True Stories Some of the Worst Asphyxiation Deaths in Modern Times  

Chuck Stern
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Death by asphyxiation is one of the worst ways to go. It is painful, anxiety-inducing, and not at all quick. To induce strangulation or any form of suffocation on another living being is to relinquish all traces of empathy and basic respect for life. It is heartbreaking to think of those that have perished in such cases, and the suffering they must have endured. How many poor souls have been buried alive? Of those, how many have even been found? The horrors of asphyxiation reverberate throughout the grave. These are cases of cruel deaths and gruesome murder, of strangulation by force. 

From bizarre druggings, incest, and sexual depravity to workplace violence and hate crimes, these killers will make even the most callous observer wince.

Stephen Small Inhaled Sand Through Faulty Tubes


Stephen Small is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Some of the Worst Asphyxiation Deaths in Modern Times
Photo:  Yandy Johara/Application Update

Stephen Small was an Illinois publishing and media heir who was kidnapped and murdered in 1987 as part of a $1 million extortion plot. His assailants, Danny Edwards and Nancy Rish, intended to keep Small alive in an underground makeshift box, providing him with minimal air, light, and water, but only through the use of breathing tubes. Unfortunately, Small's tube failed and he either suffocated or suffered a heart attack.

Small tried to pry out of his wooden grave, but he was too overcome by sand and too exhausted. Police located his maroon Mercedes near the site, and eventually his corpse. To this day, Rish maintains that neither one of them wanted Small dead, and that she was merely a tool Edwards used to further his agenda. She admits to driving Edwards around and helping him, "unknowingly."


Annie Le is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Some of the Worst Asphyxiation Deaths in Modern Times
Photo: New Haven Police Department/Wikipedia

Yale University student Annie Le was viciously attacked by a lab technician named Raymond Clark III just days before her wedding in 2009. Clark broke many of Le's bones in the rage, beating her severely, strangling her, and stuffing her into a wall, where she was discovered four days later on what would have been her wedding day.

Le's death was caused by "traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression," a method of choking that requires intense pressure on the victim, comparable to the way a python crushes its prey. The weapon of choice remains a mystery, although her injuries are consistent with a choke hold or another form of pressure-induced asphyxiation. Yale recently settled a lawsuit over the tragic death.

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Victoria Martens Was Strangled, Stabbed While Her Mother Watched


Victoria Martens Was Strangled... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Some of the Worst Asphyxiation Deaths in Modern Times
Photo: Martens Family/KOAT

Victoria Martens was only 10 when she was drugged, raped, and murdered by her mother and two other people in northwest Albuquerque in August 2016. Martens' mother looked on as her boyfriend and a friend injected the little girl with methamphetamine so they could sexually assault her. She explained this was an attempt to "calm her down."

The two proceeded to kill Victoria, one strangling her and one stabbing her. The actual cause of death was not determined, since Victoria's body was so badly mutilated (she was dismembered). Police Chief Gorden Eden described the homicide as "a complete disregard for human life and betrayal by a mother,” adding that it was "the most gruesome act of evil I have ever seen in my career.”

Mina El Houari Was Buried Alive After a Diabetic Attack


Mina El Houari Was Buried Aliv... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Some of the Worst Asphyxiation Deaths in Modern Times
Photo:  makamuki0/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

Mina El Houari was a 25-year-old French woman who died mysteriously in 2014 while on the first date with a Moroccan man she had just met. The man claimed Houari lost consciousness and collapsed. Then, believing her to be dead, he decided to bury her in his backyard. He claimed he failed to notice she was still breathing because he was in a rush.

Houari was, in fact, very much alive. She had suffered a diabetic fit and fallen into a shock after her blood sugar levels surged. Unfortunately, her ordeal was only beginning. Police believe she slowly suffocated under the dirt of the garden after being trapped for days. They were finally able to locate her body in a makeshift grave, which was near the man's muddy clothes and a used shovel. He later confessed to the crime and was charged with manslaughter.