Whether you celebrate Christmas day for religious reasons or simply enjoy a day off work, December 25th is often considered a time when people tend to be kinder to others. It's a day of joy and an opportunity to spend time with family. However, it's essential to remember that even on this festive occasion, the most grisly and gruesome crimes can occur. Here are 21 instances where Christmas celebrations took a tragic turn...
Tis the Season...21 Christmas CrimesPublished 1 month ago
On Christmas Eve in 2007, Michele Anderson murdered her entire family. With the help of her boyfriend Joseph McEnroe, Anderson went to her parents' home in Carnation, Washington, and shot both her mother and her father. The couple then moved the bodies to a shed in the backyard and spent an hour cleaning up the blood.
Later that night the killing spree continued when Anderson's brother Scott, his wife Erica, and their two children arrived. They were all shot to death, but not before Erica managed to make a call to 911. Michele stated later that she was angry with her family for owing her money, and for making her pay rent. Both Anderson and her boyfriend were given six consecutive life sentences.
Dustin Lee Klopp murdered his wife on Christmas Day in 2014. Klopp and his wife of three years, Stephanie Kilhefner, lived in Paradise Township, Pennsylvania, with their two children, a two-year-old and a five-year-old. That day they had been arguing, which ended in Klopp knocking Kilhefner unconscious, cutting her throat with a knife, and then removing her head with an axe.
Klopp cleaned up after his crime and took his children to their grandparents for Christmas. He was later charged with homicide and the abuse of a corpse. In prison a year later Klopp attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself and, though he survived, he was declared brain dead.
Considered to be one of "the bloodiest killing sprees in Dayton's [Ohio] history", a group of four teenagers attacked, killed, and wounded a string of people on Christmas Eve of 1992. The group, consisting of two women and two men, called themselves "The Downtown Posse".
On Xmas Eve, The Downtown Posse carried out a series of violent acts, shooting two men four times each. That night, they brutally shot and robbed a woman. Tragically, their violence extended to the next few days, when they mercilessly shot three innocent individuals. The Posse was finally arrested, with two of them serving life sentences, and one being executed by lethal injection in 2009.
Sameena Imam was murdered by her lover, Roger Cooper, on Christmas Eve of 2014 in Leicester, England. Cooper had been cheating on his long-term partner with Imam for two years. With the aid of his brother David Cooper, he plotted his mistress's murder.
The Cooper brothers planned her murder by using lines from Star Wars films as code. They attacked her at David's home, smothered her with chloroform, and injected her with deadly chemicals. They then wrapped her body in clingfilm and dumped her on a quiet road. The brothers were arrested on January 7th, and are both serving a 30-year sentence in prison.
In 1945 on Christmas Eve, a fire destroyed the Sodder family house. Both parents survived, as well as four out of their nine children. But, five were never seen again and no human remains were ever discovered. It was too much of a coincidence that those same five children were the only family members who asked to stay up late that Christmas Eve...
Years later in 1968, the children's parents received an envelope in the mail containing a photograph of a young man with the words "Louis Sodder, I love brother Frankie, Lill Boys" written on the back. They never discovered who the sender was, but they also never gave up hope that their five children had not actually been burned in that fire.
Ronald Gene Simmons from Dover, Arkansas, mass-murdered his entire family and a few of his work colleagues in the days leading up to Christmas in 1987. He planned visits from family members on separate days and killed 14 of them between December 22nd and December 27th.
After murdering his family, Simmons visited old workplaces and murdered two people and wounded four. Finally, he killed a woman who had turned down his sexual advances, went home and drank beer, and waited to be arrested. He was executed by lethal injection three years later.
JonBenet Ramsey was only six years old when she went missing on Christmas Day in 1996. Her body was found in the basement of the home she shared with her parents in Boulder, Colorado. Her parents claimed they had received a ransom note asking for $118,000 the same morning that their daughter was found dead.
Both her parents' stories were inconsistent, and the Ramseys became the primary suspects in the murder of JonBenet. It was discovered that not only had her skull been fractured, but she had also been sexually assaulted. Unfortunately without enough evidence to convict her parents, or anyone else for that matter, to this day the case remains unsolved.
Owen Kerry was only 19 years old when he was stabbed to death on Christmas Eve of 2016. The young man was enjoying drinks and playing pool at a club in northeast England, when he was stabbed by Brian Cahill. Cahill's girlfriend called Lyndsey Harper, also attacked Kerry with a glass.
Kerry died of extreme blood loss several hours later. The couple fled the scene but were caught the following morning and convicted. Cahill is currently serving 26 years of a life sentence, while Harper is serving an 18-year sentence.
Kristy Bamu was murdered in 2010 on Christmas Day by his sister Magalie Bamu and her boyfriend, Eric Bikubi. According to Bikubi and Bamu, they murdered and tortured him because they completely believed him to be a witch. After using all sorts of weapons to torture her brother, and her other siblings, his body was drowned in the bathtub under the guise of an exorcism.
Both Bikubi and Bamu were charged with the murder of Kristy, and the torture of Bamu's other siblings who were also in the apartment in East London, England where the gruesome attack took place. Bamu is serving 25 years in prison, and Eric Bikubi is serving 30 years.
On Christmas Day of 2013, 18-year-old Alexis Valdez was asked by his aunt and her boyfriend to vacate the apartment they were all living in. Apparently, the condition for Valdez to stay with his aunt was that he remained in school, and helped with the bills. It seems Valdez had failed both by quitting his job and leaving school. His aunt's boyfriend asked him to leave.
The teenager proceeded to get violent and killed his aunt's boyfriend with a hammer. He then removed all the limbs from the body, decapitated it, and placed the head in his aunt's bed. His aunt had not been home at the time, and according to Valdez, he would have killed her too had she been there.
On Christmas Day of 2016, Tricia McCauley, a yoga instructor and actress, was driving to a party in Washington, D.C. On the way there she picked up a hitchkiker, Adrian Johnson. He repaid her kindness by sexually assaulting her, and then beating and strangling her to death.
McCauley's car was found outside a pharmacy the following day, and not far from the car Johnson was found in possession of the car keys, as well as credit cards belonging to the actress. Her body was found in the back seat. Johnson was sentenced to 30 years in prison for first-degree murder.
James Hutchinson of Bradford, England was convinced that his girlfriend, Nicola Woodman, was cheating on him. So on Christmas Day of 2016, he stabbed her 20 times with two knives, and a wooden pick-axe. She was pregnant with their child.
Hutchinson was discovered asleep in Woodman's car the following day by the emergency services that Hutchinson himself had called. He is in prison at present serving a 23-year sentence. He will be eligible for parole if found not to be a danger to society.
Katie Locke met Carl Langdell on the dating app Plenty of Fish. Their first date was on Christmas Eve in 2015 at a hotel in Hertfordshire, England. Langdell, unbeknownst to Locke, suffered from an extreme mental illness, and told his date he owned his own law firm - a lie.
That night he murdered Locke, had sexual intercourse with her corpse, and then proceeded to take photos of her body on his mobile phone. He then dumped her body in some bushes close to the hotel. He was convicted the following year and is serving a 26-year prison sentence, for which an additional three years were added in 2017 for attacking a prison guard.
An elderly couple, Ed and Minnie Maurin of Washington State, were on their way to a Christmas party on December 19, 1985. They never arrived, and family members alerted the police. The couple's car was found on December 20th with significant blood stains and the keys still in the ignition. Their bodies were finally discovered on Christmas Day.
Brothers Rick and John Riffe were the primary suspects, but without motives, the police were unable to arrest them. The Riffe brothers moved to Alaska in 1987, but the police kept the investigation ongoing. Finally, in 2015, Rick Riffe was arrested in connection with the crime. His brother John had died just a week before to the police's arrest.
In 1913 the mine workers' union in Calumet, Michigan decided to throw a Christmas party after they had been striking for five months. Six-hundred people, including the miners and their families, attended the gathering at Italian Hall in Calumet, filling the entire second-story ballroom. It was due to be a huge celebration...
Tragedy struck as someone falsely shouted "Fire!" at the party. In the chaos, 73 people died, mostly children. No actual fire occurred- it is rumored that the tragedy was the result of a cruel joke by mine management or anti-unionists.
On Christmas Day of 2010 in Los Angeles, Kashmier James and her three-year-old daughter, Neveah, spent time at a friend's house. When Kashmier left the home, she put Neveah in the backseat of her car, and just before she was about to get into the driver's seat she was approached by three men...
The men shot her in front of Neveah, who remained unharmed. The murderers were teenagers who had mistakenly identified James as someone else and killed her by accident. James's daughter was handed a mic at a press conference held later for the shooting, and all she could say was "please help mommy".
It was the Great Depression and times were tough, but the Lawson family of sharecroppers spent Christmas Day of 1929 buying new clothes and getting a family portrait taken - a rare luxury during those poverty-stricken times.
After the portrait was taken and the family was relaxing, the father named Charlie Lawson sent Arthur, the eldest of his seven children, on an errand. Charlie then shot his entire family in a killing spree. Charlie then went to the nearby woods and committed suicide. To this day no one knows why he murdered his entire family, nor the reason why he spared Arthur that day.
Sometime between the 23rd and the 24th December on a night in 1881, three teenagers were having a sleepover party at the Gibbons family home. That fateful night, three men burst in with axes and killed all three teenagers and set the house on fire.
The three men were later identified and locked away securely. A year later, two of the murderers were executed but one was sentenced to life in prison, where he was murdered by a mob.
On Christmas Eve morning of 2013, Gianni Belvedere was waiting in the parking lot of Macy's department store for his fiance, Ilona Flint, to finish her shift. Suddenly a man, Carlo Mercado, came up to Belvedere, shot him, and stole his car.
In the parking lot, Belvedere's fiance and brother Sal found Mecardo driving Belvedere's car. They were both shot and killed. When Mercado was arrested a while later he insisted he had never met the three, and the police were eventually forced to call the incident "a random act of violence".
Harry and Harriette Moore were civil rights activists living in Florida. The Moores often spoke up against oppression and racism in America. On Christmas Day in 1951, the couple was celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when something terrible happened...
A bomb placed under the floorboards of their home went off, killing them both but sparing their daughter who was on another side of the house. It turns out that the Ku Klux Klan was involved, and the police were quick to realize it. Two of the suspects died a year later, and the third suspect committed suicide. The incident did however spur on the Civil Rights movement and spawned a multitude of protests.
Killers dressing up as Santa Claus are not just a work of B-movie fiction. On Christmas Eve 2008, Bruce Pardo of Covina, California dressed as Santa Claus and stormed his ex-wife, Sylvia Ortega's, home, killing all nine members of the family. He then set the house on fire and committed suicide hours later.
In another case three years later, Aziz Yazdanpanah arrived at the home of his estranged wife and children and shot his family to death. He was also dressed as Santa, and after murdering his family and three other relatives, Yazdanpanah turned the gun on himself.
During the festive season, it’s not unusual to have moments of madness and annoyance with your family, whether it's arguing with your parents or imagining wringing your sibling's neck. But most of us will never come close to making that a reality.
The Lawson family was very different. Although they lived nearly a century ago in 1929, their morbid tale of murder has echoed to the present day. It all started with an overpriced family portrait and a father who had had enough of life - and decided to end it for the whole family on Christmas Day. We hope you haven't had a meal recently, as this tale is bound to make you feel queasy.
Today, we’re reminded of the cost that comes with having children. Expensive diapers, the latest technology, and hefty college fees. In 1927, Charles Lawson and his wife, Fannie, were living a far simpler life and ended up having seven children.
Growing up in a sharecropping family, Charles Lawson managed to save enough to buy a derelict farmhouse near his brother’s farms. Moving his family to the farm in Germanton, South Carolina, the family settled down to begin their new life. But it would be short-lived.
Charles and Fannie didn’t hold back in growing the Lawson name. The pair had seven children together. Their eldest was 17-year-old Marie and their youngest was four-month-old Mary Lou. In between, they had Arthur (16), Carrie (12), Maybell (7), James (4), and Raymond (2).
As you can imagine, raising seven children presented quite a financial challenge. This reality only made Charles Lawson’s decision to buy his family new clothes and have a family portrait taken just before Christmas all the more strange. Especially considering the price of this activity.
In the age of digital cameras and phones that can snap a moment, it’s difficult to imagine what an event a family portrait would be nearly a century ago. At the time, having your picture taken was a costly experience, and reserved for the wealthy.
The Lawsons worked as tenant tobacco farmers and didn’t have a lot of money to their name. But just before Christmas 1929, Charles Lawson made the bold decision to buy new clothes for his family and book them a portrait session. This was the first sign that something sinister was about to happen.
The lower-class farming family gathered their pennies to pose in front of a box-shaped camera. Nearly a century later, this portrait would become an eerie indication of madness, turmoil, and murderous intention.
In essence, this portrait would become the final family legacy, along with a morbid tale of a massacre. It captured a moment of life that would soon be snatched away. Looking at the photograph of the Lawson family, you’d never guess that their lives would be lost in a tragedy just a few days later.
December 25, 1929 started off like any other predictable Christmas day. The eldest Lawson child, Marie, woke up early to make a Christmas cake as a treat for the family. It was a cool winter morning in North Carolina and the farmhouse was soon filled with the smell of a freshly baked two-layer cake.
A little bit later, the middle two girls, Carrie and Maybell, went off on their own mission. The pair left the farmhouse to visit their aunt and uncle who lived nearby, sharing the Christmas cheer. Charles Lawson, on the other hand, had a very different idea in mind, and it didn’t involve the usual festivities. He headed to the tobacco barn and prepared his shotgun.
Just like the flip of a switch, Charles Lawson appeared to change from dutiful father to manic murderer. When the two girls returned from visiting their relatives, they had a terrifying welcoming. Aiming his 12-gauge shotgun at his two middle children, he fired at Carrie and Maybell, killing them and placing their bodies in the tobacco barn. Without a second thought, he went back to the farmhouse and cold-heartedly shot (and killed) his wife, Fannie.
Hearing the loud crack of the shotgun, Marie screamed in fear, making her the next victim. The terror was contagious and the two youngest boys, James and Raymond, attempted to escape by running and hiding away. Keeping the momentum going, Charles eventually found his two boys and killed them, too. But the worst was yet to come.
This particular Christmas morning was a far cry from the usual cheerful celebration with the family. Laughter was replaced with shrill screams and dead bodies took the place of joyful visitors. Charles had already killed five of his children and his wife, but his next act of evil is truly shocking.
Charles Lawson moved over to his four-month-old baby, Mary Lou, and reportedly beat her to death. This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back and the sheer horror of what he had done came down to haunt him. After completing his murderous exploits, Charles disappeared into the nearby woods and committed suicide, leaving one child behind alive.
The night before the killing, Charles had sent his eldest son, Arthur, to run a few errands. The fully grown 16-year-old had gone into town to buy shotgun shells under the pretense that he was going rabbit hunting on Christmas afternoon. The father-son activity was a local tradition and Arthur didn’t give the errand a second thought.
It’s this same tradition that led the neighbors to believe that the shotgun blasts were a normal sound on Christmas day. But when relatives arrived to wish Charles’ family a Merry Christmas, they found seven bodies with their arms crossed and rocks under their heads...as well as a freshly baked Christmas cake. But what led to the father committing this grisly act?
When people came across the horrific scene, they found seven bodies laid out in a ceremonious manner. But Charles was nowhere to be found. A single gunshot in the nearby woods gave a clue of his whereabouts and another dead body was added to the list.
Once the realization had settled in everyone’s minds, there was the weighted question of why Charles Lawson would commit such a despicable act. From the outside, his family was an average, middle-class farming family. Over time, there have been a few theories that bubbled to the surface about what caused Charles to lose his mind.
Farm life may seem more idyllic than living in the hustle and bustle of the city, but manual labor comes with its own risks. Charles Lawson had been digging a ditch a few months before Christmas when he sustained a head injury. As the brain is a volatile part of the body, this injury is thought to have led to Charles’ crazy behavior.
For years, those close to the Lawsons credited this accident to an alteration in his mental state. Many say that he was never quite the same after the injury. But an autopsy and analysis of his brain at John Hopkins Hospital put this theory to rest, confirming that there were no abnormalities. So what could it have been, then?
Adding a dark twist to an already-dark story, there were claims that Charles had an incestuous relationship with his eldest daughter, Marie. This speculation was first recorded in the book White Christmas, Blood Christmas that was published in 1990. The rumor was offered by an anonymous source after touring the Lawson home post-murders.
In a web of he-said, she-said wording, the author of the book received a phone call from Stella Lawson, the niece of Charles Lawson, the day before publishing. She confirmed that she had heard other Lawson women gossiping about how Fannie had confided in them after discovering the incest.
It’s difficult to use a single source and claim truth to a bold claim such as incest in a family, especially when no parties are alive to confirm or deny. But another book was published in 2006, The Meaning of our Tears, written by the same author. This time, they had a new source to support the theory.
Ella May, a friend of Marie, admits that she found out about the dirty secret a few weeks before the murders. Marie had confided in her friend and told her that she was pregnant with her father’s baby. This frightful detail would add a lot of context to how the police found Charles’ body.
When the sound of a gunshot led police to Charles Lawson’s body in the woods, they were shocked at what they found. Around his dead body were multiple footprints, an indication that he had been pacing before ending his life. This common sign of agitation and perplexity is also an indicator of a mood disorder.
In his pocket were two half-written notes. The one read “Troubles can cause...” and the other “No one to blame but…”. While these strange findings didn’t give any clue at the time for Charles’ barbaric actions, it does support the incestuous theory of pregnancy.
Theories have circulated that Arthur was sent on an errand the night before because Charles preempted that his muscular son would try to stop him from committing the massacre. As a result, Arthur lived and had to endure an equally tragic life knowing that his father had killed his entire family.
In 1945, Arthur was killed in a car accident at the young age of 32, leaving behind a wife and four children. All that was left of the massacred family was their house. After the murders, Charles’ siblings opened the house as a tourist attraction. Over the years, thousands of visitors arrived at the door, and the story inspired several songs and even a movie.
As with all bizarre stories that don’t make sense, we can never really rely on a single theory as an explanation. There are still many that believe Charles’ behavior to be the result of his head injury. Small details suggest that he wasn’t in the right frame of mind and his behavior was peculiar to begin with.
For example, it would appear that he actually wanted his family legacy to live on. Not only did he take the time and invest the money in having a family portrait taken just before killing them, but he also arranged their bodies formally after their death. While some think that he may have sent Arthur away so that he could complete his bloody work without a struggle, others believe that it was a way to keep the Lawson family name alive.
What’s the biggest funeral that you’ve ever been to? Normally, a well-loved figure in society will have people spilling out of the church’s walls to pay their respects. The Lawson family funeral attracted a crowd of 5,000 people, and the caskets were open so that friends, family, and nosy neighbors could view the bodies. Over the course of three hours, people formed two aisles to pass the caskets and pay their respects (and quell their prying nature).
The frenzy around the Lawsons continued long after their funeral. Hundreds and thousands of people flocked to their farmhouse to visit the site of the murders. Marie’s Christmas cake starred as the leading attraction, preserved on the murder site. The cake is no longer there today, but the haunting atmosphere prevails.
Was it incest and an unexpected pregnancy that broke Charles’ sanity and caused him to let loose on his family with a shotgun? Or was it a head injury that sent Charles over the edge?
Over time, more rumors popped up about Charles’ predator behavior and his lust for younger women. And if the family portrait is anything to go by, Marie’s cold stare doesn’t suggest much love at the time. The morbidity of the massacre has haunted the area over the years, with the story entering a sinister side of folk history by inspiring ten songs, two books, and a film.