Police estimate that hundreds of thousands of dead people have their Social Security numbers and other aspects of their identities stolen every year, mostly for purposes of fraud. But a few identity thieves take their crime to the ultimate level: killing people just to steal their lives. Murdering someone AND stealing their ID is rare, but when it happens, it is often the result of a long and involved con.
Killers who became their victims include a woman who murdered her sister after pretending her house was firebombed by drug dealers; a career fraudster who sent his victim off to another country, then killed him when he came back; a convicted rapist who killed a homeless man in order to fake his own death; and a lesbian serial killer known as the most wanted woman in America.
Here are some of the stories of people who killed others to assume their identities.
Stevie Allman became a minor celebrity in Oakland after she was rescued from her house, which had apparently been firebombed by drug dealers out to get revenge on her because of her anti-drug efforts. Money was raised to help treat her injuries, she spoke out against the arsonists, and even the state's governor got in on it, offering a reward for the capture of those who bombed Allman's house.It sounded like good-old American heroism, except that Stevie Allman had set the fire herself, and wasn't Stevie at all, but her sister Sarah, who had murdered Stevie and stuffed her in a freezer. Sarah and Stevie lived together in the house, and while Stevie was known as an anti-drug crusader, Sarah was an unemployed freeloader who routinely stole from her sister - even forging her name to cash an inheritance check. Police speculated that Sarah killed Stevie and assumed her identity to gain access to the deed to the house, as well as Stevie's finances. Other family members noted that two women lived in the house, and when confronted, Sarah readily admitted what she did.
A 12-year manhunt for "Chameleon Killer" Elaine Parent came to a head in 2002 in Florida, after police in two countries tracked her down. Parent was accused of stalking single women, taking them as lovers, then killing them and stealing their identities. The first killing attributed to Parent was a woman who washed up on a Florida canal mutilated and headless, but with a tattoo that police identified and tracked back to Parent, the victim's roommate. Parent had used a false ID to trick the victim into handing over her Social Security number, driver's license number, and credit card number for a "numerology analysis," and then killed her.
Over the next decade plus, Parent took authorities in the US and UK on a chase involving dozens of identities, several other murders, multiple countries, and countless leads. Parent was finally tracked back to Florida, and shot herself while waiting to be arrested.
A bizarre southern California attempted murder trial involved Jeena and Sunny Han, characterized by police as a good twin and an evil twin. In this case, the evil twin was Jeena, who was arrested on a slew of charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, and false imprisonment. All of them stemmed from an attempt to kill her "good twin" Sunny, and assume her identity.
Jeena was upset with Sunny for assisting police in a prior credit card fraud scheme that she'd been involved in. She hired two guys and went over to Sunny's apartment, planning to kill her and take her identity, including her good credit score and clean arrest record. The plot was foiled when Sunny (who didn't realize that her sister was in her apartment) called the police, and Jeena made a run for it. She was eventually arrested at a San Diego Airport. Jeena was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years to life in prison.
The 2010 double murder that gripped Australia - the case of the deaths of 22-year-old Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her two-year-old daughter - took almost five years to finally unravel. Karlie's bones were found in October 2010 in a forest in New South Wales, while her daughter's remains were found in a suitcase in July 2015, almost 700 miles away. Both of their identities had been exploited for fraud, theft, and to send fake messages suggesting that Karlie was still alive.
When the infant's remains were linked to Karlie's, police went public, imploring the people of Australia for tips as to the culprits. Within a few days they had a suspect, Karlie's former lover Daniel Holdom - whose girlfriend was using Karlie's identity to open bank accounts and defraud credit card companies. Holdom was arrested on double murder charges.