Unspeakable Crimes Some of the Worst Asphyxiation Deaths in Modern Times  

Chuck Stern
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Asphyxiation can be 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 can be 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 and gruesome deaths via asphyxiation - from bizarre druggings and incest to workplace aggression and shocking accidents.

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: Courtesy Photo/via The Herald News/Fair Use

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 reportedly tried to pry out of his wooden grave, but he was too exhausted and overcome by sand. Police located his maroon Mercedes near the site and eventually recovered his body. To this day, Rish maintains that neither one of them intended to end Small's life and that he 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/via Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use

In 2009, Yale University student Annie Le, 24, was assaulted by a lab technician named Raymond Clark III just days before her wedding. Clark beat Le, breaking many of her bones, before strangling her and stuffing her into a wall. The body was discovered four days later on what would have been Le's wedding day.

Le's death was caused by "traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression," a method that requires intense pressure. Her injuries are consistent with a choke hold or another form of pressure-induced asphyxiation. In 2011, Clark received a 44-year sentence. Five years later in 2016, Yale settled a lawsuit with Le's family.

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Victoria Martens Was Strangled 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: Courtesy Photo Martens Family/via KOAT/Fair Use

Victoria Martens of Northwest Albuquerque was only 10 when her mother and two other people drugged, assaulted, and took her life. In August 2016, Victoria's mother looked on as her boyfriend and a friend injected the little girl with methamphetamine so that they could sexually assault her. 35-year-old Michelle Martens explained the use of drugs was an attempt "to calm [Victoria] down."

The two proceeded to kill Victoria, one strangling and one stabbing the girl. The actual cause of death was not determined since Victoria's body 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 [he has] ever seen in [his] 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 passed mysteriously in 2014 while on a 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 buried her in his backyard. He claimed he failed to notice she was still breathing because he was in a rush.

Houari was still alive at the time of the burial. She had reportedly suffered some kind of diabetic episode and fallen into a shock after her blood sugar levels surged. Police believe she slowly suffocated after being trapped for days. They were finally able to locate her body in the makeshift grave, which was near the man's muddy clothes and a used shovel. He later confessed and was charged with manslaughter.