Facts About Historical Crimes And Criminals We Just Learned In 2021

Voting Rules
Vote up the facts about crimes and criminals you find the most fascinating.

While crimes and criminals can seem to take up most headline space in our newspapers and magazines, there are still so many that we've never heard of. Whether that be capers so elaborate we can hardly believe they were pulled off or cold cases that finally get answered, these stories can be quite fascinating when they come to light.

Look through the things we learned about crimes and criminals this year and vote up the ones you found most interesting. 

  • Elisabeth Fritzl Was Tricked Into Helping Her Father Finish The Cell She Would Later Be Imprisoned Within
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    When Josef Fritzl asked his daughter, Elisabeth, to help him with a door to the cellar in their family home, she had no idea she was sealing her fate within its confines. At the time, Elisabeth was 18 years old and, for the next 24 years, was held captive in that cellar by her father.

    At first, she was chained to metal posts. Her father reportedly removed the chain a few months later because, according to an indictment, "it was hindering his sexual activity with his daughter."

    During her captivity, Elisabeth was "left alone in total darkness" for multiple days, and threatened with electric shocks and poison if she tried to escape. The same threats were made to the children, once they began arriving.

    In 2008, it came to light that Fritzl committed incest and produced seven children with his daughter. It was only after one of those children needed medical attention and was taken to the hospital that the horrors Elisabeth had faced were revealed.

    Fritzl was apprehended and later pleaded guilty to rape, incest, and imprisonment. He was also accused of homicide after authorities learned one of the children he'd fathered by Elisabeth had perished. Fritzl ultimately pleaded guilty to that charge too, commenting, "I don't know why I didn't help. I hoped that he would pull through." 

    2,011 votes
  • 2
    1,278 VOTES

    A Maternity Home In Canada Secretly Stole, Sold, And Killed Babies

    From 1928 to 1947, the Ideal Maternity Home promised to provide care for mothers and their newborns in East Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada. But the reality was far darker. 

    The Ideal Maternity Home actually sold babies to couples in the US who were desperate for children. Some of the babies had been put up for adoption by their mothers; others were taken by staff who told the mothers their children had passed in the wake of childbirth.

    The facility even decided that some babies who were supposed to be put up for adoption wouldn't find a home - so they killed them rather than provide care. These infants were buried in butterboxes

    1,278 votes
  • 3
    1,976 VOTES

    Police Said 10-Day-Old Delimar Vera Perished In A House Fire, But Her Mother Was Convinced She'd Been Abducted

    Just before Christmas in 1997, a fire started in the Philadelphia home of Luz Cuevas. Fighting through the smoke and flames, she ran into the room where her 10-day-old daughter, Delimar, was sleeping in her crib, but saw no sign of her. Suffering burns to her face and at risk of passing out from smoke inhalation, she got out of the house with her two other children. 

    Firefighters quickly put the blaze out, which was primarily contained to the baby's room. After an initial search for the newborn, authorities determined she had perished in the fire, which they said was caused by an overheated extension cord on a space heater. Human remains were never found in the debris, but investigators concluded any remains had been incinerated in the flames. Cuevas, however, insisted that her child had been kidnapped. But, because there was no evidence of a kidnapping aside from her desperate pleas, it was considered a closed case.

    For six years, Cuevas mourned the loss of her child and wondered what had truly become of her. In 2003, at a birthday party for an acquaintance, Cuevas saw a little girl who looked strikingly like her other children and was the exact same age as her lost Delimar. She was able to obtain some of the girl's hair that day under the ruse of getting bubblegum out of her hair. With assistance from a state legislator, she had police open an investigation and test the hair for DNA. The test proved that 6-year-old "Aaliyah Hernandez" was actually her daughter, Delimar Vera. 

    The woman who kidnapped Delimar was Carolyn Correa, a cousin of the child's father, Pedro Vera. Cuevas and Correa had only met the day before the fire, when Correa came by the house. The following day, Correa returned, claiming she had left her purse upstairs. The blaze started as Correa left the house. 

    Delimar, still going by Aaliyah, was reunited with her parents the next year, who were both given custody. Her abductor was convicted of kidnapping, arson, and other offenses.

    1,976 votes
  • Sandra Boss Didn't Discover Her Husband's True Identity For 11 Years
    Photo: 48 Hours / YouTube
    1,407 VOTES

    Sandra Boss Didn't Discover Her Husband's True Identity For 11 Years

    In the mid '90s, Stanford graduate Sandra Boss was getting her MBA at Harvard when her sister introduced her to a man named Clark Rockefeller, descendant of the famous business family. He wore custom-made designer clothing, collected expensive art, and had an upscale New York apartment. Boss was charmed, and the two married shortly thereafter. 

    Boss and Rockefeller spent the next 11 years together. They enjoyed a stable life, thanks in large part to Boss's job as a consultant and personal wealth. The two had a daughter, Reigh Storrow Mills Rockefeller, lovingly referred to as "Snooks," in 2001. But their marriage soon began to crack. Rockefeller was a stay-at-home dad, and didn't hesitate to spend Boss's money to keep up his appearances. His stories, too, became inconsistent. And Boss was often baffled when Rockefeller would suddenly insist, seemingly out of the blue, that they needed to move. Again.

    Boss served Rockefeller with divorce papers in 2007. Since her husband was jobless and a complete mystery, Boss was awarded full custody. In 2008, Clark Rockefeller was enjoying one of the three court-approved visitations with his daughter as his ex-wife waited in a Boston hotel room nearby. While walking through Boston Common, Rockefeller disappeared with his daughter.

    As investigators attempted to track down Rockefeller, they found more questions than answers. He didn't have a Social Security card, a driver's license, or even a credit card in his own name. When his picture was shown on the news asking for leads, callers gave at least four different identities to go with the man shown on-screen. Investigators were flummoxed.

    Then, a friend came forward with what would become crucial evidence: Rockefeller had had a glass of wine at his house the night before, and the glass had not been washed. Police lifted prints off the glass and got a match to one Christian Karl Gerhartstreiter, a German immigrant who had come to the United States almost 30 years earlier.

    Gerhartstreiter grew up in a middle-class family in a small town in Germany. He moved to the US as a teenager, where he stayed with a Connecticut family while claiming to be an exchange student at a local high school. He later got married and divorced, landing a green card, and moved to Los Angeles under the name of Christopher Chichester. He made himself at home in an upper-class neighborhood, weaving a tale of royal English ancestry and proclaiming himself a TV producer. He lived in the back house of a woman named Didi Sohus. Her son and daughter-in-law, John and Linda Sohus, lived on the property, as well. The two went missing in 1985, and Christopher Chichester disappeared shortly afterwards.

    The skeletal remains of the couple were discovered in the backyard of the house in 1994, but by that time, Christopher Chichester had become Christopher Crowe. Crowe worked at (and was fired from) a number of high-level jobs on Wall Street, with no degree, no experience, and no Social Security number. As people began to catch wind of his act, and investigators tracked Sohus's missing truck back to him, he disappeared again, later turning up in Sandra Boss's life as Clark Rockefeller.

    After a five-day manhunt for him and his kidnapped daughter, Clark Rockefeller had become Chip Smith. But his newest alias didn't last long; the owner of the carriage house he rented called investigators, and Snooks was safely returned to her mother while Christian/Christopher/Clark/Chip was finally taken into custody. 

    Gerhartstreiter was convicted of kidnapping his daughter as well as the murder of John Sohus (Linda's body has never been found). He is serving a sentence of 27 years to life in prison. 

    1,407 votes
  • Delphine LaLaurie Was A New Orleans Socialite And Serial Killer Who Tortured And Murdered The Enslaved
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    There is perhaps no person from the 19th century more wicked than socialite and serial killer Delphine LaLaurie. Her cruelty began after her third marriage, when she took control of the enslaved workers at her husband’s estate.

    Although LaLaurie's sadism and mistreatment of the estate’s servants was well known, the police would not act - as it was not a matter they addressed during the era. This changed in 1833 when it was discovered that LaLaurie had whipped a young enslaved person while chasing her off a roof, ending the child's life.

    Reportedly, the police found the body that LaLaurie had tried to hide, and she was subsequently fined and made to sell her slaves. LaLaurie had her close friends and family buy the enslaved workers, which were then returned to her mansion.

    In April 1834, the people of the town finally became aware of her torture chamber when a fire broke out at her estate. A mob descended upon LaLaurie and her husband, causing them to flee to Paris, where it is believed she passed after being disgraced and rejected from high society.

    1,253 votes
  • Saint Olga Of Kiev Had Her Husband's Murderers Buried Alive, Scalded, And Their City Destroyed
    Photo: Николай Бруни / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    1,239 VOTES

    Saint Olga Of Kiev Had Her Husband's Murderers Buried Alive, Scalded, And Their City Destroyed

    Saint Olga's husband, Igor I, Prince of Kyiv, was slayed in 945 by a group living in Kyiv known as the Drevlyans when he asked them to pay what they felt was an excessive tribute. Olga and Igor's son was still an infant at that time, so she became the land's ruler. The Drevlyans sent ambassadors to Olga to negotiate a marriage between her and their choice for king. Olga had a moat dug, and the ambassadors were buried alive.

    Olga sent word back that she required better suitors. The Drevlyans sent more men, whom Olga locked in a bathhouse and set fire to. She then went to visit the Drevlyans in person and they held a great feast in her honor. When they had drunk to excess, her men slaughtered the entire gathering.

    As she besieged this city that had refused to pay tribute, the Drevlyans asked for mercy and offered goods in exchange. Olga simply requested three sparrows and three pigeons from each household in the city. She had her soldiers fit each bird with bits of sulfur within small pieces of cloth. When released, the birds flew back into the city and set it ablaze. 

    1,239 votes