Here are the 5 most famous female serial killers you need to know about
There’s a long and sundry list of male serial killers. From Jack the Ripper to Ted Bundy, everyone knows at least a few of the most notorious murderers. However, the list of killers doesn’t often include women. For whatever reason – and this continues to be studied by psychologists and criminologists – female serial killers are rare.
But make no mistake, female serial killers still exist. They’re just as dangerous and heinous as their male counterparts, and you certainly wouldn’t want to happen across one in a dark alley.
Below are five famous female serial killers whose stories will keep you awake tonight.
Nannie Doss, a.k.a. the Lonely Hearts Killer
Her birth name was Nancy Hazel, and while one of her nicknames was the Lonely Hearts Killer, she accrued others including Black Widow, Lady Blue Beard, and Giggling Granny.
Nannie Doss confessed to killing eleven different people between 1927 and 1954, consisting entirely family members. Doss murdered four of her five husbands, a mother-in-law, her own mother, a grandson, and two of her children.
In 1921 at the age of sixteen, Nannie got married to Charley Braggs at her father’s behest. After Braggs insisted his mother live with the newlywed couple, Nannie expressed dislike for her new in-law, stating in a letter she “had taken over my life completely”.
Nannie and Charley had four daughters during their marriage. Dealing with four young girls and her intrusive mother in law, Nannie began drinking, chainsmoking, and having extramarital affairs. Her husband was also sleeping with other women, meanwhile.
Two of their daughters died of suspected food poisoning in 1927. Shortly afterward, Charley took the eldest daughter and left Nannie with their newborn baby. Charley’s mother died shortly after he left. In 1928, Charley came back in order to divorce Nannie.
Nannie remarried in 1929 to Robert Harrelson. They remained married for sixteen years, despite the fact Nannie discovered he was an alcoholic with a criminal record of assault after they’d wed.
During a visit in 1943, Nannie’s daughter thought she saw her mother stick a hatpin in her new baby’s head, but she was so exhausted she wasn’t sure she’d really seen it. Her husband told her later their baby had died. Nannie collected $500 in life insurance she had put in place for her grandchild.
In 1945, Nannie poisoned her husband with rat poison after he raped her during an especially intense night of binge-drinking.
Nannie found her third husband through a lonely-hearts column and married him three days after meeting. She would disappear for days and even months during the marriage, but was kind to her new alcoholic husband when she was present. He supposedly died of heart failure.
It wasn’t long after his death when the couple’s house burned down and Nannie collected house insurance. Nannie once more went looking for a husband, this time through a dating service. This new husband wasn’t an alcoholic, but he did have a penchant for cheating. Nannie poisoned both him and her mother (who had begun living with her) in the year of 1953.
Her final husband, Samuel Doss, was a minister. She married him in June of ‘53. Samuel died of arsenic poisoning in October 1954. Nancy had been attempting to collect two different life insurance policies for Samuel’s death when she was arrested.
Juana Barraza, a.k.a. the Little Old Lady Killer
Juana Barraza, a professional wrestler, was accused of killing approximately sixteen women aged sixty or older in 2005. Her modus operandi was strangulation or bludgeoning.
Juana was deemed a psychopath by investigators, usually a distinct advantage for murderers trying not to get caught. Investigators also say she targeted older women due to her hatred of her own mother; Juana’s mother had given her away when she was only twelve years old to an alcoholic and abusive man.
Barraza gained the trust of her victims by posing as a social welfare agent before killing the women. She even viewed her horrific deeds as helping the world. While Barraza admitted only to killing four people, she was convicted of sixteen murders, and the prosecution implied she could have been part of as many as forty.
Amelia Dyer claimed to be a caretaker for children, suspected of having killed hundreds of babies. Dyer became interested in baby farming, a practice from the Victorian era in Britain. In this practice people would accept guardianship of a small child or infant for payment.
However, Dyer used this practice to collect the children and then viciously murder them in various horrible ways ranging from starving to drugging. It took some time for anyone to realize what was happening. When doctors finally did see the number of deaths in her care, Dyer was sentenced to a mere six months of labor for neglect.
After her service, Dyer went back to her old ways and more carefully disposed of the bodies, this time in a river. Eventually, one of the bodies was traced back to her and she was forced to confess. Amelia Dyer was hanged in 1896.
In 1911, Louise Peete moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and changed her name to Louise M. Gould. Once she had done so, she began to call herself R. H. Rosely, a wealthy heiress sent to a convent by her family.
Peete, under the guise of Rosely, befriended multiple wealthy families in Boston and even convinced one family to let her move in with them. She started taking advantage of the family’s hospitality by stealing money from them and their employees, as well as charging expensive purchases to the family’s accounts.
Eventually, Peete’s ruse was discovered. However, instead of having her arrested, the police let Peete leave town instead. This way, the family she had duped wouldn’t have to be publicly embarrassed.
Peete moved on to Texas, where she began dating Joe Appel. One week later, Appel was found shot dead, his jewelry missing. Peete was arrested for this but got away with it. She testified during trial claiming self defense from rape.
In 1913, Peete married Harry Faurote, a clerk at a hotel. Not long after the marriage, Louise stole about $20,000 worth of items from the safe at the hotel Harry worked at. Originally, the police suspected Harry, but it wasn’t long until they started investigating Louise. However, they had no evidence.
Harry, embarrassed by the original accusation he had stolen the goods and heartbroken over the state of his marriage, shot himself in the head – though many believe he didn’t commit suicide, and was really killed by Louise.
In 1920, Louise left her second husband Richard Peete and her daughter over yet another failed marriage. Having moved on to Los Angeles, Louise quickly wooed millionaire Jacob Denton. It wasn’t long before she moved into the man’s mansion. Barely a week after Louise moved in, Denton disappeared.
Louise hired a gardener to bring a large load of dirt into the home’s basement, citing she desired to grow mushrooms. She forged the homeowner’s signature to withdraw money from Jacob’s bank account and access his safety deposit box, and even convinced Jacob’s out-of-state tenants to write their checks in her name.
Eventually, people became suspicious of Jacob Denton’s disappearance and Louise’s excuses could only go so far. Jacob’s daughter hired someone to search for him. He was found buried in the basement, shot, and strangled.
Louise Peete was the second woman in the state of California to be executed for her crimes, sent to the gas chamber in April of 1947.
Daniela Poggiali was a nurse in Italy convicted of killing somewhere between thirty to ninety of her patients in 2014.
Nobody suspected Poggiali until one of her patients, Rosa Calderoni, died unexpectedly. Calderoni had been admitted into the hospital for fairly routine reasons and was expected to recover. However, she died underPoggiali’s care.
Tests were requested for Calderoni due to the sudden nature of her death. The autopsy revealed she had elevated levels of potassium in her system. Potassium overdose can cause cardiac arrest. It seemed likely Rosa Calderoni had been injected with potassium.
This triggered an investigation into Poggiali’s care, during which numerous other strange & suspicious deaths were discovered among her patients. Poggiali was then found to have gruesome photographs on her phone, in which she posed smiling with the dead patients.
Investigators came to believe Poggiali had a tendency to kill any patient she disliked or found to be annoying.
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