Harming another human in a way that results in their death might be one of the worst forms of crime. And yet, the world all too frequently sees such crimes. According to a recent study by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in the most recent years, the world has seen 8,740,100 homicides. With 15,696 homicides, America had the most murders in 2015. When such crime happens, one of the most comforting factors for society is when law enforcement catch the perpetrator and justice is done. However, not all crimes have such conclusions. In fact, in America alone, more than 211,000 homicides committed since 1980 remain unsolved. In this article, we’ve listed 10 of the most famous murders that remain unsolved.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
1. The Axeman of New Orleans: In 1918, when a grocer and his wife in New Orleans were found murdered by an axe, it was just the start of a serial-killing spree that ended up with at least eight people being killed by an axe. Since there was no evidence against the only suspect in these murders, the identity of the Axeman of New Orleans is still a mystery.
Axeman of New Orleans
Image source: wikimedia, wikimedia
An Italian grocer named Joseph Maggio and his wife were murdered in their apartment while asleep on the night of May 22, 1918. The killer broke into their home and cut their throats with a straight razor. Before leaving, the killer bashed their heads in with an axe, which is thought to have been done to conceal the real cause of death. The axe was found inside the house, and the razor was later found in the neighbor’s lawn. Police didn’t consider robbery as the motive of the murders since no valuable items, even the ones that were in plain sight, were stolen from their house. Just one month later, another Italian grocer named Louis Besumer and his mistress Harriet Lowe were attacked and killed in a similar manner. In between May 1918 and October 1919, this killer, now known as “The Axeman of New Orleans” killed eight people, usually with an axe. The victims usually also were of Italian ethnicity which led many to believe the murders were ethnically motivated. On March 13, 1919, a letter purporting to be from the “Axeman” was published in newspapers saying that he would kill again at 15 minutes past midnight on the night of March 19, but would spare the occupants of any place where a jazz band was playing. That night all of New Orleans’ dance halls were filled to capacity, and professional and amateur bands played jazz at parties at hundreds of houses around town. There were no murders that night. However, the true motive of the murders or the preparator has yet to be identified.
2. The Boy in the Box: This was a late 1960s’ incident when the nude body of a boy was found in a carton in Philadelphia in a very strange condition. It is still an unsolved murder mystery despite DNA investigations.
Boy in the Box
Image credits: Philadelphia Police Dept./wikimedia, Philadelphia Police Dept./wikimedia
On February 25, 1957, a naked, battered body of a male thought to be between three to seven years old was found in a cardboard box in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since the identity of this child was not known, he was known as the “Boy in the Box.” The killer had recently cropped the boy’s hair, possibly even after death as clumps of hair clung to the body. The body also showed signs of severe malnourishment and had surgical scars on the ankle and groin, as well as an L-shaped scar under the chin. A young man checking his muskrat traps first discovered the body, but he didn’t report it to the police fearing that police would confiscate his traps. So, after a few days, a college student found the body when he spotted a rabbit running into the underbrush. He knew that there were animal traps in that area, so stopped his car to investigate and discovered the body. Even though he was reluctant to deal with police, he did report his findings the next day.
Commonly called “America’s Unknown Child,” this case attracted massive media attention in the Philadelphia area. The Philadelphia Inquirer printed 400,000 flyers to distribute in the area. About 270 police academy recruits combed the crime scene over and over. They found a child’s blue corduroy cap, a child’s scarf, and a handkerchief, but these clues led nowhere. In their desperate attempt to find a clue, the police even distributed a postmortem photograph of the boy fully dressed and in a seated position depicting how he may have looked in life. On March 21, 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released a facial reconstruction of the victim and added him to their database. The case is still unsolved to this day.
3. In 1981, an eight-year-old boy disappeared, and a year later his bones were found in a nearby, rural field. Since no progress and no arrest were made, the case went cold. Thirty-two years later in 2013, a male escort calls the boy’s father and tells him: “I know what happened to your son. He was taken to the Elm Guest House in 1981.”
Image source: dailymail.co.uk
History might remember July 29, 1981, as the day Prince Charles Lady Diana, however, for Vishal Mehrotra’s family this day would be the most horrific day they would experience in their lives. While Prince Charles’ wedding was being broadcasted to a global audience of 750 million, just seven miles away from the venue, in the suburbs of Putney, an eight-year-old boy, Vishal Mehrotra, went missing. Vishal was walking home after watching the festivities with his nanny and sister and was ahead of them by a hundred yard when somewhere along the way they lost the sight of him. He was never seen alive again.
In 1982, Vishal’s skull and several rib bones were found 52 miles away from his home. There were no traces of his legs, pelvis, or lower spine. In 2013, the boy’s father, Vishambar Mehrotra, a retired London magistrate, received a phone call from a male escort who claimed that Vishal was taken to the Elm Guest House that day in 1981. Adding to the mystery is the fact that just four months after finding Vishal’s body, the police raided this very same Elm Guest House. In this raid, police seized evidence of a pedophilia ring and a list of names of the patrons. This list included several high-ranking members of British Parliament, celebrities, and members of the aristocracy. While the father still claims police covered up his son’s murder by the Westminster pedophile ring, the case went cold for years since police couldn’t reach a conclusion.
4. JonBenét Ramsay: This six-year-old beauty pageant participant was found dead in her parents’ basement in Colorado eight hours after she had been reported missing. Even with extensive DNA investigation, this murder is unsolved to this date.
Image credits: Splash News,Lwp Kommunikáció/flickr, Flominator/wikimedia
JonBenét Ramsay, a six-year-old child-beauty pageant queen who won at least five beauty pageants was murdered on the night of December 25-26, 1996 in her family home in Boulder, Colorado. When JonBenét went missing, a lengthy ransom note was found but after eight hours, her dad found her body in the basement of their house. The body had a broken skull caused by a blow to the head, and she had been strangled. There was a garrote around her neck too. The autopsy report stated that the official cause of death was “asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma.” Since both JonBenét and her mother were beauty queens, the case generated wide interest in both media and public.
Initially, police suspected that the ransom note had been written by the child’s mother to cover up the crime. Even the grand jury in 1998 wanted to charge the parents for placing the child at risk in a way that led to her death and for obstructing an investigation of murder. However, the district attorney decided against it since the DNA evidence didn’t suggest involvement from any of the immediate family members. After the forensic investigator extracted enough blood from JonBenét’s underwear to establish a DNA profile in December 2003, it was submitted to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). This DNA sample didn’t match any profile in CODIS which had more than 1.6 million DNA profiles. In October 2016, new forensic analysis uncovered that the original DNA actually contains genetic markers from two individuals other than the victim, JonBenét. The case is still an active homicide case in the Boulder Police Department.
5. Andrew and Abby Borden: This husband and wife were found dead with their bodies brutally mutilated in 1892 at Fall River, Massachusetts. Their daughter was arrested and tried for both murders but was acquitted due to lack of evidence beyond reasonable doubt.
Abby Borden and Andrew Borden
Image credit: The Burns Archive. 1892 police photo./wikimedia, Image source: wikimedia, crimearchives.net
August 4, 1892, Andrew left for his morning walk leaving his second wife Abby, his daughter Lizzie, and housemaid Bridget Sullivan in their house. Andrew came back around 10:30 a.m. and took a nap on the sofa. According to Bridget, whom Lizzy called “Maggie”, at around 11:10 a.m., she heard Lizzie call from downstairs, “Maggie, come quick! Father’s dead. Somebody came in and killed him.” His wife was also found dead, and according to the forensic investigation, his wife Abby was killed between 9:00 and 10:30 a.m. by a strike of a hatchet on the side of her head. Her killer struck her multiple times, delivering 17 direct hits to the back of her head until she was dead. Andrew was slumped on a couch in the downstairs, struck 10-11 times with a similar hatchet-like weapon. The investigation also suggested that since one of Andrew’s eyeballs had been split in two, he would have been asleep at the time of the attack.
During the investigation, Lizzy gave two different, suspicious accounts of what happened and answered police questions in strange and contradictory manner. They found two hatchets, two axes, and a hatchet-head with a broken handle. This hatchet-head was suspected of being the murder weapon as the break in the handle appeared fresh. The ash and dust on the head appeared to have been deliberately applied to make it look like it had been in the basement for some time like all the other tools. On August 6, police confiscated the broken-handled hatchet-head. Police arrested Lizzie and tried her both murders, however, in June 1893, Lizzie was acquitted due to lack of evidence. Lizzie continued to live in Fall River, Massachusetts despite facing ostracism until her death in 1927. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts elected not to charge anyone else with the murder of Andrew and Abby Borden; speculation about the crimes still continues more than 100 years later.
6. Black Dahlia: Elizabeth Short, who was nicknamed the “Black Dahlia” was the victim of a gruesome and highly publicized murder when she was a 22-year-old in 1947. Her body was found cut and severely mutilated. Even after more than 60 people confessed to the murder, this mystery remains unsolved.
Elizabeth Short aka Black Dahlia
Image credit: Los Angeles Police Department/wikimedia, Image source: theodysseyonline.com
At the age of 22, Elizabeth Short, a waitress thought to be an aspiring actress, became the victim of a highly publicized murder. Short was found dead in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California with her corpse having been mutilated and severed at the waist suggesting the very graphic nature of the crime. Newspapers at the time often created nicknames for particularly lurid crimes which might be the reason Short acquired the nickname of the “Black Dahlia” posthumously and may have originated from a film noir murder mystery, The Blue Dahlia.
When the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) found her body on January 15, 1947, they conducted an extensive investigation which produced over 150 suspects. Police detectives also located a heel print on the ground amid the tire tracks near the body and a cement sack containing watery blood nearby. However, no arrests were made. A total of 750 investigators from the LAPD and other departments worked on the case including 400 sheriff’s deputies and 250 California State Patrol officers. Sixty people confessed to the murder out of which 25 were considered viable suspects by the LAPD. As of today, over 500 people have confessed to the crime, some of whom were not even born at the time of her death. Still a mystery, this murder is frequently cited as one of the most famous unsolved murders in American history, as well as one of the oldest unsolved cases in Los Angeles County. Historians credit it as one of the first major crimes in post-World War II America to capture national attention.
7. Aarushi Talwar: In 2008 in India, a 14-year old girl and her family servant were found dead in the family home. Suspicions fell on the parents, on other servants, and lastly, on intruders. The parents were convicted of the murders who, after spending four years in jail, were acquitted by a higher court in 2017. Now after the parents’ acquittal, the murder is still a mystery.
Hemraj Banjade and Aarushi Talwar
Image source: hindustantimes.com
The Talwar family woke up to find their only daughter was murdered on the morning of May 16th, 2008 in Noida, India. Her body was covered with a blanket and her throat was cut. Hemraj, the 45-year-old male, live-in, cook/servant of the family was missing and quickly became the prime suspect. When police arrived at the crime scene, the site was already compromised with almost 15 people present in the living room and five to six more in Talwar’s bedroom. A near-empty scotch bottle on the kitchen counter also led police to believe Hemraj attempted a sexual assault on Aarushi and killed her before fleeing to his native Nepal. However, the next day on May 17, 2008, police discovered Hemraj’s body on the terrace of Talwar’s apartment in an advanced state of decomposition. Both Hemraj and Aarushi had suffered head injuries after being hit with a blunt instrument and then had their throats cut.
Police now started suspecting Aarushi’s parents, the Talwar couple. Many theories include the Talwars murdering their daughter in an honor killing, killing Hemraj because he was a witness or to frame him. Another theory is that the Talwars caught Aarushi and Hemraj in a compromising position and killed both of them. On 25 November 2013, a special CBI court found the Talwar couple guilty of the two murders, destruction of evidence, misleading the probe, and filing a wrong FIR. On 26 November 2013, they were sentenced to life imprisonment. However, on 12 October 2017, the High Court acquitted the Talwars of all charges, stating that the evidence presented by the CBI against the Talwars was not enough to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore they must be acquitted instead of being convicted based solely on suspicion. Thus, one of the most controversial murder cases in India is still a mystery.
8. Jack the Ripper: In 1888, five London prostitutes were horrifically killed and their bodies were mutilated such a way that they suggested the work of one single killer. However, even after a century, the killer’s identity is still an unsolved mystery.
Jack the Ripper and victim Catherine Eddowe
Image credit: John Tenniel/wikimedia, Image source: wikimedia
“Jack the Ripper” was the name given the unidentified killer who killed prostitutes of impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. This killer typically killed female prostitutes who lived and worked in the slums of the East End of London. He cut the throats of the victims and then mutilated their bodies. He was also considered to have some anatomical or surgical knowledge since some of the victims’ internal organs were removed.
This case received extensive media coverage and international notoriety. Five victims of Jack the Ripper are known as the “canonical five.” These murders were never solved, and the legend surrounding them became the mix of genuine research, pseudo-history, and folklore. The term “Ripperology” was coined to describe the study and analysis of the Ripper cases, and currently, there are over one hundred hypotheses about the Ripper’s identity.
9. Tracy Kirkpatrick: This 17-year-old girl was stabbed to death at a clothing store in 1989. The suspect confessed on a national hotline, but no one has been arrested.
Image source: unsolvedmysteries.wikia.com
Tracy was working at Aileen Ladies Sportswear in Fredrick, Maryland on the closing shift on March 15, 1989. The store typically closed at 9:00 p.m., but when a security guard noticed lights on in the store around 10:30 p.m., he went to check in and found Tracy’s body in the back storage room. Tracy had stab wounds to her chest and back. Police couldn’t identify the motive of the murder since the money in the register was intact and Tracy had not been sexually assaulted. There was no evidence of struggle suggesting that Tracy might have known her killer.
Three months later, a man called the National Confession Hotline and identified himself as “Don.” He confessed to killing the girl in the ladies sportswear store in Fredrick which matched with the store and Tracy. The caller also claimed to have often visited Tracy’s store and talked to her when she was alone. On the night of the murder, according to the caller, their conversation turned into an argument and he killed her with a knife which he always carried with him. The Frederick police traced this call to Walkersville, a town in Frederick County about eight miles from Tracy’s murder site. After getting a tip, Frederick police found a person whose voice matched the one on the tape. He was also acting suspiciously, however, due to lack of evidence, he was never charged with the murder.
10. The Zodiac Killing: Within the span of 11 months, “Zodiac” killed five people without getting caught. Additionally, many others have been suspected to have been the victim of the Zodiac. This is one of the US’s biggest, unsolved mysteries.
Image credit: Judas vivet/wikimedia
One of the most talked-about killers in American history who inspired David Finch’s highly acclaimed movie Zodiac Killer killed just for fun. In one of his encrypted letters, Zodiac wrote: “I like killing people because it’s so much fun.” Zodiac murdered at least four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29 in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco, California between December 1968 and October 1969. The killer himself suggested the name “Zodiac” in a series of taunting letters sent to the local, Bay Area press. These letters included four cryptograms (ciphers). So far. police could solve only one of the cryptograms. Even now, the identity of Zodiac killer remains unknown. The San Francisco Police Department officially marked the case “inactive” and closed it in 2004 just to re-open again in 2007. In Napa County, Solano County, the City of Vallejo, and the City of Riverside, the case is still open. The California Department of Justice has maintained an open case file on the Zodiac murders since 1969.
Source : factsc.com