It’s hard to look honestly at someone you know or love when there could be something seriously wrong with them. Everything is clearer in hindsight after all.
Here, 31 friends & family of murderers reveal what stood out in hindsight as s serious ‘Red Flag’. Check out the sources at the bottom for more.
1/31. I was once close friends with a murderer. He was charismatic, handsome, talented, and the life of a party. He had just moved to my state after being a surfer boy in West Virginia. He kind of had that weird peaceful hippie/surfer thing going on. Cute as a button. He liked to get drunk a lot (in hindsight it was far too often but he was barely 21 so me and all of his friends thought it just came with his new legal drinking status).He was an unpredictable drunk but it was mostly funny and playful- well, at first anyway. He would strip naked and run around and do silly dances. Honestly, he was so attractive and funny that people would tolerate his naked shenanigans at even the most “professional” of parties. (Granted we met through community theatre). Even though he was a little wild, he always seemed to have a heart of gold. He was the one to haul drunk people into backseats or put girls to bed. He would also talk any aggressive drunk down and befriend him. Again, the life of the party.
Ethan started dating one of my other really good friends, Kelly. They disappeared as most new couples do. When they finally came back to the parties there was a bit of an edge to him. He started drunkenly insulting Kelly and knocking things off counters. When he was confronted, he apologized but things were just a little strange with him. I was friends with Kelly and I always wondered if there was something abusive happening behind the scenes. She claimed there wasn’t but just something about them wasn’t right.
A month after my last encounter with him (still friendly and the life of the party) I get a facebook message from one of our former theatre directors with his mugshot. Ethan had gotten drunk and shot and killed his downstairs neighbor in front of his children. They had made a noise complaint against Ethan which he didn’t heed- they began doing the thing you do in apartments where you knock the ceiling with a broom. This apparently sent Ethan over the edge. He shot and killed the guy in front of his family.
2/31. Technically, my grandmother is a non-convicted murderer & it was not remotely unexpected to any of us. She grew up in a farming family, that provided known monetary support to the Klan, and with over 1000 acres, much of it woodland, they hosted multiple Klan events, and allowed them to hide out from the cops when the crackdowns began.
She is in her late 80s, incredibly racist, cruel, hateful, and frequently exhibits psychopathic symptoms by mocking the suffering of anyone she deems “inferior.”
A few years ago she was driving to a church meeting around sunset, and killed a 90 year old man, who was African American, by hitting him with her car, more than once. She claimed he was laying in the road, but that was clearly a lie, though he was walking in the middle of it, and that she thought he “was a trash bag.” Upon impact, she then backed up over him in her truck, with front and back tires. Obviously, he did not survive this.
Notably, she avoided ALL criminal charges, she even kept her license, yes, she is still driving to this day. She did, however, lose a civil case, and clearly said the following as she left the courtroom “Killing didn’t use to be so expensive.”
I am so sorry that all of this is a true story, growing up next to her was as terrible as you would expect, and I got out as soon as humanly possible.
3/31. Became pen pals with a bunk mate from camp. She stopped writing after a while. Turns out she butchered grandma in her sleep and had to go to juvie hall.
What I remember vividly is how needy she was during camp. Always needed you to smile or wave back at her. Guess her grandma didn’t feel like it one day.
4/31. My uncle shot a man and had his children help drag the body to the mud so the pigs could eat it.
I wouldn’t say there were huge red flags.. but he would have my cousins and aunt steal from us whenever they would visit. That would probably be a sign that his wife and children were to afraid to say no to him?
With that said, he was super nice to us and it was pretty shocking to find out what he did.
5/31. Here are things I knew about my father as a child: he got angry when drunk and was drunk as often as possible, and he tried to find any possible fault with anybody to start a fight, in particular he though my mother was always doing things behind his back. He regularly threatened to kill himself and also us — a gas explosion was one of his favourites, but he would also tie his belt around his neck
When he killed his oldest son (my half-brother) I certainly wasn’t surprised. I was and am sad about it, but not surprised.
6/31. My cousin killed one of his classmates some years ago. For some reason I’m super terrified anyone will know who I’m talking about, even though this happened in a small town in not-America, so here is the short version;
He always struggled socially, he did have some mental problems, and was for a year or so taken away from normal school and put into a special programme. Which he hated.
But about a full year prior to the murder, he changed a lot. He was in his adolescent years, and his eyes were opened to all the terrors out in the world, wars and such. It bothered him a lot. He would often talk about these kind of things, about recent mass murders and such, tragedies. He hated it, and he really wanted to do something. That’s why he killed, he needed to know what it was like. He wanted to go and fight terrorists as soon as he finished school. He knew a classmate who walked through the woods on his way home, so he hid and waited for him, and jumped out and stabbed him as he walked past. He said he panicked when the victim started screaming, so he stabbed him over and over and over again.
7/31. Not a relative, but I was an acquaintance of the victim and met their murderer several times. This girl I went to high school with always seemed nice and was super talented with the violin (this was an a performing arts school). We were never really friends, but I was close to a good friend of her’s.
Her mother was extremely psychotic, and had just divorced her husband. She would frequently talk about the apocalypse and various ways to kill herself, which definitely freaked me out. The mother didn’t seem to be super controlling or strict, but she was buying and hoarding pain medication. The one memory that really stands out to me is how she told my friend’s mother that she was planning on killing herself and her children to spite her husband. When Christmas break was over I heard about how she took a rifle and shot the girl, her brother, and herself… I was not surprised, but upset that none of us ever spoke up about the warning signs.
8/31. My younger brother snapped and killed my mother and himself. He also tried and failed to go after my sisters, who were in the house at the time.
In retrospect, our entire family suffers from some degree of mental disorder. He was the one who suffered the most from it, and in retrospect there were a lot of things that could have prevented what happened. Our dad ended up offing himself after he turned abusive towards our mom and she moved to get a divorce. We were all pretty young, and my brother was only 2 so he grew up without a father. Our mom always had to work to provide for all of us, so we were left to our own devices for the most part.
My sisters and I would always treat him pretty poorly, it started off as just being directed towards the youngest sibling, and grew from there into us always having a strained relationship. My youngest sister always got into spats with him, he or she would always instigate arguments with one another. In time he ended up growing isolated, and was always the odd one out. He was hard to get along with, and inherited our dad’s short temper and stubbornness.
When puberty hit, his mental health got worse. He became more and more argumentative, and he became louder and more threatening. At one point my mom ended up committing him to a children’s psych ward for a time. She was convinced that my father suffered from schizophrenia, and that my brother had inherited that. In retrospect, I think it was truly a combination of anxiety, depression, and ADHD, all exacerbated by his upbringing.
Some time passed, and at one point my mom found that someone had broke into our basement. Nothing was stolen, but that was incentive enough for her to purchase a gun for self-defense. I don’t remember the details, but at one point she gave him access to the key to the gun safe and forgot to take it back. One night he was being incredibly hard to deal with, she was at work and he was texting her and being [stupid]. She made the mistake of texting him flat out that she was going to have to commit him again. I still don’t know why she made that decision. He had said before he would kill himself before going back.
That night she went back home and everything was seemingly normal. At some point he brought the gun out of his room and shot and killed her in the kitchen. My sisters were headed upstairs and ran and hid in their rooms, locking the doors. He went upstairs to kill them as well, but tried and failed to shoot the locks (it was a .22 pistol, the door knobs were filled with holes, but he didn’t get in). I am still thankful that he gave up after failing to shoot them open, he could’ve have kicked open those doors with no trouble, but didn’t think to do so.
One sister escaped out of her window, but slipped on her way off the roof and broke her back, leaving her as a paraplegic. The other waited things out in her room until it was safe to leave and escape through the other sister’s bedroom. The police were already there at that point and brought her a ladder to get down safely.
In the meantime, my brother had gone and shot himself in the bathroom. After some time, the SWAT team threw tear gas grenades through most of the windows and then breached the house, finding the bodies and bringing a close to the night’s violence.
9/31. My cousin always had problems. His mother abandoned him for several years when he was young and his father was old school “spare the rod, spoil the child” in a borderline abusive way. He got into drugs very early and showed signs of psychosis as early as his late teens after he began using PCP. He began to talk about scenarios like he was the reincarnation of our dead grandfather’s soul and he was going to come “collect” our still living grandmother. When he began doing meth he stole from his mother and stepfather. When I was 14 he gave me acid and told me it was just like weed (I was a sheltered kid). He was never violent, but super inappropriate with boundaries like breaking into family members’ houses without asking while they weren’t home and just chilling there and other strange things like that. He rarely held down a job for more than a few months.
He cleaned up, had a baby, and got some health care a year or two back. We thought he was doing better, but he relapsed on meth and shot into a car with 6 people in it. He killed one woman and injured 3.
10/31. My aunt killed three people. Two were strangers that tried to [assault her, with one being successful, and the other was her brother.
She was always super aggressive and had strong views when it came to violence against people. For example, she used to always say she didn’t understand why people fight or are surprised when one dies, because it’s an automatic life or death scenario and one has to win. She also had ticks, like whenever you woke her up or surprised her, she would have her fists balled and be in a fight stance. One time, she sucker punched me with the force of the gods and that was the last time I woke her up within six feet. I used to think her views on death were a bit funny, because she was so nonchalant and even got kinda pissy when people asked her why she wasn’t emotional after some funerals of close friends and relatives.
11/31. My boyfriend’s dad murdered his mom 10 years ago while my boyfriend and his brother were in the home.
No red flags or signs, they were just going through a divorce and had an argument. She stabbed him with a kitchen knife, and he snapped and killed her with a samurai sword that they had on display in the home.
My boyfriend and his brother don’t blame or hate their dad. They believe both parents were in the wrong. Ultimately, his dad didn’t get charged for murder. He got a manslaughter charge, I believe. He is getting out this year after serving 10 years.
12/31. A high school acquaintance’s dad came home one day and killed his wife then shot himself on the front lawn. I heard the gunshots. I had met the dad maybe once or twice prior and you could tell he just wasn’t all there… He was, idk, twitchy? Like when he was contemplating something his eyes would bug out of his head and dart all over the room instead of just staring off into space like the majority of people do. When you asked him a question it would be like you were startling him. He acted a lot like a tweeker but we knew he didn’t do drugs.
Thinking back on it now, the warning signs were all there. The mom/wife was always quiet, never made eye contact with anyone. The kids lied constantly about stupid stuff at school just to get someone to pay attention to them for a little bit. From what I’ve heard they’re doing better now.
13/31. My dad’s maternal grandmother shot her husband in the forehead with a .22 long before I was born. Warning signs were her having bruises and the occasional broken bone. Apparently one day she was just waiting with the gun for him to get home all [drunk]. Fun fact, the round didn’t fully penetrate for whatever reason, so he ended up being in the hospital for a couple of days before he finally died. She ended up spending some time in the funny farm, and ended up baby sitting me when I was 3 or 4 years old. Upon asking my dad if that didn’t seem a little weird to him, he replied “Nah, she loved you to death, she wasn’t gonna hurt you… and nobody else was going to either”, with a weird little cackle afterwards.
14/31. My uncle murdered his wife while the kids were in the house. He shot her, cut her in half, then killed himself. There were a few signs. Every time I visited them, you could tell he was having trouble with my aunt. They were always so passive-aggressive with each other. They took turns being the aggressor in their arguments, but I never suspected that he would murder her. They also had really loud sex. I found out later they were into BDSM, but surprisingly, he was usually the submissive one according to their friends.
15/31. I remember swimming pool races with my two young and sweet distant cousins years ago at a family reunion. We hung out all night and even though my memory is horrible at best, I still remember what they looked like so vividly. Two weeks later they were murdered by their mother, a woman who was close with my mother. I didn’t find out until years later when I found newspaper clippings in my parents closet but I somehow knew instantly who they were describing. There were no “red flags”, there was no hint that she was ever mentally I’ll. It seems to me that the absolutely worst murders are committed by the ones you never suspect it from
16/31. My paternal grandparents died in a murder-suicide. My grandfather shot my grandmother in their kitchen and then went outside and hung himself on a tree, and my father discovered them when he got home from school.
This all happened before I was born and my father’s side of the family wasn’t involved in my life until I was an adult (my mom divorced him when I was little and I never met him/talked to him, didn’t hear from my half-siblings and other people on that side until I was 18). I first heard about this from my mother when I was probably about 13, she told me that my father told her this but that she didn’t know whether or not it was true (my dad, apparently, was a compulsive liar) but when I got in touch with my half-sibling and my father’s siblings later on they confirmed it. This happened in the late 1950s. According to them my grandfather was always a very moody person. He would go days at a time not speaking to anyone and doing nothing but drinking alone, he hated it when anyone would try to bother him or talk to him. My grandmother was very meek, a bit of a shut-in, and while she was more affectionate to the family than my grandfather she also pretty much kept to herself and didn’t do anything more than she had to for the kids. My father’s siblings told me that there was domestic violence in their relationship, that the most emotion they ever saw my grandfather show was when he was screaming at/hitting my grandmother, that she would try to get him to eat dinner or ask him for money to go grocery shopping or something small and he’d just snap, grab her and shake her, and start screaming at her about why she wouldn’t just leave him alone.
The day this happened my father’s siblings told me was very strange. My grandfather joined them for breakfast before it was time for them to go to school which was totally odd because he never ate meals with them and they remember very specifically that he thanked my grandmother when she put his plate down and then walked with them to the bus stop and watched them get on the bus, waving at them as it left. They’ve told me that that’s what they remember the most about that day, how nice and attentive he was, because it was so out of the ordinary.
They’ve all said that they think he already knew what he was going to do that morning when they left for school. One of my father’s sisters has told me that it wasn’t even shocking that he would kill himself or their mother and that the only thing surprising about it was that she never thought he’d shoot her (there was apparently some confusion about it because none of them even knew that he owned a gun), and that she always thought he’d end up strangling her to death or going too far while he was shaking her and ‘bash her head into a wall or something’.
17/31. A girl I was really good friends with in high school with recently murdered her newborn. She was pregnant with her second child and never went to the doctor while pregnant. Gave birth in her house and then smothered the girl immediately after she was born. Took the baby in a trash bag to the hospital and said she was still born, but after questioning she admitted to the smothering.
The worst part is that there weren’t red flags. In high school she was always putting herself down, saying she had an ugly face and she was too skinny and that no one would ever love her, but to a certain extent that’s just normal high-school girl [stuff]. Her mom always put a way higher priority on finding a new husband than on taking care of her kids though, so maybe she got it from her.
18/31. A relative of mine killed her abusive boyfriend when she was 17; he was much older and would do drugs and beat her all the time. She eventually shot him while defending herself.
He deserved it and she didn’t get any time because it was self defense. In terms of personality, she’s always been a little strange and fairly self-centered, I imagine the years of drug use and trauma didn’t help.
19/31. Not a relative but a guy a school. He was a couple of years older than me and our social circles would cross now and again. Even as a 14 year old, before I worked in mental health, I knew there was something off with him. One summer holidays someone blew up the science labs a school. No one was charged but we knew it was him. Fast forward a few years and a new tenant in a house he used to rent complained to the landlord about a stain in the ceiling and wall. On investigation they found this guys ex-girlfriend cut up in pieces wrapped in plastic bags in the attic. That [guy] is now serving life.
20/31. When my bipolar Aunt started going to a new church and they convinced her that God will fix everything and she doesn’t need medication so she stopped taking her meds. Shortly after that she killed her sister in her sleep with an ice pick because she thought she was the antichrist.
21/31. My brother was involved in a murder and just finished his sentence last year. He acquired an addiction to meth around the time he turned 30; by that time he had owned a home, multiple vehicles, had a very successful life, but you know the story and he lost everything. There were no red flags beforehand, but it was a spur of the moment thing so I guess there might not be, but from the time of the murder until he was arrested he was a different man. You could tell something inside him snapped; the tenuous grip he had on reality withered away to nothing and he was as “far out there” as I’ve ever seen anyone (it should be worth noting that none of us knew anything about the murder until after he was arrested, which was a little over a year after the murder took place).
I’m glad he was arrested and sentenced to do serious time because it saved his life; at the pace he was on I doubt he would’ve lasted another six months.
22/31. My grandfather died and my grandmother remarried a pretty great guy, Ron. Ron had a brother, Robert.
Ron and my grandmother lived in Louisiana and we’d frequently drive down there to visit them for Thanksgiving. My father, Ron, and Robert would go duck hunting and we’d dig up some crayfish.
We played hide and seek with Robert for awhile while dinner was being cooked. I sat and talked with him about my life view as an 11-year-old. We ate dinner, drove back home, no issues.
During the same time period, he picked up a drifter, killed her, and threw her body off a bridge. He eventually was caught and the family was devastated. They tried him for two murders, but he confessed as many as 48. Reading through his confessions and the case is terrifying. There were times he came to visit while we all lived in Colorado Springs and he killed people. He even sent letters to the police.
The truth is, nobody could tell. There was no telling sign. As a kid, nothing seemed off about him. Even his own brother was shocked.
23/31. My cousin killed three guys. Got into a fight with two guys at a bar and somehow managed to kill both of them. They were all drunk and I know he served time in prison for it. About 2 years after he got out, he couldn’t get a job and resorted to thieving. He shot a cop who was trying to arrest/stop him from stealing from a train depot.
Growing up, we were real close. He was a normal kid, never hurt animals, never reveled in doing bad things. He wasn’t a bully at school, he didn’t throw his weight around. He wasn’t cocky or narcissistic and I honestly never got a single red flag from him all of our childhood.
Once we grew up, we drifted apart, but we kept in touch and I never had any bad memories of him. He liked Lost and thought it was a fun show. His wife was nice and was OBSESSED with Lost and my cousin. I went over there multiple times and they seemed very functional. I never once felt any signs that things were off. They had healthy and nice kids together.
The bar fight incident, as far as I know, was a disagreement between three drunk people that ended unfortunately. He told me, after getting out, that it was an accident and he never meant to hurt anyone like that. He was just defending himself. But I noticed after getting out that things had changed in him. He wasn’t mean or violent, but no one wanted to hire him.
He had issues with jobs and I know his home life WAS a bit stressfull because of it. His wife and kids still loved him, they didn’t divorce and I still stand by that they were a good couple and truly loved each other.
I think the first two guys was just a mistake. I think the third guy was an unfortunate event that culminated when he couldn’t find a job or make money and wasn’t going to risk being caught again. I think he made a decision where it was his life going back to jail or the officer who had seen him and was trying to apprehend him.
24/31. I knew my cousin would eventually kill somebody, he started running with the latin kings when he was a kid and always in to some illegal [stuff].
He ended up killing a cop when he was pulled over with a pound of meth, shot him 4 times killing him on the spot, they caught up to him 8 hours later and shot him 8 times and is now doing life in oak park prison.
25/31. My grandmother and grandfather raised their kids in a small town in New England, like three stop lights, everyone knows eachother, etc. One morning, middle of winter, this teenage girl, maybe 19? was found on the church lawn, naked, half frozen to death, and had been drugged and raped. The police said they couldn’t do much because of lack of evidence but some men in the town, including my grandfather, knew it was her abusive, creepy ex who was a couple years older. They tried to get the police to do something about it but they kind of just shrugged his shoulders. And then the guy just, disappeared, middle of the night. His house looked untouched, there was nothing missing, including his car keys and such. My grandmother said my grandfather went out that night with some friends and she and the other wives were sure that they killed him and destroyed the body. No one’s ever asked him about it. The police didn’t even really raise concern because there was no evidence and it meant they didn’t have to deal with the rape.
26/31. I used to go to church with this guy and we spoke a few times. My mom was best friends with his mom. The dude always seemed real chill and average you know. Then one day I get a call from my mom saying he beat his grandmother to death with a microwave, called his mother, told her that he “killed your mother” and said “you’re next”. Then sat there knowing the police were coming for him. He was sitting there waiting for them to arrive and just gave himself up without a fight.
Turns out he was schizophrenic and had been off his meds for a while. Apparently there were some serious family issues going on under the scene. Crazy thing is, he made no excuses for his actions. He straight up says that he was in his right mind when he did it. His mother still goes to see him from time to time. It blew my mind because I met the grandmother once. I was just shocked to find out what had happened.
27/31. I knew a guy who shot his adoptive father in a fit of rage.
In school I remember he dated 3 girls I know, and all of them broke up with him because he was aggressive and clingy. He was also the “bad-boy”, definitely was doing drugs, dressed very poorly, that sort of thing.
Everyone kind of distanced themselves from him, but never thought he’d kill somebody.
28. Not relative but a “fraternity brother”. Every now and then we have brothers from like 30 or 40 years ago show up and they take people out to dinner and see what the house is up to, we love it whenever an oldie comes around and tells us crazy college stories. This one guy started coming around, I’ll call him Dennis, and he was always a bit…weird. Nothing jarring, just a bit off. He was regional VP or something for Hewlett-Packard and gave us private seminars on career building and management. As odd as he was, we figured he is pretty successful, and it’s a great way for college kids to learn how to apply their skills. One of the undergrads started his own business during school, and Dennis was mentoring him in business strategies. Okay so far.
One day one of the older alumni, from the 90s, comes over and finds out that Dennis has been coming by and getting close with some people. He tells us that he remembers there being something weird about Dennis, and that he’s not sure exactly what but he isn’t who he seems he is, and that if somebody older comes by we should ask them. A few months later we have an event that we invited older grads to. We told someone who graduated in the 70s about Dennis coming around. His face dropped and he said “My advice is to stay away from him. For one, he lied about being a brother. He isn’t, he’s some guy who used to hang out here a bit and most of us hated him.”
A couple months later we see in the news that he’d been arrested for murder. He went to see his brother, who he hadn’t spoken to in 15+ years, and beat him, stabbed him over 70 times, cut his limbs and head off, and stuffed him in the basement. All over a money disagreement.
29. It’s true when Al Pacino tells his buddy Manny that “The eyes, Chico. They never lie.” I worked at a pizza joint for a boss who was a jackass. In fact, I nicknamed him, “Jackass John” behind his back. He was just a jerk to me and I think didn’t like the fact that my Dad (who also worked there) was buddies with the General Manager. Anyway, Jack always had the most unusual eyes in that when I spoke to him, I could see them “glitter” or “twinkle.” As if there was something behind those eyes. Only one other person in my life has had the same eyes, and yes, even that second person was eventually flushed out as a criminal although not a murderer. John and I parted ways after I worked at that pizza place and years later I saw him on the news being led away in handcuffs and accused of murder. He was also accused of making away with tens of thousands of dollars from a business.
30. My uncle was always a loner growing up – apparently he had been in the army at some point and was discharged because he was mentally unstable (not sure on the whole story) he basically ended up living with my grandparents most his life into his 40’s and never worked. He used to be my favourite uncle until he smacked me one Christmas when I was playing – after that I quit speaking to him as he was mostly outcast from the family by choice.
A few years later my dad calls to tell me that he wanted me to hear the news before I read it – my uncle had taken a very large walking stick and repeatedly beat his girlfriend with the stick – he then called the police and told them he had a dead body in his apartment. The police later reported her body had the trauma equal to being hit by a train. He was sitting at the kitchen table when they got there and repeatedly yelled “I finally got her” as he was taken away. Never spoke to him again though I hear he’s looking pretty rough with his life sentence.
Scariest part is he went to my grandmas house first and tried to pin her inside that Night but she could tell something was off and started walking down the street where all the neighbours could see her. Pretty sure she was his real target.
31/31. I had a young friend who would often make rage induced threats over very little (losing in a video game, not getting “his share”…), but usually with no follow through. The threats weren’t out of the norm for the rest of his family either. It was something he was steeped in, and experienced regularly from other family members.
Then, one day, it happened. He killed another family member over something extremely trivial. It still puts a pit in my stomach some 15 years later.