How Many Victims Did The 'Pillow Killer' Yvan Keller Really Have?

He's known as a notorious French serial killer whose victims were easy prey, defenseless elderly women alone in their homes and attacked in their beds while they were sleeping. Gardener Yvan Keller was dubbed the "Pillow Killer" because of the way he reportedly killed his victims, smothering them in their sleep. The murders all occurred within 40 miles of Mulhouse in France's Alsace region, an area in the northeastern part of the country bordering Switzerland and Germany (via The New York Times). 

According to journalist Claire Corgnou, Keller was caught stealing antiques in 1981 and sentenced to 10 years in prison but was released in 1989, which is when police believe the murders started. The Pillow Killer purportedly operated unchecked for the next 17 years between 1989 and 2006, when Keller was arrested again on a robbery charge. However, he reportedly confessed to police that he had committed seven homicides, but after a six-month investigation, authorities believe he killed many more (via Le Parisien).

The Pillow Killer's M.O.

Yvan Keller was reportedly after money, jewelry, or really anything of value to fund his gambling addiction, including virtually worthless paintings, investigators noted. He purportedly followed the same pattern, breaking into modest homes by way of a door or window and always at night. His victims were retirees who lived alone. Doctors attributed the cause of death for many as suffocation or heart attack and always as natural causes, Le Parisien reported, because there was never any sign of forced entry.  

While some reports suggest Keller killed as many as 30, police could only connect him to 23. Before authorities could prosecute Keller, he took his life in his jail cell in Mulhouse, hanging himself with his shoelaces. While certainly not the kind of ending the families of his victim would have wanted, at least they could sleep easier knowing the alleged Pillow Killer would never harm another helpless, elderly person again.