When we picture cold-blooded killers in our minds, we often a single person, traveling between states on a cold-blooded mission of their own. But what about whole families or siblings that teamed up and killed together, often many times over. True crime history has seen this happen and in these following extreme cases, we look at the families who committed these sinister crimes as a chilling team.
12. The Bloody Benders Buried The Bodies Under Their Family Home
The Bloody Benders were a family of serial killers who lived in Labette County, southeastern Kansas. Between 1871 to 1873, they owned an inn and a small general store, but what laid beneath the ground though would soon shock locals for many decades to come.
The family was John Bender, his wife Elvira Bender, their son John Jr and daughter Kate. They were not favored by locals, with Elvira becoming known as the “she-devil”. Kate would distribute flyers around the town offering her spiritual services claiming that she could contact the dead. Newspapers which circulated during this time later reported that the son and daughter were both married to each other – a rumor that would typically be dismissed if it wasn’t for their other sinister crimes.
Over a dozen travelers had gone missing from the area of Labette County and the townsfolk were not happy that this was destroying their reputation as many other towns claimed it was now a place for “horse thieves and villains”. When a body had been discovered, with the skull smashed and the throat slit – this was enough. They all agreed a hunt for the killer would need to take place.
Three days after the search began, a local was driving past the Bender farm and he noticed the inn was abandoned and the families cattle were unfed. After reporting this, a search of the property took place and they were shocked to find an awful smell coming from inside the house. They turned over a bed, and underneath found a trapdoor which was nailed shut. After opening the trap, they found a six-foot deep room which was empty and the floor was covered in clotted blood. They soon got to work and started to dig up the grounds.
Their dig continued until midnight and they discovered eight bodies along with a number of body parts. All but one had smashed skulls and their throats cut. Another body, belonging to a young girl, was believed to have been either strangled or buried alive. They also found a Roman Catholic Bible in the house with a note inside that read: “Big slaughter day, Jan eighth” and “hell departed.”
A Kansas newspaper reported that the locals were so angered by the crimes, that they hung a friend of the Benders, known as Brockman until he was almost unconscious – then interrogated him on the whereabouts of the family. The Bender Family were never to be seen again.
11. The Briley Brothers Went On A Seven Month Killing Spree
The Briley Brothers were Anthony, James, and Linwood Briley. They were known as good boys, raised in a loving home, who would often help neighbors fix their cars or with repairs. However, behind closed doors, the boys collected exotic pets such as tarantulas, piranhas, and boa constrictors that they would torture and kill. Their own father kept his bedroom door padlocked from the inside when he slept at night.
In 1971, 16-year-old Linwood aimed a rifle from his bedroom window, then shot and killed an elderly neighbor as she was hanging out some laundry. The crime was almost never solved until a funeral director found a small bullet wound under her armpit. Police investigated that the only angle the bullet could have come from was where the Briley house stood. Linwood admitted to the crime and said, “I heard she had heart problems, she would have died soon anyway.” He was sent to reform school for one year.
Then in 1979, the brothers went on a seven-month killing rampage that terrified locals. On March 12th, they knocked on the door of a Henrico County couple claiming they had car trouble and needed to use their telephone before eventually forcing their way into the house. They tied the couple up at gunpoint, doused them with fuel and lit the house on them on. Luckily the husband managed to free his arms and they both survived the attack. Days later they shot dead a vending serviceman. Then the following month they followed a 76-year-old into her house before murdering her. Their next victim was a 17-year-old boy who they killed by dropping a cinderblock onto his skull.
Months passed by and the brothers began looking for another victim. When they came across a DJ who was taking a break from his set, they assaulted him and put him in the trunk of his own car. They then drove the car to an abandoned paper mill and shot him before dumping his body in a river. Later when they were arrested, Linwood was wearing a ring belonging to the victim.
The same month, the brothers beat a 62-year-old private nurse to death and just five days later and only two blocks from their own home, they bludgeoned a couple to death with a baseball bat, scissors, and a fork. When the bodies were discovered, the scissors and fork were sticking out of their victim’s back. Their last victims were a couple who lived in the neighborhood, the woman was five months pregnant at the time. After the attack, the police noticed the brothers running down the street and were arrested soon afterward. All three brothers were sentenced to death row.
10. The Ruthless Ma Barker and Her Gang of Sons
Ma Barker was the mother of the Barker gang, a family of criminals who operated during the public enemy era. J. Edgar Hoover described her as “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade”.
In 1892, she married George Barker and they had four sons together: Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred. The family was involved in robberies and murders. In 1927, Herman shot at an officer point blank in the mouth after he was driving away from a robbery – shortly after he crashed his car and desperate to escape capture, he shot himself in the head. After Herman’s death, his father George removed himself from the family with many reports claiming he thought Ma was driving the family out of control.
Eventually, the family became one of the most wanted by the FBI. On January 16th, 1935, their hideout was discovered in Ocklawaha, Florida. Agents surrounded the house but they weren’t aware the other members had left days before, leaving only Ma and her youngest son Fred inside the house. When they were ordered to surrender, Fred opened fire and according to witnesses, the shootout lasted so long that local people came to hold picnics and watch the event.
Eventually, the shooting went quiet from within the house. The FBI entered and found both Ma and Fred died in the front bedroom – his body riddled with bullets.
9. The Tarverdiyeva Family Were Russia’s Deadliest Family
46-year-old Inessa Tarverdiyeva was working as a nursery teacher and her second husband, 35-year-old Roman Podkopaev, as a qualified dentist, before they both turned into ruthless serial killers. During their six-year reign of terror, they took the lives of at least 30 people. Shockingly, Inessa’s two daughters from her first marriage, 25-year-old Viktoria Tarverdiyeva, and 13-year-old daughter Anastasiya, also took part in all the crimes.
Inessa claimed, “I am a gangster by nature” and carried out robberies, targeting homes of rich families, as her daily job. In 2009, the family murdered a paratrooper, Dmitry Chudakov, his wife Irina, and their two children – 11-year-old Vernokia and 7-year-old Sasha, 7. They were killed with a semi-automatic rifle, but the 11-year-old daughter was stabbed nearly forty times before she died. All the Tarverdiyeva family got away with was a camera, laptop and hairdryer.
Other victims included Inessa’s own Goddaughters. She knew their father enjoying hunting and had a collection of guns in the house. The family tortured the two teenage girls and gouged their eyes out before stealing the weapons.
Eventually, they were captured by the police. The father, Roman Podkopaev, died during the shootout with police but Inessa and her daughters are currently serving their sentences in prison.
8. The González Sisters Did The Unspeakable
Delfina and María de Jesús González were two sisters from Guanajuato, a north-central Mexican state. Between the 1950s to the mid-1960s, they ran “Rancho El Ángel” a large prostitution ring where at least ninety-one murders took place.
Police had arrested a young woman named Josefina Gutiérrez on suspicion of kidnapping young girls in the Guanajuato area. During her questioning, she mentioned the names of the González sisters. She led them to a property in San Francisco del Rincón and their search shockingly found the bodies of eighty women, eleven men, and many fetuses.
It was later discovered that the sisters would place adverts for housemaids who were wanted in the local area. When young girls replied to the adverts, they were held hostage and forced to take either heroin or cocaine. Those who became too ill, pregnant, damaged through sexual activity or just stopped pleasing customers were killed. Replaced with more innocent victims.
The customers were killed too – anyone who showed up with a lot of cash would be disposed of and their money would then belong to the sisters. When questioned on the number of bodies on the property one of the sisters reportedly put it down to food poisoning.
In 1964, the González sisters were sentenced to forty years in prison. Delfina died in prison and Maria vanished after her release never to be seen again. They have a Guinness World Record entry as the “most prolific murder partnership”.
7. The Lafferty Brothers Showed No Remorse and Laughed In Court
On July 24th, 1984, brothers Dan and Ron Lafferty targeted their sister-in-law Brenda Lafferty, who was married to their brother Allen, and the couple’s 15-month-old daughter, Erica. Both brother’s had become extremists and members of the School of the Prophets, founded and led by Robert Crossfield, where they believed God was sending them revelations. The brother’s said God wanted them to kill Brenda and her infant daughter as a “removal revelation.”
Brenda was different from other women they had met before. She was a former beauty queen and a college graduate, she spoke up and told the brothers that she didn’t believe they were prophets. They also believed she was the reason Ron’s wife had left him.
On that night in July, they beat their victims until they were unconscious and then slit the throats. Their friend Chip Carnes, who drove the getaway car, claimed that Ron thanked his brother Dan for “doing the baby.” After the murders, police found writings of the “revelation.”
The brothers are now both on death row and still show no remorse for the killings. Dan told Deseretnews.com in 2004, “It’s never haunted me, it’s never bothered me. I don’t blame anyone for not understanding it. But if you had done it, it wouldn’t haunt you either. It was a strange phenomenon.” He added, “I held Brenda’s hair and did it pretty much the way they did it in the scriptures. Then I walked in Erica’s room. I talked to her for a minute, I said, ‘I’m not sure why I’m supposed to do this, but I guess God wants you home.’”
6. The Harpe Brothers Are America’s First Serial Killers
Micajah “Big” Harpe and Wiley “Little” Harpe, were serial killers and river pirates, who carried out their crimes in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Mississippi during the late 18th century. Many claim they are America’s first serial killers who were responsible for the murders of 39 people, or possibly more, as there were 50 other unsolved murders which could have been connected to them.
In 1797, the Harpes brothers were living near Knoxville, Tennessee but they had been driven from the town after they were caught stealing hogs and horses. They were also accused of murdering a man named Johnson, whose body had been found in a river – the torso ripped open and weighted down with stones. This would soon be the “signature” of the Harpes brothers and how they often disposed of corpses.
They soon became known as vicious killers who would butcher someone at the slightest provocation – even their own children. It has been said that Big Harpe bashed his own daughter’s head against a tree because she cried too much. This was also the only crime he ever showed genuine remorse for.
Eventually, they were caught and confessed to killing 39 people. Big Harpe was shot dead and Little Harpe was executed by hanging in 1804.
5. The Sawney Bean Family Were A Family of Killers and Cannibals
Alexander “Sawney” Bean was the head of a 48-member clan in 15th- or 16th-century Scotland, who killed, and ate, over 1,000 people. He lived with an unnamed woman and together they had eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons and fourteen granddaughters. Many members of the family were products of incest and not fit for regular labor. Instead, they chose to survive by ambushing small groups of travelers during the night.
They would kill those they ambushed and drag their bodies back to their cave, where they were dismembered and eaten. Often the discarded body parts would be thrown from the cave and left to wash up on the nearby shores.
Locals were not happy with their barbaric behavior and organized searches to find the cave. Frustration led to townsfolk accusing each other of the murders refusing to believe the family existed. Then King James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) had heard of the crimes and lead a manhunt with a team of 400 men and several bloodhounds. They eventually found the cave and scattered remains of past victims.
The family was taken to the town in chains and executed. The men had their genitalia cut off, hands and feet severed causing them to bleed to death; the women and children were made to watch the men die first, they were burned alive.
4. The Bever Brothers Stabbed Their Family To Death
In 2015, five members of the Bever family were found murdered at their Broken Arrow, Oklahoma home. The bodies of parents, 52-year-old David and 44-year-old April, were discovered with 66 stab wounds between them, 12-year-old Daniel had been killed by nine stab wounds, 7-year-old Christopher died after suffering six stab wounds and 5-year-old Victoria had been killed by seven stab wounds. 13-year-old Crystal survived and she identified the two killers to be her 18-year-old brother Robert and 16-year-old brother Michael.
There was a lack of motive behind the boys’ crimes. They had both been home educated and neighbors claimed the family kept themselves away from others – the children were rarely allowed to mingle with others. Other neighbors commented that they had only come to know the names of the family members when the murders were printed in the press.
The brothers admitted they had killed their family, they also revealed that they had a desire to kill for quite awhile but their original idea was to stage a school shooting somewhere close by. The very next day after the killings, 3000 rounds of ammunition had been delivered to the house that is believed to have been ordered by the brothers. They were both charged with five counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault and battery with intent to kill.
3. Linda and Charlotte Mulhall Became Known As The “Scissor Sisters”
Dublin-born sisters Linda and Charlotte Mulhall killed and dismembered Kenyan immigrant Farah Swaleh Noor in 2005. Noor was killed as he was struck with a hammer swung by Linda and then stabbed with a Stanley Knife by Charlotte. They killed him after an argument over him dating their mother, Kathleen Mulhall. They also sliced off his head and penis then dumped his dismembered corpse in the Royal Canal, Dublin.
Ten days later, his leg had been found floating in the river and the body was still wearing a sock. Neither the head and penis of Noor were never recovered – the girls late admitted they had disposed of these body parts in rubbish bins around Dublin.
The sisters were arrested and they both admitted to their involvement in the murder. The media attention landed them the name “Scissor Sisters”. Their mother fled to England and their father, John Mulhall, hung himself in Phoenix Park, shortly after they were both charged. The judge labeled the killings: “The most grotesque killing that has occurred in my professional lifetime”. Charlotte Mulhall was given the mandatory life sentence and Linda Mulhall was given a 15-year sentence for manslaughter, they were both sent to Mountjoy Women’s prison in Dublin.
2. Alex and Derek King Killed When They Were Just 12 and 13
In 2001, in Pensacola, Florida, brothers 12-year-old Alex and 13-year-old Derek King, murdered their father, 40-year-old Terry King, after bludgeoning him to death with a baseball bat. Convicted child molester, 41-year-old Ricky Chavis, was also sentenced to a maximum of 30-years in prison after helping the young boys cover up the murder.
After the boys had killed their father, they set their home on fire, called Chavis who came to pick them up, then washed their clothes and hid from the police at his house. His lawyer called his sentence “disproportionate” when compared to the maximum eight-year sentence the King brothers received for the murder. The boys, who were on trial separately, both pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and served their sentences in separate juvenile facilities.
1. Erik and Lyle Menendez Were Sentenced To Life Without Parole
The case of the Menendez brothers shocked and gripped America in equal measure in the Nineties. The brothers murdered their rich parents in August 1989, when Lyle was 21-years-old and Erik was 18-years-old, planning the whole thing to make it look like some kind of ultra-violent Mafia hit. They had – according to their own defense – suffered years of abuse at the hands of their mega-rich parents, so after it became too much, they banded together to defend themselves in a fatal way.
However, as was revealed during their highly televised trial in 1993, the truth of the matter was somewhat different. They shot their father Jose and mother Mary in cold blood one evening in the family’s home in Beverly Hills, and then went out to the movies with their friends so that they’d have an alibi. For a while, this story worked out for them, regardless of the suspiciously lavish spending that ensued in the months following the parricide. However, soon enough, Erik confessed the crimes to his psychologist, L. Jerome Oziel. After being threatened by Lyle, Oziel talked about the murder of his parents to a girlfriend, who went on to report it to the police. The cops then moved in for the arrest, with the brothers facing trial in 1993, live on the newly launched Court TV.
Before millions of mesmerized viewers, Lyle stated that he would miss his dog as much as his parents and Erik revealed that he “felt love for his mother when he placed the shotgun in her cheek.” Despite such shocking admissions, the two juries in the first trial ended up being deadlocked, requiring a second trial to be held. This time, with less media attention, they were found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. Yet perhaps more startling than the lateness of this decision or the crime itself is the news that behind bars, both brothers have now apparently found love, marrying pen pals and enjoying the kind of intimacy they didn’t quite have with their parents.