A lone-wolf killer is hard to understand, but when groups of people come together to murder, it’s nearly incomprehensible. These murder cults may have formed with other goals but their stories all ended in death. Some of these groups started as clubs, families, or, weirdly, business relationships, but they all evolved into something much darker.
The webs of control, violence, lies, and deceit that formed the bonds between members of each of these homicidal cults are chilling in their complexity and disregard for the value of human life. In some of these stories we see the way that a charismatic, violent leader can bend people’s will. In others, isolation and the effects of generational violence come to a head in the worst possible way. Whatever the case, these stories of homicide cults will haunt you for days. These cults that killed spiraled out of control, and its members murdered plenty of innocent people.
In the 1960s, Charles Manson gained a following among young women in the Bay Area. He believed Satan would be reconciled with Christ, and at the end of the world they together would judge humanity. He became a Christ-like figure, attracting dozens of women to his compound in Los Angeles. While leading his followers, Manson was also developing a reputation as a budding songwriter.
Manson warned his followers of a race war, and set his sights on killing Hollywood influencers and "beautiful people." While Manson himself never actually killed anyone, he ordered the murders of at least nine people, though some speculate as many as 30 people were killed on behalf of Manson. Some of his victims included Hollywood starlet Sharon Tate, heiress Abigail Folger, and writer Wojciech Frykowski. Manson was sentenced to life in prison for being an accessory to murder.
Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo began practicing Palo Mayombe - a respected African religion with mystical elements - as a teenager in 1970s Florida. When he got older, Constanzo moved to Mexico City and warped the religion into something much darker.
In 1986, Constanzo decided he was tired of performing animal sacrifices and good luck spells for powerful drug lords to protect their business. He marched into the home of the extremely powerful Calzada family and demanded to be made full partner, crediting his magic for the success of the cartel. When they said no, he murdered all seven family members. When their bodies were found, fingers, toes, and other parts were missing.
In 1988, he moved to a house in the desert. With him were Sara Aldrete - Constanzo’s lover and high priestess in the cult - and the Hernandez brothers, another drug cartel and devotees of Constanzo. A total of fourteen cult members came and went to do Constanzo’s bidding. He used a large cauldron to create mixtures of animal remains, sticks, and human body parts. At this desert enclave, they adopted the name Los Narcos-Satanicos and murdered 15 people.
Constanzo's cult was finally caught after two of his henchmen abducted an American student named Mark Kilroy. He was in search of a "superior brain" and targeted the pre-med student. Under pressure from the US, the Mexican government raided the compound and found Kilroy's decapitated body. Constanzo fled to Mexico City and killed himself. Fourteen members of the cult were charged with crimes and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
In an 18-month span of the early 1980s, 18 women in Illinois were abducted, mutilated, and killed. Bodies began appearing slashed and stabbed, often with one of their breasts removed. Behind the spree was brothers Andrew and Thomas Kokoraleis, along with their friends Robert Gecht and Edward Spreitzer.
In 1981, they booked four adjoining hotel rooms. Gecht’s room was dubbed the “Satanic chapel.” That is where they brought the women they kidnapped to torture, rape, and kill. Using piano wire, they amputated the women’s breast and then ate some of the tissue as Gecht read from the Satanic Bible.
The manager of the hotel reported “loud parties” and what sounded like cult-like activities. Soon the four were arrested and Thomas Kokoraleis confessed. He said Gecht orchestrated the murders. He maintained his innocence, and was the only one not to be charged with murder. He was however charged with abduction and rape, and received a sentence of 120 years in prison. Andrew Kokoraleis was executed and Spreitzer was sentenced to life in prison. Because of his cooperation, Thomas Kokoraleis is scheduled to be released in 2017.
In a chilling bit of foreshadowing, Gecht worked as a subcontractor for John Wayne Gacy before the killings.
The “Beasts of Satan” was a group of young Italians who bonded over their love of heavy metal music, the occult, and getting high. On any given Saturday night, Andrea Volpe, Nicola Sapone, and Mario Maccione were drinking beer at their local heavy metal club with their friends, talking about Satanism and spinning wild plans for their service to their dark religion. In January 1998, they were with a young couple that was part of their group when things took a very sinister turn. Volpe, Sapone, and Maccione turned on the lovers, stabbing them to death as they tried to defend themselves. The three murderers took Marino and Tollis’s bodies into the woods, buried them, and danced on their graves chanting, “Now you’re both zombies!”
They attempted to cover up their crime by telling the couple's family and the police they had run away to be together. Police bought this explanation, but the father of Fabio Tollis - one of the victims - did not. Michele Tollis spent the next six years compiling evidence on the Satanic cult that had killed his child.
The group murdered again in 2004. Volpe’s ex-girlfriend, 27-year-old Mariangela Pezzotta, went to his house for what she thought was a friendly dinner, but in reality was her murder. Volpe had become concerned about what she knew of the previous murders and had decided to get rid of her. When she arrived, he shot her. Volpe called Sapone for help burying her, realizing as they spoke that Pezzotta was still alive. Together, Volpe and Sapone beat her with a shovel and then buried alive her beneath Volpe’s parent’s greenhouse.
The group was caught when Volpe and his fiance attempted to drive Pezzotta’s car into a river. They failed - partly because they were high - and were promptly arrested. Volpe confessed to the killings and implicated Sapone, Maccione, and four other members of their cult who he said acted as accessories. While all of the participants received jail time, only Sapone was sentenced to life because, according to authorities, he was the ringleader of the homicidal cult.