Halloween is more than just an excuse to dress up and get free candy, or, if you’re older, to dress up and get hammered. From gang killings and lesbian murder conspiracies to necrophilia and poisoned pixie sticks, these are some of the most horrific Halloween crimes ever committed by Americans.
10. Your family’s upstairs.
Devon Griffin stayed at this father’s house the night before Halloween in 2014, a coincidence that saved his life.
When the 16-year-old woke up on Halloween morning, he left his dad and drove to his mother and step-father’s house in Ottawa County, Ohio, where he was supposed to stay for the next week. He grabbed a fresh shirt from his mom’s, said hello to William Liske Jr., the son of his step-father from a previous marriage, and headed to church.
Hours later, Griffin plopped down on the couch to play video games only to realize the house was strangely quiet. He ambled up the stairs to find the mutilated body of his step-father, William Liske Sr., lying in a blood-soaked bed. His mother Susan Liske, had been murdered as well, though police would later find she’d also been raped. Griffin’s older brother, Derek Griffin, was lying on his bed, his skull smashed in by a hammer.
Liske Jr., a troubled 25-year-old with a history of schizophrenia, would plead guilty to all three murders six months later. His first target was Derek, whom he killed with a hammer to keep the others from waking. His father was next; then he raped and killed his step-mother.
Liske avoided the death penalty with his guilty plea and is serving life without parole.
9. A mother’s nightmare.
“A man is raping my friend in the woods behind the CVS, call 911.”
That was the text a Virginia mother received from her 16-year-old daughter on Halloween in 2009.
She had been walking home from trick-or-treating with her two friends, ages 16 and 17, when Aaron Thomas abducted the girls taking them behind a nearby CVS pharmacy and sexually assaulted two of them.
Thomas fled when he heard sirens after the third girl was able to send the desperate message.
Thomas pleaded guilty to the crime in 2012, and he is suspected of raping or assaulting 17 other women.
8. Lesbian love triangle.
When Peter Fabiano heard someone knocking on the front door of his California home in 1957, he thought it was a trick-or-treater, but when he opened the door, he was not greeted with a smile.
Goldyne Pizer, dressed in jeans and a mask, shot Fabiano in the chest with the .44 revolver concealed in a paper bag. Fabiano bled out in minutes.
Two weeks later, police would learn that Fabiano was a complete stranger to Pizer and that she had been influenced over the course of months by Joan Rabel, who was having a scandalous affair with Betty Fabiano, the man’s wife.
Pizer and Rabel were convicted of second-degree murder in 1958 and sentenced to five years to life in prison.
7. Poisoned Pixie Stix.
Ronald O’Bryan gave out five pixie stix laced with cyanide on Halloween in 1974, two of them to his own sons.
His eight-year-old son, Timothy, complained that the candy tasted bitter and wrong. He was dead within an hour, effectively cancelling Halloween for most of Pasadena, Texas.
Fortunately, none of the other children ate theirs, but no one knew which house the candy came from. O’Bryan gave an impassioned eulogy at his son’s funeral, but then police discovered that the he had taken out two life insurance policies for his sons just days before Halloween. The payout almost exactly matched the man’s unpaid debts.
The jury convicted O’Bryan in less than an hour and sentenced him to death. O’Bryan was executed by the State of Texas in 1984.
6. Don’t throw eggs
Karl Jackson and his girlfriend were picking up her 9-year-old son from a New York City Halloween party in 1998 when someone on the sidewalk started throwing eggs at the car.
His girlfriend pulled over and Jackson, a 21-year-old data clerk at Morgan Stanley, got out of the car and yelled at the culprit, 17-year-old Curtis Sterling. Jackson climbed back into the passenger seat to leave when Sterling pulled out a handgun and shot him through the head, killing him instantly.
Curtis was sentenced to 20 years in prison and received annual Halloween cards from Jackson’s mother, Gloria Jackson.
“I’m glad you’re still there,” they read.
5. A murder in three pieces
When Maria Ciallella, 17, left her New Jersey home to go trick-or-treating in 1981, she told her father she’d be back by midnight.
A police officer saw her soon after 12 a.m. walking toward her home and told himself to remember to give her a ride on his way back, but he’d never get the chance. Ciallella disappeared for more than a year and half, only to be found in a serial killer’s back yard, her body cut in three pieces.
The killer, 42-year-old Richard Biegenwald, had four other victims, one of whom shared Ciallella’s shallow grave behind his mother’s Staten Island home
Biegenwald had a long history of violence. Beaten as a child, he’d tried to set fire to his family home at the age of five; he tried to set himself on fire at 11, but as he got older he turned his hatred on others.
Biegenwald earned the nickname the Jersey Shore Thrill Killer and was sentenced to death in 1983 for the murders of Anna Olesiewicz, Betsy Bacon, Ciallella, Deborah Osborne, and William J. Ward. A 1984 appeal earned him a life sentence.
He died in prison of natural causes in 2008.
4. Necrophilia murder
After John White strangled Rebekah Gay to death with a zip tie in 2012, he dressed her three-year-old son Conway in his Halloween costume and sent him over to his father to go trick-or-treating.
White, 57, who was engaged to Gay’s mother and knew the family well, would later testify that the murder was motivated by a latent fantasy of having sex with a corpse. White claims he doesn’t remember whether he consummated that desire after murdering Gay inside her Michigan trailer home.
White pleaded guilty to first degree murder in 2013 and is serving a 56-year sentence.
3. Trigger finger
When 12-year-old T.J. Darrisaw knocked on the front door of a South Carolina home with his father and brother, he expected to get candy. He got 29 rounds from an AK-47 instead.
It was 2008, and the man inside, 22-year-old Quentin Patrick, had a history of drug convictions and was holding several thousand dollars worth of cash. Patrick thought the the trio were rival drug dealers coming to kill him, so he began firing through the door.
Darrisaw died on the scene, but his father and brother survived gunshot wounds to the chest and leg. Darrisaw’s mother watched the whole incident from inside the family car, where she had decided to stay with her toddler. The family said they only stopped at the house because the porch light was on.
Patrick was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2013.
2. Crips and Bloods
Five members of the Bloods drove into rival Crips territory in Pasadena, Texas on Halloween in 1993. The group claimed they wanted to kill rival gang members, but the target they picked was a group of eight young trick-or-treaters.
Three of the kids were killed, Edgar Evans, 13, and Stephen Coats and Reggie Crawford, both 14. When three of the gang members were convicted in 1995, the boys’ families expressed joy, but the Bloods felt no remorse. Karl Holmes, 20, let loose a string of expletives at the jurors and Lorenzo Newborn, 25, flashed his gang sign at the audience. Herbert McClain, 27, chuckled as he received his death sentence.
1. Cut phone lines
When she heard the front door open on Halloween night in 2004, Lauren thought it was just one of her roommates’ boyfriends coming over. Then the screams started.
Her roommates, Adriane Insonga and Leslie Mazzara, lived in the same room upstairs.
“I knew it was a blood-curdling, terrified scream,” said Lauren, who requested her last name not be used. “Adriane kept screaming and, ‘Oh my God, please help. Please help.'”
Lauren stood frozen with fear in the doorway to her bedroom until a man came flying down the stairs. She ran, sprinting to the backyard and hid there, listening as the killer stalked around inside the house. She could still hear Adriane moaning.
Waiting until there was no sign of the killer, Lauren crept inside the house and tried to call 911 on the kitchen phone. The line was dead.
She ran up to Adriene’s room and found her huddled in the corner, bleeding to death from knife wounds and staring at the mutilated body of their friend Leslie.
Slipping on the blood-covered floor, Lauren sped downstairs and tried a different phone. She called 911 and gave the dispatcher as much information as she could, then that line went dead too.
She ran to her car and sped away. Adriene died before police arrived.
Police had no leads to find the killer except a drop of blood and some cigarette buds which they used to narrow the search down to white males who smoke. They began asking those close to any of the girls to test their DNA against the blood.
The investigation dragged on and more than 1,000 were interviewed until one man refused to take the test: Eric Copple, who by then had married Insonga’s good friend Lily Prudhomme. The pair had been engaged at the time of the murders and the revelation of his guilt left Lauren and others shell shocked, particularly Adriene’s mother, who had participated in Copple’s and Prudhomme’s wedding.
Copple had even attended a vigil for Insonga just two weeks after the murders.
Copple was sentenced to life in prison in 2007.
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