13 Killers Who Were Caught Because They Got Sloppy

For as long as there have been killers, there have been killers caught because they made mistakes. Despite exhaustive detective work by authorities, sometimes killers are caught because they became sloppy. These marauding maniacs are still human, and like the rest of us, they are prone to mistakes. Some killers get sloppy, while others are eventually apprehended because they got lazy. One thing is for sure: we are all thankful when they do themselves in.

Compiled here is a list of some of the grandest cases of stupidity and laziness by some of the most infamous killers to have roamed the earth. Some of the psychos on this list seemed to want to be caught, while others were genuinely baffled when their own hubris led to their capture. Some of these killers were arrested after asking the police for advice and others when their crimes hit too close to home, but all of them were caught because of their own sloppiness.

  • Dennis Rader, The Floppy Disk, And The Pap Smear
    Video: YouTube

    Between 1974 and 1991, ADT Security Services employee Dennis Rader, nicknamed the “BTK Killer” (an acronym for his infamous modus operandi, “Bind, Torture, Kill”), murdered 10 people in the Wichita, KS, metro area. In a testament to the macabre, Rader spent 14 years installing the very security systems which were meant to keep him out. Unfortunately for Rader, and fortunately for the rest of us, police work, hubris, and just plain old stupidity finally did him in.

    In 2004, after more than a decade of silence, Rader began contacting the local media and police. Rader started leaving packages containing evidence of his crimes in public places. One such package, which he left in the back of a pickup truck in a Home Depot parking lot, was never found after the truck's owner noticed it and threw it in the trash. Rader, wondering why it did not make the news, decided to ask. This led police to the Home Depot and its security camera footage, which helped to identify the killer driving a black Jeep Grand Cherokee.

    The BTK Killer's next mistake would not only land him in the gullibility Hall of Fame but also in prison. In one of his letters to the police, Rader asked if a floppy disk could be traced back to the computer it was used on. The police responded in an ad in the local paper and told him it could not. Of course, that was a lie. A few weeks later, he sent a floppy disk to a local television station. It was given to the police, who quickly tracked the disk back to a computer used at Christ Lutheran Church by someone named “Dennis.” An internet search revealed that a man named “Dennis Rader” was, in fact, president of the church council. The police then went to Rader’s house where they found a black Jeep Cherokee parked outside.

    After a 30-year search, the police finally had their man, but they needed more than circumstantial evidence to arrest him for the murders. By submitting a subpoena for the medical records of Rader's daughter, police were able to acquire her DNA from a recent pap smear. After comparing her DNA to the DNA from one of the crime scenes, the lab returned a familial match and the police made their arrest. A few hours later Rader confessed. During his confession, Rader asked in regard to the floppy disk, “I need to ask you, how come you lied to me? How come you lied to me?” 

    Rader was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms in prison: One for each of his victims. He is currently serving life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the longest possible sentence the judge could deliver.

  • Jeffrey Dahmer And The Naked Man
    Photo: Kimihunarf323 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Jeffrey Dahmer, known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, raped and murdered 17 men and boys from 1978 to 1991. He often consumed the flesh of his victims and saved various body parts. Toward the end of his rampage, he even began committing necrophilia.

    Serial killers often prey on the weak, choosing victims they can overpower both mentally and physically. Unfortunately for Dahmer, his last victim was a quick-thinking man with an even quicker right hook. After being lured back to Dahmer’s apartment, handcuffed, and forced to strip, he was told by Dahmer that his heart would be eaten. While sitting in his potential killer’s living room waiting to die, he asked to use the bathroom. Dahmer agreed. As the man stood up, Dahmer mistakenly let go of the handcuffs, allowing his victim to punch him in the face and run out the front door. Nude and handcuffed, he was able to flag down the police, who then followed him back to Dahmer’s apartment. Once there, they discovered pictures of his victims and several severed heads in the refrigerator and freezer.

    Following his trial in 1992, the jury found Dahmer guilty, but sane, on all counts.  He was sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms in prison.  However, after serving two years, Dahmer was beaten to death by another inmate in 1994.

  • Albert Fish And The Envelope
    Video: YouTube

    Albert Fish, also known as the "Gray Man," "The Werewolf of Wysteria," and possibly the “Brooklyn Vampire,” was an early 20th-century American serial killer, child rapist, and cannibal. Though never proven, he bragged that he had killed 100 people. He was a suspect in five murders and confessed to three.

    What led to his arrest was a letter he sent to one of his victim’s mothers, describing in detail how he kidnapped, murdered, and ate her daughter. Fish made the mistake of sending the letter in an envelope he found in the boarding house he was staying in. Due to an emblem on the envelope, police were able to trace it back to Fish. He was executed by electric chair in 1936 in the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York.

  • Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo, known as the "Butcher of Rostov," was a Russian serial killer who sexually assaulted, killed, and mutilated at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990.

    Chikatilo often lured his victims from train stations in secluded areas. To catch him, Russian police began sending undercover agents to train stations that fit his pattern. Eventually, one agent noticed a man coming out of the woods washing blood from his hands. He questioned Chikatilo and filed a report, but he didn't have enough evidence to make an arrest and so let Chikatilo go. Soon after, a girl's body was found in the same woods. The police had the report and arrested Chikatilo, who confessed to his crimes. Chikatilo was executed in 1994 by a single gunshot to the back of his head.

  • Ted Bundy And The Stolen Car
    Video: YouTube

    Ted Bundy was an American serial killer who admitted to murdering 36 women in the 1970s. However, some experts believe that he may have murdered as many as 100 women. His crimes were particularly gruesome; Bundy kept the severed heads of some victims in his house as mementos and he often returned to his crime scenes to perform sexual acts on the decomposing bodies. Bundy was initially arrested in Utah after failing to pull over for a routine traffic stop. Despite finding a ski mask, rope, handcuffs, a crow bar, and an ice pick, the police were forced to release him.

    Bundy was eventually picked out of a lineup and finally put on trial. He was tried and convicted of kidnapping in Utah, then extradited to Colorado and tried for murder. Despite the case looking as if it were headed toward an acquittal, Bundy chose to escape. He managed to do so successfully twice; the latter ended with him finally being caught when a police officer pulled him over while driving a stolen car. In 1989, Bundy was executed by electric chair.

  • In the summer of 1977, David Berkowitz, AKA the “Son of Sam,” terrorized New York City. During his year of terror, Berkowitz killed six people and injured another seven with a .44 caliber revolver. His pattern of targeting young women with long brown hair sparked fear, causing many women to cut their hair and/or dye it blond. 

    After a year-long killing spree, Berkowitz finally got sloppy. On the night of his last murder, an eyewitness spotted Berkowitz. Police realized that they had issued parking tickets on the very block where Berkowitz was seen. Indeed, Berkowitz’s car had been ticketed, and police used the information from his car registration to track him down. When police arrived at his home they found a semi-automatic rifle, the .44 caliber handgun, and a gleeful Berkowitz, who quickly confessed to his crimes. Berkowitz claimed that demons and a black labrador retriever belonging to his neighbor, named Sam, commanded him to commit the murders.