivan, before he drove it into a concrete abutment on the interstate, causing it to burst into flames and killing him.
At the Sueppel home, police found a four-page note detailing the crime. Sueppel had also left voicemails for his father and brother, as well as ones for his former colleagues, apologising.
Sueppel had recently been charged with embezzling $599,040 from the bank where he worked, as well as laundering $13,500 and was facing years in prison and a $1 million fine.
6. Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit was a pro-wrestling star with a 22-year career. Then, over three days in 2007, he killed his wife and son before committing suicide.
His wife, Nancy, was found strangled and bound in the couple’s bedroom, with a Bible placed by her body. He then asphyxiated their seven-year-old son and left another copy of the Bible next to his body. A day later, he hanged himself.
Toxicology reports found steroids in Benoit’s system, which led some to speculate he had committed the crimes while in a ‘roid rage’, while others have wondered if it was his career that was responsible. His brain showed severe damage caused by a number of concussions suffered while wrestling.