Hey, y’all. Do you know how many active serial killers are in the United States right now? According to the Albuquerque Times, the number is between 25 and 50. You might even know a serial killer. But before you spiral into paranoia, check out this list of five serial killers that are likely active in the United States.
5. The Chicago Strangler
The Chicago Strangler, a possible serial killer or even multiple killers, is thought to be behind the deaths of several women in Chicago.
Since 2001, more than 50 women, aged 18 to 58, have been tragically killed in a similar way in Chicago. Most of these victims were African American women, many of whom worked in the sex industry and had previous run-ins with the law. They were often found strangled, with their clothes partially or fully removed, and left in places like abandoned buildings, alleys, garbage bins, parks, or snowbanks. Out of these cases, 25 were closed by the police, resulting in the arrest of 13 men.
Many of these horrifying strangulations occurred in just three police districts on the South and West sides of Chicago. Known for their violent crime and drug use, places like Washington Park and Garfield Park became the center of these murders. In 2018, the Murder Accountability Project (MAP) identified this pattern after examining over 50 unsolved strangulation and asphyxiation cases since 2001. MAP uses an algorithm to sort unsolved homicides by location, victim, and killing method, looking for clusters linked to low clearance rates. Based on their findings, MAP suggests that an active serial killer might be at work.
After receiving pressure from activists, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) stated that they would review 51 unsolved murders of women. However, the CPD maintained that there was no evidence to suggest a serial killer was involved in any of the 51 killings.
4. The West Mesa Bone Collector
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a troubling pattern of deaths began in 2001. Women started disappearing more frequently than usual.
Nearly a decade later, on February 2, 2009, a woman was out for a stroll when her dog brought her a human bone. That is the worst game of fetch ever. The discovery of this bone ultimately led to the discovery of a massive crime scene that no one could have anticipated.
It took another 11 years to identify all the victims of the so-called “West Mesa Bone Collector.” In total, 11 women and one unborn child were found and identified. The victims came from various backgrounds: while many had ties to drugs and the sex trade, others did not. Syllannia Edwards was only 15 when she vanished, and 22-year-old Michelle Valdez was pregnant when she was tragically killed and buried in the New Mexico desert.
Despite interviewing hundreds of people and investigating numerous suspects, the identity of the West Mesa Bone Collector remains unknown. But despite the lack of evidence, police have a few leads. One suspect is a man who lived nearby and was killed by the boyfriend of a woman he had lured to his home and strangled around the time the murders ceased. Another lead is a convicted rapist with connections to many of the victims and a suspicious collection of women’s clothing and jewelry in his home.
3. The Eastbound Strangler
On November 20, 2006, two women taking a walk stumbled upon a horrifying scene: four women’s bodies had been carefully placed behind the Golden Key Motel in a suburb outside Atlantic City. They found a woman’s body in a drainage ditch, and upon further investigation, police uncovered three more bodies in the ditch, approximately 60 feet apart. Each victim was a woman, placed facedown with her head turned east, fully clothed except for shoes and socks.
Barbara Breidor, Molly Jean Dilts, Kim Raffo, and Tracy Ann Roberts had all been strangled, and their unidentified killer became known as the Eastbound Strangler. The murders happened quickly; Breidor had been missing for about a month before the bodies were found, while Raffo was last seen the day before she was discovered.
Police initially focused on a handyman living in the hotel after his girlfriend reported her suspicions. Although he turned out to be a questionable character—with hidden cameras recording his girlfriend’s teenage daughter undressing—there seemed to be no connection between him and the murders. Another local woman mentioned a man who supposedly confessed to her that he’d killed people around the time of the murders, but he was never charged either. In Atlantic City, it’s probably best to assume any stranger you encounter could be dangerous.
2. The Jeff Davis 8
Between 2005 and 2008, women’s bodies started appearing in the swamps and canals of Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana. Usually, serial killer victims share similarities, such as age, ethnicity, or method of killing. However, the differences between these eight women are striking. They ranged in age from 17 to 30, varied in race, were found in different situations, and were killed in different ways.
But all of them were involved in the local drug trade and/or sex work, and those with a determinable cause of death seemed to have been asphyxiated.
Weirdly, all the victims knew each other, which is unusual for serial killer victims, even in remote locations. And there’s reason to believe they were all police informants. At least one had numerous charges that were mysteriously dropped, and many informed their families of their informant status.
This could suggest a scenario where informants face retaliation, but evidence points towards either the police or another informant as the perpetrator. It’s unclear why they would target these women, but some speculate that they all witnessed a drug dealer’s death at the hands of the police during a botched raid. If true, it remains uncertain why they were targeted over several years.
It’s also possible that the police covered up the murders to protect a more valuable informant, as they appeared to have mishandled the investigation. Consequently, the victims’ families suspect that the police are involved in the deaths in some way, even though official investigations blame a serial killer.
1. The Long Island Serial Killer
One dark night on May 2, 2010, a terrified 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert dialed 911 from Oak Beach near Long Island. She was convinced someone was chasing her, trying to end her life. She desperately knocked on doors, begging for help, but then vanished into thin air. For months, the police searched the area and finally stumbled upon a woman’s body near Gilgo Beach along the Ocean Parkway. But it wasn’t Shannan. And as they dug deeper, they found three more bodies, realizing they had a massive problem at hand.
In just a few months, they discovered the remains of 16 people in the area. At least 10 of them seemed to have fallen victim to the same killer. Some had been missing since as far back as 1996, with body parts of two turning up years earlier in a city 45 miles away. Finally, in December 2011, they found Shannan’s body. While her death was officially deemed an accidental drowning, her injuries suggested a more sinister cause.
It became clear that a serial killer had been lurking for over a decade. Family members of two victims received chilling phone calls in 2007 and 2009 from someone claiming to know what happened to their loved ones, but the calls remained untraceable. Shannan’s mother also got a call from a man who claimed to know her daughter’s location, but he later denied making the call and was ruled out as a suspect. Over the years, many suspects have emerged, including a police chief who pushed the FBI out of the investigation, but none have been conclusively linked to the crimes.
In 2020, the new police chief shared an image of a belt, believed to have been touched by the killer, with the initials HM or WH. The case remains wide open, and the search for the elusive killer goes on.