Murders, in every respect, are tragic. It's a devastation to families, friends, and spouses to lose a loved one to a cold-blooded killer. More horrendous, however, is the murder of an entire family. Communities are shaken to their core when it's discovered that a mass murder of a well known family has occurred in a presumably safe neighborhood. In many cases these murders take place in average suburban areas where it's rare for windows to be shut or doors to be locked.
Throughout history there has been a slew of massacres on entire families. Some have remained unsolved for decades, which raises questions about dark family secrets such as infidelity, illegal financial entanglements, or dangerous ties with the wrong crowd. Other times, the murderers are discovered right away, raising an even bigger question: what did they do it? Sometimes the stories of these brutal homicides have even been turned into Hollywood horror movies or can be seen on television, offering a fabricated answer that may never be known in real life.
Even more tragic is when the murder of an entire family is committed by one of their own kin. Whether it's a deranged parent, or a deeply disturbed child, it's hard to fathom the motives behind killing one's own family. Familicide is one of the most psychologically perplexing kinds of murders committed. The worst part of all of these stories are that young lives are lost. Children, newborns even, are the majority of the victims in these events.
In April of 1920, a neighbor discovered a horrific crime at the Wolf Family farm. He came across seven slain bodies: Jacob Wolf (41), Beata Wolf (36), and children Bertha (12), Maria (9), Edna (7), Liddia (5), Martha (3), and the stable boy Jacob Hofer (13). All were shot, except for Martha who was bludgeoned to death with a hatchet. The only survivor was baby Emma, found cold and hungry in her crib. Nearly 2,500 people in Turtle Lake, North Dakota showed up to the Wolf family funeral. Three weeks after the event, neighbor Henry Layer committed to the crimes, stating that the inciting incident was when the Wolf's dog attacked one of his cattle. In his confession, he stated that he'd only spared Emma because he did not know she was there.
In March of 1922, patriarch Andreas Gruber had been complaining to neighbors about odd occurrences in his house such as items he’d never seen before appearing, footsteps that came from the woods and lead to the backdoor, and sounds of walking in the attic when no one else was in the house. Less than one week later neighbors found the entire Gruber family had been bludgeoned to death on their family farm-- Hinterkaifeck Ranch. Andreas, his wife Cazilia, their daughter Viktoria and both of Viktoria’s small children, and their housemaid Maria Baumgartner’s lives had all been cut short by a vicious unknown killer. The oddest part was that the murderer had stayed in the house after killing the entire family, as neighbors had reportedly seen smoke from the chimney and it appeared that their cattle was fed. No money or valuable heirlooms were taken from the home, therefore the murderer and motive remain a haunting mystery.
On Christmas Day in 1929, a brutal murder-suicide occurred in Germantown, North Carolina. Just before the Christmas holiday, Charlie Lawson (43) had taken his family into town to buy new clothes and have their portrait taken. This would be the last family photo ever taken of the Lawson’s. December 25th, 1929 Charlie Lawson shot and killed 6 of his 7 children as well as his wife Fannie (37). The only survivor was Arthur Lawson (16). Charlie positioned all of his family with their arms crossed, with rocks under their heads. He then walked into the woods and shot himself. The event was shocking and horrific to those that knew the Lawson family. A motive was never discovered, however it was believed that Charlie had committed incest that resulted in a child, with his eldest daughter Marie.
Christine and Cliff Walker and their two young children were shot and killed on December 29, 1959. Christine was also raped, and her young daughter Debbie was reportedly drowned in the bathtub in addition to being shot. There were only a couple of clues found in the Osprey, Florida home including a bloodied cowboy boot and a fingerprint on the faucet of the bathtub. No suspects were charged of the murder for over five decades. However the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office reopened the case in 1959 because of a connection with the high profile murder of the Clutter family—a story that inspired Truman Capote’s, In Cold Blood. It was believed that Perry Smith and Richard “Dick” Hickock, who confessed to the killing of the Clutter family, had also murdered the Walkers, due to the fact that they were only a few miles away during that time in December. Unfortunately, the two men were never charged with killing the Walkers and were hanged solely for the murder of the Clutter Family.
James and Darlene Boles, along with their two sons Robert and Thomas, moved to Crestline, CA in August of 1965. A week after the family had moved in, James’ mother became worried when she hadn’t heard anything from the young family. Floyd Boles, James’ uncle, offered to check on the family, and unfortunately was the first to come across an horrific site. Not only was the family Dachshund found in a pool of it’s own blood on the living room couch, but the entire family was discovered in the master bedroom shot multiple times. The weapon was as .22 caliber pistol. No witnesses ever reported sounds of gunshots, likely due to the fact that on the night they were killed neighbors were having a loud party. During the investigation, police could find no sign of forced entry. The murder of this young family still remains unsolved today.
Neighbors became concerned when they had not seen the young Bricca family in nearly two days. Jerry Bricca (28) hadn’t shown up for work, Linda (23) hadn’t been seen around the neighborhood, and their daughter Debbie (4) had not been to school. On September 27, 1966 neighbor and World War Two veteran, Dick Meyer, went in to search the Bricca house, and came across a gruesome site. All three of the family members had been excessively stabbed to death. Green Township, Ohio would never be the same because of this terrifying crime. Hamilton County authorities interviewed over 300 people across the country, and were unable to find the culprit. Despite forensic evidence being taken, there was not much detectives could do with fingerprints and other DNA samples. Forensic analysis was no where near what it is today, and the Bricca family murderer benefited from this lack of technology. No one was ever charged with this devastating crime.
Also known as the “Good Hart” murders, the murder of the Robison family rocked the lakeside community of Good Hart, Michigan to it’s core. Richard and Shirley Robison took their four children up to a lakeside log cabin for a vacation, and were subsequently murdered by an unknown gunsman who was able to get away under the veil of their secluded surroundings. The family was discovered four weeks later by a neighboring cabin who complained of a foul odor coming from the Robison’s cabin. Much like the Bricca family mentioned above, the Robison’s fell victim to the times. Any forensic evidence that was collected was virtually unusable due to an inability to run any DNA findings through the system. This murder remains a blemish on the Northern Chicago town, and is one of the most brutal crimes in it’s history.
More famously known as the Amityville Murders, Robert DeFeo Jr. became an infamous part of history when he murdered all 6 of his immediate family members. On November 13th, 1974 in the middle of the night DeFeo Jr. shot and killed his parents and 4 siblings with a .35mm Marlin rife. Each of his victims was found face down in their beds with a gunshot to the head. DeFeo had reportedly walked into a bar exclaiming that he had just killed his entire family. The motive for this killing remains a mystery. The story has fueled multiple remakes of the move The Amityville Horror, often attributing DeFeo’s horrendous acts to supernatural causes. It was claimed that the family that moved in after the murders, experienced a number of paranormal occurrences.
On March 31st, 1975, the day after Easter, a massacre occurred in Hamilton, Ohio. James Ruppert laid waste to 11 members of his family. His victims included his brother Leonard, his sister-in-law Alma, his own mother Charity, and his 8 nieces and nephews all ranging from ages 4-17. Ruppert had armed himself with one rifle and two handguns. James Ruppert was a heavy drinker, however he had no prior issues with the law before, which is believed to be the reason his insanity plea had no effect on his overall trial. The mass murder is still burned into the memories of dozens who lived in Hamilton at the time. This particular day is till referred to as the "Easter Sunday Massacre"
On November 17th, 1987 Joeanne Dardeen called St. Louis authorities to check on her son Keith and his family after Keith had failed to show up for work. Authorities found Ruby “Elaine” Dardeen, her son, and newborn baby murdered and positioned atop a waterbed. The trauma Ruby experienced had caused her to go into labor, and the murderer took no mercy on the newborn baby girl. Keith had been missing, and was briefly a suspect, until he was found the next day in a nearby field. He had been shot in the head, and it was discovered that his genitals were mutilated. Because of the nature of the crime, it was rumored that Keith might have been participating in homosexual activities, however this was all speculation. The murder still remains unsolved thirty years later.
In 1997, a young Jehovah's Witness family found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had come across 6 less than reputable teenagers escaping a life of poverty and probable crime, and approached them with the intention of spreading the word of Jesus Christ. The band of teenagers held the family at gun point, took the family down a rural road, shot all four of the Lillelids, and piled them into a ditch. Vidar, Delfina, and their 6-year-old daughter Tabitha died that evening, but their 2-year-old son Peter survived with severe, life-long injuries. The family was discovered by the police after neighbors called reporting gun shots. The six teenagers were all sentenced to life in prison, and became infamous characters to a variety of media outlets.
The Miyazawa Family
In Setagaya Tokyo, Japan Mikio and Yasuko Miyazawa and their two young children were murdered in their home on December 30, 2000. They were found by Yasuko’s mother Asahi Geino. Mikio, Yasuko, and their 8-year-old daughter Niina had been stabbed to death while their 6-year-old son Rei had been strangled. It appeared the murdered had actually stayed in the house after the heinous act, eating ice cream and using the family’s computer. Yasuko had reportedly mentioned to her father-in-law that someone had consistently been parking their care in front of their house. There had also been sightings of a man in his late 30’s walking around their house. It’s likely that whoever invaded the family’s home had premeditated the event. This disturbing international crime remains unsolved today.
The Richardson family murders are likely some of the most shocking in the last decade. On April 23rd, 2006 12-year-old Jasmine Richardson and her 23-year-old boyfriend Jeremy Steinke planned and executed the murder of Marc and Debra Richardson, and their 8-year-old son Jacob. Jeremy Steinke, a self-proclaimed “300-year-old werewolf” stabbed Marc and Debra. This left Jasmine to carry out the murder of her little brother. She was just recently released from prison at the age of 22. It’s unfathomable to many as to how she was released for planning such a horrific crime against her own family. The motive behind this unfathomable crime? Marc and Debra's understandable disapproval of their daughter's inappropriate relationship.
A well known news agency proprietor Min Lin, his wife Yun Lin, and their sons Henry and Terry were bludgeoned to death with a hammer in July of 2009. Only recently was Min’s brother-in-law Robert Xie convicted of the brutal killing of the Lin family, and even his own wife Irene Yin Yun. The trial took three years of hearings, and four Supreme Court trials. There was a long period of time when the murder was deemed unsolved. Australia considers this murder to be one of the most disturbing, high profile murders in it’s history. The families of the victims still mourn the loss of their loved ones to this day, as does their community.
Recently, in June of 2017, a young mother and her two sons were brutally murdered by their husband and father Oscar Espinoza. Oscar killed his wife Tiffany, 4-year-old son Edward , and 9-year-old stepson Spencer with a baseball bat. He was found by the police outside of his house, bleeding from self inflicted injuries. The young family lived in Modesto, California, a small Northern California suburb. Neighbors, friends, and family were understandably shaken by this disturbing occurrence. Oscar has not revealed a motive for committing this horrible crime, but Tiffany's brother-in-law remarks that whatever the reason was, it won't bring back his family.
In truth, there will never be a good reason for the murder of an innocent family. These murders change the way in which communities view their neighbors. Incidents like these alienate us from one another.