It’s evident that the U.S. has the highest number of serial killers compared to other nations. In 2016, traces of active serial killers were found in countries including the United States, Thailand, Kenya, Canada, Italy, Germany, Colombia, Costa Rica, Russia, Turkey, the U.K., India, and China. Specifically in the U.S., suspected serial killers were apprehended in states like New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas, Ohio, and Alaska.
One notable incident in Alaska involved a cab driver who reported a non-paying passenger to the police. This passenger was subsequently linked to multiple murders along a bike path.
In Phoenix, Arizona, a serial shooter continued to elude capture. Moreover, the infamous Long Island serial killer case garnered significant media attention.
This article also includes several chilling quotes from serial killers, offering a disturbing insight into their psyche. Their remarks about their heinous acts are as casual as ordinary people discussing dinner plans.
Who Is Most At Risk?
According to Pennsylvania State University, both male and female victims are almost equally targeted by serial killers, with a slight inclination towards women. When considering the racial background, two-thirds of the victims were white, while African-Americans constituted nearly a quarter.
As per NCBI Serial killers predominantly prey on younger victims, with the risk of being targeted declining significantly after the age of 30. In 2016, the majority of victims were women, but the pool of victims varied widely, including homeless men, pedestrians on bike paths, prostitutes, children, hospital patients, and abducted women.
FBI Says serial killers’ motivations differ. Some, who were nurses, eliminated patients they found annoying or wanted to portray themselves as heroes by “saving” them.
Others sought revenge for a parent’s death or believed they were purifying society by ridding it of the homeless and prostitutes. Nearly half of these killers were sexually motivated, though it’s essential to note that not all were driven by sexual desire but rather power or even humiliation.
Which States Rank Highest in Serial Killer Activities?
A comprehensive examination of data unveils the states with the most alarming history of serial killer activities.
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 5.86
- Total Serial Killings: 174
Oklahoma’s startling legacy with serial killers traces back to the dawn of the 20th century. With 174 documented cases, it stands out as a hotspot in the grim annals of American crime.
According to a symposium held by the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC), serial murder is defined as “The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s) in separate events.” Oklahoma’s history of serial killings aligns with this definition, and the state has been a focal point for discussions around the motivations and characteristics of serial murderers.
Decade Highlight: The 1980s were especially harrowing, witnessing 48 serial murders. However, an essential distinction lies in excluding Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber, from these statistics. McVeigh, responsible for the death of 168 individuals, is not classified as a serial killer due to the nature of his crime.
Notable Killer: Jackie Lynn Taylor, known as the “Oklahoma Butcher”, plagued the state with a series of brutal murders, leaving communities in constant fear.
Most Active Decade: 1980s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 6.01
- Total Serial Killings: 78
Utah’s association with serial killers becomes particularly chilling given the residence of Ted Bundy in the state between 1974-1975. While Bundy confessed to the murder of eight women during this short span, expert estimates suggest a higher number, potentially reaching 14.
As per research from the Office of Justice Programs, Utah’s association with notorious serial killers like Ted Bundy has made it a significant case study for understanding the motivations and patterns of these criminals. The state’s law enforcement agencies have collaborated with national bodies to ensure that such heinous crimes are curtailed.
Decade Highlight: The 1980s saw the numbers soar, with 31 documented cases of serial killings.
Notable Killer: Arthur Gary Bishop, a chilling child murderer, went on a horrific spree in Utah during the early 1980s, targeting young boys.
Most Active Decade: 1980s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 6.11
- Total Serial Killings: 793
With its vast landscapes and urban centers, Texas sadly ranks high on the list, witnessing almost 800 documented cases of serial murders since the 1900s. The vastness and diverse population might be factors attracting these nefarious individuals.
In a report by the FBI, Texas has been highlighted for its high number of serial murders. The vastness of Texas, combined with its diverse population, has been studied to understand the factors that might be attracting these nefarious individuals.
Decade Highlight: The 1990s, with grim figures reflecting the state’s tumultuous battle with serial killers, saw high-profile cases catching national attention.
Notable Killer: Dean Corll, infamous as the “Candy Man”, left a trail of horror in Houston during the early 1970s, primarily targeting teenage boys.
Most Active Decade: 1990s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 7.35
- Total Serial Killings: 276
Louisiana, with its rich history and cultural blend, has unfortunately been marred by a series of chilling serial murders.
The Office of Justice Programs has documented Louisiana’s unfortunate history with serial murders. The state’s rich cultural blend has been juxtaposed with the chilling crimes that have marred its history.
Decade Highlight: The turn of the millennium was particularly brutal for Louisiana, witnessing a steep rise in such heinous crimes.
Notable Killer: Derrick Todd Lee, widely recognized as the Baton Rouge Serial Killer, terrorized the state from 1998-2003, leading to extensive investigations and media coverage.
Most Active Decade: 2000s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 7.36
- Total Serial Killings: 162
Oregon’s serene landscapes and picturesque beauty are unfortunately marred by a history of disturbing criminal activities, painting a grim contrast to its natural allure.
Oregon’s picturesque landscapes have been overshadowed by its history of serial killer activities. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the state has been a subject of numerous studies to understand the underlying causes and patterns of these heinous crimes. The state’s law enforcement agencies have been working diligently to ensure the safety of its residents.
Decade Highlight: The 1980s remain a dark period in Oregon’s history. This decade observed the state grappling with a rise in heinous crimes attributed to serial killers.
Notable Killer: According to Murderpedia Dayton Leroy Rogers, notoriously dubbed as the “Molalla Forest Killer,” unleashed terror during the late 1980s, with a series of brutal murders that shook the state’s communities.
Most Active Decade: 1980s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 7.44
- Total Serial Killings: 277
Washington has had its fair share of notorious killers. Its legacy with serial killers has deeply impacted its communities and remains a part of its darker history.
The state of Washington has been home to some of the most notorious serial killers in American history. As per the National Institute of Justice, understanding the behavioral patterns and motivations of these criminals is crucial for prevention and intervention. The state’s collaboration with national research bodies has been instrumental in devising strategies to combat such crimes.
Decade Highlight: The 1980s stand out as a particularly harrowing period for Washington, with serial killings reaching alarming numbers. A significant portion of these can be attributed to one man in particular.
Notable Killer: Gary Ridgeway, known widely as the “Green River Killer”, is perhaps one of the most infamous names associated with Washington. He confessed to murdering 48 individuals, although many speculate the number to be much higher.
Most Active Decade: 1980s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 7.81
- Total Serial Killings: 1507
California, with its expansive landscapes, vibrant cities, and the allure of Hollywood, has unfortunately been a playground for numerous serial killers throughout history.
Decade Highlight: The 1980s were a time of heightened terror for California, with serial killer incidents peaking. One-fifth of the total serial murders in the US during that decade occurred in this state.
Notable Killer: As per USA Today The ominous Zodiac Killer remains one of the most enigmatic figures in criminal history. He boasted about 37 murders through cryptic messages to media and police. The actual number, some argue, might be even higher.
Most Active Decade: 1980s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 9.92
- Total Serial Killings: 778
Florida’s sunny beaches and popular tourist attractions juxtapose a haunting legacy of serial killings.
Florida’s sunny beaches and vibrant culture have been marred by its history with serial killers. According to the UCF, the state has been a focal point for discussions around the motivations and characteristics of serial murderers. Collaborative efforts between local and national law enforcement agencies have been crucial in addressing this issue. Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Decade Highlight: The 1980s saw Florida grappling with a rise in serial killer activities, with several cases capturing national attention.
Notable Killer: Daniel Rolling, the “Gainesville Ripper,” became a figure of terror in 1990. His gruesome modus operandi and chilling crimes around the Florida University campus left an indelible mark on the state’s history.
Most Active Decade: 1980s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 12.19
- Total Serial Killings: 98
Nevada, the glittering hub of gambling and entertainment, has a shadowy side. The state has been a setting for a series of chilling serial killer incidents.
Decade Highlight: The late 1980s, coinciding with Las Vegas’ gambling boom, saw a spike in such heinous crimes, particularly targeting vulnerable populations.
Notable Killer: Neal Falls, a suspected serial killer, was linked to a string of murders of prostitutes in Nevada. His reign of terror ended in 2015 in a fatal altercation in West Virginia.
Most Active Decade: 1980s
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 15.65
- Total Serial Killings: 51
Alaska’s breathtaking wilderness and sparse population make it a stark backdrop for the dark legacy it holds in terms of serial killings.
The serene wilderness of Alaska provides a stark contrast to its dark history with serial killers. While there have been efforts by the Alaska Department of Public Safety to understand and curb these crimes, the state’s unique geographical and demographic challenges make it a subject of continued study and vigilance.
Decade Highlight: The state faced a series of chilling serial murders between 1980 and 1990. More than half of Alaska’s total 51 serial murders occurred during this period.
Notable Killer: According to Financial Times Robert Hansen, infamously recognized as the “Butcher Baker”, remains one of the most prolific serial killers in Alaska’s history, haunting the memories of the state’s inhabitants.
Most Active Decade: 1980s
States Worth Mentioning
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 6.75
- Total Serial Killings: 324
While New York might be famous for the Big Apple, iconic landmarks, and bustling life, the state hasn’t been immune to the chilling grips of serial killers.
Decade Highlight: The late 1970s and early 1980s were particularly disturbing, with several cases drawing media attention and creating city-wide panic.
Notable Killer: According to Biography.com The “Son of Sam”, David Berkowitz, terrorized the city in the 1970s with his series of heinous crimes.
Comparative Insight: While New York has seen fewer serial killings per capita than some of the states we’ve discussed, the media frenzy and the sheer population density meant that the psychological impact on the general public was profound.
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 7.12
- Total Serial Killings: 215
Georgia, known for its southern hospitality, beautiful landscapes, and rich history, has a dark side that’s been highlighted by a series of unsettling serial killer incidents over the years.
Decade Highlight: The early 1980s was a period when Georgia struggled with a series of child murders that shook the core of the community.
Notable Killer: The “Atlanta Child Murderer”, Wayne Williams, was linked to a series of child murders that spanned over two years in the early 1980s.
Comparative Insight: Compared to states like California or Texas, Georgia might have lower numbers, but the disturbing nature of crimes, especially those targeting children, left a lasting scar on the state’s psyche.
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 6.55
- Total Serial Killings: 262
Illinois, home to the Windy City and renowned for its musical history and architectural wonders, has a shadowed past that includes some notorious serial killers.
Decade Highlight: The late 1970s witnessed an unnerving series of murders that brought the state to the attention of the national media.
Comparative Insight: While Illinois may not top the list in terms of numbers, the severity and gruesomeness of the crimes, especially by killers like Gacy, make it a significant part of the broader discussion on serial killings in the U.S.
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 5.98
- Total Serial Killings: 190
Known for its historical landmarks and beautiful landscapes, Pennsylvania also has a history tinged with serial killer activities that cannot be overlooked.
Decade Highlight: The 1990s were a time when Pennsylvania saw a surge in serial killer activities, bringing it under the national spotlight.
Notable Killer: As per Murderpedia Harvey Robinson, one of America’s youngest serial killers, started his spree in the early 1990s, targeting women in the Allentown area.
Comparative Insight: While Pennsylvania may not have the staggering numbers seen in California or Texas, its experiences with serial killers, especially young ones like Robinson, provide a unique and disturbing perspective on the phenomenon.
- Adjusted Serial Killings per 1 Million: 6.04
- Total Serial Killings: 201
Michigan, with its picturesque Great Lakes and renowned motor industries, has been witness to a history of chilling serial killer episodes.
Decade Highlight: The late 1970s to early 1980s saw Michigan grappling with a series of mysterious disappearances and murders.
Notable Killer: The “Oakland County Child Killer” remains an unsolved mystery from the late 1970s, where at least four children were abducted and murdered.
Comparative Insight: While the numbers in Michigan might seem relatively moderate compared to states like Florida or Washington, the unsolved nature of some of its most notorious cases, like the Oakland County Child Killer, adds to the state’s enigmatic and dark legacy.
Famous Serial Killers Still At Large
The Long Island Mystery
According to FBI For over two decades, a New York-based serial killer has been active, claiming at least ten lives from 1996 to 2010, with potential undiscovered victims.
Known as the Long Island Mystery or the Online Predator, the full scope of these crimes remains a puzzle. The discovery of human remains at Gilgo Beach while searching for a missing individual, Shannan Gilbert, led authorities to believe it might be a serial killer’s dumping ground.
The search revealed ten bodies, with most victims being female escorts from Craigslist. The case remains unsolved, with theories suggesting the killer might have ties to law enforcement.
Jeff Davis 8 Enigma
As Medium says From 2005 to 2009, eight women, aged 17-30, were found in the swamps of Jefferson Davis Parish near Jennings, Louisiana. Many victims knew each other, and some were police informants.
The investigation hinted at potential police misconduct, and some believe the killer(s) might be within law enforcement. The case gained renewed attention in 2019 due to a Showtime documentary.
The West Mesa Mystery
In 2009, a woman discovered human bones near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Investigations revealed the remains of eleven women, all linked to the sex trade.
While two suspects have been identified, neither has been conclusively linked to the crimes. Further reading from GBI Georgia.
Brazil’s Shadow Assailant
In Carapicuiba, Brazil, a killer targeted gay men between 2007 and 2008. Known as the Shadow Assailant, he executed 13 victims, all found in Paturis Park.
The city, São Paulo, was progressive, but there was significant anti-gay sentiment at the time. A suspect was tried in 2011 but was acquitted.
Ibadan’s Horror Forest
In Nigeria’s Soka forest, a motorcyclist discovered a horrifying scene in 2014: buildings with rotting corpses, severed skulls, and live victims chained. Rumors suggest it might be a site for ritualistic sacrifices.
The Smiley Face Theory
Over 20 years, 45 college-aged males drowned in 11 states after intoxication. Some detectives believe these are the acts of a serial killer or group, as smiley faces were found near some sites. The theory suggests victims were drugged, killed, and staged as drownings.
Pedro Lopez – The Andes Enigma
Pedro Lopez, known for his crimes across South America, was captured in 1980 and confessed to killing around 300 young girls. He was released in 1994 and hasn’t been seen since 1998.
The I-70 Phantom
In 1992, a killer targeted stores near Interstate 70, killing young, petite, brunette women. Six victims were claimed in a few months. The case remains unsolved, with sketches of the potential killer released to the public.
The Vending Machine Poisoner
As New York Times says In Japan, 1985, 12 people died from paraquat poisoning. Investigations revealed that most victims had consumed the drink Oronamin C from vending machines. Someone had been poisoning these drinks and placing them back on vending machines.
The Man with Vacant Eyes
In Russia, between 2004 and 2007, a killer, known as the Danilovsky Maniac or the Man with Vacant Eyes, murdered and raped women. The killer remains at large.
Serial killers remain one of the most disturbing aspects of modern society. While many are active today, it’s a relief that those mentioned in these documentaries aren’t lurking nearby.
What is the difference between a serial killer and a mass murderer?
A serial killer commits multiple murders over an extended period, with cooling-off periods in between, while a mass murderer kills multiple people at one location in one continuous act.
How do law enforcement agencies track serial killers?
Law enforcement agencies use a combination of forensic evidence, behavioral profiling, witness testimonies, and sometimes even geographic profiling to track and apprehend serial killers.
Are there any preventive measures to protect oneself from potential serial killers?
While there’s no foolproof method, being aware of your surroundings, avoiding isolated areas, especially at night, and informing someone trustworthy about your whereabouts can be helpful.
How do serial killers typically choose their victims?
The choice of victims varies widely among serial killers and can be based on opportunity, specific preferences, or triggers that are personal to the killer.
What role does the media play in serial killer cases?
The media can play a dual role: on one hand, they can help law enforcement by spreading information and generating leads; on the other, excessive media attention can sometimes glorify the killer or hinder investigations.
The dark world of serial killers remains a haunting enigma in modern society. While the numbers and stories are chilling, it’s crucial to remember that awareness, vigilance, and community collaboration can play a significant role in prevention and justice. Let’s remain informed, stay safe, and ensure that such heinous acts become a thing of the past.