The 12 Strangest Twists In True Crime History
As if tales of murder aren't weird enough, there are some slayings that get stranger as time keeps passing.
Weird twists don't just happen in the movies. Strange true crimes often take brutal turns out of nowhere: the crooked juror, the letters from serial killers discovered only years later, a memory of something a criminal said years ago that now is downright chilling. There are countless weird cases that became weirder as more evidence came to light.
It goes to prove that no matter how much people think they have something figured out, there’s always something else waiting around the corner - be it a living victim everyone thought passed or a gruesome villain who was more evil than anyone realized.
- Photo: Sacramento Sheriff / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Over 40 Years After His Crime Spree, DNA Analysis Helped Catch The GSK
In April 2018, the public was shocked when authorities announced they had apprehended a suspect in the Golden State Killer (GSK) case. The criminal terrorized California during the '70s and '80s in a spree of multiple rapes and 12 suspected fatalities, but he abruptly ended his reign of terror in the late '80s, leading to widespread speculation that he died and his identity would never be revealed.
The suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, was identified via complex DNA profiling, though. Investigators compared DNA found at various GSK crime scenes to DNA publicly available via genealogical websites. This led them to a connection via a family member of DeAngelo.
What makes this twist even more bizarre was that DeAngelo was living a relatively normal life near Sacramento, CA. A retired police officer, he was a regular at a local diner where his only notable trait was being grouchy. It remains unclear why he decided to end his crime spree and resume a normal life.
Sometimes it takes a long time before a twist is finally recognized, and in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, it took many years for his neighbors to realize the personal impact of Dahmer's violence. Pamela Bass was one of Jeffrey Dahmer's neighbors when he lived in Milwaukee. The two were congenial, so much so that when he offered her a sandwich one day before his arrest, she accepted it.
After it was discovered that Dahmer was a cannibal as well as an amateur mad scientist, Bass began to worry that she might have eaten human meat. In the film The Jeffrey Dahmer Files she said, "I have probably eaten someone's body part."
- Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Blood is thicker than water, unless your brother is the Unabomber. Ted Kaczynski, more commonly referred to as the Unabomber, wrote a manifesto that he wanted published by the biggest US media outlets in 1995. In it, he stated that if his demands were not met, he would continue his bombing campaign.
Unfortunately for Kaczynski, his life's work was also his life's undoing. His brother David read the manifesto, recognized his brother's handwriting and turned him into the federal authorities. To hear David tell it, he never planned on reading the manifesto, even after recognizing similarities between the bomber's theories and his brother's letters that were written while he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Despite Ted's arrest, David had trouble believing his brother was the Unabomber: "I had never seen him violent, not toward me, not toward anyone. I tended to see his anger turned inward."
- Photo: State of California, San Quentin Prison / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The story of Charles Manson, his life, and his "family" is full of more strange twists than an M. Night Shyamalan retrospective, but one of the weirdest twists is the mystery of Bernard Crowe. Before his infamous actions, Manson was in a dispute over drug money with Crowe. Worried about the money and Crowe's affiliation with the Black Panthers, Manson went over to Crowe's apartment and shot him.
Manson thought he took Crowe's life, and when he was arrested for the murders of Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas in 1969, he included Crowe as one of his victims. However, Crowe was still alive. He had never gone to the police about the shooting, never told any of his fellow Black Panthers about it, and never retaliated against Manson, leaving the cult leader to believe Crowe was dead.
Susan Atkins - a member of the Mason family - wrote in her book The Myth of Helter Skelter that Manson didn't realize Crowe was alive until he was arrested for a crime unrelated to Manson.
- Photo: US Military / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Dean Corll preyed upon young men in the Houston area between 1970 to 1973. What ultimately brought him down was not a police investigation, but one of his own henchmen. Corll raped and murdered at least 28 young men with the help of David Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley - two teenage henchmen. It's likely Corll would have continued to assault men until police finally caught on, but when Corll attacked Rhonda Williams, a 15-year-old friend of Henley's, his spreed ended.
Henley invited Williams back to Corll's house after her alcoholic father attacked her. The two drank and did drugs before going to sleep. After waking up in a stoned stupor, Henley discovered that Corll had tied up Williams and a teen boy Henley had brought for Corll the day before. Henley himself had been tied up, but Corll let him go after Henley agreed to attack Williams. Instead, he shot Corll, ending his life.
He later went to the police detailing Corll's crimes and showing them where they had gotten rid of the bodies.
Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK Killer, was cocky - so cocky that he would send taunting messages to the police officers investigating him. Police used one of those messages to trace Rader to his home and arrest him.
Rader acted maliciously over a period of 17 years, taking lengthy breaks between casualties. He was obsessed with being considered the best and scariest criminal and getting credit for his work. He taunted the Wichita Police Department, sending them poems about victims and snapshots of the bodies. He left cereal boxes around town with information that only he could know.
In 2004, The Wichita Eagle wrote an article speculating that the unnamed criminal had either died or been put in jail, since there hadn't been a BTK attack in a decade. Angered by this, Rader began sending the paper letters telling them he was still alive and free. In a message left at a hardware store, he asked whether a message left on a floppy disk could be traced. Investigators said no, and Rader sent a floppy disk with a document saved on it.
Also saved on the disk was the name "Dennis" and a location of where the disk was used - Rader's church. He was arrested, and DNA evidence from the scenes matched Rader. Some believe Rader knew exactly what he was doing and that he wanted to be caught. Others believe he wasn't as smart as he thought he was and ended up telegraphing his final play completely on accident.