Mass Murder Cases

18 Cases

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AZ - Maricopa - Buddhist Temple Innocents 1991 (9 murders)

AZ - Pima - Louis Taylor 1970 (29 arson murders)

CA - Riverside - Robert Diaz 1981 (12 patient murders)

CA - San Francisco - Billings & Mooney 1916 (10 bombing murders)

CO - Hinsdale - Alferd Packer 1874 (5 murders)

FL - Broward/Dade - Jerry Frank Townsend 1973-79 (6 murders)

FL - DeSoto - James Richardson 1967 (7 murders)

IL - Cook - Madison Hobley 1987 (7 arson murders)

IL - Cook - Kitchen & Reeves 1988 (5 murders)

MO - Jackson - Kansas City Five 1988 (6 arson explosion murders)

NY - Kings - Eric Jackson 1978 (6 arson murders)

NY - Westchester - Luis Marin 1985 (26 arson murders)

PA - Philadelphia - Robert Wilkinson 1975 (5 arson murders)

PA - Philadelphia - Lex Street Innocents 2000 (7 murders)

TX - Burleson - Anthony Graves 1992 (6 murders)

TX - Williamson - Henry Lee Lucas 1979 (11 to 214 serial killings)

England - Pinfold & MacKenney 1974 (6 alleged murders)

England - Jeremy Bamber 1985 (5 murders)

New Zealand - David Bain 1994 (5 murders)




Date of Alleged Crime


Maricopa County, AZ Buddhist Temple Innocents Aug 10, 1991
During interrogations that lasted up to twenty-one hours, Maricopa County Sheriffs in Phoenix coerced confessions from Leo Bruce, Mark Nunez, and Dante Parker to the mass murder of nine persons at a Buddhist temple.  Ballistics tests later revealed the identity of the true perpetrators.  These perpetrators were found with loot from the temple and they confessed to the crime.  [9/05]


Pima County, AZ Louis Taylor Dec 21, 1970 (Tucson)

Louis C. Taylor was convicted of 28 counts of first-degree murder.  He was accused of setting fire to the Pioneer International Hotel on the northeast corner of Stone Ave. and Pennington St. in downtown Tucson.  Twenty-nine people died as a result of the fire, including one woman who died months later from injuries sustained in the fire.  Taylor, 16, whose juvenile-court record included theft, was accused of setting the fire (or fires) as a diversion so he could steal from guests' rooms.  No one saw him set the fire. But a hotel employee saw him in a stairwell looking up at the flames and mentioned him to police. Other witnesses said he was one of that night's heroes, helping to evacuate the hotel.

The chief arson investigator found no obvious evidence of arson – no residue of flammable liquid or burned matchsticks.  Instead he asserted from burn patterns that two fires were started at least 60 feet apart on the fourth floor hallway.  Modern experts now dispute the arson finding, and even one of the original investigators, Marshall Smyth, said that he and another fire investigator were like members of “a black magic society” that in those days relied on untested assumptions about what indicated arson.  “I came to this opinion some time ago that neither one of us had any business identifying that fire as arson.”

Taylor, after decades of imprisonment, recalled that over the years others – including his former trial judge – advised him to seek a reduced sentence.  But one condition was that he admit guilt and show remorse.  Taylor said, “I told them I'd rather die in prison.”  In 2003, the case was featured on a 60 Minutes episode.  (Hotel Online)  [1/07]


Riverside County, CA Robert Diaz Apr 1981 (Perris)

Robert Rubane Diaz was sentenced to death for the murders of 12 hospital patients.  In early 1981, Community Hospital of the Valleys in Perris, California experienced an abnormally large number of deaths among its most elderly patients.  To gather evidence, the coroner exhumed or intercepted all the patients who had recently died and he collected tissue samples from them.  The coroner found that 11 patients had a supposedly lethal level of the heart drug lidocaine in their system.  Investigators focused on Diaz, a male nurse, who worked at the hospital during many of the deaths.  They also investigated his previous employment and came up with a 12th patient from another hospital whose exhumed body showed a supposedly lethal level of lidocaine.

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San Francisco County, CA Billings & Mooney July 22, 1916
Warren K. Billings and Thomas J. Mooney, both radical labor leaders, were convicted of setting off a suitcase bomb at a Preparedness Day Parade that killed 10 people and wounded 40 others.  The two were convicted because of police perjury, concealment of exonerating evidence, and prosecutorial misconduct.  Governor Culbert Olson pardoned both men in 1939.  [3/06]


Hinsdale County, CO Alferd Packer 1874
Alferd Packer was convicted of murdering five prospectors he had guided into the mountains during the winter of 1873-74 and who had become stranded there with him.  Packer contended that one day when he returned to camp after looking for food, one of the prospectors, Shannon Bell, had killed the others and was roasting a piece of meat he had cut out of leg of one of them.  Bell then attacked Packer with a hatchet and Packer shot Bell in self-defense.  Packer said he tried to find a way out of the mountains every day, but could not, so he lived off the flesh of the dead men.  Packer escaped execution on a technicality.  Under pressure from a campaign led by a Denver Post columnist, Packer was granted a conditional parole in 1901 after 18 years in prison.  Modern forensics and the journal of a Civil War veteran who had seen the bodies appear to confirm Packer's story.  [6/05]


Broward/Dade Counties, FL Jerry Frank Townsend 1973-79

Jerry Frank Townsend, who is mentally retarded, was arrested in 1979 for the rape of a pregnant Miami woman.  During the investigation, he confessed to six murders.  He was convicted in 1980 for the 1973 murders of Naomi Gamble and Barbara Brown in Broward County.  In 1982, he pleaded guilty to two murders in Miami including the 1979 murder of 13-year-old Sonja Marion.  He also pleaded no contest to two 1979 murders in Broward County.  Including the original rape, Townsend received seven life terms.

In 1998, Sonja Marion's mother had a Fort Lauderdale police detective review the Townsend cases, and DNA testing cleared him of some crimes.  In 2000, DNA evidence implicated Eddie Lee Mosley as did evidence from Frank Lee Smith's case.  DNA evidence cast doubt on all of Townsend's confessions, and in 2001, he was cleared of all charges and released after being imprisoned for 22 years.  (IP)  [6/05]


DeSoto County, FL James Richardson Oct 25, 1967 (Arcadia)

James Joseph Richardson, a farm worker, was convicted of murdering his oldest child after all seven of his children were poisoned with the pesticide parathion.  The children, six daughters and a son, ranged in age from 2 to 8.  Richardson was believed to have murdered all seven, but for strategic reasons was only tried for the murder of one.  If he had been acquitted, he could have been tried successively for murders of each of the others, giving the prosecution seven chances of a conviction.  Richardson was sentenced to death.

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Cook County, IL Madison Hobley Jan 6, 1987 (Chicago)

A fire broke out in Madison Hobley's apartment building early in the morning, which killed his wife, infant son, and five other people.  Hobley escaped wearing only underwear.  Later in the day, detectives picked him up and tortured him in an attempt to extract a confession that he started the fire.  When torture did not work, four detectives asserted that Hobley made a confession.  No record of this confession existed.  One detective claimed to have made notes but threw them away after something spilled on them.

The prosecution claimed that Hobley had bought $1 worth of gasoline, which he used to start the fire.  They produced a gasoline can allegedly found at the fire scene, but a defense expert pointed out that it showed no exposure to the high heat of the fire, as its plastic cap was undamaged.  After trial, the defense learned that a second gasoline can was found at the fire scene but police destroyed it after the defense issued a subpoena for it.

In addition, post-conviction affidavits of jurors stated that non-jurors intimidated some of them while they were sequestered at a hotel, and that they were prejudiced by the acts of the jury foreperson, a police officer, who believed Hobley was guilty.  The affidavits also stated that jurors brought newspapers with articles about the case into the jury room and that they repeatedly violated the trial court's sequestration.  In 2003, Gov. George Ryan granted Hobley a pardon based on innocence.  (CWC)  [9/05]


Cook County, IL Kitchen & Reeves July 27, 1988

Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves were convicted of the murders of five people: Rose Marie Rodriguez, 30, her son Daniel, 3, Deborah Sepulveda, 26, her son Peter, Jr., 3, and her daughter Rebecca, 2.  Rodriguez was strangled and the other victims had been suffocated.  Their home, a bungalow at 6028 S. Campbell Ave. in Chicago, was set on fire.  There were no eyewitnesses to the murders.

“The prosecution's case was based on Ronald Kitchen's confession to the five murders after 39 hours of interrogation, and the testimony of jailhouse informant Willie Williams, who claimed that Kitchen confessed to him in two telephone calls.  [He said Kitchen told him he killed the victims over a $1,225 drug debt.]  The informant also claimed that Marvin Reeves made incriminating statements to him.  Kitchen testified that he only confessed to stop being beaten by Chicago Police Department detectives who were questioning him.  The detectives were under the command of Cmdr. Jon Burge, and Kitchen said he was hit in the head with a telephone, punched in the face, struck in the groin and kicked.  Kitchen was sentenced to death, but it was commuted to life in prison by IL Gov. George Ryan in 2003.  Reeves was given five life sentences without parole.”

“Attorneys for Kitchen and Reeves eventually discovered that phone records showed Williams didn't talk to Kitchen on the two dates he claimed, and that prosecutors never revealed to defense attorneys they had Williams released from prison early in return for his cooperation.  Evidence also surfaced that Cmdr. Burge had been involved in the torture of numerous defendants who falsely confessed.  Based on the new evidence Kitchen and Reeves filed motions for a new trial.  On the morning of July 7, 2009 Cook County Circuit Judge Stanley Sacks overturned their convictions, and later that day the Illinois Attorney General dismissed their indictments on the grounds of insufficient evidence.  On the afternoon of the 7th Kitchen and Reeves were released from custody after being wrongly imprisoned for 21 years.” – FJDB  (Chicago Sun Times)


Jackson County, MO Kansas City Five Nov 29, 1988
Darlene Edwards, 43, Frank Sheppard, 46, Earl “Skip” Sheppard, 37, Bryan Sheppard, 26, and Richard Brown, 26, all Native Americans, were convicted of setting a fire that caused an explosion and killed six firefighters.  The fire occurred at a site associated with the construction of a ten-mile road.  Two trailers on the site contained 50,000 pounds of construction explosives.  The explosion had 5 times the impact of the Oklahoma City bomb, evaporated a fire department pumper, and was heard 45 miles away.  As late as 1995, ATF agents said on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries that the fire was set by organized labor to teach the general contractor a lesson for using non-union labor.  But the demand for closure and $50,000 reward money led police and prison snitches to finger five indigent Native Americans who had nothing to do with organized labor.  (Crime Magazine: Part 1 Part 2) (  [9/05]


Kings County, NY Eric Jackson Aug 2, 1978

Eric (Erick) Jackson, also known as Eric Knight, was convicted of setting a fire to a Waldbaum's Supermarket in Sheepshead Bay.  Six firefighters died in the blaze.  The investigation was plagued by public disputes between fire marshals and police arson investigators.  After an informant fingered him, Jackson was indicted in May 1979 on arson and murder charges.  Police said he confessed to setting the fire for $500.  Jackson was sentenced to 25 years to life.

The firefighters’ widows hired an attorney, Robert Sullivan, to bring a lawsuit for civil damages. In the course of preparing that lawsuit, Sullivan concluded that Jackson was innocent. Sullivan turned his efforts toward obtaining Jackson’s release.  He was later recognized by the New York State Bar Association for his efforts in the case.

In 1988, a judge overturned Jackson's conviction because prosecutors had withheld evidence from his defense.  This information included a fire marshal’s report that there had been “four separate and distinct fires” in the supermarket, of which only one caused the deaths of the firefighters. In addition, a New York City Police detective who had been involved in the investigation concluded that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit, and said that he had repeatedly told this to the District Attorney’s office.

In 1994, Jackson was retried.  The defense maintained that Jackson's confession was coerced and that the fire was an accident resulting from faulty electrical wiring.  Jackson was acquitted and released after serving nearly ten years in prison.  (IP Arson) (Inevitable Error) (People v. Jackson)  [7/07]


Westchester County, NY Luis Marin Dec 4, 1980
“Luis Marin was convicted in Westchester County of twenty-six counts of murder arising from a [fire at a Stouffer’s Inn in Harrison, NY.]  Marin successfully moved the trial court for a post-verdict order dismissing the indictments based on insufficiency of the trial evidence.  The prosecution appealed.  The Appellate Division and Court of Appeals upheld the trial court order of dismissal.  It was held that having an empty gasoline container and siphon in his car were insufficient facts to support the inference that Marin had set the fire.  In sum, the evidence presented at trial was simply insufficient to sustain the charges.  ‘[T]he loss of life at the Stouffer’s Inn fire was a tragedy of staggering proportion ... However, the tragedy would be compounded by the conviction and imprisonment of a person whose criminal responsibility for that tragedy has not been proven.’” – Inevitable Error


Philadelphia County, PA Robert Wilkinson Oct 5, 1975

Robert Wilkinson, a mildly retarded man, was convicted in 1976 of the arson murders of five people.  At 3:25 a.m. on Oct 5, 1975 someone used a Molotov cocktail to firebomb the home of Radamas Santiago.  The Santiagos, who lived at 4419 North 4th Street, were then asleep in their home.  Radamas and one of his sons, Carlos, survived.  Radamas's wife, three of his children, and Luis Caracini, a guest in the house, perished in the fire.  At the time of the firebombing, 14-year-old Nelson Garcia, a friend of the Santiagos, was sleeping on their front porch.  His hair aflame, Garcia fled from the house, looking for a fire alarm. Garcia saw Robert Wilkinson in an automobile stopped near the Santiago home.  Because Wilkinson was the first person he saw, Garcia assumed that Wilkinson had thrown the firebomb.  He accused Wilkinson, who police then arrested.  Garcia later elaborated that he had seen Wilkinson throw a bottle with a burning cloth onto the Santiago porch.

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Philadelphia County, PA Lex Street Innocents Dec 28, 2000

On Dec. 28, 2000, four men clad in black ski masks entered a row house at 816 N. Lex St. and forced its ten inhabitants to lay face down on the floor of the home.  The men then released a spray of gunfire that killed seven, ages 15 to 54, and injured three.  The killings, the deadliest mass murder in Philadelphia history, became known as the Lex Street Massacre.  Police arrested Jermel Lewis, 25, Hezekiah Thomas, 25, Sacon Youk, 22, and Quiante Perrin, 21, in connection to the killings.  Following his arrest Lewis confessed to the crime due to “a combination of misinformation [and] coercion.”  Lewis may also have been on drugs that day, making him more vulnerable.

Yvette Long, a surviving victim, initially told police she could not identify any of the assailants.  However, after sessions with a psychiatrist, she testified that she recovered her memory of the night and named Youk and Perrin as shooters and identified Thomas by a nickname.  Another man, Shihean Black, repeatedly confessed to the crime, but police dismissed his confessions.  Originally police believed that the murders were committed as part of a dispute over drug territory.  However, Black's story was that a drug dealer who lived at the house had ruined the clutch on Black's car, and that the murders were committed in retaliation.  Another individual corroborated Black's story, and charges were dropped against the four men after they spent 18 months in prison.  The four men later sued the city and won a $1.9 million settlement for wrongful incarceration.  Another four men, including Black, later pleaded guilty to the homicides.  A book was written about the case entitled The Lex Street Massacre by Antonne M. Jones. [7/05]


Burleson County, TX Anthony Graves Aug 18, 1992 (Sommerville)

Anthony Graves was sentenced to death after an admitted mass murderer fingered him as an accomplice in order to protect his wife from prosecution.  In 1992, Robert Earl Carter, a 27-year-old prison guard, was under pressure from his ex-girlfriend, Lisa Davis, to increase child support for their son Jason.  He was already supporting his wife, Theresa, and their son, Ryan.  Anger over increasing child support payments does not fully explain Carter's subsequent actions, but it is the only motive that has been suggested.  Carter, reportedly, was a kind, gentle, and pleasant man, so presumably something within him snapped.

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Williamson County, TX Henry Lee Lucas Oct 31, 1979

Henry Lee Lucas was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of an unidentified woman whose body was found along I-35 near Georgetown, Texas.  The case was known as the “Orange Socks” case because the victim was found nude except for a pair of orange socks.  Lucas had confessed to the crime.  In his videotaped confession, Lucas said that he had consensual sex with the victim, but this statement was edited out when played at trial, because the prosecution needed to maintain that the victim was raped in order to make Lucas eligible for the death penalty.  The medical examiner had found no evidence of rape.  The victim had an advanced case of syphilis, but Lucas had no venereal disease.  It was later proven that Lucas was in another state at the time.  In 1998, three days before his scheduled execution, Texas Governor George W. Bush pardoned Lucas.

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England Pinfold & MacKenney Nov 1974 (Dagenham, Essex)

Terry Pinfold and Harry MacKenney were convicted of murder based on the testimony of a sole witness.  This witness testified the pair murdered a man, but this man was later known to be alive three years after his alleged slaying.

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England (Chelmsford CC)

Jeremy Bamber

Aug 7, 1985

Jeremy Bamber, 25, was convicted of the shooting murders of his father, Ralph Nevill Bamber, 61, his mother, June Bamber, 61, his sister, Sheila Caffell, 27, and his twin nephews, Daniel and Nicholas Caffell, both 6.  Jeremy was adopted by his parents as was his unrelated sister.  The killings occurred at White House Farm in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex.  At 3:36 a.m. on August 7, 1985, Jeremy called the police from his cottage in Goldhanger, 3 1/2 miles away, to tell them that Nevill had phoned him and said that Sheila, a paranoid schizophrenic, had “gone crazy” and had got a gun.  Sheila was known to have considered ending her life and expressed an intention to kill her sons.  After calling police, Jeremy drove to White House Farm and met up with officers who were already there.  Police staked out the farmhouse for several hours before entering it at 7:34 a.m. where they found five people shot to death.  Sheila was found shot twice under the chin with a rifle in her hand.  Police initially thought Sheila had committed the murders before turning the gun on herself.

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New Zealand David Bain June 20, 1994 (Dunedin)

David Cullen Bain was convicted of murdering his mother Margaret, 50, his father Robin, 58, sisters Arawa, 19, and Laniet, 18, and brother Stephen, 14.  All had died from .22 gunshot wounds to their heads.  The murders occurred at 65 Every Street, Anderson's Bay, Dunedin.  Twenty-two-year-old David was arrested four days after making a frantic 111 call from the family home. Police responding to the emergency found him huddled in the house babbling incoherently.  At trial, David's defense argued that his father Robin killed the family then himself while David was out doing his early morning paper run.  David has consistently maintained his innocence.

The evidence against Robin appears to be greater than that against David, but since none of it is especially strong, one can assume that the evidence against both is evenly divided.  Depending on the weight one puts on various pieces of evidence, it is possible to believe either one of them is the likely perpetrator.  However, reasonable doubt attaches to David because a plausible case can always be made that Robin is the perpetrator.  The motive evidence is stronger against Robin.  Other evidence shows the perpetrator had fought with Stephen, and Robin had six recent abrasions on his hands.  These abrasions were alleged to be due to Robin's replacement of spouting at the family home.

After exhausting his appeals in New Zealand, David appealed to England's Privy Counsel, and in 2007 it quashed his conviction as a miscarriage of justice, based on new evidence that the Crown reportedly disputes. David was subsequently released on bail by the Christchurch High Court.  Two 1997 books were published on the Bain case, the pro-defense David and Goliath by Joe Karam, and the pro-prosecution The Mask of Sanity by James McNeish.  (NZCity) (NZ Herald) (FJDB)  [10/08]