Family annihilators are people who kill multiple members of their own families, such as their spouses, children, siblings, or parents, often in response to financial, professional, or relationship stressors. According to a study of family annihilators, the majority of these killers are men in their 30s. In addition, people who committed familicide often did so on the weekend when they had the most access to their family members. Family annihilators usually kill their victims in a house, and they are most likely to murder their families by stabbing them to death or poisoning them with carbon monoxide.
In many instances, family annihilators end their killing sprees by taking their own lives, while some become fugitives from the law, sometimes living under new identities for years before they're captured by police. Still, some family annihilators are immediately arrested by law enforcement, executed, or given long prison terms for their atrocious crimes. Others, however, have never been apprehended for their killings, meaning some men who have murdered their entire families are free and possibly living with new wives and children who are completely unaware of their violent pasts.
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On August 26, 2008, 49-year-old British businessman Christopher Foster murdered his wife and teenage daughter, shooting them and the family’s many dogs and horses to death, before pouring 200 gallons of oil all over his mansion in Shropshire, England. After setting the home on fire, he climbed into bed next to his dead wife, and he eventually died from smoke inhalation. Security cameras posted around the property captured the tragedy, allowing law enforcement to learn exactly how Foster killed his wife, daughter, and himself. An investigation after the familicide also revealed why Foster, who lived in an opulent home worth well over a million dollars, committed murder, suicide, and arson.
While Foster had made millions by developing materials for the oil industry, he spent his fortune recklessly, purchasing material items like expensive sports cars simply to keep up appearances. When his business began to fail, creditors started threatening to repossess his assets, including his costly family home. Officials believe that instead of admitting his financial problems to his wife and daughter and accepting the mess he was in, Foster thought his only option was to destroy his family and the lavish home that he was on the verge of losing anyway.
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In June 2007, 40-year-old professional wrestler Chris Benoit strangled his 43-year-old wife, Nancy, to death and suffocated his 7-year-old son, Daniel, before hanging himself from a weight machine in the basement of the family's Fayetteville, Georgia, home. The family's dead bodies were discovered by law enforcement on June 25, 2007, when no one had been able to get in touch with Chris or Nancy for a number of days. Investigators found Bibles next to the bodies of the victims, and a search of Chris Benoit's computer led them to believe he may have tried to resuscitate his son after killing him.
A lot of people of have speculated about why the professional wrestler murdered his wife and child before ending his own life. Following his death, scans of Benoit's brain revealed severe damage caused by concussions suffered during his long wrestling career, leading his father to attribute the familicide to these extensive injuries.
However, toxicology tests revealed steroids in Benoit's system at the time of his death, causing some people to believe he may have murdered his family in a fit of "roid rage." However, Benoit's exact motives for killing his wife of seven years, his young son, and then himself have never been revealed, causing many to still ponder what caused this successful wrestler to commit such grisly acts.
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On March 30, 1975, Easter Sunday, 41-year-old James Urban Ruppert killed his mother, brother, sister-in-law, five nephews, and three nieces in his mother’s home in Hamilton, Ohio, with a rifle and two handguns. After murdering 11 of his family members, who ranged in age from three to 65, Ruppert called the police to report the killings, and he was promptly arrested for the crimes. Ruppert never revealed why he committed familicide, but people close to the killer and his family said he had a contentious relationship with his mother and brother.
At his first trial, Ruppert pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but he was convicted of the killings and sentenced to life in prison. However, a mistrial was declared because the courts determined he hadn’t received a fair trial in Hamilton, the town in which the killings had occurred. He was granted a new trial in Findlay, Ohio, and in July 1975 yet another jury found Ruppert guilty and gave him 11 consecutive life sentences. However, he appealed this conviction and was granted yet another trial.
In July 1982, he was convicted of killing his brother and mother, but he was found not guilty of the other murders, and he was given two consecutive life sentences. His 2015 request for parole was denied, and he is currently incarcerated in a Lima, Ohio prison.
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Over the course of one week in December 1987, 47-year-old Ronald Gene Simmons, a retired serviceman who had served in both the Navy and the Air Force, murdered 14 members of his family, including his wife, children, grandchildren, daughter-in-law, and son-in-law, as well as a stranger and an acquaintance. Simmons’s victims ranged in age from one to 46, and he killed them either by shooting them or strangling them to death.
His killing spree started on December 22, 1987, when he murdered his wife and six children in his Arkansas home, and it continued on December 26, 1987, when he took the lives of seven additional family members when they arrived at his house for a post-Christmas celebration. Two days later on December 28, 1987, he murdered a young woman he’d been obsessed with, and then he went on a rampage in Russellville, Arkansas, killing one man and wounding several others.
Simmons was arrested, tried, and convicted of 16 counts of murder, and he was executed by lethal injection on June 25, 1990, at the age of 49. Simmons never explained why he killed his entire family, although investigators discovered he’d sexually abused one of his daughters, and she’d even given birth to her father’s child.