The Chilling True Story of H.H. Holmes, America’s First Serial Killer Who Built a «Murder Castle»

You probably recognize names like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and Dennis Rader — some of the most notorious serial killers from the past few decades — but does H.H. Holmes ring a bell? Before the term «serial killer» was even a thing, H.H. Holmes, or Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, started the chilling trend in the 1890s.

Erik Larson wrote the bestselling novel The Devil in the White City about Holmes’s terrifying killing spree in Chicago that coincided with the exciting 1893 World’s Fair. A movie based on the book is reportedly in the works, with Martin Scorsese set to direct and Leonardo DiCaprio set to star as Holmes. But before we see the terrifying tale come to the big screen, here’s what you need to know about the man who designed and built his own «Murder Castle.»

Holmes, who was born Herman Webster Mudgett but changed his name in honor of Sherlock Holmes, was a doctor from New Hampshire who had already had a reputation for fraud and murder when he fled to Chicago in the late 1880s. Holmes abandoned his wife and child to set up shop in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, where he began working at a corner drugstore. He stole money from the owners to buy property across the street, where he eventually started construction on a three-story building.

Holmes’s vision for his new building included a new drugstore, apartments, retail space, and a partial hotel, but he also added things like windowless rooms, secret passageways, false floors, trapdoors, chutes that led to the basement, a crematorium, and a vault. He never paid the companies that were working to build the property, and he frequently fired workers so that nobody would catch on to his plan.

Holmes then began (or resumed) his killing spree, targeting women who came to Chicago to find work and who would stay at his «hotel.» While many of his presumed victims can’t be confirmed (he confessed to 27 murders, but some believe it was more than 200), he would reportedly seduce them, even getting engaged to some, before they mysteriously disappeared. Holmes would torture and murder his victims in his building, which was appropriately nicknamed the «Murder Castle,» before putting their bodies in the chute to the basement, where he would then burn them or dispose of them in other ways.

Holmes fled Chicago after the World’s Fair after committing too many scams. He struck again when he killed his business partner Benjamin Pitezel, with whom he was planning a life insurance scheme. He was finally caught in November 1984 and was hanged in Philadelphia in May 1896 for the murder of Pitezel. During his time in jail, he wrote about his murderous ways, saying, «I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.»

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American Horror Story: The Facts Behind Sharon Tate’s Brutal Murder

Image Source: FX Networks

For the past few weeks, American Horror Story: Cult has been spotlighting famous cults and their leaders. In the latest episode, «Charles (Manson) in Charge,» the show takes on arguably the most disturbing incident in cult history with what would become known as «the Tate murders.» On Aug. 8, 1969, five people and an unborn baby were killed at a Los Angeles residence, courtesy of Charles Manson’s followers. Among the dead was eight-months-pregnant actress Sharon Tate, wife of Roman Polanski. The infamous director was out of the country filming The Day of the Dolphin at the time.

By all accounts, the AHS version of these events stays very true to the real-life events, though thankfully a lot of the violence happens off screen — because the real murders were excessively brutal and violent. But, yes, a friend of Tate’s who was leaving the house was killed by Charles «Tex» Watson (played here by Billy Eichner) via gunshot; Abigail Folger was stabbed to death (over two-dozen times) by Patricia Krenwinkel (played here by Naomi Grossman); and Jay Sebring and Voytek Frykowski were stabbed dozens of times and shot by Watson. Accounts differ when it comes to Tate.

Depending on whose confession you read, either Watson or Susan Atkins (played here by Sarah Paulson) or both killed Tate by stabbing her 16 times. Atkins was the one who initially confessed to it, bragging about the crimes to her cellmates at the Sybil Brand Institute when she was held there for other crimes, according to the Los Angeles Times. Later, she changed her story in front of the grand jury to say that it was actually Watson who killed Tate; in Watson’s autobiography, he also takes credit for Tate’s murder, despite having blamed it on Atkins during his trial.

American Horror Story: Cult chooses to leave Tate’s murder solely in the hands of Atkins, probably because it comes across as much more upsetting to watch Paulson, a gifted actress, let her crazy out and start stabbing a crying pregnant woman who is begging for her life and the life of her unborn child. But again, thankfully, a lot of the violence is off screen.

Here’s the real Sharon Tate, in 1966’s Eye of the Devil, just three years before her death:

Image Source: Everett Collection

On AHS, the Tate murders are the only Manson family crimes the show really digs into, but they actually fell right in the middle of Manson’s murder spree in the Summer of 1969. Others killed include Bernard Crowe, Gary Hinman, and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Arrests for other crimes began in October of that year, with arrests for the murders coming down in December. The trial began in 1970, with Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten all getting death sentences that were later commuted to life in prison. Watson was convicted at a separate trial after going on a hunger strike and needing to be hospitalized for a time; his conviction came down in 1971. All of them are still in prison except Atkins, who died of brain cancer while in prison in 2009.

Linda Kasabian (played here by Billie Lourd) was the only participant who was not put in jail; since she never actually committed any of the murders, she was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony against the others.

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Alias Grace: The True Story Behind Grace Marks’s Murder Trial

Netflix dropped a new drama in early November titled Alias Grace, based on the 1996 novel by Margaret Atwood, who also wrote The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood’s Alias Grace novel is based on real-life events that took place in Canada in the 1840s, but just how much of the miniseries is true, and how much has been invented or embellished for the sake of the story? Read on to find out, but be warned of spoilers for the Netflix series.

On the show (as in the novel), 33-year-old Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) is in prison for the double murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper and lover, Nancy. At the time of the murders, Grace works as a maid for Kinnear, and her alleged accomplice in the crimes, James McDermott, is the estate’s stable boy. The framing device for Grace’s tale is that Dr. Simon Jordan, an alienist (the old-fashioned term for psychologist), wants to interview her to see if he can figure out if she’s truly guilty of the crimes or merely a bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time.

These interviews allow readers/viewers a window into Grace’s entire life. She basically starts at the beginning of her «adulthood,» which is when her family emigrates from Ireland to Canada. Grace is only 12 at the time, but her mother dies not long into the journey, leaving Grace (as the eldest child) to care for her younger siblings. Upon reaching Canada, her drunken, abusive father turns Grace out with instructions to find a job and send money back.

While Dr. Jordan is a fictional character invented by Atwood as a way into Grace’s story, the tale she tells him is more or less true to life, at least the parts about her early life. Things diverge when Grace is first employed at the Parkinson household, which is where Grace meets her close friend Mary Whitney, a fellow maid.

Mary is a fictional character created by Atwood. Grace meets her at the Parkinson estate, though Marks may not have actually worked at another estate before coming to Mr. Kinnear’s household — research sources about Marks are unclear on that point.

On the show, Grace and Mary grow close — so close that when Mary gets pregnant from her affair with their boss’s son, Grace pays for her abortion. The botched abortion kills Mary that night, and Atwood’s book (and the show) would have you believe Mary’s spirit inhabits Grace’s body and that’s what causes her to act in the double murders. There are some other wild theories along those lines, such as Grace suffering from dissociative identity disorder (also known as multiple personality disorder) or that Grace is the one who actually died and Mary took over her identity. But no one knows for sure.

Part of the reason the character of Mary is an easy person to blame for the murders is because she was heavily in favor of rebellion on the part of the Canadian farmers and working class, and Kinnear was one of the people who worked to stop their uprising, which happened a few years prior to the events of the show/book. So Mary murdering him due to her political beliefs makes for a better motive than Grace, who is uncomfortable in the household, dealing with Nancy’s jealousy of her, but who doesn’t seem to have a strong motive for murder.

In real life, Marks and McDermott never claimed innocence of the murders, but they did lay the blame for the actual crimes at each other’s feet. Each said that the other was the one who wanted to kill Kinnear and Nancy and then actually went through with it, with the unwitting accomplice claiming only to have helped clean it up after the fact. The show does present both sides by way of having Dr. Jordan read McDermott’s confession to Grace, but the series definitely leans to the side of Grace as the unwitting accomplice.

No one can ever truly know if the murders were committed by Marks, McDermott, or both, but the two of them did go on the run after the murders. They were eventually apprehended in New York and put on trial back in Canada. McDermott was found guilty of murder, and Marks was charged as an accessory. They were both sentenced to death, but Marks’s sentence was commuted to life in prison, probably due to her young age. McDermott was promptly hanged, and Marks was sent to an asylum and then a penitentiary, where she resided for nearly 30 years.

During her time in jail, Marks was a model prisoner and was pardoned in her mid-40s. She left Canada and moved to northern New York, when all records of her cease to exist. She essentially vanished at that point. But according to a Smithsonian magazine article about the mystery, Marks always maintained she was not a murderer, blaming her incarceration on «having been employed in the same house with a villain,» meaning McDermott.

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How Practical Magic Inspired 1 Woman to Murder Her Husband IRL

Image Source: Everett Collection

In 1998, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman starred in the romantic comedy Practical Magic as Sally and Gillian Owens, two sisters who learned to cast spells at an early age while being raised by their crazy aunts, played by Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing. Sally and Gillian are the bearers of a curse that has been in their family for several generations — the men they fall in love with are doomed to an untimely death, and they must come together and use their powers to fight the curse and find true love.

While tons of people watched movies like Practical Magic — as well as The Craft and Hocus Pocus — the majority of us were only inspired to dress up as witches for Halloween or play «Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board» at slumber parties. But in 2000, one woman took away much more from the film — Practical Magic inspired her to actually kill her husband.

Kevin and Heather Miller on their wedding day in April 1995. Image Source: Oxygen

Heather and Kevin Miller first met in 1993 while working as a server and manager, respectively, at a seafood restaurant in Quakertown, PA. Kevin was an ex-Marine with a degree in accounting from Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s University, while Heather was a struggling single mom; she had a daughter from a previous (and abusive) relationship, and she and Kevin struck up a romance. They were married in 1995 in «a typical fairy-tale wedding,» welcomed their first child, and bought a townhouse in Richlandtown. But just two weeks after getting their new home, Kevin lost his computer consulting job — and Heather found out she was pregnant again.

«The stress was starting to build enormously,» Heather told People in 2000. «The relationship went downhill from there.» Kevin eventually found two jobs, but the 80-hour weeks kept him out of the house quite a bit, causing him to neglect housework and spending time with his wife and children. The couple fought so loudly and aggressively that neighbors began to notice something was up. One of them, Sandy Miller (no relation), recalled taking in Heather while she was pregnant after Kevin threw her out after an argument: «You could always hear him screaming, always venting on somebody.» Heather tried to get help from a women’s shelter but was allegedly turned away because there was no physical abuse. She didn’t have the money for an attorney, so divorce also seemed an unlikely option.

Naturally, Heather began telling friends that she wanted out of her marriage. Mindi Robbins, her best friend at the time, happened to be a practicing Wiccan and suggested the two watch a movie about witchcraft called Practical Magic as a way to help Heather take her mind off of the chaos at home. In the film, Nicole Kidman’s character, Gillian, falls in love with a man named Jimmy, but their relationship hits the skids when he becomes physically abusive. While trying to help her sister escape the grip of her lover (whom they also find out is a serial killer), Sally (Bullock) and Gillian are kidnapped by him; Sally puts a poisonous plant called belladonna into Jimmy’s tequila, which inadvertently kills him. This certainly resonated with Heather Miller, who was so inspired by the scene that she wanted her husband to suffer the same fate . . . in the same way.

Image Source: Everett Collection

Belladonna, which is also commonly known as deadly nightshade, has been used as a form of medicine since ancient times. The plant’s berries are sometimes referred to as murderer’s berries or devil’s berries and have been thought to be the poison that Romeo and Juliet use in the Shakespearean play. At some point, Heather got it into her head that by mixing belladonna into one of Kevin’s meals, he would have a heart attack and subsequently die. And instead of hatching her plot and keeping it private, she decided to tell both her best friend Mindi Robbins and another neighbor named Diane Zielinski; Heather detailed her plan to send Kevin off to his night shift with a poison-laced bowl of mashed potatoes, call his office a number of times before «finding his car» in the parking lot, and act distraught after finding him keeled over on his desk from an apparent heart attack. The Millers’ babysitter, Nathan Bleam, testified in court that Heather also told him Kevin «was worth more dead than alive» and spoke at length about her plans to give Kevin a military funeral after collecting his potential $ 750,000 life insurance payout.

In April 2000, Heather, now a mother of four, went to a health food store and purchased a bottle of belladonna caplets. While the herb can certainly be deadly in very high quantities, the amount sold to Heather wouldn’t have done more than send her husband into a heavy sleep (and give him some nasty indigestion). Regardless, she crushed 100 pills into a fine powder and asked neighbor Diane Zielinkski to hold on to the vial of crushed belladonna for her for a couple of days as she didn’t want to risk Kevin finding it at home.

The plant’s berries are sometimes referred to as murderer’s berries or devil’s berries and have been thought to be the poison that Romeo and Juliet use in the Shakespearean play.

Zielinski later testified that Heather told her about her foolproof plan and said, «Hopefully it would kill him.» She was obviously rattled by Heather’s plot, as well as the fact that she was now legally involved after taking the belladonna from her; she called their mutual friend Mindi Robbins the next day (why she waited 24 hours is not totally clear) and told her about Heather’s plan. After comparing notes, they went to the authorities, and law enforcement officials convinced Robbins to wear a wire while getting Heather to talk about murdering her husband. Not only did she go on and on about the belladonna, the mashed potatoes, and the insurance settlement, but she was also recorded discussing her multiple extramarital affairs — including an ongoing sexual relationship with Mindi Robbins. Twist number one!

Mindi Robbins and Heather Miller on Halloween. Image Source: Oxygen

The next day, Heather was arrested by state troopers while on her way to Zielinkski’s home to pick up the bottle of belladonna. She told police that she had had it with Kevin’s verbal abuse and decided that the only way she could feasibly split from him was to kill him. Police told Kevin that she was in custody for plotting to murder him. He did not press charges and appeared to be more apologetic to his wife for making her want to kill him than upset or terrified by her scheme. They arrived hand in hand for her trial in September 2000 — twist number two! — even though his family was convinced that Heather would have gone through with her plan and that Kevin was «blinded by love.»

After a four-day trial, during which she attempted to blame her former girlfriend Mindi Robbins for coming up with the idea to kill her husband, Heather was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison. She and Kevin spoke on the phone several times a day and wrote daily letters to each other. He visited her in prison once a week, and of his loyalty, Heather told People, «In one aspect I love him for it. But in the same breath he must be completely insane.» She added, «This shows me he actually, truly does love me. For the very first time I can say that I feel loved.»

Heather remained in prison for five years, after which she returned home to pick things back up with Kevin and their kids. In a 2016 episode of Oxygen’s Snapped, Kevin revealed that despite his attempts to keep their family together, he and Heather divorced. «I still struggle to process what happened,» he said. «Yeah, we all make mistakes, but it’s a matter of owning those mistakes and moving forward from them.» He continued, «Looking back on it now, there are probably things that I wouldn’t have done . . . it did not go the way I hoped it would. It made my life a whole lot more difficult than I would have rather [it], but it is what it is.»

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The Details of Sharon Tate’s Gruesome Murder Will Stick With You in the Worst Possible Way

Actress Sharon Tate was only 26 years old when her life and career were tragically cut short in one of the most brutal murders in Hollywood history. On Aug. 8, 1969, the stunning Valley of the Dolls star — who was married to film director Roman Polanski and eight and a half months pregnant with their son — was spending time with friends at 10050 Cielo Drive, the secluded home she and Roman shared in LA’s Benedict Canyon. Roman was off in London filming The Day of the Dolphin, so he asked their close pals Wojciech Frykowski and Folger’s Coffee heiress Abigail Folger to stay at the house with his pregnant wife until he flew back to LA on Aug. 12. The trio had dinner at Sharon’s favorite restaurant, El Coyote, along with celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring. They returned to the house around 10:30 p.m.

Shortly after midnight on Aug. 9, the house was broken into by four members of Charles Manson’s «family»: Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian, who were instructed by the cult leader to go to «that house where [record producer Terry Melcher] used to live» (Manson, a wannabe rock star, had tried unsuccessfully to get a record deal from Melcher, who used to rent the house on Cielo Drive) and «totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can.» The members followed direction, and what happened next would horrify the seasoned homicide detectives who worked the case.

Watson entered the home and encountered Frykowski, who was sleeping on the living room couch. He immediately kicked him in the head, and when Frykowski asked who he was and what he was doing there, Watson said, «I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s business.» He forced the others into the room and tied Tate and Sebring together by their necks with rope, slinging it over the ceiling beams. When Sebring protested the rough treatment of pregnant Tate, Watson shot him. As Folger and Frykowski were repeatedly stabbed — 28 and 51 times, respectively — Tate was inside, pleading with the deranged murderers to be allowed to live and give birth to her baby; she even offered herself as a hostage. While it isn’t known whether Watson or Atkins killed Tate, she was stabbed 16 times while allegedly crying out, «Mother . . . mother . . . «

As they left for Cielo Drive that day, Manson told Atkins and Krenwinkle, both just 21 years old, to «leave a sign . . . something witchy» after the murders. Using a towel, Atkins wrote «pig» on the front door of the house in Tate’s blood. The bodies were discovered by Tate’s housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, as she arrived at the home for work. Tate was found on her left side in the fetal position, wearing a floral bra and matching underwear. The white nylon rope was around her neck, and still tied to Sebring, who lay about four feet away. One of her breasts was cut off as a result of the slashing, and there was an X cut onto her stomach. At the time of her horrific and infamous death, Tate was a wife, an expectant mother, and one of Hollywood’s most promising rising stars.

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Make ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’ The Next ‘Veronica Mars’

And by that I mean, jump in on the crowdfunding so this sexy romp of a show about a fierce female detective can get the movie we all deserve.

Before she was scaring us rigid in The Babadook, Australian actress Essie Davis was busting baddies, bedding hunks, and boasting bold fashion in the 1920s Melbourne-set crime drama Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. For three seasons, Phryne Fisher (Davis) won our hearts and riled our lions as the most glamorous and clever detective that high society had ever seen. While the series ran from 2012 to 2015, it began to earn fans in the US by hitting Netflix.

If you’ve not already binged all 34 episodes, get on that immediately. If you have, do it again and relish in Phryne’s flirtations with the by-the-book cop Jack Robinson, her blossoming friendship with doe-eyed Dot Williams, and jawdropping fashion for days.

Since the series ended, there’s been talk of a movie that could well be the start of a trilogy. Now Every Cloud Productions—which produced Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries—has unveiled their Kickstarter, asking fans to help kick-in, and get Phryne on the big screen. If it worked for Veronica Mars, why not this ultra-cool lady detective?

Davis is on board along with co-star Nathan Page, creators/producers Deborah Cox and Finoa Eagger, and director Tony Tilse. Here’s part of their pitch for Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears:

Set in the late 1920’s, Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears honors the heightened exoticisms of the murder mystery genre as the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, lady detective, escapes the small screen and takes off on a global adventure — via romantic wayside stops in the Far East, glamorous sojourns in the mansions of London, and a battle to survive the rolling sands of the Arabian Desert long enough to find the missing treasure, solve numerous murders and break all aviation records as she wings her way home again!

Initially, Every Cloud was asking for $ 250,000, to get the big stunts, extravagant fashion, far flung locations, and talent they need to make Phryne’s big screen debut just right. They offered prizes like fan packages, tote bags, personalized video messages, a piece of Phryne’s wardrobe (GASP!), and—for the right price—an appearance in the movie. But they thought too small.

The fundraiser page made the $ 250,000 in just two days! And when Every Cloud raised the goal to $ 300k, that was hit in 12 hours. Now $ 400k is the goal, which would mean more luxurious costume changes, and the potential for fancier backdrops and international talent. With 27 days to go, things are looking great. But if you want in on the prize packs or the chance to visit the set, go to Kickstarter now. At the very least, look at the adorable video they put together there. Do it for Phryne.

H/T The Nerdy Birdy


The Year of the Ensemble Murder Drama Starring Nicole Kidman

30 for 30: year of the Scab on ESPN at 8:00pm ET. This is about the 1987 NFL players strike and how the decision to play that season affected the replacement players.

A Benefit for Hurricane Relief Telethon on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC at 8:00pm ET. One-hour special presentation. I guess it’s just «Hurricane relief» because there’s definitely multiple places that need hurricane relief. And not just in the US either, if you haven’t seen the reports out of the Dutch Antilles and the other Caribbean islands, a lot of them have been completely devastated. As has Puerto Rico, which seems to get overlooked even in American focused relief efforts.

America’s Got Talent on NBC at 9:00pm ET.

Top of the Lake: China Girl on Sundance at 9:00pm ET. Second season finale.

American Horror Story on FX at 10:00pm ET.


Is It Weird That I Want to Fuck Pennywise the Murder Clown?

Andy Muschietti’s It (review here) made a metric ton of money over the weekend, breaking records for highest September opening, highest fall opening, and highest opening for a horror movie. It also got the second highest opening for an R-rated film of all time (after last year’s Deadpool) and is, after only three days, the second-highest grossing Stephen King film adaptation ever. (It will pass The Green Mile within the next day or so.) Its unexpected success—people expected it to make money, but not this much of it—will likely have a direct impact on the film industry. Not only is a sequel now guaranteed to happen (it was pretty much a sure thing anyway, but this puts a nail in the creepy clown coffin), we could be looking at increased investment in R-rated, big-budget adaptations of the work of Stephen King.

However, for me, It has had a much more personal impact—smaller in scale, but no less Earth-shattering for all that.

Guys… do I want to fuck Pennywise the clown?

By that I do not actually mean «Ooh, I want Pennywise to honk my nose and plumb the depths of my Deadlights»—I may have written about breadfucking, but I’m not as far gone as all that. This particular round of thirst is more along the lines of «Oh, hey, Bill Skarsgård is pretty hot, isn’t he? DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE PLAYS A FREAKY-VOICED MURDER CLOWN.»

To be fair, I did find myself sexually attracted to Skarsgård the younger when he played Charlize Theron’s East German contact in Atomic Blonde. «Stamp my fake passport, Bill Skarsgård,» I thought, in between being attracted to the entire rest of the cast. But then always, in the back of my mind: The next time I see this man, he will be playing a demon clown, and that will kill my boner right quick, so I can go back to lusting over Armie Hammer’s chest hair in Call Me By Your Name and Henry Cavill’s chest hair in Man of Steel and everyone’s chest hair, every time, everywhere.»


Didn’t happen!

Bill Skarsgård is still hot*!

(Not the hottest Skarsgård. That’s still Stellan. Sorry, Bill, Alexander, and Gustav.)

Embed from Getty Images

(Sidebar: Do you remember that time in Legend of Tarzan when Alexander was being choked out by a rosary and broke it by flexing his neck muscles? It was ridiculous and amazing. Only good part of that film. Moving on.)

Pennywise has goat eyes! His eyeballs roam around independently of each other! He drools all the time. And then there’s the whole murdering children thing. It’s not a good look! Besides which, Bill Skarsgård looks uncannily like a young Steve Buscemi. But also: I don’t care. He has great taste in sweater vests. I would. Float away in the sewers of my soul.

Embed from Getty Images

Skarsgård’s Pennywise was creepy as shit, a bonkers mix of menace and childlike glee that had him running laps around Tim Curry’s more one-dimensional take on the character. The cartoonishly exaggerated mouth. The rabbit teeth. The Bozo-on-crack hairstyle. Skarsgård is practically unrecognizable as a real human person.

I still would. God help me, I still would.


May God have mercy on my soul.


The Grisly Facts of the Menendez Brothers’ Murder Case, Nearly 28 Years Later

This year marks 28 years since Erik and Lyle Menendez brutally murdered their mother and father in the family’s Southern California home, putting the wheels in motion for one of the most infamous trials of the 20th century. ABC drudged up the disturbing case for a primetime special, Truth and Lies: The Menéndez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers, back in January, Lifetime revived the story in June with the movie Menendez: Blood Brothers, and this month comes Law & Order True Crime — The Menendez Murders. On the off-chance that you’re not familiar with the case, here’s a brief overview of the very complicated crime.

Who Are the Menendez Brothers?

Joseph Lyle and Erik Galen, born in 1968 and 1970 respectively, were children of privilege. Their father José worked his way up the corporate ladder to become the CEO of the (now defunct) film studio LIVE Entertainment. Their mother, Mary Louise «Kitty» Andersen, was a stay-at-home mother. The family lived in Chicago and New Jersey before relocating to the affluent suburb of Calabasas, CA, in 1987. Lyle got into Princeton, but was suspended after being accused of plagiarism. Both boys — who were unusually close — were bred to be tennis pros, and their father pushed them to be the best.

The Murders

On the night of Aug. 20, 1989, José and Kitty were relaxing in their den, watching the James Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me. Lyle and Erik ambushed them from behind, shooting José in the back of the head and crippling Kitty with a gunshot wound to the leg when she tried to run. They shot her so many times that her face was unrecognizable by the time police arrived on the scene. Because of their father’s alleged ties to organized crime, the brothers tried to make it look like a mob hit by shooting out their parents’ kneecaps. After the deed was done, they went to the movies and met up with some friends to provide an alibi. Later that night, Lyle called the police, screaming that someone had killed his parents.

The Aftermath

While investigators initially had no reason to suspect Erik and Lyle, the brothers started exhibiting strange behavior for people whose parents had been recently murdered. Lyle went on a spending spree, buying a Porsche and a buffalo wings restaurant in New Jersey. Erik went to Israel to compete in tennis tournaments. They went on extravagant trips together, racking up over half a million dollars in purchases in the months after their parents’ deaths. Unable to take the guilt, Erik confessed to the murder in a session with his psychiatrist. The psychiatrist’s girlfriend overheard the conversation, and went to the police when the relationship fell apart. The brothers were arrested in March of 1990.

The Trial

In the courtroom, Lyle and Erik showed little remorse for what they’d done. A damning piece from the LA Times detailed, «The brothers, appearing at a series of evidentiary hearings in recent weeks, have appeared at ease, smiling at their girlfriends and relatives who show up for support.» However, as more and more evidence began to pile up, the unbelievable truth came out. They had gotten the idea to kill their parents from the movie The Billionaire Boys Club. Erik had even written a screenplay with his friend; the movie was about a rich kid who murders his parents to inherit their fortune. The brothers searched for a pitiable motive, alleging that their father molested them. The juries (one for Lyle and one for Erik) failed to agree on a verdict, resulting in a mistrial.

While the first trial was highly publicized thanks to the new channel CourtTV (aka TruTV), the second trial gained far less attention. Another reason the Menendez brothers fell out of the public eye? America had moved onto another high-profile murder case: that of O.J. Simpson, who had been accused of killing Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. While the public had lost much of their initial interest in the brothers, Erik and Lyle were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1996. Their appeals have been denied, and they have no chance of parole.

Lyle Menendez is currently serving his time at the Mule Creek State Prison in California, while Erik is residing 200 miles away in a cell in the Pleasant Valley State Prison.

Law & Order True Crime — The Menendez Murders premieres on Sept. 26.

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The Details of Laci Peterson’s Murder Will Still Chill You to Your Very Core

There are very few murder investigations that capture the attention of the entire country, but the ones that do usually stay with people forever. Laci Peterson became one of those cases when she went missing on Christmas Eve in 2002. While any missing persons case is devastating, people became enamored with the beautiful 27-year-old because she was eight months pregnant with her son, who was to be named Connor, when she vanished. Those closest to Laci, and the general public, couldn’t understand why someone would want to hurt a woman who didn’t appear to have any enemies. But as the days turned into weeks following her disappearance, the details of what happened slowly began to fill in the confusing puzzle, and it still remains one of the most chilling murder cases in recent years.

Laci’s husband (and Connor’s dad), Scott Peterson, quickly became the police’s main suspect due to his bizarre behavior, his repeated refusals to take a polygraph test, and his general lack of interest in the investigation’s progress. Scott was eventually found guilty of murdering his wife and unborn son and was sentenced to death in 2004. He is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California, where he recently spoke out for the first time in over a decade for A&E’s docuseries The Murder of Laci Peterson. Here are six heartbreaking facts from one of the most infamous murder cases in history.

1. Laci Was Last Seen on Christmas Eve 2002

On the morning of Dec. 24, 2002, Scott left their Modesto, CA, home to go fishing, while Laci took their dog for a walk. Later that afternoon, a neighbor saw their dog wandering around while still wearing its leash. Scott later told police that after leaving their house that morning, he went to his nearby warehouse to send emails and get his boat, which was backed up by email time stamps and a warehouse receipt. He said that after about 90 minutes of fishing, he returned home to an empty house and showered, thinking Laci had gone over to her mom’s house. Scott called Laci’s parents that evening to ask if they knew where she was, and they immediately called police to report that she was missing.

2. Scott Quickly Became a Suspect

While many murder victims die at the hands of someone they know, it was Scott’s questionable behavior in the days after Laci’s disappearance that put him at the top of the suspects list. Police reported that Scott almost immediately began referring to Laci in the past tense as if she wasn’t alive anymore, even before they found her body. But the biggest bombshell of all came when Scott’s mistress, Amber Frey, revealed their relationship to the media shortly after she learned about Laci’s disappearance. Amber agreed to record her phone conversations with Scott without his knowledge, and she told police that two weeks before Laci went missing, Scott had told her he was a widower and that this would be the first Christmas without his wife. Scott was also photographed laughing and smiling at a vigil for Laci just a few days after she went missing, where he called Amber and pretended he was partying in Paris on New Year’s Eve.

3. Laci and Connor’s Bodies Were Mutilated

In April 2003, four months after Laci went missing, a couple out walking their dog discovered Connor’s body washed up on the San Francisco Bay shore. Plastic tape was reportedly found around his neck, and there was also a large cut on the right side of his body. One day later, Laci’s body washed ashore just one mile from where Connor was found. She was decapitated, both forearms were missing, her right foot was severed, and the bottom half of her left leg was missing. Because her body was badly decomposed, her exact cause of death couldn’t be determined.

4. Scott Appeared to Be on the Run When He Was Arrested

After months of speculation, Scott was arrested on April 18, 2003, at a golf course in San Diego, where he said he was staying to avoid media attention. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying $ 15,000 in cash, four cell phones, his brother’s ID, and camping gear and had dyed his hair blond.

5. Scott Was Sentenced to Death

His trial began in June 2004, and a judge sentenced him to die by lethal injection that November. Similarly to O.J. Simpson’s trial, people all over the country gathered in public places to hear the verdict and celebrate his conviction together.

6. He Still Maintains His Innocence

In a recorded phone call with his sister-in-law, Janey, from June 2017, Scott spoke from his prison cell about the moment the guilty verdict was read, saying he «had no idea» the jury would think he did it. «When they told me, I had just a terrible physical reaction,» he said. «I mean it was a really emotional, physical reaction. I couldn’t feel my feet on the floor. I couldn’t feel the chair I was sitting in. My vision was even a little blurry. And I just had this weird sensation that I was falling forward — and forward and down and there was going to be no end to this falling forward and down, like there was no floor to land on. I, I was staggered by it. I had no idea it was coming.» Scott is still appealing his case.

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