What Parents Of Serial Killers Have Said About Their Offspring

It is difficult to imagine the nightmare parents go through when their child is the victim of a serial killer. The only thing that might be more difficult to imagine is being the parent of the person who claimed that life. There are plenty of serial killers who have become household names - Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, and Ted Bundy, to name just a few. We know their crimes inside and out, and several documentaries have been made that examine every detail of both the killings and the mental states of the killers themselves. And the deeper we look, the more we begin to look at their parents.

Across the board, parents of serial killers have had widely varying reactions to their children's crimes. This list covers parents who have tried to explain or excuse murderous behavior, parents who are in complete denial or believe their child is innocent, and even parents who openly state their child should no longer be allowed to live. This list of serial killer parents includes actual quotes from mothers and fathers, and captures just how far a parent's love for their child can go.

  • Ted Bundy was one of the most infamous American serial killers of the 20th century. He admitted to killing 28 women between 1974 and 1978, though some believe his victim count was much higher. He was convicted in 1979 on several counts, and was executed in a Florida prison in 1989. During his trial, he caught the nation's attention with his intelligence and surprising charm, attributes that had helped him blend in with "normal" society while he committed his acts.

    Bundy's mother Louise initially refused to believe her son could commit such horrifying crimes, saying, "Our never-ending faith in Ted - our faith that he is innocent - has never wavered. And it never will."

    She stood by him until the day she heard his taped confessions. On the day of his execution, she told him, "You’ll always be my precious son."

  • Dennis Nilsen's Mother Wanted To Ask Him Why He Killed
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    Dennis Nilsen claimed the lives of 15 young men between 1978 and 1983 in the United Kingdom. He took his first victim after an intimate encounter and spent the night with the body. Nilsen kept the remains of his victims in his apartment, eventually dissecting them and disposing of them in the garden.

    In an effort to stop himself from killing, he moved to a top-floor apartment with no easy disposal spot. The move didn't stop him, and he was finally caught after attempting to flush human remains down the toilet.

    Nilsen's mother Betty Scott wrote letters to her incarcerated son for years, to which Nilsen never replied. In 2001, she expressed her desire to see her son and ask him why he killed those young men. 

    In an interview with a Scottish television show, she said, "I would like to speak to him to see why he did this. He was just nothing like what he has turned out to be... He never fought at school. He was never nasty to anybody."

  • Trai Donaldson's Parents Were Heartbroken By Their Son's Actions

    In 2017, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III (known to friends and family as "Trai") shot and killed four people in the Tampa neighborhood of Seminole Heights. He became known as the Seminole Heights Killer, and his victims were seemingly chosen at random. 

    After his arrest, Donaldson's mother claimed her son "lived at home and was in every night by 5 p.m." In fact, he had been living with various friends and occasionally in motels at the time of the murders.

    Trai's parents, Hal and Rosita, expressed their condolences to the families of the victims, saying, "Our hearts go out to the families and the loss that they have."

  • Peter Sutcliffe, better known as the Yorkshire Ripper, was active in the Yorkshire and Greater Manchester areas of England in the 1970s. He murdered 13 women and assaulted seven more between 1975 and 1981. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia while in custody in 1984, though he claimed to hear voices as early as 1967.

    Sutcliffe's father John was brutally honest in interviews about his son. Although he initially had a hard time grasping the scope and horror of what Peter had done, he knew the gravity of his crimes. In one interview, he said, "He deserved to be hanged." He added, "I love that lad. I don't love him for what he's done, I love him for being who he is."

  • Joanna Dennehy's Mother Disowned Her

    Joanna Dennehy shocked Britain when she went on a 10-day murder spree in 2013. The 31-year-old stabbed five men, only two of whom survived. She had previously been in contact with the first three were men, while the last two were picked at random.

    When asked why she attacked the five men, Dennehy's response was, "I killed to see how I would feel, to see if I was as cold as I thought I was, then it got more-ish."

    Dennehy's mother didn't think her daughter was capable of such horrific actions. When interviewed about Joanna's crimes, Kathleen Dennehy expressed her dismay and disbelief: 

    The girl that killed those people is not my daughter. My daughter’s that nice 16-year-old that never came home... She was very sensitive. If she stood on a worm or something she would be really upset if it died - she used to take them to bed with her. So she was a loving girl.

  • Todd Kohlhepp's Mother Was Willing To Defend Her Son
    Photo: 48 Hours / YouTube

    Todd Kohlhepp's Mother Was Willing To Defend Her Son

    Todd Kohlhepp kidnapped and assaulted his first victim at 15 years old. After spending 14 years in prison in Arizona, he moved to South Carolina in 2001. It was there, in 2003, that he began a killing spree that lasted over a decade. 

    Kohlhepp received seven consecutive life sentences for his crimes. In 2018, he told police there were two more bodies buried along a highway. In spite of the overwhelming evidence leading to her son's conviction, Kohlhepp's mother Regina Tague continued to stand by her son. Tague stated in an interview, "I just don’t understand how Todd could do this. He wasn’t a serial killer."

    She also claimed the bike shop murders were "reactive" because he had been embarrassed by one of the employees. She described him as "smart, kind, and generous."