5 Serial Killers Even True Crime Fanatics Don’t Know

Written by Kathrine Frich

May.22 - 2024 10:23 AM CET

photo: Shutterstock
photo: Shutterstock
They might not be well known, but their crimes are just as horrifying

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When it comes to the world of true crime, names like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy are infamous and instantly recognizable. However, the dark history of serial killers goes far beyond these notorious figures. Some murderers have managed to evade the limelight despite their horrifying crimes. Here are five serial killers whose brutal legacies remain relatively obscure, even among the most dedicated true crime enthusiasts.

1. John Edward Robinson

John Edward Robinson, often dubbed the "Internet's First Serial Killer," used the early days of online chat rooms and personal ads to lure his victims. Operating throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Robinson's charm and manipulative skills enabled him to convince women to meet him, promising jobs or romantic relationships.

Robinson would then imprison, torture, and eventually kill his victims, hiding some of their bodies in barrels on his property. He was arrested in 2000 after a lengthy investigation and was found guilty of multiple murders. Robinson was sentenced to death and remains on death row. His use of the internet to facilitate his crimes marked a chilling new frontier in the methods of serial killers.

2. Danny Rolling

Known as the "Gainesville Ripper," Danny Rolling's killing spree in 1990 terrorized the college town of Gainesville, Florida. Over the course of a few days, Rolling brutally murdered five students, leaving behind scenes that were horrifying and grotesque. His methods included stabbing and mutilating his victims, and he often posed their bodies to shock whoever discovered them.

Rolling's crimes created a climate of fear in Gainesville and prompted an extensive manhunt. He was eventually apprehended and confessed to the murders, along with several others committed in Louisiana. Rolling was sentenced to death and executed in 2006. His gruesome acts and the terror they inflicted on a community remain less well-known but no less impactful in the annals of American crime.

3. Joseph Paul Franklin

Joseph Paul Franklin's name might not be as recognized as other serial killers, but his racially motivated crimes and sniper attacks make him one of the most dangerous extremists in American history. Active between 1977 and 1980, Franklin targeted interracial couples and African Americans, driven by his white supremacist beliefs.

Franklin's methodical and stealthy approach involved sniper attacks and bombings, making his capture difficult. He was linked to the attempted murder of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and the shooting of publisher Larry Flynt. Franklin confessed to 20 murders and numerous other violent acts, eventually being captured and sentenced to death. He was executed in 2013, leaving behind a legacy of hate-fueled violence that is as chilling as it is disturbing.

4. Donald Gaskins

Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins is often referred to as the meanest man in America. His small stature earned him the nickname "Pee Wee," but his crimes were anything but diminutive. Born in 1933 in South Carolina, Gaskins began his criminal career at a young age, initially engaging in petty crimes and escalating to more violent offenses. Over a span of 14 years, Gaskins claimed to have murdered over 100 people, though the confirmed number is closer to 15.

Gaskins' methods were exceptionally cruel, ranging from shooting to drowning, and he often targeted hitchhikers and young women. His reign of terror ended in 1975 when he was arrested and eventually sentenced to death. Despite his numerous confessions, the full extent of his crimes remains uncertain, making him one of the most sadistic and enigmatic killers in American history.

5. Patrick Kearney

Patrick Kearney, known as the "Trash Bag Killer," is a name that has slipped through the cracks of true crime infamy. Operating primarily in California during the 1970s, Kearney preyed on young men, often picking them up from bars or offering them rides. Once he had them in his car, Kearney would shoot his victims, typically with a gunshot to the head, before dismembering their bodies and disposing of them in industrial trash bags.

Kearney's calm demeanor and unassuming appearance allowed him to avoid suspicion for years. He confessed to 21 murders, although some believe the actual number could be higher. Kearney was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977 after his arrest, and his case remains a chilling reminder of how outwardly ordinary individuals can harbor monstrous secrets.

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