All These Serial Killers Had Mom Issues

While no one is really sure how and why someone becomes a serial killer, there is certainly no shortage of serial killers who came from messed up families. It would seem that abuse and neglect are causal factors for a life of violent crime. When Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho introduced us to homicidal mama's boy Norman Bates, this was a story that could have easily been pulled from real headlines. There seem to be a high number of serial killers who hated their moms. 

From unnaturally close mother/child relationships to childhood abandonment, bad mothering can have some deadly consequences. Unstable childhoods seem to predispose people to a life of crime and there are certainly some macabre bad mother stories pulled from case studies on repeat murderers. Killers with mommy issues will leave you grateful for the mother you had growing up. 

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  • Charles Manson's Mother May Have Once Sold Him For A Pitcher Of Beer
    Photo: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Known as the leader of the notorious cult who murdered Sharon Tate and many others in 1969, Charles Manson had a tumultuous relationship with his own mother. Manson's mother, Kathleen Maddox, was 16 years old when Manson was born. An alcoholic, Maddox wanted little to do with her son. She tried to get rid of the child repeatedly and allegedly once sold him for a pitcher of beer to a woman looking to adopt a child. His uncle had to track down the woman to bring Manson back home. 

    Maddox eventually placed Manson in a boy’s school. She rejected Manson when he ran away to return to her. This left Manson living on the streets for the bulk of his childhood, eventually resulting in prison time in his teenage years.

  • Mary Bell was a child killer who strangled two young boys at the age of 10. Bell was rejected by her mother early in life. When Bell was born, her mother’s first words were, “Get that thing away from me!” She left Bell with relatives frequently and even tried to give her away to a woman who had been rejected by an adoption agency.

    Bell’s mother also frequently gave her drugs that made her sick. It’s believed she may have had Munchhausen By Proxy syndrome. This is a disorder in which a parent or caregiver intentionally harms a child to get attention and sympathy.

  • Ed Gein's Mother Taught Him To See Men As Evil And Raised Him As A Girl
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Fair use

    Ed Gein was a serial killer who targeted middle aged women and sometimes dug up the graves of deceased women to steal body parts. Raised by a fanatically religious mother, Gein’s mom taught him to see men as largely evil and women as temptations sent by the devil. Gein was raised in extreme isolation and thought of his mother as his best friend. His mother raised him as a girl, making him wear dresses, and was highly overprotective. Gein worshipped his mother, thinking of her as a saint.

    After his mother’s death, Gein developed the interest in body parts that would eventually lead to his murder sprees. It’s also worth noting that the women Gein murdered often bore a striking resemblance to his mother. It’s possible, despite their seemingly close relationship, Gein harbored some secret resentment for his mom.

  • Henry Lee Lucas Beat His Own Mother To Death
    Photo: Unknown / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    Henry Lee Lucas was a Virginia born serial killer possibly responsible for over 600 deaths. However, only three murders were actually confirmed. Given one his victims was his own mother, Lucas definitely had mommy issues. His mother was an abusive alcoholic and he eventually beat her to death in Michigan and was arrested for this crime in 1983.

    He served 15 years in a Michigan prison for the crime before being released and committing more murders.

  • David Berkowitz, otherwise known as the Son of Sam killer, went on a New York City killing spree from 1976 to 1977. During this timeframe, he murdered six people. Berkowitz was adopted at birth by Pearl and Nancy Bekowitz. Ecstatic to have a child, Pearl doted obsessively on her son. It was important to her that her son look and act perfect, so there was a lot of pressure on Berkowitz. Berkowitz and Pearl had an unnatural closeness, making her death from breast cancer when Berkowitz was 14 particularly difficult.

    In addition to his dysfunctional relationship with his adoptive mother, Berkowitz thought his birth mother was dead until he was 22. Berkowitz had guilt over his birth mother’s death, believing he had somehow caused it, and was shocked and angered to find she was still alive. When he met his real mother, Berkowitz found the experience disappointing as the pair did not connect.

  • Aileen Wuornos's Mother Abandoned Her In An Abusive Household
    Photo: Florida Department of Corrections / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Aileen Wuornos, who killed six men while being a sex worker, was abandoned by her mother as a child. Her mother left Wuornos with her grandparents in Rochester, Michigan. This decision proved devastating for Wuornos’s childhood. She was allegedly molested by her grandfather and had a sexual relationship with her own brother.

    When she became pregnant as a teenager, she was forced to give up the child for adoption and eventually abandoned her home altogether and ended up living in woods.