The United States was home to some of the most notorious serial killers of all time. Many of these killers you've likely heard of, especially names like Jeffrey Dahmer, but others you may now know yet. Learn about the top six most famous US serial killers and the unspeakable crimes they committed.
6 Famous Serial Killers in the United States
1. Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the most well-known serial killers today, thanks to the Netflix Documentary. The killer lived in Milwaukee and is known for murdering boys and men. He killed 17 separate victims between 1978 and 1991 and remained mostly unknown during that time period. Dahmer was known for wanting to take pictures with his victims, and for dismembering them. Dahmer reportedly consumed many of his victims, and he could be found preserving many of his kills in his home. He faced scrutiny regularly because of the bad smells coming from his apartments and other shared living spaces he occupied during his many years of killing. Dahmer was caught in July of 1991, and he only survived until 1994, when he was killed in prison.
2. The Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer is an unsolved serial killer mystery that has persisted since the 1960s. The killer is believed to have killed at least five people, and all his kills occurred in Northern California. The Zodiac killer addressed him or herself as the Zodiac in a letter sent to law enforcement. Who is believed to be the killer sent ciphers along with the letters to make things more difficult for law enforcement and to add to the mystery. The ciphers often served as little taunts from the killer and were poor evidence. The killer is believed to have murdered victims between 1968 and 1969, but other kills couldn't be connected. Many investigators claim to have known the killer's identity, but there is no substantial proof identifying the individual.
3. Richard Ramirez
Richard Ramirez is most famously known as the Night Stalker. This hardened serial killer tormented victims throughout Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area for just over a year. He was tied to 13 murders and five attempted murders, as well as many additional burglaries and sexual assaults. Ramirez broke into victims' homes, tortured them, robbed them, assaulted them, and reportedly humiliated them as well. He expressed no remorse for his actions and was sentenced to 19 consecutive death sentences in California. Ramirez later died of lymphoma while waiting to be executed in prison.
4. Aileen Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos has a simpler story than many of the other serial killers on this list. Between 1989 and 1990, she killed seven different men that were all reportedly her clients. Wuornos was a prostitute that worked along many Florida highways, and she claims that each of her victims either tried to rape her or had raped her. Wuornos was eventually caught and was sentenced to death in Florida. She sat on death row for more than a decade before receiving a lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
5. Donald Henry Gaskins
Donald Gaskins, or Pee Wee, was a serial killer located in South Carolina. Gaskins raped many of his victims and preferred to stab, poison, or shoot them to death. Donald Gaskins was responsible for killing more than a dozen people. Gaskins was responsible for a 13-year-old teen girl going missing, and terrorizing the people of South Carolina during the 1970s. Gaskins was captured and found guilty in 1976, but his death sentence was overturned in February of 1978. Gaskins quickly pled guilty to murdering Dennis Bellamy as well as eight other individuals and received 10 life sentences. Gaskins killed one of the inmates also on death row using a C4 explosive device while awaiting his own death. Gaskins was eventually put to death in September of 1991. Before his death, Gaskins was on record claiming to have killed more than 110 people, but law enforcement has mostly discredited that claim since.
6. Paul John Knowles
Paul John Knowles, dubbed the Casanova Killer was responsible for the deaths of 18 documented individuals, mostly women. These deaths occurred in 1974 after Knowles escaped from Florida State Prison after picking a lock and getting away. Knowles had a criminal recordbefore he was ever known as a killer. Paul Knowles killed many random victims, and most didn't seem like targeted encounters. He strangled many of his victims and raped some as well. Knowles admitted to killing many underage girls, but many of them were never found or documented and thus aren't proven. The Casanova Killer had a minimum of 18 victims but confessed to killing 35 people. Knowles died in an altercation with police on December 18, 1974, when Agent Ronnie Angel fired three rounds into his chest while moving down the road in a vehicle with him.
Which State Has the Most Serial Killers?
It's interesting to look at which state has the most serial killers overall. Having many serial killers doesn't mean that the state has the most famous serial killers though, or the worst serial killers. In terms of the total number of serial killers overall New York has the largest number with 18 documented serial killers. In terms of the most victims by a serial killer California takes the number one spot with 1,777 compared to the 677 victims in New York. California is also in second place for the most total serial killers with a total of 15 individuals that qualify as serial killers. It's interesting to look at the court record of the different killers for more information about them. Much of the information available is public knowledge for well-known killers, but the lesser-known offenders are often documented as well.
The United States has a long history of serial killers, and many of their stories are famous. It's not surprising to learn that New York has the largest concentration of serial killers over time, given its large population. We were horrified to hear about many of the actions of the top six serial killers, and the actions of these killers are exactly why many were already famous.