While most people have heard of John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy, the general public has forgotten about dozens of insidious serial killers over the years. While their names may not be well-known, their crimes ruined people's lives and were every bit as gruesome as some of the more infamous serial killers throughout history.
In the list below, we'll dive into the stories of 15 serial killers whose crimes are often forgotten - even though some of them are still very much alive and serving life sentences.
Donald Gaskins Drove A Hearse With A Bumper Sticker That Read 'I Haul Dead Bodies,' And It Was Actually True
Born in 1933, Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins earned the title of "meanest man in America." Gaskins dropped out of school at the age of 11, which is also when he started breaking into homes, robbing them, hiring sex workers, and sexually violating other children.
At age 13, he was sent to a juvenile detention center for attacking a girl while attempting to burglarize her home. He was released at 18 but was quickly sent to prison for attempted murder. While there, Gaskins killed another inmate to gain respect from fellow prisoners.
Over the years, Gaskins would often escape from prison or attain an eventual release, only to commit additional acts of robbery, rape, and murder. He tortured some of his victims for days on end, often cannibalizing them while they were still alive and forcing them to not only watch while he ate parts of their body, but making them eat their own body parts themselves. He used a hearse to move and dispose of his victims' remains.
For a six-year period, Gaskins violated, tortured, and killed indiscriminately. He was ultimately convicted of nine murders but confessed to over 100. A jury sentenced him to death for his crimes, but before his execution was to take place, he attempted to take his own life so the state would be unable to kill him. His plan failed, and at 56 years old, he was executed via electric chair in 1991.
Patrick Kearney Was Known As 'The Trash Bag Killer'
In the mid 1970s, gay men were being killed and their bodies left in trash bags along California highways. The man responsible was Patrick Kearney, an electronics engineer with an IQ of 180. Kearney lured in young boys and men between the ages of 5 and 28, killed them, assaulted and dismembered their bodies, and wrapped them in garbage bags before unceremoniously dumping them on the sides of freeways.
Police linked Kearney to the crimes when someone reported seeing him with one of his last victims just before they vanished. Police could then tie Kearney to two murders, though they believed there were more.
Police offered Kearney a deal: If he confessed to all the murders, he wouldn't receive a death sentence. Kearney initially confessed to an additional 18 murders, but the list went on growing; the final count reached 32, 21 of which Police were able to confirm. Some members of law enforcement believe he could have killed as many as 43 people.
Even so, some don't believe Kearney was the man behind these atrocities. Kearney lived with his partner, David Hill, who was also suspected to be involved in the murders. Some speculate Hill was the guilty one, but Kearney took the rap for his crimes.
Whatever the case, Kearney confessed to the murders and exonerated Hill. Kearney received a life sentence and is serving time in a California prison.
Danny Rolling, who later become known as the “Gainesville Ripper,” raped and/or murdered eight people between 1989 and 1990. Five of these victims were college students. He also mutilated his victims (even decapitating one of them) before posing their remains in a lewd manner.
Rolling was eventually arrested on charges of burglary, and police were able to link him to the unsolved murders of the five college students by matching his tools to those used in the killings.
After his arrest, Rolling revealed he committed the crimes because he wanted to be a famous serial killer like Ted Bundy. Rolling also confessed to a 1989 triple murder that occurred in Shreveport, LA, raising his purported body count from five to eight.
Rolling pleaded guilty during his trial and received several death sentences. He was executed at Florida State Prison on October 25, 2006.
John Edward Robinson Was The Internet's First Serial Killer
John Edward Robinson, also known as J.R. Robinson, was first arrested in 1969 at the age of 26, when authorities discovered he forged documents and certificates in order to secure a job as an X-ray technician. While working at a doctor's office, he stole $33,000, for which he was arrested.
Once released from jail, Robinson continued making fake documents and stealing from companies and individuals. Robinson wasn't just a con man, though; starting in 1993, he met several of his victims online while pretending to run different businesses. He would offer them secretarial positions, and once each woman moved to Kansas for her new job, he murdered her.
One of the women Robinson met had a 4-month-old daughter. Robinson killed the woman, and knowing his brother and sister-in-law were trying to adopt a child, forged adoption papers for the infant and, for a fee, gave the child to his brother. The child was 15 before she and her adoptive parents learned about her biological mother's murder and her own illegal adoption.
Robinson also used the online moniker “the Slave Master” to meet women who were into S&M. He would meet these women and invite them to his home, where he would murder them.
Robinson's spree finally ended in 2000 when he was arrested for sexual battery in addition to theft. Police searched his property and found decaying bodies in giant barrels. Robinson has confessed to eight murders, but police believe that number is likely much higher. Robinson was sentenced to death and is on death row in Kansas.
When Adolfo Constanzo was a baby, a Haitian priest who practiced Palo Mayombe, an Afro-Cuban religion that commonly uses animal and human remains in rituals, blessed him at his mother's request. Constanzo's mother believed he was "the chosen one" and a natural-born leader.
Constanzo practiced Palo Mayombe himself as a teen and eventually moved from his hometown of Miami, FL, to Mexico City, where he began offering his services to the community. Constanzo gained a following by claiming he could turn people invisible and had psychic powers, which he would use to help local drug dealers determine the safest times to make deliveries. He then began killing people to use their body parts for his rituals.
Two years passed before police identified Constanzo as a serial killer and linked him to at least 23 ritualistic murders committed with the help of cult members, including a woman named Sara Aldrete.
In 1989, a University of Texas pre-med student named Mark Kilroy was abducted while on Spring Break in Mexico. Kilroy was brought to the house of Constanzo, who killed him in order to use his ”extraordinary brain" for rituals.
Constanzo knew the police were looking for him, so he quickly fled to another city. In the meantime, police searched his property and discovered 15 mutilated bodies, including Kilroy's, buried on his property. They also found a cauldron in the home containing Kilroy's brain and a dead cat.
In a strange turn of events, police were called to the apartment in which Constanzo was hiding out on a completely unrelated incident. Believing the police knew who he was, Constanzo began shooting at them. By the time police rushed the apartment, Constanzo was already dead. Not wanting to go to jail, he ordered a member of his crew to fatally shoot him.
Sara Aldrete, who was in the apartment at the time, was later sent to prison for her role in the killings.
Lonnie Franklin Jr. Returned To Murder After 25 Years
In 2008, police in Los Angeles linked a homicide victim to several other unsolved murders from the 1980s. Authorities were baffled to discover a serial killer who had seemingly disappeared 25 years before had started killing again. The media began calling the killer the "Grim Sleeper" due to his extended cooling-off period between murders.
Through DNA testing, police identified and arrested 57-year-old Lonnie Franklin Jr. for at least 10 of the Grim Sleeper murders. Franklin's neighbors were shocked by the discovery, as he was seemingly well-known and well-liked by the entire community. Franklin was also married and had children.
Franklin never admitted to the crimes, so whether or not he actually did take a 25-year break from serial murder - or if the police are just unaware of additional killings - is unknown.
A great deal of controversy also surrounds the case regarding the victims, all of whom were Black, and most of whom were sex workers. Many have criticized the Los Angeles Police Department, feeling that if the victims were not Black or sex workers, authorities would have been more determined to catch the killer while he was still active.
Franklin died in his prison cell in 2020 at the age of 67.