The Most Notorious Killers Who Were Never Caught

Oakland County Child Killer

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Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper by Pierre André (None)

Cold Case Files

While many murderers are captured and put behind bars, some of the most notorious and shocking murder cases remain unsolved — for now. Law enforcement is using DNA testing to track the murderer who laced bottles of Tylenol with cyanide in 1982, killing seven people. From notorious serial killers to murderers who committed heinous crimes against family members, these killers were never held accountable for their crimes. 

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Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper by Pierre André (None)

Jack the Ripper

Perhaps the most notorious serial killer ever, Jack the Ripper killed and mutilated at least five women in London. All of the killings took place in 1888, and the killer allegedly sent several letters to the London Metropolitan Police, taunting them about the attacks. Jack the Ripper has never been identified, though theories about the case have named more than 100 potential suspects. 

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The LaLaurie Mansion
The LaLaurie Mansion by Reading Tom (None)

Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie

While many of the most notorious killers are men, Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie earned the title of the Savage Mistress, thanks to the brutalization of her slaves. LaLaurie was a member of New Orleans high society, and when a fire in her mansion occurred in 1834, people were furious that she didn’t open her attic to free her slaves. Reportedly, rescuers found slaves pinned to tables, living in cages, and piles of corpses and organs in that attic. A mob descended on LaLaurie’s house in search of justice, but she fled to Paris and disappeared. 

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Belle Gunness
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Belle Gunness

Another female murderer, Belle Gunness immigrated from Norway to the United States in 1881. Once in the United States, Gunness was at the center of several suspicious fires and deaths, including her first husband’s death of heart failure, the death of two children who may have been poisoned as infants, the infant daughter of Gunness’ second husband, and then Gunness’ second husband, himself. Gunness started posting notices in a local column, enticing suitors to her Indiana farm, after which they disappeared. She’s believed to have murdered more than 40 people, but disappeared and was never located. 

Zodiac Killer
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The Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer became infamous not only because of his crimes, but also because of his unusual connection with the media. The Zodiac killer murdered at least five people near San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s. He sent coded messages to newspapers, taunting the police and calling himself the Zodiac. Though there have been many suspects in this case, none have ever been proven to be the killer. 

William Bradford Bishop, Jr.

William Bradford Bishop Jr.

After allegedly bludgeoning his wife, mother, and three sons to death in Bethesda, Maryland in 1967, William Bradford Bishop Jr. allegedly brought their bodies to Columbia, North Carolina. The bodies were later discovered there, having been buried in a shallow grave and lit on fire. Bishop was charged with murder in 1976 and is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

Oakland County Child Killer
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The Babysitter Killer

Also called the Oakland County Killer, the Babysitter Killer murdered at least four children in Oakland County, Michigan. Those murders took place betetween 1976 and 1977, and they all occurred on days when it snowed. The children were abducted and murdered, and their bodies were then left in different locations, prompting one of the largest murder investigations in the country. The investigations identified several suspects, but the murders were never solved. 

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The I-70 Killer

The I-70 Killer murdered at least six people across three states during a 29-day period in 1992. The search for the I-70 Killer continues today. Police believed that the killer pursued some sort of travel, perhaps for a job, that led to the back-and-forth locations of the murders. The search for the I-70 Killer continues today.

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Glen Stewart Godwin
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Glen Stewart Godwin

Glen Steward Godwin was serving a murder sentence in the Folsom State Prison in California when he escaped in 1987. He was arrested for drug trafficking that same year, and was sent to a Guadalajara, Mexico prison. In 1991, Godwin allegedly murdered an inmate and, five months later, he escaped the prison. He’s now on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

Freeway Phantom reward poster
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The Freeway Phantom

From 1971 to 1972, a serial killer murdered six young Black women in Washington, D.C., and Prince George’s County. The killer dumped the bodies roadside and was dubbed the Freeway Phantom by the media. The killer has never been caught. 

Highway of Tears
Highway of Tears by Renegade98 (None)

The Highway of Tears Murderer(s)

The Highway of Tears refers to a 724-kilometer stretch of Highway 16 that runs through Canada. Nine women were murdered or went missing along this stretch from 1989 to 2006. Upon further investigation in 2005, it was discovered that 18 women had been murdered or disappeared along that stretch, though many people believe that more than 30 women were murdered or kidnapped. No perpetrator has been found. 

New Orleans Axeman
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The Axeman of New Orleans

From 1917 to 1919, a murderer dubbed the Axeman of New Orleans broke into Italian groceries and then viciously attacked the grocers and their families, leaving four victims dead. After terrorizing New Orleans, the killer crossed the Mississippi River and assaulted more victims in the town of Gretna, Louisiana. Police were quick to blame a neighbor for the crimes, but there was no evidence of the neighbor’s guilt. The axeman’s identity remains a mystery. 

Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge by Diliff (None)

Elmer Crawford

In 1970, Elmer Crawford used a handcrafted electrocution device to murder his pregnant wife and three children in Victoria, Australia. He put their bodies in the family car and staged the scene to appear that his wife had killed her children before committing suicide. Crawford vanished, and in 2008, a $100,000 reward was issued for information leading to his location. 

Atlanta Skyline
Atlanta Skyline by Atlantacitizen (CC BY-SA)

The Atlanta Ripper

The Atlanta Ripper murdered Black women in Atlanta, beginning around 1910 and lasting until 1912. During that time, the killer murdered at least 20 women, but the exact number and dates of the murders remain unconfirmed. Some people even believed that multiple murderers had killed the women. Though the police identified several suspects, the Atlanta Ripper’s identity is still unknown. 

Long Island Killer Investigation
Long Island Killer Investigation by Atiru (CC BY-SA)

The Long Island Serial Killer

The Long Island Serial Killer murdered 10 people and left their bodies along the Ocean Parkway in Suffolk County, New York. Police believe that nine of the victims had been sex workers, and the killer contacted them using burner phones. The murders occurred in 2010 and, though the killer hasn’t been identified, work on the case continues.

West Mesa, Albuquerque
West Mesa, Albuquerque by Clinton Steeds (CC BY)

The West Mesa Bone Collector

In 2009, a woman walking her dog discovered a human bone in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had stumbled upon a site where a serial killer had buried the bodies of 11 women and one unborn child. The crime scene was one of the largest in American history, and though police had initial suspects, the killer, deemed the West Mesa Bone Collector, remains at large.

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Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8

Jeff Davis 8 Killer

From 2005 through 2009, the bodies of eight women were found in the Jennings, Louisiana, area of Jefferson Davis County. The murders were detailed in the book "Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?" The police identified several suspects, including a member of the sheriff’s office, but the case remains unsolved.

Rochester Skyline with Stone Bridge and River

The Alphabet Killer

The Alphabet Murders took place in Rochester, New York, from 1971 to 1973. A serial killer murdered children, choosing victims whose surnames started with the same initial as their first name, including Carmen Colon, Wanda Walkowicz, and Michelle Maenza. The killer’s identity is unknown. 

The Doodler Sketch
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The Doodler

The Doodler was a serial killer who murdered five gay men in San Francisco, though it’s possible that he killed as many as 14. The murders took place from 1974 to 1975, and the murderer attracted his victims by going into gay bars, sketching the victims, and impressing them with the sketches before leaving the bar with them. Two San Francisco homicide detectives worked on the case but were unable to solve it.

spraypainted smiley face

The Smiley Face Killer(s)

When suspicious drowning deaths of young men began in 1997 and then spread across the country, several police officers theorized that a group of serial killers was drugging, abducting, torturing, and killing the victims and then dumping their bodies in the water. Graffiti in the shape of a smiley face was discovered near at least 12 locations where police believed the killers had dumped the bodies. These Smiley Face Killers have never been found, and there’s question about whether the deaths were the work of serial killers.