Statistically speaking, you will walk past a murderer 10.76 times in your life. But what if you didn't just walk past a murderer - what if they were a part of your family and you didn't know it? These stories of the children of serial killers show just how well their parents hid their disturbing behavior.
Some of these offspring of serial killers had an inkling their parent was up to something, usually a general sense of something not being quite right. Others had no idea what was happening, sometimes under their own roof.
Mae West, daughter of Fred and Rosemary West, has repeatedly spoken about the effect her parents' crimes had on her life. Between 1967 and 1987, Fred and Rosemary West murdered at least 12 young women - possibly up to 20 - including Fred's ex-wife, Rena West, and two of their own children. The couple even buried several women beneath their shared home in Gloucestershire, England.
Because of her parent's actions, Mae West feels that she can't work with children, explaining, "It's about self-protection as much as anything, because if something happened to a child in my care - if they fell and hurt themselves - I'd be blamed because of my background."
She has also discussed her problems starting a new life somewhere else, after attempting to relocate to Australia: "They wouldn't let me in the country because of what my parents did." And the treatment even extends to her husband, who Mae claimed "applied to be a policeman. But he couldn't get in, and I'm sure it's because he's married to me."
Mae alleges that as a child she was molested by her father and raped by her uncle; she also says her father raped her sister. Looking back on her childhood, Mae realized that she and her sister, like most young girls, played dress-up with clothing they found in the house. They didn't know it, but the clothes belonged to their father's victims.
She feels it's unfair that the police show concern about her family now, when in the past, "we were overlooked by the authorities while our parents abused us sexually and physically as kids, and now as adults, they say: 'You're from an abusive family. We'll have to keep an eye on you.'"
Mae often visited her mother in prison, despite what she did, because she believed her father was the real culprit. But she thinks her mother manipulated her: "She started to hug me and hold my hand when I visited her. She'd never shown me any affection before. She signed all of her letters, 'Love as always, Mum,' yet she'd never told me she loves me before."
Mae soon realized her mother was never going to answer any of her questions or take any responsibility. In fact, she had become "quite high and mighty in prison, claiming my sister Louise wouldn't be a good parent, overlooking the fact that she and Dad had been responsible for violently and sexually abusing her."
Fortunately, Mae has been seeing a therapist and remains focused on the future. She is happily married with an adult daughter and a young son. She is moving on with her life, but is still haunted by the past: "I can't bear to be cornered in a corridor or a room. I'm alert to all the awful stuff that can happen." She also has trouble connecting to people emotionally:
I cut off my feelings when my uncle abused me. I did it to protect myself. I'm practical. I'm very good at helping if one of my sisters needs her washing machine fixed but if she rings up crying, I don't know what to say or do.
Keith Jesperson, a long-distance truck driver from British Columbia, also known as the Happy Face Killer, raped and murdered eight women during the 1990s. Jesperson spread out his killings to several states, including California, Florida, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.
Jesperson's daughter, Melissa Moore, revealed the strange relationship she had with her father: "He never molested or beat any of us, it was just a feeling that something was building, seething beneath the surface. I once tried to articulate it to a school counselor but it didn't come out right. I mean, a lot of kids think their dad is weird."
Moore revealed she also felt uncomfortable with her father's behavior around women. He would tell her details of his sexual exploits, "leer at women in public, make lewd remarks about them, and harass them." Moore felt at one point like her father wanted to tell her what he was doing, but ultimately said, "I can't tell you, sweetie. If I tell you, you will tell the police. I'm not what you think I am, Melissa."
Several months after that last meeting, Moore's mother told her that Jesperson was arrested for murder. Moore realized she had seen some signs of her father's deviant behavior, remembering a time when she found some kittens in a farmhouse and her father "casually hung them up on the clothesline, and began to torment them. I remembered his enjoyment as I screamed and pleaded with him to take them down. Later on I found their little bodies in the back garden."
She also remembered a time where her father told her he knew how to kill someone and get away with it. "He started to tell me how he would cut off the victim's buttons, so that there wouldn't be any fingerprints left, and he would wear cycling shoes that didn't leave a distinctive print in the mud."
As an adult, she flashed back to that scene and realized they had been traveling through an area where he murdered a woman named Taunja Bennett, and he was most likely talking about her. "I think he wanted to relive it and enjoy the moment again."
The effects of her father's crimes took a toll on Moore. Reading the newspaper became too difficult, as she didn't want to hear what people were saying about her father, even though she realized he was a bad man. She "was in a violent, abusive relationship with a boy - something I think my father primed me for." She was even isolated at school: "Parents were really shaken up by the thought that their children might have been in harm's way, so they kept them away from me and I began to feel tremendous guilt and shame."
Fortunately, Moore was eventually able to move on with her life, and even get married and have children. She cut off contact with her father after her grandfather revealed that, during a visit, Jesperson admitted to having thoughts of killing Moore and her siblings.
Unlike most of the other children on this list, Matthew Ridgway remembers his father Gary Ridgway as a very involved and gentle parent who never raised his voice. The two went camping often, and his father taught him to play baseball. "Even when I was in fourth grade, when I was with soccer, he'd always, you know, be there for me. I don't think I ever remember him not being there."
Gary Ridgway, better known as the Green River Killer, started his deviant career in the fall of 1982. He killed dozens of sex workers in the following years. It seemed like the killer would never be caught, until DNA technology allowed authorities to link him to a string of crime scenes in 2001.
During the time of the murders, Gary converted his religion and preached Bible verses door to door. Ted Bundy later helped in the investigation by suggesting the police move their search closer to one of the sites the killer liked to dump bodies.
Matthew Ridgway never believed his father was the Green River Killer, thinking, "He's just one of the guys that happened to be one place, and you know, he's my dad. He didn't do it, you know." What Ridgway didn't know at the time, however, was that his father often used his son's photo as a tool to lure women and put them at ease before killing them. Gary also took Matthew to play near the Green River where he dumped the bodies of the women he killed.
James Carson, a divorced father and alleged cannabis dealer from Phoenix, and Suzan Carson, a divorced woman with two teens who spent her time at the local country club, met at a Thanksgiving party. The deadly duo killed between three and 12 people from 1981 to 1983, claiming witches, homosexuality, and abortion were what instigated them.
Jennifer Carson, James Carson's daughter from his first marriage, saw things change a lot over the years. Suzan for one was "living this posh, country club lifestyle before she started using LSD and got involved with my father." Her father was seemingly normal before meeting Suzan, too:
When my mom met [my father], he was a nice Jewish boy. No one could have foreseen this - especially how weird it got. Typically your Jewish father doesn't convert to Islam, then to radical Islam, and change it to some weird religion where they grow pot and kill [gay people].
Jennifer believed Suzan had a lot of influence over her father, who tended to be a follower:
If he had fallen in love with a televangelist, he would become one. If she had joined ISIS, he would have. He was that much of a follower. He was drawn to extremists, people he found really exciting.
The couple's behavior grew more frantic and less rational. "It's absolutely nuts. They were dropping acid daily," Jennifer said. She did not know the extent of their depraved lifestyle, but she did recall an incident where she asked her stepmother to rub her back before bed, "and she scratched my back and said she was going to get the demon out of me." Jennifer was scared, and then Suzan told her, "You can fool your father, but I know that you're the devil, and I am going to get this demon out of you."
When Jennifer finally broke down and told her mother about Suzan and her father, and what they were doing, her mother packed up, and the two left for Southern California. In 1983, following the third known murder by the duo, the Carsons were finally apprehended, tried, and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
In 2015, Suzan was eligible for parole. Jennifer and others who opposed her release planned to testify at her hearing, stating, "It's not vindictive, but it's for safety and accountability to the public, as long as [Suzan] can lift a hand... she could harm somebody." In the end, Suzan did not show up to her hearing and subsequently was not paroled. This was a relief for Jennifer, who said, "She'll pass away in prison. She'll spend the rest of her life in prison, and that's what should happen."