The Most Dangerous Serial Killers Of The 1970s

The 1970s played host not only to disco and a gas crisis but the criminal careers of 13 men who collectively ended over 600 lives.

What allowed these men to commit atrocities was the specter of inept police work and the mildest of cunning. Some remained active because they could hold down family life and pretend at respectability. Others could not have made their deviance plainer, and were still let off the hook repeatedly.

Be warned: these men were monsters, and the things they did were horrific. Also, if you like cabbage soup (for some reason), this might turn you off it. As Ted Bundy said to the New York Times, "For people to want to condemn someone, to dehumanize someone like me is a very popular and effective, understandable way of dealing with a fear and a threat that is incomprehensible." But he was a serial killer, so maybe he is not the best judge.

Joachim Kroll: killing was cheaper than the butcher

Though Joachim Kroll was convicted of a comparatively modest eight murders, he confessed to 14 (Horror Galore places the tally closer to 30 before his arrest in 1976). According to All That's Interesting, slaughtering animals as a farmhand "awakened his sex drive." Kroll preferred his partners dead (as he said, "someone who could not complain about his performance"). After murdering his victims and violating their bodies, he would go home to do the same with dolls. But he also ate parts of his victims. All That's Interesting reports that Kroll claimed he turned to cannibalism simply because "meat was expensive."

Six other men were arrested over the years for Kroll's murders. Finally, his killing spree ended owing to a toilet. A neighbor asked Kroll what had clogged it. Kroll answered simply, "Guts." Specifically, those of 4-year-old Marion Kettner. When police arrived, her hand was cooking on the stove.

Kroll was happy to cooperate with the police, assuming that they would give him the cure for his desire to kill. Instead, he received a life sentence in 1982, dying of a heart attack in 1991. 

José Paz Bezerra: the Morumbi Monster

José Paz Bezerra, the Morumbi Monster, killed from 1960 to 1971. Aventuras Na História stated that his father contracted leprosy, making him unable to work. His mother turned to sex work to support the family. 

Bezerra was in and out of juvenile detention for petty crimes until 18, when he joined the Brazilian Army. However, he was accused of theft and lost his position, returning to São Paulo. That was his hunting ground. He carried his overwhelming hatred for his mother into murdering women who reminded him of her. His good looks and easy charm helped him to lower his victims' defenses. He would leave their corpses in vacant lots bound, gagged, and sexually abused. 

In the end, he was turned in by his girlfriend, who immediately confessed what he had done when she was questioned about a theft. But because Brazil has a maximum sentence of 30 years, Folha De S. Paulo reported that Bezerra has been free since 2001. He said that his years in prison had caused him to reflect on what he had done and change how he thought.

Pedro Rodrigues Filho: serial killer of serial killers

Pedro Rodrigues Filho was an active serial killer from 1967 to 2003. This is not to say that he was not arrested during that time. Prison was precisely where he wanted to be, because he killed criminals, according to All That's Interesting. He would also lash out at those who had "wronged" him, such as his town's vice-mayor for firing Rodrigues Filho's father, accused of stealing food from the school. He then murdered the presumptive real thief. He later killed his father for murdering his mother, visiting him in prison to cut out and then chew on his heart.

His death toll is a confirmed 71, but it may reach over a hundred. Of those, 47 met their deaths while incarcerated with him. To this day, Folha De S. Paulo reported, he does not regret his murders. The days when he didn't kill, he couldn't sleep.

For all his murder, officials increased his sentence to 400 years. However, this being Brazil, he served his 30 years and was released in 2007. He returned to prison in 2011 for taking part in six riots and having a 38-caliber revolver, Clic RBS reported. He is out again and has a YouTube channel with more than 29,000 subscribers and 2.5 million views as of 2018. His videos are mainly about current crimes with a large dose of how children should mind their parents, not skateboard on sidewalks, and not lie.

Pedro López: 350 girls but only 14 years in jail

Pedro López earned his nickname the Monster of the Andes. According to Biography, he is confirmed to have murdered 110 girls across Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador in the 1970s. In 1980, he led the police to over 50 graves. It's possible that he murdered 350 girls in total.

Edit International reported that, in 1978, having already killed a hundred girls, López was captured by the indigenous Ayacucho community. They buried him up to his neck and covered his head with syrup, intending to let ants eat him alive. An American missionary stopped this, promising that she would bring him to the police. Either she or the Peruvian police instead drove to the border of Columbia and released him, where he immediately resumed killing.

For his crimes, he served just 14 years (he received time off for good behavior) before being deported to Columbia in 1994, where he was institutionalized. In February 1998, he was declared sane and released on $50 bail. Today, no one knows where he is, although he may be connected to a 2002 murder. In an interview with Edit International, he said, "Someday, when I am released ... I will be happy to kill again. It is my mission."

Samuel Little: most prolific serial killer in the United States

According to the FBI, Samuel Little's criminal career started in 1956. He fantasized about strangling women when he was a child. By 1975, he had been arrested 26 times, serving minor sentences. This encouraged him to escalate from assault to brutal murder.

He was a former boxer and could knock out the unsuspecting victims with a single blow before strangling them for sexual pleasure. The police decided that, without stab or bullet wounds, these must have been accidents, overdoses, or natural causes. Little was brought in repeatedly as a prime suspect in sex crimes and murders, but the police released him to get him out of their jurisdictions.

Finally, Samuel Little was convicted in 2012 of having killed three women between 1970 and 2005. In 2018, one more was added to his tally. But Little may have been the most prolific serial killer the United States has ever known. He confessed to killing 93 people and was credibly linked to 60, many of them sex workers. The Associated Press reported that Little understood these women would not be missed immediately. He remembered the murders in detail and could draw pictures of the women but struggled with the dates. The Associated Press quoted an investigator saying of Little's confessions, "There's still been no false information given."

Randy Steven Kraft: the Scorecard Killer

Randy Steven Kraft was convicted in 1989 for killing 16 men between 1972 and 1983. According to OrangeCoast Magazine, investigators suspect that he murdered 65 others, all males between 13 and 35. Kraft was nicknamed the Scorecard Killer. The LA Times reported that, when arrested, the police found a coded list of all his kills, referring to them by nicknames of places he picked them up ("Stable"), initials ("EDM"), or outstanding features ("MC HB Tattoo"), according to All That's Interesting. He had a predilection for Marines, having himself been discharged from the Air Force after coming out as gay. 

Kraft maintained that the names on his scorecard were just a list of friends, but photos of them being tortured were found under the floor mats of his car. A poor friend indeed. His modus operandi was to get his victims drunk on beer that had been laced with sedatives, then torture them before strangling or bludgeoning them. He would burn some with cigarette lighters and, if this were not enough, remove their genitals.

The judge in his trial said, according to OrangeCoast Magazine, "I sat there for a year and looked at Mr. Kraft. I didn't see any remorse, feelings, or regret."

Gennady Modestovich Mikhasevich: the worst way to get over your ex

CryNews.ru reported that Gennady Modestovich Mikhasevich justified murdering 36 women because his ex-girlfriend (whom he had dumped a year before) married someone else. Mikhasevich decided to hang himself. Unfortunately, he saw a woman on the way and decided to take his anger out on her, which whet his appetite. (It was not rape but strangulation that satisfied him.) He killed most of his victims to defile them — the dead stopped fighting back. Then, he would rob them of jewelry and valuables, which he would give to his apparently unsuspecting wife. Even after blaming his ex-girlfriend, he had a domestic life punctuated by horrifying violence.

Though the bodies piled up, the police looked the other way because Mikhasevich was a respected community member. He didn't even smoke and hated dirty stories. TASS reported that he was the one who tipped the police off by sending letters to newspapers saying that the women were killed by a group of jealous husbands calling themselves Patriots of Vitebsk and putting a handwritten note into one of his victim's mouths attesting to this. The handwriting matched his, of course.

Unfortunately, CryNews.ru reported, 14 innocent people were convicted of his crimes. One served 10 years, one went blind before being released, and one was executed.

John Wayne Gacy: the killer clown

Yes, John Wayne Gacy had a gig playing Pogo the Clown. No, he did not use his clowning to lure his victims, nor did he kill while dressed as a clown.

He murdered 33 young men from 1972 to 1978. (The FBI also charged him with sodomy and the use of cannabis.) According to the Times of Northwest Indiana, he buried 26 in a crawlspace in his home — so many that he ran out of room. According to Last Podcast on the Left, one of his methods was to ask these young men if they wanted to learn how to escape handcuffs. Once he cuffed them, he informed them that the trick was that he had the key. Now bound, Gacy would take his time strangling them.

Before all the murders were known, Chicago Tribune reported, Gacy was suspected in the abduction of a 9-year-old boy and was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a man. He kidnapped another boy at gunpoint and raped him, but the assistant attorney general didn't prosecute. Officials ignored it because Gacy was otherwise an upstanding member of the community. He threw parties for the neighborhood, ran a remodeling business, and played a clown. Gacy volunteered with the local Democratic Party (even taking a photo with first lady Rosalynn Carter). How could he possibly be a serial killer?

Daniel Camargo Barbosa: escape artist

It's believed Daniel Camargo Barbosa managed to kill 150 young girls in 12 years. According to Explored, he was distraught because the woman he wanted to marry was not a virgin. He agreed to stay with her only if she helped him drug and rape virgins. (When he made this repellent deal, he had already fathered two children with his common-law wife.) The woman helped him with five girls during the 1960s. The fifth reported what they had done, which brought the police to their door.

After an 8-year stint in prison, Barbosa learned his lesson. Specifically, he learned that he hated authority and that he could not leave future victims alive. After his release, he raped and killed a small girl, his first murder. Quickly — though not quickly enough — he was caught and given a 25-year sentence at the supposedly inescapable Gorgona Prison Island in Colombia. In 1984, he escaped on a canoe he had carved. The authorities assumed that sharks had eaten him. Regrettably, the sharks could not do this one little favor.

By the next month, he had resumed murdering children. El Pais reported that, when caught again in 1988, this time in Ecuador, he was given the maximum possible sentence in that country: 16 years.

Ted Bundy: nothing like Zac Efron

Referred to by the FBI as "perhaps society's most infamous and notorious serial killer," witnesses called Ted Bundy good-looking and charming, allowing him to make a name for himself both in Republican politics and to hide in plain sight as he murdered at least 30 women from 1974 to 1978. The actual number may be closer to 100. 

Like other killers, Bundy claimed inspiration from being rejected by a woman, according to Biography. Upon their breakup, he began stalking college-aged women who resembled her. His method was to wear a fake cast to get help moving something. He would also pretend to be a police officer. Once he had victims alone, he would strangle them before sexually abusing and mutilating the corpses. Bundy — who received romantic proposals while on trial — would return to the bodies to groom them to look like his ex-girlfriend and then commit necrophilia until their bodies were too decayed.

He was executed by the electric chair in 1989. His last words were "give my love to my family and friends." A more apt quote from him might be, "I feel sorry for people who feel guilt."

Carl Eugene Watts: the Sunday Morning Slasher

With an IQ around 72, according to a report from Radford University — exacerbated by an under-treated case of meningitis in childhood — Carl (or Coral) Eugene Watts demonstrated that an intellectual disability doesn't stop you from achieving your dreams. Unfortunately, since he was a young teenager, his dream was killing girls.

He may have killed 80 people, but the police didn't connect them because he would attack in different areas. According to CBS News, Watts told investigators that he killed because the women had "evil in their eyes." Once he selected a victim, he would kill her without ceremony. With one, he walked up and stabbed her in the heart. An investigator said he "probably didn't spend 15 seconds there even at the scene."

Owing to a plea in Texas, he was only adjudicated for the last two surviving victims. In exchange for a sentence of 60 years for burglary with intent to murder, he was given immunity for 12 other murders. Mandatory release laws and an appeals court lowered that by more than 35 years owing to good behavior. There was a chance he would be freed. The New York Times reported that he died in prison of prostate cancer in 2007, a blessing given that he reportedly said, "I'm gonna kill again if they ever release me."

Peter Sutcliffe: the Yorkshire Ripper

Beginning his career as the Yorkshire Ripper in 1975, Peter Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering 13 women and attempted to murder seven more in a decade. He focused his murder on sex workers, understanding them to be uniquely vulnerable and unlikely to be missed. According to the Law Society Gazette, a voice he heard while working as a gravedigger gave him a mission to rid the earth of them. Prosecutor Michael Havers said to jurors, "Some [victims] were prostitutes, but perhaps the saddest part is that some were not. The last six attacks were on totally respectable women." It seemed he shared Sutcliffe's perspective.

The Yorkshire Post reported that the police searched for Sutcliffe for five years, speaking to a quarter of a million people and logging nearly 30,000 statements. Sutcliffe remained on the streets because this added to a backlog of 36,000 documents in need of filing. He had been questioned and released 11 times by detectives and the police.

Initially, psychiatrists diagnosed him as having paranoid schizophrenia, thus possessing a diminished capacity, and so sent him to Broadmoor Hospital. He was later judged sane enough to return to prison. In 2020, he died from COVID-19.

Mikhail Novosyolov: ruined cabbage soup

Mikhail Novosyolov had already been released from prison in 1977 when his life took a turn, библиотека reported. He decided to find a sex worker, paid her for the night, and then, after 20 minutes, failed to perform. She taunted him, apparently causing him to decide to become a serial killer. He slew 26 people between the ages of six and 50 and attempted to rape nine additional children, according to Коммерсантъ.

His methods tended toward brute force. He once electrocuted a young boy using an electrode in a bicycle seat so that he could have his sister. He had three passports under the names of Novosyolov, Svetlov, and Shakhraiziev, which he would use along with fake accents to escape suspicion. Novosyolov told investigators that he killed because he felt that he deserved sex and, if he could only imagine having sex with corpses, why shouldn't he? He preferred his partners well past dead, saying that a corpse is like cabbage soup: better the longer it sits. 

Novosyolov disagreed with being called a necrophile, though. The word he preferred was "rebel."

Andrei Chikatilo: the Butcher of Rostov

The Canberra Times puts Andrei Chikatilo's number of proven victims at 53 over a decade, most of whom were young boys and girls. Chikatilo kept his identity a secret by wearing the guise of a middle-aged grandfather, a kindly teacher, and an active member of the Communist Party. This stood in stark contrast to his later confessions, where the so-called Forest Strip Killer detailed raping, killing, then cannibalizing his victims out of sexual inadequacy, according to the New York Times. All this because his wife asked her friends how she might help him overcome his inability to have an erection during normal sex, according to Comrade Chikatilo.

As Communist Russia thought that crime was a capitalist problem, the press there rarely publicized it. Residents of Rostov were not warned for more than five years that they had a serial killer in their midst. Russia's policy of silence was Chikatilo's playground. Before Chikatilo was caught, the authorities admitted that they executed the wrong man to quiet fears.

During the three-hour reading of the verdict, Chikatilo shrieked, "Why me?" from inside a cage. He was executed in 1994.