Society - People
By: - at June 20, 2013

15 People Who Killed for a Living

Killing other humans is one of the greatest sins a person can commit in most cultures. The taboo is nearly primal. But for some people, it just doesn’t stick. It doesn’t seem to matter how the person was raised or treated; sometimes, a person just misses that emotional barrier to killing another person. Even worse is when a person kills for profit.

Murder for a living


15)  Thomas Wynne Made a Fortune Killing a Retired Couple
Thomas Wynne, born in Ipswich, a port in Suffolk, England, took to the sea when he was fifteen years old. At 24, when his ship docked in London, he decided life as a sailor was no longer for him. He would dress as a porter, go to the best inns, and decide on an item, such as a package or bundle that looked valuable. Then he would walk off with it when it was unattended. Since he was dressed as a porter, the innkeeper and servants just thought he was doing his job. He made over £200 in two years that way. When innkeepers caught on to what was happening, items were more closely watched, and Wynne had to find another way to earn money. Naturally, he returned to burglary, which led to the murder of a retired wealthy couple. He fled to Virginia with his family and stolen wealth, but returned to England some years later.

While in Cheapside, he went to a goldsmith’s shop so he could buy plate to take back to Virginia. Outside, a man had been arrested, and when he escaped from the constables, there was an uproar. Wynne went out to the street to see what was happening. The constables shouted, “Stop him!” repeatedly. He stopped in the street and said, “I am the man.” When questioned, he confessed to the murders. He was arrested and brought before a magistrate, confessed again, taken to Newgate Prison, tried, and sentenced to death. His Virginia investments were confiscated, and his family was left penniless, all because Thomas Wynne couldn’t make an honest living twenty years before.


14)  The Gent and the Lufthansa Heist

Jimmy Burke:
Jimmy Burke

Gangster Jimmy Burke would turn on friends and steal from anyone. Unfortunately for his crew, he thought they would do the same. The man behind the Lufthansa heist of 1978, Burke and his team were eventually found out. The man who was supposed to get rid of the van didn’t do it right away, and it was found by the police. They identified it as the one used in the theft. Between the van’s identification, the driver’s fingerprints on the steering wheel, and the incredible profits from the robbery, Burke grew paranoid. He decided to kill anyone who could implicate him, starting with the driver.

Authorities suspected Burke of more than fifty murders. However, they could only convict him of one, that of Richard Eaton. Eaton had made the poor judgment call of getting Burke to invest in cocaine and didn’t pay Burke for it, instead keeping the quarter of a million dollars for himself. Burke failed to search Eaton’s body before dumping it; police found an address book with Burke’s name, address, and phone number in it. Hill testified against him in that case. The jury gave Burke a life sentence.

Burke died at the age of sixty-four in 1996, eight years before he would have been eligible for parole.


13)  India’s Bandit Queen
Bandit QueenIn July of the same year, a gang of dacoits, or armed robbers, led by Babu Gujar, set up camp outside Phoolan Devi's village. She may have been threatened by letter that the dacoits would cut off her nose or kidnap her; the record here is unclear. One night, she was indeed taken from her home and marched into the ravines. For the next three days, Babu Gujar raped her. On the third day, in the evening, an admirer of Phoolan’s who happened to be Babu Gujar’s lieutenant shot Babu Gujar and killed him. The man, Vikram Mallah, took leadership of the gang, and Phoolan became his mistress. From him, she learned to shoot, to rob, to kill, and to lead.

Phoolan remained on the run. She voluntarily surrendered in February of 1983, when there was a price of $10,400 on her head; she was responsible for more than twenty deaths and more than thirty kidnappings. She remained in prison for eleven years without being tried. Finally, in February of 1994, the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, ordered all charges against her be withdrawn and she be released. A film, "Bandit Queen," was made about her life; as she didn’t authorize it, she filed suit against the producer and director twice. Her biography was published in France in May of 1995. And in February of 1995, she decided to run for a seat in the lower house of India’s Parliament. And she won in May of 1996 on a platform of advocating for women and the poor, despite all the crimes to her name.


12)  The Baby Farmer and the Hatbox

Williamina “Minnie” McCulloch at the time of her marriage in 1872:
Minnie

Williamina “Minnie” McCulloch, born in Greenock, Scotland, in 1844, emigrated to New Zealand by 1862. She arrived with her first daughter; at the time, she was pregnant with her second. She was, or claimed to be, the widow of a Tasmanian doctor. Minnie and her daughter settled with her aunt in the Otago area. After her second daughter was born, Minnie became a schoolteacher in the Southland area. Eleven years later, she married an innkeeper, Charles Dean. During the gold rush, the inn did well, but when it died down, life got hard for the family. Minnie and Charles became farmers. Her daughter, Ellen, drowned herself and her two children in the farm’s well. Charles was declared bankrupt in 1884.

In 1892, police in Christchurch found Minnie in a boardinghouse with a three-week-old child she had adopted for £25. The child was being fed sour, curdled milk from a bottle and was in filthy clothes. The mother said she hardly recognized the baby because its condition had worsened so much over just two days. The police thought they had saved the baby’s life, and Minnie remained under surveillance. The next year, the police commissioner wrote to the Minister of Justice about his concerns regarding Minnie’s baby farming. On August 12, 1895, she was hanged, the only woman ever executed in New Zealand.


11)  Boston’s Kingpin

Howie Winter:

In 1979, Howie Winter and many other members of the upper leadership of the Winter Hill Gang were arrested for fixing horse races. Bulger and his partner, Stephen Flemmi, stepped in and took over the gang. By this time, Bulger had been an FBI informant for five years. He had first been approached in 1971 to give them information about the Patriarca family. He turned the agent down out of fears for his safety. In 1974, Bulger became partners with Flemmi, who had been an FBI informant since 1965. Flemmi influenced Bulger to agree to become an informant when next approached, particularly since, this time, the agent used the carrot of being able to use the FBI in his feud with Gennaro Angiulo, a Patriarca underboss. Kevin Weeks, who worked for Bulger, also thinks Flemmi had betrayed Bulger to the FBI, and so Bulger had to choose between becoming an informant and going back to federal prison.

While on the run, Bulger spent twelve years on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. He was not captured until June 22, 2011, in Santa Monica, California. He was arraigned on July 6, 2011, and charged with 48 counts, including 19 of murder. The other counts include money laundering, extortion, perjury, narcotics distribution, weapons violations, and obstruction of justice. US District Court Judge Denise Casper wants the trial to begin on June 10, 2013.


10)  The Sociopathic Dentist

Glennon Edward Engleman:
Glennon Edward Engleman

Glennon Edward Engleman’s first known murder was of his ex-wife, Edna’s, new husband, James Bullock, in 1958 in St. Louis, Missouri. Engleman shot Bullock with a .22 caliber gun. This wasn’t out of jealousy, as we might suspect. On the death of her husband, James Bullock, Edna collected $64,000 in an insurance payout. She then invested $20,000—nearly a third—of it in a drag strip of Engleman’s. Engleman was suspected but never arrested for the murder. All of the first six of Engleman’s murders were for hire or insurance pay off. This, however, changed in the end.

Engleman’s seventh and final known murder appears to have been solely for his benefit. He owed a dental lab owned by Sophie Barrera over $14,000. He rigged a car bomb that killed her. Her son, Frederick, accused Engleman of the murder.

He was convicted that August of two counts of murder, those of Peter Halm and Sophie Barrera. He eventually confessed to the Gusewell murders, as well, and eventually pleaded guilty to them. He received five life sentences for the murders, as well as multiple decades-long sentences on federal charges of fraud and conspiracy.





9)  Pittsburgh Phil’s Hundred-Plus Victims

Harry Strauss:
Harry Strauss

Contact killer Harry Strauss was skilled with a variety of murder weapons, ranging from rope to knives to ice picks to guns. He would volunteer for jobs because he enjoyed killing; he took pride in how well he did the job. He was considered the organized crime organization Murder, Inc.'s most vicious killer. By the time he was 25, in 1934, he had been arrested seventeen times on charges of homicide, assault, and larceny, but no charges ever stuck; as Assistant District Attorney Burton Turkus put it, he “had never been convicted of so much as smoking on a subway platform.” Strauss was so good that he would often be sent out of town to commit other regional hits; he wasn’t known to local police or hired by local organizations, so nothing would tie either him or the local organization to the hit. One of those hits involved a shooting in a crowded diner; Strauss and another man killed their target, Harry Millman, but also wounded five others.

Turkus was the one to eventually try Strauss after Abe Reles turned on the group and gave the district attorney’s office the solutions to 85 murders. The one Strauss would be tried for was the murder of Irving “Pugsy” Feinstein. Feinstein, a bookie, had crossed Albert Anastasia. Though Anastasia was no slouch in the murder department, he contracted the hit. Strauss, Reles, and Martin “Buggsy” Goldstein lured Feinstein to Reles’ house, where they killed him with rope and ice picks. At the trial, Strauss seemed to decide an insanity plea would be his best option. Though he had always been immaculate and dressed well before Reles turned on him, he now grew his beard out, stopped bathing, and began doing things like chewing on the leather strap of a briefcase and babbling senselessly. The jury didn’t buy it; they sentenced him to death for Feinstein’s murder. He was executed by electric chair in June of 1941 and is buried in a Jewish cemetery, Beth David.


8)  One of the Most Powerful Men in the Country

Meyer Lansky:

Through his life, Meyer Lansky largely profited off investments, casinos in particular but also hotels, golf courses, and a meatpacking plant, along with narcotics, porn, extortion, racketeering, and prostitution. He saved money in numbered Swiss accounts to avoid tax evasion charges. He earned the title of “The Mob’s Accountant” for how many funds, endeavors, and bribes he handled. Unfortunately, one of his investments, one that he’d gotten many other mobsters in on, was in the Flamingo Hotel and Casino, owned by none other than Siegel. Twice he convinced the syndicate not to kill Siegel, even though the casino didn’t seem to be turning a profit and Siegel wasn’t repaying them. The third time they discussed it, the Flamingo showed a small profit. The fourth time, though, Lansky was convinced that Siegel was cooking the books and ordered his murder.

Lansky’s involvement in murder seemed to settle after that, though he’d indisputably profited from the murders of Siegel and Masseria. He returned to managing funds; it was rumored his worth totaled in the millions. After he fled to Israel and, because of his criminal background, was extradited to the United States to face tax charges, he was acquitted of tax evasion charges. Lansky never served time; he died nine years after his acquittal at the age of 81.


7)  The Actor’s Father

Charles Harrelson:
Charles Harrelson

Charles Harrelson, the father of actor Woody Harrelson, was a good student, but that didn’t mean he led a productive life. Once he left school, he went to California and became an insurance salesman. However, he soon turned to a life of crime. In 1960, he was convicted of armed robbery. He was later accused of the assassination of John H. Wood, a federal judge.

After Jamiel Chagra was released in 2003, he claimed Harrelson did not murder Judge Wood. Harrelson maintained that he didn’t commit the murder, although he twice confessed. As he was high on mainlined cocaine both times, the confessions were inadmissible. In 1997, his son, the actor Woody Harrelson, financed Harrelson’s appeal, based on a claim that he did not receive a fair trial. All three of Harrelson’s sons attended the proceedings in both Colorado and Texas. The appeal was rejected, as was another filed in 2003; in 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

Harrelson died on March 15, 2007, at the age of 69, of severe coronary artery disease.


6)  The Blood Countess

Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed:
Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed

Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed is said to be the most prolific female serial killer in history. That said, we don’t know how many girls she and four collaborators actually killed. One witness claimed it was over 650; she was actually convicted of torturing and killing 80.

When inspectors entered Báthory’s castle, they found a dead girl on the floor, a dying girl who seemed to have lost most of her blood to puncture wounds a bit further in, also on the floor, and a female corpse chained to a post against a pillar; she looked like she had been burned, beaten, and whipped before she died, and she appeared bloodless, just as the other two did. When they entered the dungeons, they found the cells full of women and children, many of whom had apparently been bled repeatedly. The inspectors released them all, and then led them upstairs so they could flee. Then they continued up to Báthory’s living quarters, which supposedly looked as though an orgy had taken place, complete with more torture. Báthory herself could not be tried or convicted of a crime, but all the same, she was confined to her quarters in the castle that had been a wedding gift to Báthory and Nádasdy from Nádasdy’s family.


5)  The Russian Superkiller

Alexander Solonik:
Alexander the Great

In Moscow, he was nicknamed Alexander the Great; other criminals said he shot in a Macedonian way, with two hands. Alexander Solonik was a popular hitman. In the winter of 1992, he assassinated Viktor Nikiforov, a criminal with incredible status. Six months later, he killed Valery Dlugach in a crowd with a single shot from a sniper rifle. His bodyguards and armored car couldn’t keep him safe from that. No one else was hurt. In January of 1994, he killed another crime leader, Vladislav Vinner. Solonik would later confess to all these crimes and even lead police to the locations so he could reenact them. Also in 1994, Solonik reportedly tried to extort money from another mobster. The mobster called Solonik via speakerphone to settle the matter, and Solonik realized he was Otari Kvantrishvili, one of the most powerful Russian mobsters in history. Since Solonik couldn’t extort the money, he may have murdered Kvantrishvili. This story is hard to verify, though; a gang that had nothing to do with Solonik was convicted of the murder in 2008.

Solonik killed more than ten people while alive. Considering just the police officers and security guards in the Petrovsky marketplace, it seems to be far more, especially considering he may well have been responsible for ones we don’t know about.


4)  The Dapper Teflon Don

Mobster John Gotti:
John Gotti

In 1981, mobster John Gotti opened a gambling den on the second floor of the Bergin for men in the family only. In early March, he moved it to Manhattan, around the corner from Dellacroce’s club. Gotti kept losing money at the games, but the house profited; since he owned the house, he borrowed from it, then ordered an audit to see who owed the house money. He owed it the most—$55,000. That kind of spending and waste got crime family boss Paul Castellano’s attention. Castellano considered Gotti’s wasteful gambling habit a liability, and he found Gotti unpredictable. Even Castellano didn’t know it at the time, but Gotti had earned the attention of the FBI; they installed bugs in the Bergin club.

Near the end of 1990, Gotti, Sammy Grovano, and Frank Locascio were arrested by New York City detectives and FBI agents outside the Ravenite social club. To make things worse for Gotti, his lawyers were barred from representing him. Gotti finally got a new lawyer on August 20, though he made his displeasure with the ruling well known. And in November, Gravano turned state’s witness. That was, perhaps, the most devastating part of the trial. On April 2, the jury handed down guilty verdicts, and on June 23, 1992, John Gotti was sentenced to life in prison, where he would die of throat cancer on June 10, 2002, serving less than ten years on the one set of convictions the state had while he was head of the Gambino family.


3)  Madame LaLaurie

Delphine LaLaurie:
Delphine LaLaurie

In 1834, a fire broke out in the Royal Street mansion. Delphine LaLaurie paid more attention to rescuing her furniture than seeing to her slaves’ safety; rescuers found a seventy-year-old black woman chained in the kitchen, trapped because Delphine felt she had better things to save. The crowd that gathered to help Delphine began to wonder where her slaves were, why they weren’t helping her save her property. The old woman led authorities to the attic, where they found seven slaves tied up and wearing spiked iron collars. It later came out that the old woman had set the fire rather than continue living with Delphine’s torture.

The local press referred to covering how the LaLauries treated their slaves as “covering one of those atrocities the details of which seem too incredible to be true.” They found it necessary to print the story to hold Madame LaLaurie accountable. While Delphine’s neighbors could tolerate sadism toward slaves, they could not tolerate outright torture. A mob gathered in front of the house. Delphine formed a plan. When her carriage came for her daily ride, she stepped into it, dressed as usual with no sign anything was wrong. As soon as the door closed, the coachman whipped the horses into a full gallop. When they reached Bayou St. John, Delphine paid the captain of a schooner a handful of gold to sail for Mandeville. Delphine—appropriately—never returned to her beloved New Orleans.


2)  The Lovelorn Immigrant Serial Killer

Belle Gunness with children:
Belle Gunness with children

Early in the morning on April 28, 1908, Joe Maxson, Belle Gunness’s hired hand, woke to the smell of smoke filling his room. He opened the hall door to see a wall of fire. He screamed the names of the other inhabitants of the house, Belle and all her children, but no one answered. He slammed the door and leapt from the window wearing only underwear. He raced to town for help, but by the time the hook-and-ladder got there around dawn, the house was reduced to cinders and gutted ruins. Inside the house, investigators found four bodies. The body in Belle’s room could not be positively identified; it didn’t have a head. The bodies of her children were still in their beds. Farmhand Ray Lamphere’s supposed threats against Belle had somehow gotten back to the sheriff; the sheriff saw the wreckage and went straight to looking for Lamphere. La Porte residents couldn’t figure out the headless body. The headless body (the flesh had been burned but was not rendered off) plainly could not be Belle Gunness. Furthermore, Dr. J. Meyers examined the internal organs of the dead woman. He sent stomach contents of the victims to a pathologist in Chicago who eventually reported that they all contained lethal doses of strychnine.


1)  The First Female Mass Murderer in the United States

Only known picture that we have of Lavinia Fisher:
Lavinia Fisher

A man named John Peeples was traveling to Charleston from Georgia. He stopped at the Six Mile Wayfarer House to rest and see if he could get a room. Lavinia Fisher, the first female mass murderer in the U.S., told him there weren’t any rooms available, but she invited him in for tea and a meal. During the meal he was informed that they could give him a room after all. However, he’d started feeling suspicious by then. Rather than sleep in the bed, he opted for the chair, where he felt safer, even if he did doze instead of sleep there. Dozed until he heard a loud noise, anyway. The bed he should have been in had disappeared into a hole in the ground. Peeples jumped out the window and rode to alert the authorities.

The Fishers were hanged on the gallows behind Charleston Jail on February 18, 1820. About two thousand people had gathered to watch the execution. John Fisher quietly prayed with the minister, began to give the audience his case, and finally, just before he was hanged, asked for their forgiveness. Lavinia had asked to wear her wedding dress for the hanging. She refused to walk and so had to be carried to the gallows. Before the crowd, she screamed, ranted, and raved, accusing socialites of encouraging a conviction. Before the executioner could finish the job, Lavinia jumped off the scaffold herself.


Final Words
Through history, there have always been those who seem to have little problem killing others for profit, their own benefit, or even their own pleasure. Some things, and instabilities, seemingly don't change. Fortunately, these individuals were nearly all brought to some kind of justice, though their victims did not receive the same treatment.



 

 

 

 

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