Parent Murder Cases

(Parricide Cases)

12 Cases

Main Menu

CA - Los Angeles - Fred Rogers 1941

CA - Los Angeles - Bruce Lisker 1983

CT - Litchfield - Peter Reilly 1973

IL - McHenry - Gary Gauger 1993

KS - Neosho - Willie Sell 1886

NY - Kings - Camilo Leyra 1950

NY - Suffolk - Marty Tankleff 1988

OR - Josephine - Jasper Jennings 1905

PA - Jefferson - Ernest Haines 1916

PA - Montgomery - Paul Camiolo 1996

Canada - NL - Gregory Parsons 1991

New Zealand - David Bain 1994




Date of Alleged Crime


Los Angeles County, CA Fred Rogers 1941

Courtney Fred Rogers was sentenced to death for the murders of his parents.  In Oct. 1941 his 50-year-old father was rescued from a burning house, but later died of smoke inhalation.  Investigators found burning candles in the house and determined that fires had been set in several rooms.  The death of Rogers Sr. was ruled a suicide.  Eight months earlier, Rogers' mother had died from the inhalation of chloroform.  Her death had also been ruled a suicide.

Four months after the death of his father, Rogers was arrested for making a false $400 insurance claim.  Police found that the 24-year-old was heavily in debt and began to wonder if he had killed his parents in order to collect on life insurance.  Rogers, however, received no insurance proceeds for the death of his mother, although he did receive full ownership of the home he had jointly owned with her.  He received only $1000 for the death of his father plus $2300 for damage to the house.  Such proceeds were small compared to Rogers' debts.

After 16 days of more-or-less continuous questioning by police, Rogers confessed to the murders of his parents, a confession that he soon retracted.  Nevertheless, he was convicted of these alleged murders.  In 1943, the California Supreme Court unanimously threw out Rogers' convictions.  Evidence that his mother had committed suicide was clear and convincing.  The same was true in regard to the death of his father.  Neighbors had testified at how despondent Rogers Sr. was over the death of his wife and how he often had spoken of taking his own life.  Neighbors also said he had spoken of his dread of being left alone, after Rogers Jr., his only son, answered a draft call into the army.  Rogers Jr. was scheduled to report the day after the fatal fire.  At retrial, in the face of no evidence against Rogers, the retrial court dismissed charges.  (ISI) (Time) [2/09]


Los Angeles County, CA Bruce Lisker Mar 10, 1983 (Sherman Oaks)
Bruce Lisker was convicted of murdering his mother, Dorka, allegedly when she caught him rifling her purse.  Lisker's former roommate, Mike Ryan, is a much more likely suspect.  Ryan gave a false birth date to an investigator to prevent the investigator from learning about his criminal past.  Ryan strangely volunteered that he had stabbed a robber on the same day as the murder.  Ryan arrived in California from Mississippi on March 6 and returned the day after the murder.  Lisker's trial judge did not permit him to mention Ryan in his defense.  Case investigator Monsue presented fraudulent facts.  Additional evidence has surfaced that exonerates Lisker and implicates the now deceased Ryan.  In 2009 Lisker's conviction was overturned and charges against him were dropped.  (LA Times)  [7/05]


Litchfield County, CT Peter Reilly Sept 28, 1973 (Falls Village)
Peter Reilly was convicted of killing and mutilating his mother, Barbara Gibbons, after being coerced by the state police into confessing.  Playwright Arthur Miller, author William Styron, and the NY Times came to his defense.  The prosecutor handling Reilly's second trial discovered that the former prosecutor's files contained documents showing that Reilly arrived at the scene of the murder only minutes before the police and thus could not have committed the crime.  Reilly was cleared in 1976.  (InjusticeBusters)  [9/05]


McHenry County, IL Gary Gauger Apr 8, 1993

Gary Gauger was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his parents, Morris and Ruth Gauger.  Gauger's parents ran a farm, operated a motorcycle shop, and sold imported rugs.  At trial, detectives claimed that during interrogation when they told Gauger that he killed his parents, Gauger said he must have killed them during a blackout because he knew nothing about it.  They then claimed that Gauger told them he really did commit the crime.  However, the only details ascribed to Gauger ended up being flatly inconsistent with the facts of the crime.  Gauger said they had him speculate about the crime after falsely telling him that he failed a polygraph exam and that blood drenched clothes were found in his room.  The prosecution also presented testimony from a jailhouse informant, Raymond Wagner.

An appeals court overturned the conviction because it found that Gauger was arrested without probable cause and this fact made the entire interrogation unconstitutional.  Without the confession, Gauger was not retried, but prosecutor Gary Pack continued to affirm his guilt.  Pack's affirmations stopped after the ATF had uncovered wiretap evidence that two members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang had committed the murders.  (They were later indicted for them.)  Wagner reportedly is willing to admit his testimony was fabricated if he is paid for an interview.  Gauger was freed in 1996. He later co-wrote a book about his ordeal entitled In Spite of the System.  (CWC) (JP) (  [7/05]


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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Kings County, NY Camilo Leyra Jan 10, 1950
Camilio Leyra was convicted of murdering his father, 75, and mother, 80, with a hammer in the couple's Brooklyn apartment.  Leyra and sentenced to death.  Following the murders, Leyra was interrogated for several days without much sleep, during which time he suffered from a painful sinus.  Police brought him a doctor allegedly to treat his sinus, but the doctor was a psychiatrist with considerable knowledge of hypnosis.  By skillful and suggestive questioning, threats and promises, the psychiatrist obtained a confession.  An appeals court found that the confession was coerced and overturned the conviction.  Since little outside evidence implicated him in the murders, Leyra was released in 1956.  (FindLaw) (NY Times) (Leyra v. Denno) (People v. Leyra) (Post-Gazette)  [1/07]


Suffolk County, NY Marty Tankleff Sept 7, 1988 (Belle Terre)

After being interrogated for five and a half hours, Martin H. Tankleff, 17, confessed to beating and stabbing his wealthy parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff.  Arlene died and Seymour would die weeks later.  Police falsely told Marty that his father had come out of a coma and identified him as his and Arlene's assailant.  Police convinced Marty (for a short while) that he must have assaulted his parents in a blackout.  No evidence linked Marty to the crime, and while his confession matched the crime theory police held at the time, it did not match the facts of the case. Marty soon recanted and none of his surviving relatives believed he committed the crime. In a highly publicized trial covered by Court TV, a jury convicted Marty of the murders and he was sentenced to fifty years to life in prison.

Since the trial, a man has come forward, stating he drove two accomplices to and from the house on the night of the crime, for what he thought was a burglary. One of the accomplices was connected to Seymour Tankleff's estranged business partner, Jerard Steuerman. Steuerman admitted he was under pressure from Seymour to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars in business loans. Steuerman had partnered with Seymour in bagel stores and horse racing. He was also the last person to leave a high-stakes card game at the Tankleff house early on the morning of the murders. Several days after the crime, as Seymour lingered in a hospital before dying, Steuerman staged his own death and fled to California, shaving his beard and assuming an alias.

Starting in 2003, several new witnesses came forward, implicating Joseph Creedon and Peter Kent as the killers. Creedon was an associate of Steuerman and Tankleff believed that Creedon and Kent had acted on Steuerman's behalf. Evidence also emerged that the lead detective in the case, K. James McCready, had worked for Steuerman, and may have been bribed by him. In Dec. 2007, Tankleff's conviction was overturned. The DA announced that he would not retry him.  A book was written on the case entitled A Criminal Injustice by Richard Firstman and Jay Salpeter.  ( (NY Times) (Newsday) (LI Press) (JD33 p8) (JD12) [9/06]


Josephine County, OR Jasper Jennings Sept 7, 1905
Jasper Jennings was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his father, Newton M. Jennings.  In 1906 the state supreme court overturned the conviction because of improper testimony by trial witnesses.  Charges against Jasper were dropped following a motion at retrial.  According to some witnesses, Jasper's sister, Dora, had told them she had committed the crime.  (State v. Jennings) (MJ)  [1/10]


Jefferson County, PA Ernest Haines Mar 22, 1916 (Sprankle Mills)
In 1916, Ernest Haines, 18, was convicted with Henry Ward Mottern, 17, of the murder of Haines' father, William Haines.  Both boys were sentenced to die in the electric chair.  In 1918, Ernest Haines was retried acquitted and released from imprisonment.  (ISI)  [7/05]


Montgomery County, PA Paul Camiolo Sept 30, 1996 (Upper Moreland)

Paul Camiolo was charged in 1999 for the 1996 arson murder of his parents after they died from a fire in the home he shared with them.  He faced the death penalty.  Authorities also charged Camiolo with insurance fraud.  They said he set the fire to collect on a $400,000 inheritance.  Camiolo's chain smoking mother had presumably started the fire by dropping a cigarette or match on a sofa.  Camiolo tried to put out the fire by throwing a pitcher of water on it, but such an action only made the fire worse.  He said he told his semi-invalid parents to go out the back door and he called 911.  His mother made it out to the back porch, but later died from injuries sustained during the fire.  His father was found in an indoor bathroom and was pronounced dead soon afterwards.  Camiolo went out the front door and was retrieving clothes from a gym bag in his car when police arrived.  It was shortly before dawn and he was still in his underwear.  On arrival, the police witnessed the living room windows blow out as the fire reached flashover status.

Floor samples from the first floor where the fire originated tested positive for the presence of gasoline.  However, neither the carpet nor the padding above the floor tested positive for gasoline.  A volunteer firefighter, Steven Avato, who helped fight the fire, happened to have experience as an ATF arson investigator.  He was dumbfounded that Camiolo was charged and rocked the boat by publicly criticizing the arson charges.  The state thought Camiolo's exit through the front door was suspicious, but Avato thought it was common for people caught in fires to exit through the door they most commonly use, even if it is not the closest one.

A private investigator tracked down the contractor who built the house.  The contractor said the sealer used on the hardwood floors had been thinned with gasoline.  Lab tests were performed that revealed the presence of lead in the detected gasoline. Since leaded gas had not been sold for 15 years prior to the fire, investigators concluded that it could not have been used to start this fire.  The charges against Camiolo were dropped and he was released after 10 months of imprisonment.  For taking a stand in the case for which he was later proven right, Investigator Avato won an Investigator of the Year Award from the International Association of Arson Investigators.  (Forensic Files) (TruthInJustice)  [9/05]


Newfoundland, Canada Gregory Parsons Jan 1, 1991

Gregory Parsons was convicted in 1994 of murdering his mother, Catherine Carroll.  Carroll had been stabbed 53 times.  Parsons was sentenced to life imprisonment.  His mother's psychiatrist and friends recalled her saying that her son, 19, had threatened her life.  Two years earlier Parsons been part of a band that sang a song called “Kill, kill, kill,” about children killing their parents.  In addition Carroll had allegedly once sought a restraining order against her son.

In 1998 the Newfoundland Supreme Court acquitted Parsons after DNA tests proved he could not have been the killer.  Years later, following an undercover sting operation, police got Brian Doyle, a childhood friend of Parsons, to confess to the crime.  Doyle pleaded guilty to the crime in 2002 and was sentenced to life imprisonment.  Parsons was awarded $650,000 in 2002 and another $650,000 in 2005 for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.  (CBC)  [4/09]


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]