Demented. Depraved. Sick.
These are some of the first things that we think about when we think about serial killers. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serial murders are not a modern phenomenon and are not unique to the United States. The FBI does note that serial murders are rare, very rare in fact – comprising less than one percent of all murders committed within any given year. The FBI defines serial killing as a series of two or more killings committed by the same person.
There are common myths associated with serial killers including that they are all dysfunctional loners, that they are predominantly white males, that they are motivated by sex, travel and operate interstate, can’t stop killing, are evil geniuses…and that they are all male.
There are female serial killers, many of them. There are very well likely female serial killers operating today. Also, as often incorrectly cited Aileen Wuornos was not the first female serial killer in the United States. There were plenty of female serial killers before Wuornos. While Wuornos killed as many as seven men there are female serial killers throughout U.S. history that committed many more.
Below is a list of female serial killers in the U.S. you may not have heard of.
Jane Toppan (1854-1938)
Victim estimate: 31
Famously quoted as saying her goal was to “have killed more people,” Toppan was a nurse and killed her landlord, his wife, and dozens of patients whom she often experimented on, drugging them with various levels of morphine and atropine. It’s said she fondled her patients as they died, gaining sexual gratification from their deaths.
Bertha Gifford (1871-1951)
Victim estimate: 17
Found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental hospital, Gifford was accused of killing 17 with arsenic – a common household supply at the time.
Victim estimate: 11
Nannie Doss killed her five husbands, two of her sisters, two of her sister’s kids, a mother-in-law, and her own mother. She stirred in arsenic into family meals, coffee, and even their booze.
Genene Jones (1950 – )
Victim estimate: 60
Using injections of digoxin, heparin, and others, Jones is suspected of killing over 60 infants and children in her care in Texas. She is serving 99 years and is currently being held at the Lane Murray Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Cynthia (Cina) Pelayo
Cynthia (Cina) Pelayo is the author of Loteria, Santa Muerte, The Missing, and Poems of My Night. She blogs at cinapelayo.com