Homicide Cases

10 Cases

 San Bernardino County, CA

Kevin Cooper

June 4, 1983 (Chino Hills)

Kevin Cooper was sentenced to death for the murders of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their daughter, Jessica, 10, and a houseguest Christopher Hughes, 11. Another child, Joshua Ryen, 8, suffered a slashed throat and a skull fracture, but survived. Two days before the murders Cooper, then 25, had escaped from a minimum security prison in Chino where he had been sent a month earlier on a burglary conviction.
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 Orange County, FL

Tommy Zeigler

Dec 24, 1975

William Thomas Zeigler Jr. was sentenced to death for the murders of four people in his furniture store. The store was located at 1010 S. Dillard St. in Winter Garden, FL. The victims were Zeigler's wife, Eunice, her parents, Perry and Virginia Edwards, and a black customer, Charlie Mays. Zeigler, himself, was critically shot.
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 Cook County, IL

Lloyd Lindsey

Oct 21, 1974

Lloyd Lindsey was convicted of murdering three little girls and their brother. He was also convicted of raping one of the girls. A man who boarded with the children's family and a surviving brother told police when interviewed together that Lindsey along with Eugene Ford and Willie Robinson had strangled the children after raping the girls. The three men then set fire to the home. Lindsey confessed to this crime, parroting the details of the boarder and surviving brother. The home, at 1408 W. 61st Street in Chicago, was occupied by Mrs. Catherine Horace, her six children, and Lavelle Watkins, the boarder.

Medical evidence indicated that the children had not been strangled, but had died of smoke inhalation. Two of the girls, moreover, were virgins and showed no signs of sexual abuse. Lindsey and his compatriots, who had not confessed, were tried together, but with separate juries. Lindsey was convicted, but his compatriots were acquitted. In 1979, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed Lindsey's conviction, and barred a retrial. It ruled “the inconsistencies in the testimony of [the principal prosecution witnesses] were not only contradictory but diluted [their testimony] to the level of palpable improbability and incredulity.”  (CWC)  [1/06]

 Cook County, IL

Milwaukee Ave. Innocents

Nov 27, 1981

Rogelio Arroyo, Isauro Sanchez, Ignacio Varela, and Joaquin Varela were four members of the Varela family who were convicted of the shooting deaths of four members of the Sanchez family and the non-fatal shootings of two others in what became known as the Milwaukee Avenue Massacre. The shootings occurred at 2121 N. Milwaukee Ave. The families, both with roots in Guerrero, Mexico, had been engaged in a feud for six years. In 1990, the real killer, Gilberto Varela confessed to the crime in a collect call from Mexico. He and three others involved in the crime had fled to Mexico immediately after the killings. Illinois Governor Thompson commuted the convicted men's life sentences in 1991, but only after they agreed not to sue for their wrongful arrest and imprisonment.  (CWC) (ISI)  [7/05]

 Cook County, IL

Leroy Orange

Jan 11, 1984

Leroy Orange was sentenced to death for the murder of Renee Coleman, 27, Michelle Jointer, 30, Ricardo Pedro, 25, and Coleman's 10-year-old son, Tony. Orange confessed to the crimes after being subjected to beatings, suffocation, and electroshock by Lt. John Burge and other officers at the Chicago Area Two police station. Orange subsequently told everyone he came in contact with that he had been tortured: his cellmate, a physician, relatives and friends who visited him, his public defender, and the arraignment judge. Orange's half brother, Leonard Kidd, implicated Orange in the murders while being tortured at Area 2. However, Kidd testified for Orange against his attorney's advice admitting that he alone committed the murders without Orange's participation or knowledge. Governor Ryan pardoned Orange on Jan. 10, 2003.  (CWC)  [8/05]

McLean County, IL 

David Hendricks

Nov 5, 1983 (Bloomington)

David Hendricks was convicted of murdering his wife, Susan, 30, and their three children, Becky, 9, Grace, 7, and Benjy, 5. The murders occurred at 313 Carl Drive in Bloomington. While traveling in Wisconsin, Hendricks called police to check on his family. No one had answered the phone all weekend and he was worried. When police and neighbors searched his home the next day, they found that Hendricks' entire family had been hacked to death with an ax and butcher knife. When Hendricks returned later that day, police questioned him and checked his clothes and car for bloodstains. But the search was inconclusive, and Hendricks' alibi of having left for Wisconsin around 11:30 p.m. on November 4, appeared solid.

While his wife was at a baby shower, Hendricks said he taken his children out for a pizza at about 7:30 p.m. on November 4. According to him, they then played in an amusement area and returned home at 9:30 p.m. He said his wife returned at 10:45 p.m. and he left for his business trip shortly thereafter. But after studying the children's bodies, medical examiners discovered an apparent hole in Hendricks' story. Ordinarily, food leaves the stomach and moves into the small intestine within two hours. However, in all three children, vegetarian pizza toppings were still in their stomachs, which led investigators to estimate their time of death sometime around 9:30 p.m., while Hendricks was still at home. Hendricks' defense attorney hammered away at the only physical evidence against him, pointing out that physical activity or trauma can affect the rate of digestion. However, Hendricks was convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Hendricks' conviction was later overturned because an appeals court found the prosecution's argument of an alleged motive irrelevant and prejudicial. The prosecution introduced evidence that Hendricks was a member of a conservative religious group which shunned divorce and that he made passes at female models he had hired for advertising purposes. At Hendricks' 1991 retrial the prosecution presented the testimony of Danny Wayne Stark, a jailhouse informant, who said that Hendricks confessed to the slayings. However, the defense presented three inmates who testified that Stark was known as a liar. The retrial jury acquitted Hendricks. Jurors said the prosecution had not proven its case. A book was written about the case entitled Reasonable Doubt by Steve Vogel.  (Archives)  [6/08]

Neosho County, KS 

Willie Sell

Mar 8, 1886

Willie Sell was convicted of murdering his parents, brother, and sister. In the early morning hours of March 8, 1886, 16-year-old Willie banged on the door of a neighbor, Robert Mendell, talking hysterically and incoherently. Mendell did not understand Willie's story, but had caught the words, “blood, murder and hatchet.” Mendell accompanied Willie back to his family's two-room house. On the floor lay the bodies of Willie's father, James W. Sell, a schoolteacher and farmer, and Willie's mother, Susan. In the corner, still in her bed, was Willie's teenage sister, Ina. Their skulls had been beaten with a hatchet and their throats had been cut. The floor was slick with blood. In an adjoining room, where Willie had been sleeping, was the body of Willie's brother, Watta Sell, 19, who was killed in the same manner as the other members of his family.
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Lawrence County, PA

Thomas Kimbell, Jr.

June 15, 1994 (Pulaski Twp)

Thomas “Hank” Hughes Kimbell, Jr. was sentenced to death for the 1994 murders of his neighbor, Bonnie Lou Dryfuse, 34, her daughters, Jacqueline Mae Dryfuse, 7, and Heather Sue Dryfuse, 4, and their cousin, Stephanie Herko, 5. The murders occurred at the Dryfuses' mobile home at 100 Ambrosia Road in Pulaski Township. Bonnie was stabbed 28 times, Jacqueline, 14 times, Heather, 16 times, and Stephanie, 6 times. Bonnie's husband, Thomas “Jake” Dryfuse discovered the bodies shortly after 3 p.m. Mary Herko, who was Stephanie's mother and Jake's sister, had been talking on the telephone with Bonnie at 2:20 p.m. and testified at trial that Bonnie said she had to go because “someone is pulling up the driveway” (possibly the murderer). Previously, Herko had told the police that Bonnie had said, “Jake is pulling up the driveway.” The defense was not allowed to impeach Herko's testimony to bring out the fact that Bonnie had indicated her husband rather than just “someone.” The husband, Jake, claimed to be elsewhere at the time the phone call ended.
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Philadelphia County, PA

Jose Pagan

1990 - 1991

Jose Pagan was convicted of two separate double homicides committed 12 days apart. In July 1992 he was convicted of the second-degree murders of Luis Bermudez, 20, and Ivelisse Gonzales, 21. The two were murdered inside Bermudez's apartment in the 400 block of West Dauphin St. on Dec. 30, 1990. In Dec. 1992 Pagan was convicted of the first-degree murders of Pablo Padilla, Sr., 59, and Pablo Padilla, Jr., 31. The Padillas were murdered inside their home at 4741 North 3rd St. on Jan. 11, 1991. Pagan was sentenced to death for these murders. On April 1, 1991, Police Officer Julio Aponte reported that Pagan had confessed to the four murders ten days earlier. Aponte later helped to convict Pagan by testifying to this alleged confession.
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 Australia (NSW)

Ljube Velevski

June 1994

Ljube Velevski was convicted of murdering his wife, Snezana, his daughter, Zaklina, age 6, and his twin babies, Daniela and Dijana, age 3 months. The throats of all the deceased had been cut. At trial, Velevski's defence argued that Snezana had killed her three children, then herself. The killings occurred in a three bedroom suburban house in Berkeley, Wollongong, New South Wales. Velevski's parents lived with Velevski and his family at the time of the killings.
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