It is of the utmost importance to remember the victims of these horrific murders, voices lost to wicked acts of violence.
While the true crime genre has been established for decades in literature and on television, there are cases that haven't been read into nearly as much as, say, notorious killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy. Most of us are familiar with the O.J. Simpson trial, as well as the Casey Anthony trial, but what about the tragic murder of high school cheerleader, Emma Walker? Not many people know about that one, and most of the cases mentioned are more recent. These more recent cases (most recent took place in August of 2018) reveal that these heartless acts of cruelty still occur around us.
1. The Clutter Family murders (featured in 𝘐𝘯 𝘊𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘉𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘥)
Herb Clutter was a wealthy, successful farmer in western Kansas. He employed as many as 18 farmhands, who all admired and respected him for his fair treatment and good wages. His two oldest daughters, Eveanna and Beverly, had moved out and started their adult lives; Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15, were in high school. Clutter's wife Bonnie had reportedly been incapacitated by clinical depression and physical ailments since the births of her children, although this was later disputed.
Two ex-convicts recently paroled from the Kansas State Penitentiary, Richard Eugene "Dick" Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, committed the robbery and murders in the early morning hours of November 15, 1959. A former cellmate of Hickock's, Floyd Wells, had worked for Herb Clutter and told Hickock that Clutter kept considerable amounts of cash in a safe. Hickock soon schemed the idea to steal the safe and start a new life in Mexico. According to Capote, Hickock described his plan as "a cinch, the perfect score." Hickock later contacted Smith, another former cellmate, about committing the robbery with him. Herb Clutter had no safe and did all his business by check. Hickock described his plan as "a cinch, the perfect score." Hickock later contacted Smith, another former cellmate, about committing the robbery with him. Herb Clutter had no safe and did all his business by check.
After driving more than four hundred miles across the state of Kansas on the evening of November 14, Hickock and Smith arrived in Holcomb, located the Clutter home, and entered through an unlocked door while the family slept. Upon rousing the Clutters and discovering there was no safe, they bound and gagged the family and continued to search for money, but found little else of value in the house. Still determined to leave no witnesses, the pair briefly debated what to do; Smith, notoriously unstable and prone to violent acts in fits of rage, slit Herb Clutter's throat and then shot him in the head. Capote writes that Smith recounted later, "I didn't want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat." Kenyon, Nancy, and then Mrs. Clutter were also murdered, each by a single (twelve gauge) shotgun blast to the head. Hickock and Smith fled the scene, carrying a small portable radio, a pair of binoculars, and less than fifty dollars in cash.
Smith later claimed in his confession that Hickock murdered the two women. When asked to sign his confession, however, Smith refused. According to Capote, he wanted to accept responsibility for all four killings because, he said, he was "sorry for Dick's mother." Smith added, "She's a really sweet person." Despite that, Hickock always stated that Smith committed all four killings.
On the support of a tip from Wells, who contacted the prison warden after hearing of the murders, Hickock and Smith were identified as suspects and arrested in Las Vegas on December 30, 1959. Both men eventually confessed after interrogations by detectives of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. They were brought back to Kansas, where they were tried together for the murders. Their trial took place at the Finney County courthouse in Garden City, Kansas, from March 22 to March 29, 1960. They both pleaded temporary insanity at the trial, but they were later evaluated and pronounced sane. The jury deliberated for just 45 minutes before pronouncing both Hickock and Smith guilty of murder. Their conviction carried a mandatory death sentence.
After spending five years on death row at the Kansas State Penitentiary (now known as Lansing Correctional Facility) in Lansing, Kansas, Smith, and Hickock were executed by hanging just after midnight on April 14, 1965. Hickock was executed first and was pronounced dead at 12:41 a.m. after hanging for nearly 20 minutes. Smith followed shortly after and was pronounced dead at 1:19 a.m.
2. Emma Walker (murdered by stalker ex-boyfriend):
The football team at Central High School in Knoxville had won their game against a rival school, and a few of the students were celebrating. Cheerleader Emma Walker, 16, was looking forward to having fun with her friends after the game. It was November 2016, and just two weeks prior, she'd split from her football player boyfriend William Riley Gaul, then 18. They'd broken up before, but this time Emma was determined it was over. She just wished that William would accept it and move on. Since the break-up, he'd been behaving very strangely.
Suddenly, she received a threatening text on her cellphone, reading, "Go to your car with your keys...I've got someone you love. If you don't comply I will hurt him. We have him now." Emma was confused. Rather than believe immediately that someone she loved had been kidnapped, she was immediately suspicious. She showed the message to a friend and told her she thought it was probably William trying to get her attention. She sent a text back, accusing the person of being a friend of William's, but they denied it. The messages got more aggressive, reading, "If you don't care about him anymore then it shouldn't bother you. Call the police, and he dies. Your choice… If you'd like to hear his final screams, give me a call. He's in a ditch beside [the] house. It's a shame you can all of a sudden not value someone's life."
Eventually, Emma reluctantly walked outside with a friend and they found William face-down in a ditch. He said he'd been hit over the head and didn't remember anything about his "kidnapping." Emma was upset and angry, refusing to believe him. She was sure William had made up the kidnapping to get her attention, but over the next few days, she became unsettled. She'd seen a man dressed in black wandering around the outside of her family home in Knoxville. When there was banging on the door, Emma was so frightened she asked her mother to set the house alarm.
On November 21, three days after William's kidnapping claims, Emma's mum Jill went to wake up her daughter. When she entered her bedroom, she found Emma lifeless. Jill checked for a pulse, but there wasn't one – Emma was dead. There was a bullet wound to the left side of her head, just behind her ear. But she hadn't been shot from inside her room; the gun had been fired through the wall from the backyard, fatally striking Emma. Her dad had heard "thumps" in the night and had checked on Emma, but in the darkness, he could make out her outline in bed and assumed she was sleeping. But she'd already been shot.
William was quick to post on social media about his grief. "That's my beautiful Emma, rest easy now sweetheart," he tweeted. "There's not a human on earth that can make the impact that you've had on my life. I miss you more than anything. You'll weigh heavy on my mind for the rest of my life because no one can fill the void that's in my heart now."
But right from the start, police had labeled him as a prime suspect, and they were one step ahead. William had been the one heartbroken by the break-up, and they suspected the unknown assailant dressed in black and the "kidnapping" was all part of William's plan to create a suspect for Emma's murder. Their suspicions were confirmed when the bullets were matched to a 9mm gun that belonged to William's grandfather, James. A gun that had been reported stolen from his truck days earlier.
Meanwhile, William reached out to his friends saying that he did have a gun, that he'd stolen for his protection, but now he needed to get rid of it because it made him look guilty.
"I'm trusting you guys with my life because this is 70 years in jail if I'm convicted of something I didn't do," he said to them.
Then added that he didn't have time to be sad over Emma because he was too worried about being arrested.
"I want to be upset but I can't," he told them.
William asked them to come with him to the Tennessee River to dispose of the weapon.
"If I throw it with enough force, they will never find it," he said.
What William didn't know was that his friends were recording their conversations for the police. They agreed to go with him to dispose of the gun, knowing officers were tailing them. When William parked and showed his friends the gun, he was arrested and charged with murder. He was found guilty on May 8th, 2018 and given a mandatory life sentence in prison without possibility for parole for 51 years.
3. Michael Howell (murdered by his own daughter): 2014
If you do not choose to watch the YouTube video, here's a brief summary:
Crystal Howell was caught shoplifting at Ingles by her father on February 24th, 2014, and after being forced to apologize to an employee about her behavior, she was humiliated and more so, furious with her father. While she returned to the house that she shared with her father, she thought about killing him while she showered. Later that day, Crystal Howell shot her father, Michael Joseph Howell, 50, in the head with a shotgun while he was napping.
His body had been placed inside a plastic container in the family's storage shed.
Crystal Howell fled the state after she hid her father's body and was found in Richmond County, Georgia. She was in possession of her father's Land Rover and a U-Haul trailer full of items.
She told her friends that her father had killed himself. She had her friends move in with her into the same house in which he was murdered, and they had a drug-fueled party. Michael Howell's body was found about a month later on the property by two of Crystal's friends.
She was convicted of first-degree murder and concealment of death and failure to report a death not from natural causes, according to the District Attorney's Office. She received 60 to 84 months in prison for the second charge, followed by a minimum of 25 additional years for the murder charge before she can apply for a parole hearing.
4. H.H. Holmes (said to be America's first serial killer)
A more detailed approach to Holmes's horrific 19th-century crimes is described in Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, a best-selling nonfiction book that juxtaposed an account of the planning and staging of the World's Fair with Holmes's story.
If you do not choose to watch the YouTube video, here's a brief summary:
Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes or more commonly known as H. H. Holmes, was an American serial killer. While he confessed to 27 murders, only nine could be plausibly confirmed and several of the people he claimed to have murdered were still alive. He is said to have killed as many as 200, though this figure is only traceable to 1940s pulp magazines. Many victims were said to have been killed in a mixed-use building which he owned, located about 3 miles west of the 1893 World's Fair: Columbian Exposition supposedly called the World's Fair Hotel (informally called "The Murder Hotel").
Besides being a serial killer, Holmes was also a con artist and a bigamist, the subject of more than 50 lawsuits in Chicago alone.
H. H. Holmes was executed on May 7, 1896, nine days before his 35th birthday, for the murder of his friend and accomplice Benjamin Pitezel. During his trial for the murder of Pitezel, Holmes confessed to many other killings.
5. The Watts family murders (Chris Watts case)
The Watts family homicides occurred on the early morning of August 13, 2018, when Christopher Lee Watts murdered his pregnant wife Shanann Watts and their daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, in their home in Frederick, Colorado.
Watts was arrested late on August 15, 2018. Watts failed a polygraph test and subsequently confessed to murdering Shanann. Watts asked to speak to his father before making the confession. According to the affidavit, Watts was having an affair and claimed to have asked for a separation from his wife but lied about it, to begin with. During the investigation, Watts claimed Shanann had strangled the children in response to his request for separation, and in a fit of rage, he strangled her and then transported the three bodies to an oil site where he worked.
The bodies of Watts' family were located by the authorities on the property of Watts's former employer on August 16. Watts had been fired from his job on August 15, the day of his arrest. The children's bodies were found in oil tanks, while Shanann was buried in a shallow grave nearby.
On August 21, Watts was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, including one count per child cited as "death of a child who had not yet attained 12 years of age and the defendant was in a position of trust"; unlawful termination of a pregnancy; and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
Chris Watts pleaded guilty to the murders on November 6. The death penalty was not put forward by the district attorney on the request of Shanann's family who didn't wish for any further deaths. They were supportive of the decision to accept the plea deal. On November 19, Watts was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.On December 3, 2018, Watts was moved to an out-of-state location due to "security concerns". On December 5, 2018, he arrived at the Dodge Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison, in Waupun, Wisconsin, to serve the remainder of his life sentences.