Though we frequently think of murderers as lone predators, there have been multiple killer couples over the years.
Here are some of the most notorious couples from the past century who committed heinous crimes as a pair.
Editor’s note: These stories contain graphic descriptions of violence and crime and could be upsetting.
Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were some of the most infamous serial killers in Britain.
Myra Hindley and Ian Brady are the infamous perpetrators of the “Moors murders” of Lancashire, England.
Together, Brady and Hindley abducted, sexually assaulted, and killed five children during the 1960s, according to The New York Times. In 1966, they were convicted in three of the deaths, and the couple later confessed in the 1980s to killing two other children during that time.
Their victims ranged in age from 10 to 17. The couple tortured their victims before killing them and disposing of their bodies on Saddleworth Moor in northwestern England. The brutality of the crimes led the couple to become two of the most reviled individuals in Britain.
Cynthia Coffman and James Gregory Marlow were convicted of killing two women in California in 1986.
Cynthia Coffman and James Gregory Marlow met in 1986 and very quickly fell in love and into a life of crime.
Marlow called himself the “Folsom Wolf” for how much time he spent in Folsom Prison. He met Coffman after she left her husband, and they began travelling around California and Arizona together, during which time they murdered two young women in California: 20-year-old Corinna Novis and 19-year-old Lynell Murray.
At trial, Coffman’s lawyers tried to argue she was abused by Marlow and was too battered to leave him. Marlow’s attorneys, meanwhile, tried to shift the responsibility of the murders onto Coffman. Both were eventually found guilty of murder as well as kidnapping and robbery, among other charges, and both were sentenced to death in 1989 in San Bernardino County.
It was the first time since California had reinstated capital punishment in 1977 that a woman had been sentenced to death. They are both still in prison.
Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka were known as the “Ken and Barbie Killers” due to their appearances.
The crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka transfixed Canada. The pair married in 1991 and appeared to outsiders to be a happy pair, but their relationship was fraught with sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, according to Homolka’s testimony.
Before Christmas in 1990, Homolka and Bernardo drugged, raped, and killed Homolka’s 15-year-old sister Tammy. They were able to convince her family that Tammy’s death was accidental.
The couple went on to rape and murder two other teenaged girls, 15-year-old Kristen French and 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy. Some of the sexual assaults were videotaped and both Homolka and Bernardo were on tape abusing the victims.
In 1993, Karla Homolka was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years in prison for the murders of the teenagers and the death of her sister as part of a plea deal. Homolka testified in Bernardo’s trial and said she was abused and a reluctant accomplice in the killings.
Paul Bernardo was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated sexual assault in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. He also confessed to raping 14 women prior to the murders. He was denied parole in 2018.
Fred and Rosemary West killed their own children.
During the 1994 trial of Rosemary West for the death of Heather West, the prosecutor stated: “In June 1987, when she was 16 years old, she disappeared. Her parents did not report her missing. The reason is simple.They knew that she was dead because both had been involved in killing her.”
British couple Fred and Rosemary West were charged with the combined murder of 12 women between 1967 and 1987, including their own daughter Heather. The couple subjected teenage girls (including their own daughter) to torture and sexual abuse. They also murdered and dismembered most of their victims.
Suzan Carson and James Carson said they were killing “witches.”
Suzan and James Carson were known as the “San Francisco witch killers” after it was revealed that they killed three people in the early 1980s.
In 1981, they killed Suzan’s roommate, 22-year-old Keryn Barnes, because Suzan said she was a witch. Before authorities could capture them, the couple escaped and went to work on a marijuana farm and would later call themselves “vegetarian Muslim warriors.” They went on to kill two more people: Clark Stephens and Jon Charles Hellyar.
After their arrest in 1983, the pair confessed to killing these three people, two of whom they claimed to journalists and police were “witches.” The Carsons were both sentenced to 75 years to life in prison.Suzan was denied parole in 2015.
Judith and Alvin Neelley killed two strangers in 1983.
Lisa Ann Millican was 13 years old when she was kidnapped by 18-year-old Judith Neelley and 29-year-old Alvin Neelley from a Georgia shopping mall on September 25, 1983. Millican was subsequently sexually assaulted, injected with drain cleaner, and shot to death by the Neelleys. Her body was dumped into Little River Canyon in northeast Alabama.
Shortly after their first killing, the Neelleys kidnapped, tortured and killed Janice Kay Chatman, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reports. Chatman’s fiancé John Hancock was shot during the abduction but survived to identify Judith and Alvin as his attackers.
Both Judith and Alvin Neelley were convicted of murder and aggravated assault in 1983. At just 18 years old, Judith was the youngest female inmate sentenced to death in the United States. Her death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1999.
Alvin died in prison in October 2005 from complications of heart surgery, while Judith continues to serve a life sentence in Alabama.
Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck murdered through newspaper ads.
Dubbed “The Lonely Hearts Killers” at their trial, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck caused quite a stir when they were arrested together for murder.
The couple met after Fernandez responded to Beck’s “lonely hearts” newspaper advertisement. Fernandez had started a scheme where he conned vulnerable women with “lonely hearts” ads to get their assets. Beck became so besotted with Fernandez that she abandoned her two children at the Salvation Army in order to move in with him in New York.
Shortly after coupling up, authorities believe the two began placing lonely heart ads in newspapers together and conning the people who responded. They were eventually caught in 1949 after killing 66-year-old Janet Fay as well as a young widow named Delphine Downing and her 2-year-old daughter. They were convicted of the murders and were both sentenced to death.
Beck’s last words before going to the electric chair on May 8, 1951, included: “What does it matter who is to blame? My story is a love story… but only those tortured with love, can understand what I mean…. in the history of the world, how many crimes have been attributed to love?”
Alton Coleman and Debra Brown killed people across state lines.
Alton Coleman and Debra Brown murdered, kidnapped, and burglarized multiple people between May and July 1984 across six states – Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky.
The couple met in 1983 in Waukegan, Illinois. At the time, 29-year-old Coleman had been charged with multiple sex crimes.
After Coleman was charged for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old, the pair went on the run and started a crime spree that crossed state lines. The couple was captured on July 20, 1983, in Illinois. Both were convicted for the aggravated murders of 15-year-old Tonnie Storey and Marlene Walters. Coleman was later also convicted for murders in Wisconsin (9-year-old Vernita Wheat) and Indiana (9-year-old Tamika Turks).
Both were given the death penalty. Coleman was executed in 2002, while Brown continues to serve a life sentence in Ohio.
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