serial killer

Serial Killers by State 2023

Buckle up, true crime enthusiasts, for an eerie expedition across the good ol’ US, as we unravel the chilling whispers of the darkest corners of each state. Ever wondered if the sweet home Alabama has a bone-chilling past or if sunny California has some cold, hard secrets? 

From the unassuming plains of Nebraska to the bustling streets of New York, no stone will remain unturned. Prepare yourself for an uncanny road trip as we spotlight the infamous serial killers that etched their names in each state’s shadowy history.

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming District of Columbia District of Columbia

Total Victims of Serial Killings

Who Is a Serial Killer?

The definition of a serial killer revolves around an individual who, propelled by abnormal psychological needs, a thirst for excitement, notoriety, or material advantage, takes the lives of at least two others in distinct instances. 

The crucial differentiation established by the FBI between serial killers and those who commit mass murder or go on a killing spree lies in the ‘cooling-off’ phase that exists between their crimes. Hence, individuals like school shooters or suicide bombers do not fall under the serial killer category. Additionally, serial homicides are typically the deeds of solitary individuals or pairs, disqualifying group-oriented killing activities.

Contrary to popular belief, serial homicides are quite an anomaly, making up under 1% of total killings. Notably, there was a spike in such events in the US between 1970 and 2000, accounting for 70% of all documented serial killings during this time frame. However, the prevalence of serial homicides has been dwindling since the 1990s.

Diverse motivations drive these heinous criminals, with about one-third reportedly killing for financial benefit. A similar number is motivated by perverse pleasure, while anger is the driving force for almost one-fifth. Gang-related motivations only make up a small fraction, roughly 6%.

These criminals often demonstrate distinct preferences in their methods and victims. Take Ted Bundy as an example, who notoriously targeted young, attractive women, favoring strangulation as his grim modus operandi. 

Gun violence tops the preferred methods list, trailed by strangulation and stabbing. The victims of these dreadful acts are almost equally divided between genders, with the average age centered around 30.

Serial Killers in the US

The United States outnumbers other nations in terms of serial killers. Every one of the 50 states has been touched by the dark shadow of a notorious serial killer, including Florida with the infamous Ted Bundy, Illinois with the dreadful John Wayne Gacy, and New Jersey with the lethal Charles Edmund Cullen.

Over the 30-year span from 1990 to 2020, a staggering 12,236 victims fell prey to serial murderers across the country. California leads the pack with a chilling count of 1,777, trailed by Texas’s 984 cases. However, population variance means these numbers don’t represent the places where serial homicides occur most frequently. In terms of rate, Washington DC stands atop with 25 victims per 100,000 inhabitants. Alaska follows, with 7 per 100,000, while Louisiana records a rate of 6.5 per 100,000.

20 States with the Highest Numbers of Serial Killers



Total Victims (1992-2019)

Most Notorious Killer (MNK)

Confirmed Victims MNK

Final Fate of MNK




“The Boston Strangler”


Albert DeSalvo, a main suspect, was killed while in prison for unrelated crimes




Paul Dennis Reid, aka “The Fast Food Killer”


Deceased in Prison Pending Execution




Robert Franklin Smallwood Jr.


Serving Life Sentence




Joseph Roy Metheny


Deceased in Custody


New Jersey


Richard Francis Cottingham, aka “The Torso Killer”

19 -100

Serving Life Sentence




Alfredo Rolando Prieto




North Carolina


Henry Louis Wallace, aka “The Taco Bell Strangler”


Awaiting Execution




Samuel Little, aka “The Choke-and-Stroke Killer”


Deceased in Custody




Herbert Richard Baumeister

11 -23

Committed Suicide




Charles Ray Hatcher


Committed Suicide in Prison




Gary Leon Ridgway, aka “The Green River Killer”


Serving Life Sentence




Paul John Knowles, aka “The Casanova Killer”

18 -35

Deceased During Arrest




Benjamin Atkins


Deceased in Custody




Harvey Miguel Robinson


Awaiting Execution




Shawn Michael Grate


Execution Scheduled for 2025


New York


David Richard Berkowitz, aka “Son of Sam”


Serving 6 Consecutive Life Sentences




John Wayne Gacy






Daniel Harold Rolling, aka “Gainesville Ripper”






Genene Jones, known as “The Angel of Death”


Serving Life Sentence




“Zodiac Killer”


Remains Unidentified

Most Notorious Serial Killers in the States

  • Zodiac Killer – California

Shrouded in the fog of the 1960s, the ‘Zodiac Killer’ haunts California’s criminal history, an enigma that’s eluded capture to this day. His spine-chilling letters, infused with cryptograms, terrorized the press and law enforcement, taking psychological warfare to terrifying new depths. His kill tally stands at a confirmed five, though he claimed an alarming 37.

Despite countless investigations, his identity remains a mystery, his true count uncertain. With only eerie letters and unsolved ciphers as his legacy, the ‘Zodiac Killer’ remains an enduring enigma that continues to captivate and perplex.

  • Genene Jones – Texas

Dubbed the “Angel of Death,” Genene Jones painted a chilling portrait of malevolence disguised in caregiver’s scrubs. A Texas pediatric nurse with a sinister secret, Jones was implicated in the inexplicable deaths of up to 60 children in her care during the 1980s. Driven by a perverse need for attention and control, she would induce medical crises in her young patients, only to play the role of their savior. 

Caught in her lethal deception, she’s now serving a life sentence, her angelic façade forever tarnished by the specter of death she cast over those she was entrusted to protect.

  • Daniel Harold Rolling – Florida

In the annals of American crime, Daniel Harold Rolling, known as the “Gainesville Ripper,” carved a macabre path of terror. Over a chilling spree in the late summer of 1990, Rolling left the Florida college town of Gainesville in a grip of unending horror. His modus operandi was particularly gruesome – young students brutally murdered in their apartments. 

His reign of terror lasted mere days, but the fear lingered for years. Captured, convicted, and ultimately executed, Rolling’s name is a haunting reminder of the shadowy menace that can lurk beneath the sun-drenched veneer of a tranquil college town.

  • John Wayne Gacy – Illinois

Underneath the facade of a charitable community man and jovial clown performer, John Wayne Gacy concealed a monstrous secret. His suburban Chicago home held the horrific truth – a mass grave housing the remains of 33 young men and boys. Gacy, a chilling manipulator, lured victims under various pretenses before their brutal end. His clown persona, ‘Pogo’, offered a chilling contrast to his sadistic inclinations, embodying the sinister duality that marked Gacy’s life. 

Sentenced to death and executed in 1994, his story serves as a stark reminder that sometimes, evil hides in the most mundane of places.

  • David Richard Berkowitz – New York

David Richard Berkowitz, better known as the “Son of Sam,” remains a chilling figure in the gallery of American criminal lore. Throughout the 1970s, his malevolent presence cast a shadow over New York City, turning the vibrant metropolis into a hunting ground. Berkowitz’s reign of terror was marked not only by six murders but also by his taunting letters, which created an atmosphere of fear and dread. 

Behind his self-proclaimed alias, he committed heinous acts that still haunt the collective memory of the city. Serving six life sentences, the “Son of Sam” is a disturbing testament to the darkness lurking within humanity.

Serial Killers by State: The Wrap-Up

In the somber halls of American criminal history, the chilling echo of these notorious figures resounds. From the unresolved enigma of the ‘Zodiac Killer’ to the macabre predations of Gacy and Berkowitz, these stories serve as stark reminders of humanity’s capacity for darkness. 

These serial killers, each leaving a distinct and horrifying mark on their respective states, manifest the most extreme embodiment of human malevolence. Their stories haunt our collective consciousness, prompting us to seek understanding in the face of such incomprehensible acts.


What are the criteria for defining serial killers? 

Serial killers are defined by their pattern of killing multiple victims over separate instances. Typically, their motivation lies in twisted psychological gratification, attention, or even financial gain. The element that separates serial killers from other types of multiple murderers is the 'cooling-off' period that they take between their crimes.

Who are some of the most notorious serial killers in US history? 

Some of the most notorious serial killers include Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz, aka "Son of Sam," and the never-identified Zodiac Killer. Their crimes shocked the nation, left indelible marks on the communities where they occurred, and continue to influence how law enforcement approaches serial killing cases.

Why do many serial killers appear to have similar victim types or methods?

Many serial killers often develop a 'signature' or 'modus operandi,' which can include a preferred type of victim or a specific method of murder. This preference can be based on a variety of factors, including their psychological makeup, their fantasies, and their perceived ease or thrill of the act.

How has law enforcement changed in response to serial killer murders? 

Over the decades, law enforcement has adapted and refined its techniques in response to serial killer murders. This includes improved profiling techniques, advancements in forensic technology, and increased inter-agency cooperation to connect seemingly unrelated cases across different jurisdictions.

Who are the six serial killers who had significant impact on their respective states?

Six serial killers who dramatically affected their states include: Ted Bundy in Florida, John Wayne Gacy in Illinois, David Berkowitz in New York, the Zodiac Killer in California, Gary Ridgway in Washington, and Genene Jones in Texas. Each of these serial killers left a lasting, disturbing legacy in their respective states.

Why are there so many serial killers in the United States?

It's hard to say exactly why there are many serial killers in the US. Various factors might contribute, including the size and diversity of the population, societal issues, and the extensive and detailed record-keeping of criminal cases. It's important to note, however, that while the US does have a high number of reported cases, serial killing is a global phenomenon.

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