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Before They Were Known: 7 Childhood Photos of American Serial Killers

Updated on February 21, 2017
Kim Bryan profile image

I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.

When we read the books or watch the documentaries about serial killers, it’s difficult to imagine they were once angel-faced children; not much different than our own whom we tuck into bed at night while we silently sigh as we envision a future of happiness and success.

Just yesterday, someone in the True Crime Readers Group on Facebook brought up Ted Bundy’s quote, “We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere.” A chilling quote on the surface alone but even more so because we know he wasn’t wrong.

The following is the freshly scrubbed, youthful faces of children who grew up to be not a parent’s dream but their very worst nightmare.

David Berkowitz, "Son of Sam"
David Berkowitz, "Son of Sam" | Source

1. David Berkowitz

Calling himself the "Son of Sam," he preyed on couples parked in their cars. Before he was caught, he killed six people and wounded seven. He claimed to have been directed to murder by an ancient demon who possessed his neighbor Sam Carr's black Labrador Retriever. Berkowitz is currently serving six life sentences with the New York Department of Corrections.

Aileen Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos | Source

2. Aileen Carol Wuornos

During her childhood, Aileen Wuornos had been subjected to repeated sexual, physical, and mental abuse. As an adult, she eked out a living as a prostitute along the Florida highways. Wuornos killed seven of her Johns, all unknown to her before their fatal encounter. Once they were dead, she robbed them of their cash and other valuables which she later sold for cash. She was executed for her crimes by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.

Richard Ramirez
Richard Ramirez | Source

3. Richard Ramirez

Between June 28, 1984, and August 24, 1985, in Los Angeles, the man who would become known as the "Night Stalker" murdered thirteen people. Following his 1989 trial, Richard Ramirez was sentenced to death but died of natural causes in 2013 while still on death row.

John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy | Source

4. John Wayne Gacy

Gacy, a.k.a. The Killer Clown, is known to have murdered a minimum of 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978, 26 of whom he buried in the crawl space of his Chicago home. He was executed in 1994. His surburban Chicago home has been demolished and is now an abandoned lot.

Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy | Source

5. Ted Bundy

The first "post-modern" serial killer which often comes to American's minds, having much to do with his charisma and good looks, Ted Bundy. This handsome law student officially confessed to 30 homicides, but has admitted to killing 35–36 women in the past, and some estimates run upwards of 100 or more. Bundy is Infamous for escaping from prison twice and murdering multiple victims in one day; sometimes abducting women from the same location within hours of one another. He was executed in the electric chair in 1989.

Anthony Sowell
Anthony Sowell | Source

6. Anthony Sowell

Known as The Cleveland Strangler, he was convicted of killing 11 women between 2007 and 2009, and is suspected in another series of murders in the 1980s, with the two sets of killings separated by a 15 year stint in prison. Sowell was a known meth-addict and had been high when he committed each of the murders.

Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer | Source

7. Jeffrey Dahmer

A homosexual serial killer with seventeen known victims, Jeffrey Dahmer of Wisconsin ate some of his victims and kept their body parts in his freezer. Following his conviction and sentenced to life imprisonment, his father, Lionel, would published a tell-all book about Jeffrey's childhood years. Although he admits to a handful of his own flaws, Lionel mostly focuses on his wife and portrays her as an abusive, overbearing mother and tries to absolve himself of any real blame. In interviews from prison, Jeffrey agreed with some of his father's claims while disputing others.

Jeffrey was beaten to death in prison in 1994.

© 2016 Kim Bryan


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    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Michelle Dee 

      3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Looking at these photos, I believe numbers 2, 4, and 5 have an evil look!

    • Wilma Henry profile image

      Wilma Henry 

      4 years ago from Kentucky

      Wow, it is beyond my ability to understand how these sweet faced kids could commit such atrocities!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      4 years ago from Carson City

      Well, there's a group of very ordinary, average-looking, sweet & happy kids!! What lurks behind those photos would be the key. What in the heck happened? What went so terribly wrong? Who and what can be responsible for transforming these little Angels into murderous monsters?

      This intrigues and fascinates many. These are also the questions that lead individuals to go into the fields that study these people. The quest and search is Universal and massive, as well as ongoing. I am a person who needs to know. The more I study and investigate, the more I learn, the firmer becomes my grasp & understanding.

      However, even in 40 years of up close & personal exchange & knowledge, it is but a drop in the bucket of what we have yet to know.

      (I wrote a well-received article on Aileen Wuornos, you may find interesting.)


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