twenty horrific killers who were released from prison
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re looking at twenty horrific killers who were released from prison.
For this list, we’ll be examining people who were convicted of committing homicide and were eventually set free. We’ll be including those who went back to prison for a different crime.
What do you make of their releases? Let us know in the comments below.
New Zealander Graeme Burton got heavily into substances as a teen and young adult while under the care of his adoptive mother. In 1992, while under the influence of both alcohol and drugs, Burton stabbed and killed a nightclub lighting technician named Paul Anderson. He was sentenced to life in prison but spent just fourteen years inside before he was paroled in 2006. It was requested that Burton be slowly re-integrated into society with the help of home leave, but he was fully released into the custody of his biological mother. But in January 2007, Burton went on a crime spree that left one other person dead. He was shot in the leg and taken back to prison, having received another life sentence.
Back in 1986, 23-year-old Timothy Chavira killed his stepmother, Laurie Anne Chavira, and stashed her body in the trunk of a car. The vehicle was later found abandoned in Burbank, California, and Chavira was found guilty of homicide. He was sentenced to life in prison and spent approximately thirty years inside before he was released on parole in July 2017. Chavira was out for over two years before he killed a retired doctor named Editha Cruz de Leon in December 2019. He was arrested for the crime two weeks later, pled guilty, and was given a second life sentence at the age of 57.
This man was serving time in prison in the 1980s for various robberies when he became penpals with a woman named Beryl Maynard. David Cook was eventually released from prison, but when he was, he met and strangled Maynard to death.. He was sentenced to life in prison in the ‘80s and served about twenty years of the sentence before he was paroled in 2009. Following his release from prison, he moved next door to a man named Leonard Hill. But with a supposed financial motive, Cook strangled and killed Hill. He was found guilty and sentenced once again to life in prison. He remained imprisoned for the rest of his life, eventually dying of COVID in December 2020 at the age of 74.
A repeat offender, Albert Flick has been in and out of prison throughout most of his life. In January 1979, his wife Sandra filed for divorce, and Flick killed her in response. He spent 21 years in prison for the crime before getting released on good behavior in 2000. He was sent back to prison in 2007 after stabbing his girlfriend with a fork. He was released again in 2010, and he committed violence again, this time hitting another woman with a knife. He was released yet again in 2016 and met a woman and mother named Kimberly Dobbie. He developed an unhealthy obsession with Dobbie and stabbed her to death on July 15, 2018. The 77-year-old was given a 25-year sentence in return.
Malcolm B. Benson
In 1995, Michigan man Malcolm B. Benson pled no contest to a second-degree homicide charge and was sentenced to between 20 and 40 years in prison. This came as the result of a plea deal. Benson was originally charged with first-degree homicide, and if found guilty, he would be sentenced to life. By pleading no contest to second-degree, he was given the lighter sentence. Furthermore, a good behavior credit system allowed him to leave prison early in 2015, having served nineteen years. Nine months after his January release, Benson walked up to Army veteran Stanley Carter at a bus stop and shot him. Carter later died in a nearby parking lot, and Benson was sent back to prison with a life sentence.
A very controversial case, Mary Bell is currently the youngest female killer in British history. When she was just a young girl, Bell strangled and killed Martin Brown and Brian Howe. The incidents occurred two months apart, with Brown’s death taking place in May 1968 and Howe’s the following July. Following an investigation, Bell was charged on August 7 and met it with complete indifference. She was found to suffer from psychopathic personality disorder and convicted of manslaughter. She spent over eleven years in custody before getting released in 1980. She has lived the rest of her life in anonymity and is known to have both a daughter and granddaughter.
A Finnish killer, Juha Valjakkala committed three homicides in the Åmsele area of Sweden on the night of July 3, 1988. Valjakkala stole a bike and was chased to the local cemetery by Sten Nilsson and his teenage son. In return, both were shot and killed inside the cemetery by Valjakkala. Nilsson’s wife Ewa then went looking for her husband and son, as they had not returned to the house. She too was ambushed and killed by Valjakkala. He and his then-girlfriend were eventually caught in Denmark, but only he was sentenced to life in prison. After various escapes, he was officially released in February 2008, having served just under twenty years. Valjakkala changed his name to Nikita Bergenström in 2013.
This is arguably one of the most infamous cases of an early release leading to even further disaster. In May of 1972, Shawcross assaulted and killed a boy named Jack Blake. He struck again four months later in September, doing the same thing to Karen Hill. Both killings occurred in the city of Watertown, New York. In a highly controversial decision that defied the advice of psychiatrists, Shawcross was released from prison in 1987 after serving fourteen years. Between March 1988 and December 1989, Shawcross took the lives of at least 11 women, and was named The Genesee River Killer. He was arrested in January 1990 and spent the rest of his life in prison, having died of cardiac arrest at the age of 63.
Also known as The Broomstick Killer, Kenneth McDuff is responsible for at least nine deaths, but is believed to have killed many more. The so-called “broomstick murders” occurred on the night of August 6, 1966 in the city of Everman, Texas. He killed three people, including Edna Sullivan, whom he sexually harassed and choked with a broomstick, leading to his moniker. McDuff was ordered to be executed for his crimes, but his sentence was commuted to life and he was later released on parole in 1989. He committed further crimes after being released and killed six women between 1989 and 1992. McDuff was once again sentenced for execution, and it was carried out on November 17, 1998.
This man from Lancashire, England was first court-martialled from the Navy and then kicked out of his family home. Now both homeless and without a job, he went to live with a friend named Clive Ralph. Ralph was a truck driver and was often away from home, and Ralph’s wife Elsie was a bartender who worked late nights. As a result, McGreavy took to babysitting the couple’s three young children. On the night of April 13, 1973, a drunk McGreavy killed the three of them in a fit of rage and displayed what he did to them on the neighbor’s fence. He spent nearly fifty years in prison before he was considered rehabilitated and released on parole in December 2018.
Beginning in 1977, this Norwegian man began working as a nursing home manager in the municipality of Orkdal. Nearly five years after his hiring, Nesset confessed to killing dozens of patients by injecting them with an anesthetic. He admitted to killing 27 patients and was eventually convicted of 22. However, it’s believed that Nesset may be responsible for up to 138 deaths. He was given the then-maximum sentence in Norway, which was 21 years. But thanks to his good behavior inside, Nesset was freed after serving twelve. He then took on a new name, and as of 2022, is living as a free man.
Mitchell Johnson & Andrew Golden
On March 24, 1998, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden committed fatal crimes at Westside School in Craighead County, Arkansas. Using various firearms, Johnson and Golden killed five people (four students and one teacher) and injured a further ten. At the time, it was the deadliest incident to occur in a non-college school. Both perpetrators were arrested and tried as juveniles. Under Arkansas state law they were ordered to remain in prison until they turned 21. As a result, Johnson served seven years, and Golden served nine. Johnson continued to get into legal trouble for various charges since his release in 2005, and Golden died in a car accident on July 27, 2019.
Wolfgang Abel & Marco Furlan
These two met in high school and bonded over their extremist views. Beginning in August of 1977, they enacted their plan to “clean up” the streets of Europe and targeted people who were gay, people who had substance use disorders, sex workers and more. At the site of each killing, the duo left behind a leaflet emblazoned with Nazi imagery that proclaimed their slogan and motives. It’s believed that Abel and Furlan were responsible for between 10 and 28 deaths throughout their seven-year spree. Both were eventually sentenced to thirty years in prison. Abel was given house arrest in 2009 and was officially freed in 2016. Furlan was released from prison in November 2010.
Louis van Schoor
Hailing from South Africa, Louis van Schoor is commonly known as The Apartheid Killer. Between 1986 and ‘89, van Schoor worked as a security guard and targeted Black and mixed race individuals. It’s believed that van Schoor would most often kill those who were in the process of surrendering, and in some cases he even snatched passersby off the street and killed them on the guarded premises. The loose South African laws of the time, combined with the institutional racism of Apartheid, allowed van Schoor to walk free again and again. His true body count is unknown, although he was eventually convicted of nine homicides and sentenced to twenty years. He served twelve and was released in 2004.
In 1994, Finnish man Mika Muranen was serving in the country’s military. In April of that year, Muranen stole a weapon from the military and made his way home to the city of Kotka, which lies on the southern shore of the country. After taking a crossbow from his home, Muranen embarked on a two-day killing spree that claimed the lives of three people. Muranen shot two neighbors with the crossbow on April 18, and the next day killed a mailman with the assault rifle he had previously stolen. After a chase with the police, Muranen was apprehended and sentenced to life in prison. He served twenty years and was released on parole in 2014.
This woman was one half of The Love Slave Killers, alongside her husband, Gerald. Between 1978 and 1980, the Gallegos prowled the streets of Sacramento, California and killed ten people. The couple would often abduct their victims from the likes of malls, fairs, and bars. The victims would then be subjected to sexual assault before getting killed. Following their capture, Charlene Gallego was granted a lenient plea deal and offered a light sentence in exchange for testifying against her husband. She was given sixteen years, while Gerald Gallego was sentenced to death, though he died of cancer in 2002 before his sentence could be carried out. Charlene Gallego was freed five years earlier in 1997.
Between 1997 and 1998, teenager Aleksandr Rubel killed at least six people in the Estonian city of Tallinn. His first victim was a neighbor named Tõnu Põld, whom Rubel killed on September 19, 1997. For one homicide, Rubel was aided by his father Andrei, who received a prison sentence of seven years in return. His final homicide came in June 1998, when he killed Alice Siivas. Rubel was tried as a minor, and as a result, was given a sentence of eight years. This was the maximum sentence that was allowed to be given to a minor under Estonian law. Rubel was released on June 8, 2006 at the age of 25 and has since changed his name.
This Canadian serial killer is infamous for both her crimes and her insufficient punishment. Throughout the early ‘90s, Homolka and her husband, Paul Bernardo, killed three people - including Homolka’s younger sister. Tammy Homolka was their first victim, as she choked on her own vomit after being drugged by her sister and brother-in-law. They later kidnapped, sexually harassed, and killed both Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. They also kidnapped another woman, but she was not killed and her identity remains anonymous. When they were finally apprehended, Homolka tricked the investigators and diminished her role in the killings. Like Charlene Gallego, she was given a lenient sentence in return for testifying against Bernardo. She was released in 2005 and subsequently married and had three children.
The Lainz Angels of Death
This moniker refers to four Austrian nurse’s aides who intentionally killed their patients while working in Vienna. The first death came in 1983, when Waltraud Wagner killed a patient with morphine. Three others joined Wagner, and they killed their subjects by pouring water down their throats. It’s common for elderly patients to have fluid in their lungs, so this method of death hid the women from culpability and didn’t raise questions. As a result, the Angels of Death were able to operate for six years. The true number of victims is unknown; while some believe that it’s in the hundreds, the women confessed to 49. They were given various sentences, ranging from 15 years to life. Regardless, all four have since been released.
Known as The Monster of the Andes, Pedro López is currently the second most prolific serial killer in recorded history. Between 1969 and 1980, López claimed the lives of at least 110 girls throughout northern South America. However, López personally claims to have killed over 300, at a rate of three victims per week. He was finally arrested in 1980 and remained imprisoned until 1994. However, López was quickly re-arrested and sent to a mental institution in his native Colombia. He remained there for four years and was released in 1998. Following his release, Pedro López disappeared from record, and neither his location nor his status are known as of 2022.