While many serial killers target children because they are easier to overpower and control than adult victims, other murderers prey upon elderly men and women often because they are weaker and more vulnerable than their younger counterparts. Kenneth Erskine and John Wayne Glover — who were both born in England — sexually assaulted their elderly victims, as did John Floyd Thomas, Jr. in California and Edwin Kaprat in Florida. Like Edwin Kaprat, Russian serial killer Irina Gaidamachuk often set her elderly victims’ homes on fire to destroy evidence, and like Mexican murderer Juana Barraza, she pretended to be a social worker to get inside the houses of the older women she wanted to attack.
Dorothea Puente preyed upon the elderly men who sought refuge at her California boarding house, ending their lives to steal meager incomes, while the exact motivations of Elizabeth Wettlaufer, a Canadian nurse who murdered several of her patients, aren’t entirely known or understood, although she admitted to getting some sort of thrill from ending people’s lives. French serial murderer Thierry Paulin killed elderly women in order to get money to support his drug habit, while Alexander Pichushkin, one of the most prolific murderers in Russia’s history, took the lives of his elderly victims because of a bizarre rivalry he had with another famed killer.
From 1998 to 2006, Juana Barraza — a former professional wrestler — is believed to have murdered more than 40 elderly women in Mexico City, Mexico, making her one of the country’s most prolific female serial killers. According to the authorities, Barraza, who was born on December 27, 1957, in Epazoyucan, Mexico, gained access to her victims’ homes by pretending to be a nurse or social worker. After getting inside the elderly women’s houses, Barraza — who was called the “Old Lady Killer” by the press — murdered her victims by bludgeoning or strangling them to death. After ending the women’s lives, Barraza stole their valuables, leading investigators to conclude this female serial killer committed murder mainly for financial gain.
The Old Lady Killer was finally captured on January 25, 2006, when she was caught fleeing the home of her final victim, 82-year-old Ana María de los Reyes Alfaro. Following Barraza’s arrest, investigators tied her to the murders of several other elderly women via fingerprints recovered from crime scenes, but she only admitted to killing one victim, Alfaro. Experts believe Barraza may have attacked older women because of resentment she felt towards her own abusive mother, and on March 31, 2008, she was convicted of multiple counts of murder and aggravated burglary. This female serial killer was given 759 years in prison; Barraza is currently behind bars in Mexico.
John Floyd Thomas, Jr.
Born in Los Angeles, California, on July 26, 1936, John Floyd Thomas, Jr. raped and murdered at least seven elderly women between 1972 and 1986, ending his victims’ lives by strangling them to death after sexually assaulting them. Thomas attacked women in Los Angeles County and San Bernadino County, but his crimes ceased from 1978 to 1983 while he was behind bars serving a sentence for raping a woman in Pasadena, California. Because Thomas was a registered sex offender, he was forced to provide a sample of his DNA to the authorities in 2008, which enabled investigators to link him to several unsolved murders.
This serial killer — who was dubbed the “Southland Strangler” by the press — was arrested in 2009, when law enforcement connected Thomas with DNA recovered from the bodies of Ethel Sokoloff, 68, and Elizabeth McKeown, 67, two women who were murdered in the 1970s. After Thomas was apprehended, investigators linked him to the killings of Cora Perry, 79; Maybelle Hudson, 80; Miriam McKinley, 65; Evalyn Bunner, 56; and Adrian Askew, 56. Thomas pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree murder, and on April 1, 2011, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his crimes.
On August 7, 1993, handyman Edwin Kaprat committed his first known murder when he raped 80-year-old Sophia Garrity, strangled her to death, and set fire to her home in Brooksville, Florida. Incredibly, law enforcement attributed Garrity’s death to a fire caused by an electrical short, leaving Kaprat free to kill Ruth Goldsmith, 70, less than two weeks later on August 18, 1993. Kaprat set the elderly woman’s mobile home on fire after raping her and ending her life, and once again, investigators didn’t realize her death was the result of foul play. Approximately two weeks later, Kaprat murdered Mrs. Goldsmith’s best friend, Lydia Ridell, 79, on September 2, 1993, and on September 30, 1993, the serial killer raped and killed Mrs. Garrity’s neighbor, 87-year-old Lorraine Dawe.
However, shortly after Kaprat killed his fourth known victim, an anonymous caller contacted law enforcement and identified the handyman as the serial killer who had murdered four elderly women in Brooksville, Florida. Kaprat was put under police surveillance, and law enforcement discovered the handyman had done work for all four victims and his fingerprints had been found in their homes. The serial killer was arrested on October 9, 1993, and in January 1995, Kaprat was given the death penalty for his crimes. However, while he was behind bars in Florida State Prison awaiting execution, Kaprat was stabbed to death on April 19, 1995, by a fellow death row inmate following an argument about a volleyball game. He was just 30 years old.
While living in Stockwell, England, Kenneth Erskine — who was born in London in July 1963 — murdered seven elderly men and women between the ages of 67 and 94, and he even sexually assaulted his victims before he strangled them to death. Erskine, who was dubbed the “Stockwell Strangler” by the media, killed his elderly victims between April 9, 1986, and July 28, 1986. Thankfully, this serial killer who preyed upon the elderly was apprehended before he could murder an eighth person because Fred Prentice, 74 — a survivor of the Stockwell Strangler — picked Erskine out of a lineup. Also, this British serial killer left his palm print at the home of his second known victim, Janet Crocket, allowing officers to conclusively connect Erskine to the murders
Erskine — who reportedly masturbated during his 1988 trial — was convicted of multiple counts of murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison for killing several elderly men and women. In July 2009, the Stockwell Strangler was moved to Broadmoor Hospital, a secure psychiatric facility, after an appeal got his convictions reduced to manslaughter because of diminished responsibility. Erskine is currently housed in Broadmoor Hospital in Crowthorne, England, and he is being treated for chronic schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder.
John Wayne Glover
John Wayne Glover was born on November 26, 1932, in England, but he moved to Australia in 1956, eventually making his home in Mosman, a suburb of Sydney. On March 1, 1989, Glover committed his first known murder at the age of 56 when he bludgeoned Gwendoline Mitchelhill, 82, to death with a hammer after following the elderly woman into her house. Less than three months later on May 9, 1989, Glover killed 84-year-old Winfreda Ashton, and on November 2, 1989, he murdered 85-year-old Margaret Pahud, with multiple blows to the head. The following day, the serial killer ended the life of Olive Cleveland, 81, and just a few weeks later, Glover murdered Muriel Falconer, 93, on November 23, 1989.
In addition to killing several elderly women, this serial murderer also sexually assaulted patients in the hospitals and nursing homes he visited as part of his job as a pie salesman. After Glover sexually assaulted an 82-year-old cancer patient in early 1990, this serial murderer was interviewed by law enforcement, but he denied harming the elderly woman. Less than three months later on March 19, 1990, investigators were surveilling Glover when he murdered his friend, Joan Sinclair, 60, by beating the woman to death in her home. Concerned about the lack of movement inside Sinclair’s house, investigators entered her home and discovered the 60-year-old’s dead body and Glover unconscious in her bathtub after taking an overdose of drugs. Glover — who was nicknamed the “Granny Killer” by the media — managed to survive his suicide attempt, and he was given life in prison after he was convicted of multiple murders. However, this serial killer who targeted elderly people eventually succeeded in taking his own life: on September 9, 2005, Glover was found dead in his cell, having hanged himself at the age of 72.
Born on January 9, 1929, in Redlands, California, Dorothea Puente murdered several elderly people between 1982 and 1988, taking the lives of many of the elderly boarders who lived at her house in Sacramento. Investigators believe this female serial killer murdered her elderly victims by smothering them after rendering them unconscious with large doses of sleeping pills. Sadly, many of Puente’s tenants had mental health issues and substance abuse problems, making it easier for her to get away with ending the lives of people who existed on the fringes of society. After killing her tenants, this serial murderer buried her victims’ corpses in the backyard of her 16-bedroom boarding house in California’s capital city, hiding the evidence of her shocking crimes.
According to prosecutors, Puente — who was dubbed the “Death House Landlady” by the press — killed her elderly victims in order to steal her tenants’ Social Security checks, netting her thousands of dollars each month in illicit funds. However, this serial killer’s reign of terror came to an end on November 11, 1988, when officers visited her California home in search of Alberto Montoya, 51, a man with developmental disabilities and schizophrenia who had gone missing. Investigators uncovered the remains of 78-year-old Leona Carpenter in Puente’s backyard, and the elderly serial killer was eventually charged with multiple murders after the authorities discovered a total of seven dead bodies on her Sacramento property. While the Death House Landlady never admitted to harming any of her tenants, she was sentenced to life in prison for her crimes. However, on March 27, 2011, Puente died of natural causes in Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California, at the age of 82.
From 1984 to 1987, Thierry Paulin killed at least 18 elderly women while living in Paris, causing the press to nickname him the “Monster of Montmartre,” the “Old Lady Killer,” and the “Grim Reaper of Paris.” Paulin — who was born in Martinique on November 28, 1963 — killed his elderly victims by suffocating, bludgeoning, or strangling them to death, and then he stole their money in order to buy drugs for his boyfriend, Jean-Thierry Mathurin, and himself. However, on November 25, 1987, Paulin and Mathurin suffocated Berthe Finalteri, 87, but the elderly woman survived the attack and provided the authorities with a description of one the men who tried to kill her. A week later on December 1, 1987, a police officer saw a man matching the elderly woman’s description of her attacker on the street in Paris, and arrested 24-year-old Paulin.
Just two days after he was apprehended, the Old Lady Killer confessed to murdering 21 people. However, before he was tried for the killings, Paulin — who had been diagnosed as HIV-positive a year earlier — became incredibly ill and was hospitalized in Fresnes Prison. On April 16, 1989, Paulin died of illnesses related to AIDS at just 25 years old. Following the serial murderer’s death, his accomplice and boyfriend, Jean-Thierry Mathurin, was convicted of multiple assaults and murders, and he was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes.
Alexander Pichushkin — who was born in Mytishchia, Russia, on April 9, 1974 — committed his first known murder in 1992 when he was just 18 years old. Over the span of 14 years, this Russian serial killer ended the lives of at least 49 people, and many of Pichushkin’s victims were transient elderly men he lured into remote parts of Moscow’s Bitsa Park by offering them free booze. After Pichushkin shared his vodka with a chosen victim, he usually bludgeoned them to death with a hammer and forced the empty liquor bottle into a gaping head wound. Before Pichushkin was arrested, the media called the unidentified Russian serial murderer the “Bitsa Park Maniac.”
Thankfully, Pichushkin was apprehended in 2006 after surveillance cameras captured him walking with his final victim, Marina Moskalyova, shortly before she was murdered. Following his arrest, the Russian serial killer told officers he had intended to murder 64 people — the number of squares on a chessboard — which caused the press to dub Pichushkin the “Chessboard Killer.” On October 24, 2007, Pichushkin was convicted of 49 counts of murder, although he has admitted to murdering a total of 60 people, many of them elderly men. This Russian serial killer received multiple life sentences for his vicious crimes, and Pichushkin was ordered to spend his first 15 years behind bars in solitary confinement.
From 2002 to 2010, Irina Gaidamachuk — who was born in 1972 in the Soviet Union — killed at least 17 elderly women near Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, in order to steal money to support her addiction to alcohol. This female serial killer managed to get inside her elderly victims’ homes by convincing them she was a social worker, and once Gaidamachuk entered their houses, she attacked her helpless victims with a knife or a hammer. After ending the women’s lives, this Russian serial killer often set fire to their homes in order to get rid of any evidence linking her to the brutal murders.
However, Gaidamachuk — who is one of Russia’s few known female serial killers — was apprehended in 2010 after a witness spotted her near the house of Alexandra Povaritsyna around the time the elderly woman was viciously killed. The press nicknamed Gaidamachuk “Satan in a Skirt” because of the depravity of her crimes, and during her 2012 trial she confessed to murdering her victims in order to get money to purchase alcohol. Gaidamachuk — who received 20 years in prison for 17 murders and one attempted murder — is currently incarcerated in Russia.
From 2007 to 2014 in Ontario, Canada, Elizabeth Wettlaufer took the lives of eight women and men while she was employed as a nurse in a private home and multiple long-term care facilities for seniors. During this 7-year-period, Wettlaufer killed her elderly victims — who ranged in age from 75 to 95 — by injecting them with insulin, later claiming she “got that laughing feeling” after murdering the patients who relied on her for their care. Wettlaufer’s crimes came to light when the authorities learned of some concerning information this female serial killer gave to a Toronto psychiatric hospital.
Wettlaufer, one of Canada’s few known female serial killers, was arrested in 2016 and charged with multiple counts of murder; in June 2017, the 49-year-old former nurse pleaded guilty to eight counts of murder, four attempted murders, and two counts of aggravated assault. During her trial, Wettlaufer admitted that she got a “red surging feeling” when she chose the next patient she was going to kill. On June 26, 2017, this Canadian serial killer was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Test Your Knowledge About Depraved Serial Killers Who Murdered Elderly People!
What nickname did the media give to Kenneth Erskine?
Kenneth Erskine was dubbed the "Stockwell Strangler" by the media because he strangled elderly people to death in Stockwell, England.
How did John Wayne Glover die?
On September 9, 2005, Glover was found dead in his prison cell, having hanged himself at the age of 72.
Why did Thierry Paulin murder his victims?
Thierry Paulin killed his elderly victims by suffocating, bludgeoning, or strangling them to death, and then he stole their money in order to buy drugs for his boyfriend, Jean-Thierry Mathurin, and himself.
What was Elizabeth Wettlaufer's occupation when she was arrested for murder?
Elizabeth Wettlaufer was working as a nurse when she was arrested for killing her elderly patients.
Where was Dorothea Puente living when she was killing her victims?
Dorothea Puente was living in Sacramento, California, when she was murdering the elderly tenants at her boarding house.
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