What Happened To The Pillow Killer?

Yvan Keller, who became known as the "Pillow Killer" as well as the "killer of the century," was born in Wittenheim, France, on December 13, 1960. As reported by journalist Claire Corgnou, Yvan was one of nine children born into a family of traveling basket makers.

Yvan and his siblings spend a vast majority of their childhood in rue du Bourg, where his father, Joseph, worked in a local potash mine. Yvan's brother Claude described his father as a boorish man, who physically abused his children and, at times, forced them to sift through the refuse from the potash mine for potentially valuable scraps. Although he attended school occasionally, Claire Corgnou reports Yvan spent most of his time foraging for and stealing things his father would later sell. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Keller allegedly grew more adept at stealing valuables and was known as a burglar and petty thief. However, he did not face any serious charges until he was 21 years old.

In 1981, Keller was arrested in the robbery of several antique dealers throughout the town of Battenheim. Authorities were able to prove his involvement, as many of the stolen goods, which included gemstones and Alsatian paintings, were found inside his home. As reported by Claire Corgnou, Keller was subsequently convicted of robbery with violence and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Upon his release from prison in August 1989, LaDepeche reports Keller went on a killing spree that lasted until his arrest in September 2006.

The Pillow Killer targeted women who lived alone

As reported by Claire Corgnou, Yvan Keller formed his own business and began working as a landscaper and gardener shortly after his release from prison. As he had a friendly demeanor and did not appear threatening, he gained the trust of his customers, many of whom were elderly women who lived alone.

As reported by The New York Times, Keller later admitted to killing and robbing several dozen elderly women within a 40-mile radius of Mulhouse, France, which included victims in the neighboring countries of Germany and Switzerland, between 1989 and 2006. During his confession, Keller reportedly said he would break into the women's homes and smother them with a pillow while they were sleeping. He would then allegedly steal their valuables and any cash they happened to have in their home.

The New York Times reports Keller was meticulous and did not leave any evidence suggesting forcible entry or that a crime had been committed. Therefore, authorities determined the women simply died of natural causes. However, the families of several victims were convinced foul play was involved. 

On March 12, 1994, 86-year-old Ernestine Mang was found dead in her bed. LeParisien reports her son, Germain, was immediately suspicious, as his mother was found lying on her back with her sheets and blankets arranged in an "immaculate" manner. When he contacted the medical examiner, he was told his mother died of natural causes.

The victims appeared to have died of natural causes

As reported by LeParisien, Germain was also concerned when he discovered an antique butter churn, which his mother kept in the basement, on the main floor of her home. As Mang was unable to climb up and down stairs, he knew someone else had moved it. He was also disturbed to find $6,000 cash, which his mother had kept in the house, was gone.

On April 28, 1994, 77-year-old Augusta Wassmer was found dead in her bed. Her daughter, Marie-Françoise, was immediately suspicious. As reported by LeParisien, Wassmer had planned to go on a shopping trip with a friend on the day she was found dead. When Wassmer did not show up, and could not be reached, Marie-Françoise was contacted by the friend immediately. Marie-Françoise said authorities were convinced her mother died of natural causes. However, she disagreed. Marie-Françoise said the bedding was arranged very tightly and neatly around her mother's body. She also noted that the position of her mother's body was unusual. Despite her concerns about the unusual scene, LeParisien reports Augusta Wassmer's cause of death was determined to be "cardiac arrest" likely caused by "great fear."

Between  1989 and 2003, Yvan Keller was questioned by authorities on six different occasions on suspicion of breaking and entering, theft, and murder. However, as reported by Claire Corgnou, authorities did not have enough evidence to arrest the suspected Pillow Killer until 2006.

The many victims of the Pillow Killer

Yvan Keller was arrested and detained by authorities in Mulhouse on September 20, 2006. Amid the subsequent interrogation, which lasted approximately 48 hours, Claire Corgnou reports Keller confessed to killing anywhere between seven and 150 victims. However, by the end of his interrogation, he recanted his admissions and refused to sign a confession.

As reported by Expatica, Keller negotiated an agreement with authorities in exchange for his confession. His attorney, Pierre Peter, said authorities agreed to provide employment and housing in exchange for a full confession. However, he began to doubt the authorities' intentions and refused to sign the confession, stating that he believed he had been "betrayed."

The following day, Keller committed suicide while incarcerated. Expatica reports the prosecutor on his case admitted Keller had not displayed any suicidal tendencies and confirmed the suicide was related to "a surveillance failure."

It remains unclear how many victims the Pillow Killer actually had. However, Listen Notes reports he was only indicted on five homicide charges. LeParisien reports authorities believe the suspected serial killer had two accomplices. One person, who was not named, was reportedly "placed under judicial control and released." The other suspected accomplice, who is Keller's brother Pierre, fled and is currently wanted for questioning.