Most people have a hard time understanding what drives serial killers due to their gruesome crimes. Most studies have found that these troubled individuals tend to be shaped by early childhood abuse, drug use, or damage to the frontal lobe. They also share certain traits, namely being egotistical, manipulative, and charismatic. Understanding their motives and traits, though, hardly helps us forget, much less forgive, serial killers’ crimes.
What follows are the most remarkable in the world– starting with the most deaths on their hands.
Luis Alfredo Garavito: 138 victims
The man who would become “The Beast” was born in Colombia in 1957. After being abused by his father, Garavito took out his frustration on poor boys between 8 and 16, whom he would lure from the street with gifts. Garavito would assault, molest, torture, and rape them before cutting their throats and dismembering their bodies. He was arrested and confessed in 1999 to killing 172 boys in 5 years and was initially given the maximum sentence. However, it was reduced amid public outcry to 22 years after he helped police find victims’ bodies. Garavito remains focused on release, planning a political career around helping abused kids.
Pedro Alonzo López: 110 victims
Lopez was also born in Colombia, as the illegitimate son of a late Conservative Party leader. After being caught fondling his younger sister, Lopez was left to the streets where he was repeatedly sexually abused. As a teen, he stole cars before winding up in jail, where he was gang-raped before killing all involved. Afterward, the “Monster of the Andes” began raping and murdering young girls across Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. Lopez was arrested in 1980 after a failed abduction, at which point he confessed to over 300 murders. However, police only believed his accounts when a flash flood unearthed one of his burial grounds. Despite being convicted, Lopez was mysteriously released from a psychiatric hospital in 1998 – and disappeared.
Daniel Camargo Barbosa: 72 victims
Barbosa was raised by an abusive father and step-mother after his mother died during his birth in 1930. He was convicted of petty theft in 1958, sexual assault in 1964, and rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in 1974. He later escaped an island prison and began abducting lower-class girls in Ecuador in the 1980s – with tales of a job or reward at a church outside of town. He was caught with one victim’s belongings, among which he’d kept her clitoris, and confessed to raping and killing 72 girls, though his total was likely around 150. He later shared a cell with Lopez in Ecuador, before being murdered himself by a cousin of one of his victims in 1994.
Pedro Rodrigues Filho: 71 victims
Filho was born in 1954 on a farm in Brazil, with a skull damaged by his father beating his pregnant mother. At 13, “Killer Petey” pushed a boy into a sugar cane press and, a year later, murdered the local Vice-Mayor for firing his father. He fled to Sao Paulo and murdered a drug dealer before settling down with Maria Aparecida Olympia. After she was killed by a gang, Filho tortured and murdered all 10 men. Then, he killed his father for murdering his mother – cutting out a chunk of his heart to chew and spit out. Filho was arrested in 1973 and killed several inmates before being sentenced to 128 years for 71 murders in 2003. However, he was briefly released before being convicted again in 2011 for riot and false imprisonment.
Kampatimar Shankariya: 70 victims
Very little is known about Shankariya beyond the brutality of his crimes. From 1977 to 78, he used a hammer to kill around 70 victims – striking a blow to each person’s head. He specifically aimed for the Eustachian tube or inner ear, as there is a tender area near there where the nasopharynx links to the middle ear. Upon his capture, Shankariya explained the great pleasure he found in killing people in this way. However, his last words before being hung in Jaipur in 1979 were as follows: “I have murdered in vain. Nobody should become like me.”
Yang Xinhai: 65 victims
Yang Xinhai was born to a poor village family in China’s Henan Province in 1968. He was an extremely clever child but dropped out of school at 17 to become a traveling laborer – only to wind up in a labor camp from 1988 to 91 for theft and then prison in 1996 for rape. After his release in 1999, the crimes of “The Monster Killer” began, as Xinhai killed entire households across multiple provinces using everyday implements like shovels and hammers. Xinhai was caught during an entertainment venue inspection and confessed to 65 murders and 23 rapes. When asked why, he replied only “I have no desire to be part of society. Society is not my concern.” In 2004, he was convicted and executed by shooting, so ending China’s longest and grisliest killing spree.
Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo: 53 victims
As the Soviet “Butcher of Rostov”, Chikatilo murdered 52 women and children from 1978 to 1990. He was born in 1936 to a family of farm laborers in Ukrainian SSR and grew up shy, with headaches, poor memory, and chronic impotence. He became a traveling laborer, engineer, and then teacher, but accusations of sexual assault led him to become a supply clerk. In 1978, he kidnapped, choked, stabbed, and ejaculated upon 9-year-old Yelena Zakotnova; from then on, Chikatilo could only orgasm in that way. His killings intensified, as he lured victims from bus or train stations and evaded suspicion through travel and breaks in his crimes. Chikatilo was picked up in 1984 but released after his blood sample did not match semen found at crime scenes. After moving to Rostov in 1984, he began using new methods to kill and started eviscerating his victims – chewing or eating body parts. Chikatilo was eventually caught leaving a crime scene, and a test showed that, unlike his AB blood, his semen and saliva matched type A samples. During his trial, he was kept in an iron cage for protection but was sentenced to death in 1992 and executed 2 years later.
Anatoly Yuriyovych Onoprienko: 52 victims
The “Beast of Ukraine” grew up in an orphanage and trained as a forestry student before turning to robbery. In 1989, while burgling a house with an accomplice, the residents unexpectedly returned, and the two men killed all 8 kids and their parents. Shortly thereafter, Onoprienko again stumbled upon a family while robbing a car, and he killed them all. Soon, he established a pattern; he would distract residents of an isolated house with a commotion and then kill the adult male before slaughtering everyone and burning the house. His killings peaked in 1996, but a national manhunt found him living with a relative, who had reported a weapons cache that contained over victims’ belongings. Onoprienko confessed and blamed the voices in his mind, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment – dying of heart failure in 2013.
Alexander Yuryevich Pichushkin: 49 victims
As a child, Pichuskin’s frontal cortex was damaged in a swinging accident, and the boy became increasingly aggressive due to bullying. His only friend was his grandfather, who gave young Alexander chess lessons in Moscow’s Bitsa Park. After his death, Pichuskin became addicted to vodka and filmed himself torturing children before turning to murder in 1992. He began attacking homeless men that he lured with vodka and whose skulls he would shatter before shoving the bottle inside. He’d aimed to kill 64 people to reach the number of squares on a chessboard, but he was apprehended after being caught on surveillance footage in 2006 and sent to prison for life, starting with 15 years of solitary confinement.
Gary Leon Ridgway: 48 victims
Born in 1949 in Salt Lake City, Ridgway stabbed a 6-year-old neighbor at the age of 16 before joining the Navy and traveling to Vietnam. His first two marriages ended due to infidelity, while he became increasingly fixated on prostitutes. In the 1980s, “The Green River Killer” began picking up vulnerable women along the Pacific Highway in Washington state and strangling them before dumping bodies in forested areas that he would visit for post-mortem intercourse. Ridgway was suspected early on but passed a polygraph in 1984 before hair and saliva samples finally led to an arrest warrant in 2001. He was convicted to life imprisonment on 48 life sentences, though he confessed to around twice that number.
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