Six women who had no idea they were married to serial killers
We like to think we know our nearest and dearest better than anyone else. However, the truth is you never know exactly what is going on in someone's head - or what they do when you're not there. While we love to believe that the people we hold dearest to us are inherently incapable of evil, the fact of the matter is that we're often wrong. This is exactly what happened in the cases of many women who had no idea they were married to serial killers.
Discovering that a loved one had committed an unspeakable crime is difficult to comprehend. Nonetheless, when these women looked back, they discovered that the warning signs were there all along. Their stories of living side-by-side with complete monsters raise the disturbing question of whether we really know anyone around us - even those who we sleep next to at night.
Paula Rader's husband Dennis was an expert at living a double life: half of the time a family man, the other half a sadistic murderer who named himself the BTK killer (an acronym for his method of binding, torturing and killing his victims). However, that doesn't mean there were not strange and unexplainable incidents that should have set alarm bells ringing. Perhaps the most unbelievable sign was the time Paula discovered a rough draft of a poem Rader had written about killing his sixth victim Shirley Vian Relford. When she questioned him about it, Dennis, who was at large between 1974 and 1991, claimed that it was an assignment for a university class he was taking. Later he mailed the same poem, dubbed "Shirleylocks" to police as a taunt; news agencies regularly published the BTK notes and allegedly at one point, Paula even told her husband that his poor spelling was just like the serial killer's. She also most likely heard his voice on the news when he left a 911 message to inform police about one of his murders. Dennis would go on to murder 10 people before police linked his DNA to samples taken from his victims.
American serial killer Robert Lee Yates, who murdered at least 13 prostitutes from 1996 to 1998, is currently on death row at in Washington State Penitentiary. But before he was sent down for his crimes, he was known as the loving husband of Linda Yates. Although Linda had no idea of her partner's true identity, there were plenty of warning signs. But when Linda saw charges on their bank statement for pay-by-the-hour motels and noticed that he used to come home late from work, covered in dirt and smelling funny, her first thought wasn't that he was travelling to rural locations and dumping women's bodies, but instead that he was having an affair. Other out-of-character or worrying behaviour included when Linda found a blood stain in the back of the car, when Robert made a hole in the attic so he could watch their neighbours have sex and that whenever Linda met his friends, they never seemed to know she existed. At the end of her tether, but not wanting to break up the family, Linda stayed with her husband until the police called to tell her they had found a body in her back yard.
When her 13-year-old son found a skull on the family property, Julie Baumeister knew something wasn't right. However, when she asked her husband Herb if he knew anything about it, he claimed that the bones belonged to a medical school skeleton owned by his late father - and she believed him, not suspecting for a second that he was the killer of up to 20 people in the Indiana and Ohio areas in the 1980s and 1990s. The bones quickly disappeared from the garden and Julie assumed that animals had carried them off. However, Herb's behaviour became more erratic as time went on, with him having bizarre mood swings and telling his wife that authorities were falsely accusing him of theft and not to let police into the house. When police were finally let in to search the property, they found the remains of 11 men. Herb committed suicide before he could be arrested and was never made accountable for his crimes.
Elena Popkova never suspected a thing - even after her husband, Siberian serial killer and rapist Mikhail Popkov, confessed to his reign of terror designed to "cleanse the streets of prostitutes". During the couple's 28 years of marriage, Mikhail murdered 22 women, attacking his victims with axes, knives or screwdrivers and even carving the heart of one of the women and beheading another. However, even after he was arrested and admitted his horrific crimes to the police in 2015, Elena refused to believe him, dismissing claims against him as "fairy tales". Her husband is currently serving life, but Elena reportedly insists that he has told her he is innocent and is fighting for a shorter sentence for him. She told the Siberian Times: "If I suspected something wrong, of course, I would divorce with him. I support him, I believe him."
Judith Mawson claimed that she had absolutely no idea that she was married to the infamous Green River Serial Killer, who was active from 1982 to 2001 and eventually convicted of 48 separate murders (yet is still believed to be responsible for more than 90). Describing husband Gary Ridgway as "the perfect husband", Judith insisted that there were no warning signs at all and said that in the 13 years they were married, the couple lived a normal life, going to work in the week and on camping trips on the weekend. The only slightly odd incident was the first time she visited his house when they were dating to find that there was no carpet, only a mattress and box springs on the bare floor. However, when Gary explained that his tenants had destroyed the carpets and an ex-girlfriend had taken the bed back, Judith believed him straight away. Why wouldn't you believe him really? It seems strange to jump to the conclusion that the nice cute guy you are crushing on had removed the carpet and bed because they had blood stains of his murder victims on. It was only when police turned up at her door one chilly November morning that Judith realised that her life with her "perfect" husband - who would strangle women and dump their bodies in the forest, often returning to have sex with their corpses - was all one big lie.
Jerome Brudos, or "The Lust Killer" as he was known, had some weird habits that should probably have raised some suspicion in his wife, Darcie. Allegedly, Darcie was not allowed to go into their attic or garage without first announcing her presence on an intercom (due to the fact that her husband could often be found suspending girls from hooks in the ceiling, sexually abusing them and strangling them to death). She accepted that her husband enjoyed cross-dressing, which sounds fine in itself, but unknown to her, he was using the clothes of his victims. However, perhaps the number one clue came when Jerome returned home with a real human female breast which had been made into a paperweight. Nonetheless, Darcie apparently knew nothing until her husband was arrested in 1969 after a fisherman found bodies in the Long Tom River.
When we think of serial killers, we automatically think of their victims whose lives are cut short in the most horrific way possible, as well as the families who must continue life without them. However, we must remember that there are always other victims in these incidents, namely the families who must live knowing that their relative committed the worst acts imaginable. In related news, there's now an algorithm which catches serial killers, but police aren't listening.
Featured illustration by Egarcigu