8 Prolific Female Serial Killers
Few people think of women as serial killers. Perhaps this misconception is based on the stereotype of women being sensitive and compassionate. For these brutal killers, sometimes the guise of nurturing helped them get in the door, but these ladies are just as depraved as their male counterparts.
1. Delphine LaLaurie
Estimated Body Count: At least 10 (but possibly as many as 90)
Story: Delphine LaLaurie was the wife of a wealthy New Orleans physician in the early 1800s. With long black hair and porcelain skin, all eyes focused on her when she threw glamorous parties. Little did anyone know that the slightest mistake from a slave caused Madame LaLaurie to explode in rage. She was charged with cruelty against one of her slaves—when the slave allegedly pulled her hair while brushing it, LaLaurie beat her mercilessly in the garden. Another slave girl jumped to her death from a second floor window to escape Madame LaLaurie. In 1834, a fire ravaged the LaLaurie estate and after the firemen put out the flames, they smelled rotting bodies. Pushing open the attic door, they were startled to see dead slaves chained to the walls, a woman with her lips sewn shut, half-dead slaves in cages, a man who received a forced sex change, women without skin, eviscerated slaves, and body parts strewn about the attic.
The LaLauries escaped and were never seen again. Years later, during renovations, contractors discovered the bodies of slaves that allegedly had been buried alive.
Punishment: None, though superstitious locals claim Madame LaLaurie suffers the otherworldly punishment of haunting her home, wailing for relief in French.
2. Juana "La Mataviejitas" Barraza
Estimated Body Count: At least 10 (but possibly as many as 40)
Story: Juana Barraza ruled the Mexican women's wrestling circuit as "The Silent Lady," but she became infamous for another moniker, "La Mataviejitas"—the old-lady killer. Starting in the 1990s, Barraza knocked on the doors of Mexico City's elderly women, pretending to be a social worker. Once inside, she grabbed a sock, piece of string or phone cord—whatever was handy—and strangled her victims to death (until blood oozed from their ears).
Capture: In 2006, after strangling 82-year-old Ana Maria Reyes with a stethoscope, Barraza fled from the scene, only to be captured close by. Her prints matched those at 10 of approximately 40 crime scenes attributed to La Mataviejitas. It took police a long time to find her because they were unsure if she was a man or a woman—or a man dressed as a woman, or a woman dressed as a man. Her broad shoulders and the force she used to cause blood to seep from victims' ears made police think she was a man.
Punishment: 759 years, though she may serve less than 50 years
3. Amelia "The Baby Farmer" Dyer
Estimated Body Count: Police found 12 babies linked to Dyer, but could only confirm she killed six. They believed she murdered as many as 50.
Story: In Victorian England, when a single woman found herself in a family way, she searched for a baby farmer, who raised the child. In the late 1800s, women answered ads placed by Amelia Dyer, a married woman in her 50s who lived with her Christian husband in the Thames Valley region, and would raise the babies (no one saw her husband because they were separated). As soon as Dyer returned to her flat, she would strangle the infant. Placing the baby in a bag, she dumped her victim into the Thames.
Capture: As bargemen rowed across the river on March 30, 1896, they spotted a package. When they opened it, they discovered a dead infant girl. As the police examined the paper, they spotted a faintly written address. Fearing the murderer would run, the police organized a sting operation where a female pretended to need Dyer's services. When Dyer opened the door for the woman, she found the police instead. The police found 12 infants in the river, many with the same string around their necks. Her house was full of baby items and as her crimes were publicized more women came forward saying they gave her their babies.
Punishment: Death. On June 10, 1896, Dyer died by hanging at the Newgate Gallows.
4. Marie Noe
Estimated Body Count: Eight—although she had 10 children, two died of natural causes
Story: In 1948, Philadelphia newlyweds Marie and Arthur Noe welcomed their first son, Richard, on March 7. On April 7, Noe rushed her newborn to the hospital—he wasn't breathing. Doctors attributed it to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Noe had a second child, Elizabeth, in September 1950. In February 1951, Noe returned to the hospital, clutching a dead infant. SIDS again. There weren't any marks on the child, broken bones, or bruises, or signs of neglect. Year after year, Noe had a child and a few months later, she arrived at the hospital with a dead infant. Nurses noticed Noe never mourned her children. After the birth of one of her sons, a nurse overheard Noe threaten him while trying to feed him, "If you don't take this, I'll kill you." Some suspected foul play, but no one acted. While giving birth to her last child, Arthur Joseph in 1968, Noe had an emergency hysterectomy. None of her children lived to age 2.
Capture: In 1998, a reporter from Philadelphia magazine wrote a book and said Noe should be investigated because eight children from one family couldn't all possibly die of SIDS. When police interviewed her she admitted to smothering four of her children, but wasn't sure what happened to the other four.
Punishment: She pleaded guilty in June 1999. She was sentenced to 20 years of probation with the first five years under house arrest.
5. Aileen Wuornos
Estimated Body count: 7
Story: By the time Aileen Wuornos was in high school in Michigan, she was working as a prostitute. After moving to Florida, she was married and divorced and spent time in jail for grand theft auto before she met Tyria Moore, a 24-year-old motel maid. Moore quit her job and Wuornos supported them by hooking. When Wuornos met with Richard Malloy in 1989, she shot him three times with a .22 caliber after he allegedly tried to rape her. A few weeks later, police discovered another naked man shot to death with a .22. In all, police found four more naked men, all murdered with a .22, and a car of a man who was never found.
Capture: Wuornos and Moore were driving in a victim's car when they were in an accident. The duo refused treatment even though Wuornos was bleeding. After discovering the car belonged to one of the murdered men, the police circulated sketches of the women and began gathering evidence against Wuornos. Authorities found some of Malloy's possessions in a pawnshop with Wuornos' thumbprints on them, and after a few weeks of surveillance, the police detained Wuornos on an outstanding weapons charge. The investigators tracked down Moore, living with her sister in Pennsylvania. They offered her immunity if she could convince Wuornos to confess, which she did. Wuornos remained indignant and at her trial, she screamed belligerently. Always her own worst enemy, she shrieked at Assistant State Attorney General Ric Ridgeway, "I hope your wife and children get raped."
Punishment: The State of Florida sentenced her to six death sentences (police never found the body of Peter Siems and didn't charge her for the crime) and she was executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
6. Belle Gunness
Estimated Body Count: 40
Story: As a 17-year-old farmhand in Norway during the late 1800s, Belle Gunness learned she was pregnant by the son of the landlord. Unwilling to marry her, he beat her until she miscarried. He died a year later of an illness that resembled poisoning, and soon Gunness left for America.
Within three years of emigrating, she married Mads Sorenson. In 1890, Mads became violently ill and died—his death occurred on the only day two life insurance policies on him overlapped, netting his wife $8,500. A physician suspected strychnine poisoning, but the family doctor claimed he treated Mads for an enlarged heart and that caused his death. Belle took the money and moved to LaPorte, Indiana, where she married Peter Gunness in April 1900 and became stepmother to his children. Soon his young son died (mostly likely caused by poisoning) while he was alone with Belle. In December 1900, an iron meat grinder fell and cracked open Peter's skull. Soon after, suitors began arriving with money in hand to marry Belle Gunness and pay off her mortgage. Man after man arrived, always leaving Gunness in the middle of the night. When Gunness secured the money from her potential lovers, she killed them, dismembered them, and buried them in the yard. It was suspected she might have fed some to the pigs.
Capture: None. Gunness fired her handyman, Ray Lamphere—who was often seen digging holes around the house and in the pigpen. She told her lawyer that Lamphere threatened to kill her and her children and burn down her house. On April 28, 1908, fire broke out at the Gunness farm and authorities found four bodies in the basement—all decapitated. Neighbors said the body wasn't her; Gunness was about 5'8 and 200 pounds and the headless corpse was about 5'3 and 150 pounds. Later police found a piece of bridgework, which Gunness' dentist said was hers, but there was no conclusive evidence she died there. The police dug up the yard and found body parts from as many as 40 different people. Police confirmed the decapitated bodies were Gunness' children and stepchildren. Soon families arrived in LaPorte, claiming their loved ones came to Gunness' farm to marry her and never returned.
7. Delfina and Maria de Jesus Gonzales
Estimated Body count: 91 (80 women and 11 men)
Story: In the early 20th century, Delfina and Maria ran Ranchero El Angel, a bordello in Guanajuato (200 miles north of Mexico City). The two recruited prostitutes with help wanted ads in the local paper. When a woman became ill, lost her looks, or was worn out, the sisters killed her, dismembered her, and buried her on the property. If a wealthy john arrived, the duo would kill him and keep his money.
Capture: In 1964, police raided what had become known as "the Bordello from Hell," dug up the yard, and discovered the bodies.
Punishment: Each received 40 years in prison.
8. Enriqueta "The Vampire of Barcelona" Marti
Estimated Body Count: At least 12
Story: In the late 1800s and early 1900s, when wealthy Barcelona residents wanted help with love or a cure for TB or syphilis, they visited Enriqueta Marti, who sold expensive curatives. Meanwhile, Marti lured children to her home. Before killing them—she used the rendered fat, bones, skin, muscles, and hair in her elixirs—Marti often prostituted the children.
Capture: In March 1912, two young girls, Angelita and Teresita, escaped from Marti's flat and told the police they witnessed Martin butchering a young boy. Police searched Marti's properties and found body parts, jars of blood, fat, and recipe books written in Marti's hand, specifying the horrific ingredients she used in her potions.
Punishment: Marti's cellmates killed her before she went to trial.