12 Women Who Were Married To Notorious Serial Killers

When people hear about the wives of serial killers, they likely think of women who married a man after his conviction. There's a term for it - hybristophilia, which refers to someone feeling aroused by being with a partner who has committed serious crimes.

But what about women who married serial killers before or during their crimes? Did they know about their spouses' double lives? Were they scared to go to the police? Were they in denial? Did they not care? Wives of serial killers could genuinely remain oblivious to their husbands' doings, as it's common for serial killers to lead double lives. 

A wife's response to her husband's serial crimes can range from denial to disbelief, with some spouses harboring suspicions, and others refusing to believe they married a murderer. Also, not all of these marriages have ended in divorce. 

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  • Judith Mawson Felt Devastated To Find Out Gary Ridgway Was A Serial Killer
    Photo: King County Sheriff's Office / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Judith Mawson Felt Devastated To Find Out Gary Ridgway Was A Serial Killer

    Judith Mawson became instantly smitten when she met Gary Ridgway in 1985. Mawson described their encounter at a bar in Seattle to People magazine: “I thought, ‘He’s good looking. He’s nice. He likes country music.'” The pair married in 1988, and Mawson referred to their marriage as a happy and blissful 13 years.

    But the same man who went out of his way to make his wife smile was also arguably the most prolific serial killer in the United States. Ridgway, dubbed the Green River Killer, confessed to his crimes and faced convictions for murdering 49 women. This number, however, is a conservative estimate: Ridgway believes he killed as many as 75 to 80 women. His murder spree began in 1982 and lasted almost 20 years before authorities apprehended him in 2001.

    After Ridgway's initial arrest, he pleaded with his wife and said he was not responsible for the murders; Mawson believed him. Ridgway eventually confessed to the crimes, however, stunning his wife who didn't think he could be responsible for such heinous crimes. Mawson cut off all contact with her husband after his confession and went through a dark period in her life. She ultimately filed for divorce.

    After her husband's confession, Mawson recalled, "I was scared. In hiding. Ashamed. I dreamed about him all the time. He kept reaching out to me." To help cope with the pain her husband caused, Mason began writing; in 2017, she published a book, Green River Serial Killer: Biography of an Unsuspecting Wife, co-written with Pennie Morehead.

    As Mawson told People in 2011, she has not dated since her divorce from Ridgway: “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust another man."

  • Jerry Brudos Killed Women While His Wife Darcie Was Home
    Photo: Unknown / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    Jerry Brudos Killed Women While His Wife Darcie Was Home

    During January 1962 in Salem, OR, 22-year-old Jerry Brudos met a 17-year-old girl. The two began dating, much to the chagrin of the girl's parents, who felt Jerry was too old for their daughter. The couple wed within a few months, had two children, and eventually moved to Portland, OR, where Jerry began his serial killing spree.

    Brudos's wife did not have many complaints about her husband, and they appeared happy, despite warning signs. For example, Brudos made his wife call him on an intercom when she wanted to enter their garage. 

    This was because Jerry took his victims to the house; made them pose in high heels and lingerie; took photos of them; then murdered them. Jerry also kept trophies from the women he murdered. In one gruesome display, he cut off a victim's breast and made a mold of it to use as a paperweight. 

    On May 25, 1969, authorities arrested Jerry and charged him with four murders and an additional two attempted murders. Many believed Darcie was privy to the murders since some took place while she was at home. At least one neighbor implicated Darcie in the crimes, claiming they witnessed her helping Jerry usher a woman from their garage into their home.

    Despite the neighbor's claims, police cleared Darcie of any crimes. Darcie got a divorce from her husband during his incarceration and has since changed her and her children's names. 

  • Paula Dietz Felt Shocked To Learn Dennis Rader Was A Serial Killer
    Photo: El Dorado Police Department / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    Paula Dietz Felt Shocked To Learn Dennis Rader Was A Serial Killer

    Paula Dietz married Dennis Rader on May 22, 1971. They lived in Wichita, KS, and had two children together, a boy and a girl. Rader's arrest took place in 2005 after authorities suspected him of being the BTK ("Bind, Torture, Kill") Killer, Dietz told police her husband was “a good man, a great father. He would never hurt anyone.”

    While police believe Dietz remained in the dark about her husband’s 10 murders, which took place from 1974 to 1991, some think she may have turned a blind eye to his crimes.

    When Rader confessed to police, he said his wife once found one of the poems he wrote about a victim; she admitted the poem scared her. Rader said he lied to his wife, claiming it was a project he was working on about the BTK Killer for one of his college classes. Rader also said right before his arrest, his wife told him, “You spell just like BTK."

    After Rader confessed to the murders, Dietz filed for an emergency divorce, which the court granted in July 2005.

  • Carol Hoff Divorced John Wayne Gacy Before His Arrest
    Photo: Unknown / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    Carol Hoff Divorced John Wayne Gacy Before His Arrest

    In June 1972, John Wayne Gacy married his second wife, Carol Hoff. Hoff was a new divorcée and had two daughters from her previous marriage. She and her children moved into Gacy’s now-infamous home on Summerdale Avenue in Chicago, IL.

    Hoff allegedly would often complain to Gacy about the awful smell emanating from below the house, which Gacy dismissed as a moisture buildup in the crawl space. In reality, Gacy used the crawl space to store the decomposing bodies of the many young men and boys he killed.

    A few years into their marriage, the couple began to grow apart. Gacy had a hot temper, and the two often argued. Additionally, he started leaving magazines around the home featuring naked men and boys. When his wife confronted him about the magazines, he informed her he preferred men over women. Shortly afterward, Hoff filed for a divorce, which became finalized on March 2, 1976.

    In 1978, 27 bodies turned up in Gacy's crawl space, which led to the killer's arrest. He faced charges for a total of 33 murders.

  • Nancy Jo Lynch Stuck By John Robinson For Years
    Photo: Johnson County Sheriff’s Office / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    Nancy Jo Lynch Stuck By John Robinson For Years

    While in their early 20s, John Robinson and Nancy Jo Lynch met in Chicago, IL, in December 1963. Robinson proposed to Lynch during one of their first dates. Three months later, the couple married, expected their first child, and moved to Kansas City, MO. 

    The couple went on to have four children. In the early years of marriage, the family moved around a lot, mostly due to Robinson running from the law. In addition to being a serial killer, Robinson had a long resume of criminal activity, including embezzlement, forgery, and kidnapping. Though his wife was unaware her husband was a killer, Lynch did know about his other crimes due to his arrests and short stints in jail.

    Robinson was a family man and good neighbor, grilling hamburgers on the weekends for neighborhood cookouts. At the same time, he lived a second life which included sadomasochistic sex and serial murder. The police arrested Robinson in 2000 after two women reported him for assault and robbery. When authorities discovered two barrels containing bodies on Robinson's farm property, murder charges soon followed. Days after his arrest, his family issued a statement:

    We have never seen any behavior that would have led us to believe that anything we are now hearing could be possible... While we do not discount the information that has and continues to come to light, we do not know the person whom we have read and heard about on TV...

    [John Robinson is a] loving and caring husband and father... We wait with each of you for the cloud of allegations and innuendo to clear, revealing, at last, the facts.

    In 2002, Robinson faced charges for three murders and received a death sentence. In the years since, authorities have linked him to an additional five deaths. Lynch filed for divorce from Robinson in 2005.

  • Julie Baumeister Thought Herb Baumeister Was A Great Husband And Family Man
    Photo: Indianapolis Police Department / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    Julie Baumeister Thought Herb Baumeister Was A Great Husband And Family Man

    Herb and Julie Baumeister met while attending college together at Indiana University in 1967. Julie said she felt drawn to Herb because of his good looks and interest in cars, and how they were both Young Republicans. The pair married in 1971 and appeared to have a happy marriage.

    In 1989, the couple opened several successful Save-A-Lot used clothing stores in the Indianapolis area. By 1991, however, the stores struggled to make a profit, which took a toll on the Baumeisters' marriage. The couple separated and Herb filed for divorce. But later the same year, Herb and Julie got back together and purchased a large estate called Fox Hollow Farm. While Julie took their kids on vacation, her husband met men at gay bars and had sex with them.

    In 1993, Indianapolis police began investigating the disappearances of several gay men. A man named Tony Harris told the police about an encounter he had with someone who called himself "Brian." Harris claimed Brian took him to a large estate, and the two engaged in autoerotic asphyxiation. The ordeal frightened Harris, and he went to the police.

    Brian turned out to be Herb, and police immediately set out to search Fox Hollow Farm, which Herb refused to allow. Investigators then went to Julie’s workplace, informing her that her husband was a suspect in the disappearances of gay men in the area. Julie confronted her husband about the allegations, but he denied any involvement; she believed him.

    Julie then remembered her son bringing home a skull he had found while playing on their property. Julie investigated and found additional bones. Herb said it was a medical school skeleton originally belonging to his father.

    When Herb went away by himself for a vacation in June 1996, police showed up and asked Julie's permission to search the property, which she granted. They found the bodies of 11 men, and identified eight of them. When Herb discovered there was a warrant for his arrest, he fled to Ontario, Canada, and killed himself. He left a note behind, blaming his marriage problems and financial woes, never admitting to the murders.

    Julie moved from Fox Hollow Farm. She said in an interview, “Our biggest question now is how he could have loved us and done this.”