They are supposed to be the people that bring us in to the world and swear to protect us from the ravages of life, but in these devastating accounts the parents are guilty of filicide—the murder of their own children. These eight true crime books about killer parents prove that sometimes evil knows no bounds … not even those of flesh and blood.
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Gang Mom, by Fred Rosen
Mary Louise Thompson may not have been the biological mother to the boy she murdered, but she was like a mother to many in the community. Known as “Gang Mom,” Thompson ran her own gang, which included her own son Beau, in an elaborate crime ring. Anyone who got in her way or didn’t live up to her expectations was collateral damage. In this account by true crime author Fred Rosen, Thompson would stop at nothing—even murder—to evade justice.
Mother’s Day, by Dennis McDougal
Unlike the other killer parents on this list, Theresa Cross Knorr enlisted the help of her other children to cover up the murder of their two sisters. Physically abusive and mentally deranged, Knorr shot her daughter Suesan and then attempted to cut out the bullet with a knife—infecting the wound. Unwilling to go to a hospital, Knorr drove out to the desert with her sons and set Suesan aflame. A year later, she beat her other daughter Sheila unconscious, then locked her in a closet to die. Finally, after nine years, her youngest daughter Terry went to the police. Mother’s Day by Dennis McDougal is proof of the most monstrous kind of evil.
Murder in Little Egypt, by Darcy O’Brien
Dr. Dale Cavaness was a much beloved physician in the community of Little Egypt, Illinois. But in 1984, he was charged with the murder of his son Sean. For many, the accusation was simply unbelievable. But the trial would reveal the dark side of Dr. Cavaness, who in fact had murdered not one, but two sons. His son Kevin would testify that Cavaness had shot and killed his brother Mark seven years earlier, which was ruled an accident at the time. The motive? Pure, unadulterated greed. Darcy O’Brien’s account of the trial and the dark secrets within is now a true crime classic.
Sleep, My Child, Forever, by John Coston
When Ellen Boehm’s two young sons died mysterious deaths, and her eight-year-old daughter nearly died after an accident involving a hair dryer and a bathtub, her neighbors wondered how she persevered through it all. But the local detective suspected something far more sinister. As it turned out Boehm had taken out hefty life insurance policies on all her children … with a murderous plan to collect. Journalist John Coston tells of this seriously evil mother and the one man who was determined to stop her before she struck again.
Dance with the Devil: A Memoir of Murder and Loss, by David Bagby
After Shirley Turner killed her ex-boyfriend, Andrew Bagby, and then found out that she was pregnant with his child, Andrew’s parents David and Kathleen did everything in their power to gain custody of the baby. But by that point Turner had fled to Canada. Over a period of nearly two years, a broken judicial system kept Turner out of jail. In 2003, she killed herself and the one-year old baby by jumping into the ocean. In this gut-wrenching memoir, Bagby’s harrowing story is a plea for the courts to do a better job of protecting its citizens … even from their own parents.
Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony, by Jeff Ashton with Lisa Pulitzer
Not since the O.J. Simpson trial has a verdict been so controversial. In 2008, when Casey Anthony’s mother Cindy had not seen the two-year-old daughter Caylee in 31 days, Cindy called 9-1-1. Caylee’s remains were eventually discovered near the family home. Casey’s erratic behavior, and her failure to report her daughter’s disappearance, all but assured the authorities (and the public) that she was guilty of murder. But the jury did not convict her, and Anthony walked free in 2011. Prosecutor Jeff Ashton gives an insider’s look into the trial that many believe acquitted a murdering mother.
If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children, by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris
When vivacious young mother Susan Powell went missing in 2009, the entire town of West Valley City, Utah, was deeply disturbed. Susan’s husband, Josh, became the prime suspect what police assumed was her murder. After years of no evidence (to this day, Susan’s remains have never been found), her parents were awarded custody of her two young sons in 2012. While on a supervised visit, Josh grabbed the two boys, murdered them, and killed himself. If I Can’t Have You investigates this horrifying crime that gripped the nation.
Are You There Alone? The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates, by Suzanna O’Malley
In this devastating account, the dangers of untreated mental illness are on full display through the case of Andrea Yates, who, suffering from postpartum depression, murdered all five of her children—all under the age of seven. (Mary, the youngest, was just six months old.) While researching Are You There Alone?, O’Malley followed the trial and had exclusive interviews with Randy, Andrea’s husband, and Andrea herself. Though Yates was initially sentenced to life in prison, upon appeal that conviction was overturned and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
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Mugshot of Andrea Yates: Murderpedia