True crime 10 Killers Who Used Acid to Dispose of Their Victims' Bodies  

Chuck Stern
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For some serial killers, the thrill of the hunt is matched only by the thrill of getting away with the crime. Gruesome murders often have gruesome body disposal methods, and the acid bath is a common choice. Muriatric, hydrochloric, and sulfuric acids have all been used to strip down flesh from bone, and eventually to turn it all into a fragment-infused sludge, or as Leonarda Cianciulli, the "Soap-Maker of Correggio," calls it, a "thick dark mush."

Whether acid is employed by a "disposal expert," as in the case of John Gotti, or by a sick mind obsessed with recreating scenes from Breaking Bad (of which there have been many), acid obliterates most evidence. Some killers dump this muck down the toilet or drain; others leave it fermenting at the bottom of a vat; some go out of their way to sell it to you, in the form of soaps, teacakes, or stews.

It seems there is a pride these particular killers take in their work. After all, it's scientific, methodical, and ultimately god-like. One doesn't just take a life with acid, one erases that life completely, ridding it from the earth. There is no trace of the body left to investigate, memorialize, or honor in death. It is a complete undoing, and represents a supremely cruel worldview.


Jeffrey Dahmer is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 10 Killers Who Used Acid to Dispose of Their Victims' Bodies
Photo: Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department

Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America's most infamous serial killers, preyed on gay African American men in Milwaukee, WI, during the late 1980s. He picked up the men in bars and brought them home, tempting them with sex, money, and alcohol (the alcohol was laced with drugs). Once they were unconscious, Dahmer would strangle his victims, although he sometimes allowed them to regain consciousness intermittently.

In addition to drilling holes in victims' heads while they were alive, Dahmer was also known to inject muriatic acid into them. He used acid to clean up the mess, as well: after he strangled his first victim, 18-year-old Steven Mark Hicks, Dahmer dissolved him in a toxic brew and flushed him down the toilet. He documented the process by taking photographs of the bodies in various stages of death and decomposition, in the aim of reliving the experience. Dahmer also preserved pieces of his victims in his refrigerator and performed sex acts on them regularly.

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John George Haigh is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 10 Killers Who Used Acid to Dispose of Their Victims' Bodies
Photo:  Gps909/via Wikimedia Commons

John George Haigh, also known as the Acid Bath Murderer, was a serial killer in 1940s England. Haigh bludgeoned or shot his victims, nine in total, and then used concentrated sulphuric acid to destroy their corpses, believing that this was a perfect, untraceable form of murder. He believed a conviction would not be possible without substantial physical evidence, misinterpreting the term corpus delicti. After the acid bath, Haigh forged papers so that he would be able to profit from his victims' estates.

While he was mostly successful in destroying the bodies, Haigh still left ample forensic evidence behind. Police connecting him to a missing woman began to investigate his prior run-ins with the law. At his house, they found three gallstones and the remains of a denture. Nearby was the foot of someone else. This was enough to tie Haigh to the deaths and he was eventually convicted and executed.

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John Gotti is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 10 Killers Who Used Acid to Dispose of Their Victims' Bodies
Photo: FBI/via Wikimedia Commons

In 1980, John Favara made the terrible mistake of accidentally killing mobster John Gotti's 12-year-old son with his car during a traffic accident in Queens, New York. Though he apologized profusely, the Gambino crime family soon put a hit on him, and he was harassed, stalked, and eventually gunned down in that same neighborhood. Next came the task of disposing of his body.

A witness identified 62-year-old former mobster Charles Carneglia, as the man chosen to deal with the matter. Court documents show Carneglia told an informant that acid was the best choice, and that it would surely avoid detection. Favara's body has still never been found, although rumors abound. According to Gotti's biographer, Jerry Capeci, a likely scenario involves his corpse being shoved into an oil drum filled with cement and dumped into the sea.

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The Sausage King of Chicago Had a Secret Ingredient


Adolph Luetgert is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 10 Killers Who Used Acid to Dispose of Their Victims' Bodies
Photo:  J. Sanderson Christison/Alchemy of Bones

Adolph Louis Luetgert was a German-American, who in 1897, murdered his wife and dissolved her in one of his sausage vats at the A.L. Luetgert Sausage & Packing Company. His weapon of choice was lye. Luetgert owned the company and was known as the "Sausage King of Chicago" (a name immortalized in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). Rumors have circulated about Mrs. Luetgert haunting the factory, or even being made into sausage and sold to clueless customers.

Police were able to locate bills that showed Luetgert had bought arsenic and potash right before the murder, and because there had been previous incidents of domestic abuse in the household, they were convinced that he had killed his wife, boiled her, and dumped her in the factory furnace. Upon investigating the furnace, their suspicions were confirmed: there they found charred sausages and bits of human remains, as well as two of his wife's rings and bone fragments (a phalanx, a rib, and the head of a female). This was enough evidence to convict Luetgert, who died just a few years later in prison.