We all know of Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy—some of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century. These murderers have even inspired movies and TV shows based on their callous acts. Their victims suffered gruesome killings, and the public understood that although the killers might have faced psychological problems, they were still adults.
But what happens when the killers haven't even hit puberty? Murder can be an act so horrific and inconceivable that many of us fail to understand why someone would do it—some of us even forget that there is no age limit to becoming a killer. There are teens and youth who seek out their victims and take their lives brutally and violently, sometimes without remorse and in ways we can barely believe. From cooking a victim’s flesh and poisoning their family to stabbing their neighbors and killing for the “fun” of it, here are 15 killer kids whose stories will keep you up at night.
Accused of luring young boys into the local woods where he would then beat them with his fist, belt or a knife, Jesse Pomeroy is alleged to have killed nine people. He began to torture other children when he was only 11 years old. During the winter and fall of 1871, Pomeroy trapped and attacked seven younger boys. Pomeroy would strip and tie the boys up, severely beating them, sometimes even poking pins into their flesh. He had distinguishable features—a harelip and one completely white eye—so identifying him was easy. He was eventually caught and was sent to reform school; he was supposed to stay until he reached the age of 18 but was released after he completed a year and a half of his sentence.
Once released, Pomeroy didn't just want to inflict pain, he wanted to kill. The deaths that finally put him in prison were that of a 10-year-old girl—Mary Curran—from South Boston, found in his basement, and a four-year-old boy—Horace Mullen—found mutilated near a marsh. At the time of his arrest, Pomeroy was 14 and confessed to the murder of Mullen; when police asked him if he killed the boy, Pomeroy replied, "I suppose I did." Eventually, Pomeroy confessed to having a total of 27 other victims—police discovered the remains of 12 other bodies in his old home. When convicted of first-degree murder, Pomeroy, also known as “The Boston Boy Fiend”, became the youngest person convicted of first-degree murder in the state of Massachusetts.
It's really no surprise that Mary Bell turned out the way she did. Her mother was a 17-year-old prostitute when she had Mary and was often absent from their home during Mary's childhood. Betty Bell—Mary's mother—married Billy Bell although it is unclear if he was Mary's biological father. Billy was a habitual criminal often arrested for robbery. The Bell home was located in the economically depressed Scotswood area of Newcastle where domestic violence and criminal behavior were the norm. It's no surprise that Mary quickly began engaging in her own crimes: attacks on other children, vandalism, and theft. It didn't take long before Mary started searching for heavier crimes.
Mary Bell committed the first of two shocking murders on the day before her 11th birthday. In May of 1968, Mary strangled a four-year-old boy in a derelict house before leaving notes claiming responsibility in a nursery she and a friend had broken into. A month later and joined by that same friend, Mary strangled a three-year-old boy in the same area as the first killing. She returned to the body and carved an “M” into the boy’s stomach, along with scratching his legs and mutilating his genitals. Mary was convicted of manslaughter and released in 1980. She made headlines again after being released from prison and won a High Court battle to have her own anonymity and that of her daughter's extended for life. As a result, any court order that permanently protects the identity of someone is known as a "Mary Bell order".
Charles "Charlie" Starkweather was brought up in a respectable home with well-behaved siblings—he was the third of seven. In contrast, Starkweather's time in school was unpleasant because he was often teased and bullied for his limitations: he was born with genu varum (a leg disformity), a speech impediment, and also suffered from severe myopia. The only place he excelled was gym class, and he began to bulk up as a result. With his newfound physique, Starkweather transformed from bullied to bully and went from the most well-behaved teenager to the most troubled student. By 1956, 18-year-old Starkweather was introduced to Caril Ann Fugate, who was 13 at the time, and the two quickly hit it off. Gradually, Charlie convinced himself that he had to become a criminal in order to gain money and respect.
On December 1957, Charlie committed his first murder and at once felt euphoric and peaceful. The day after Charlie robbed and murdered his first victim, Robert Colvert, he admitted everything to Caril. This confession caused their bond to become even more intense. It would also lead to their mass-murdering road trip, Charlie—19 years old at this time—along with his 14-year-old girlfriend, carried out the two-month spree that inspired films like Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers.
The teens strangled, stabbed, sexually assaulted, and shot 11 different victims between December 1957 and January 1958 across the states of Nebraska and Wyoming, including his girlfriend’s family. The day of their final murder the duo ran into law enforcement, and Starkweather’s girlfriend confessed, resulting in their high-speed capture. Starkweather was sentenced to death by electric chair 17 months after he was arrested.
On February 20, 2009, the then 11-year-old Jordan Brown murdered his father’s 26-year-old fiancée Kenzie Houk, who was eight months pregnant at the time—her unborn son was also killed. While the soon-to-be mother was sleeping in her bed in their New Beaver, Pennsylvania farmhouse, Brown shot her in the back of the head using a gun given to him by his father. Houk’s youngest daughter alerted nearby adults to the situation after Brown had gotten on the school bus. Police arrived later that day to find a shotgun in the house with the smell of burnt gunpowder.
Jordan was interviewed by Pennsylvania State Police twice the day of the incident before being arrested the following morning. It was later confirmed that Houk was killed by a youth-model Harrington & Richardson 20-gauge shotgun. Prosecutors speculated that Brown killed his stepmother because he was angered by the pending birth of a new sibling and was jealous about the attention his stepsisters received. Initially, Brown was to be tried as an adult but was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder as a juvenile. In 2018, Brown was exonerated as the court determined that the evidence could have been planted by an unknown assailant, and thus was insufficient to find him culpable beyond a reasonable doubt.
Cindy Collier & Shirley Wolf
On the day that 14-year old Shirley Wolf helped murder a great-grandmother in her condominium, Wolf wrote in her journal: “Today, Cindy and I ran away and killed an old lady. It was lots of fun.” Wolf had known 15-year-old Cindy Collier less than a day when they decided to knock on various doors of Collier’s condominium development in Auburn, California. The girls used their innocent demeanor to their advantage in order to get in the apartments of older residents—they used tactics like asking for directions, a glass of water, or to use the phone. Some of the senior citizens were not fooled and felt an unsettling presence when they met the girls; after two older women saw the girls, they immediately locked their windows and doors.
However, the kind and helpful Anna Brackett—an 86-year-old former seamstress—decided to invite the girls into her two-bedroom condo, unaware that it would cost her her life. After Brackett let them in, they brutally stabbed her for her car. Wolf grabbed Brackett by the throat and threw her to floor, while Collier handed her a knife from the kitchen. Wolf repeatedly stabbed her neck until she was dead. Before they left, the girls ransacked the condo for money and the car keys. No one could believe that the teenage girls were responsible for the heinous act but when the Placer County sheriff's deputies interviewed Wolf, she confessed within minutes. Later, Collier affirmed, “...after we did it, we wanted to do another one. We just wanted to kill someone. Just for fun.” The two were found guilty of first-degree murder.
Leopold and Loeb
Nathan Leopold and his lover Richard Loeb confessed to the kidnap and murder of Bobby Franks which they claimed to have committed solely for the experience. Before that incident, Leopold and Loeb had racked up a laundry list of crimes. By November 1923, Leopold and Loeb had already performed several burglaries together and set fires a few times. Their criminal behavior was fueled by Nietzsche's concept of 'The Superman.' Leopold was furious that their misdeeds had yet to earn them media attention, so the two spent seven months planning a bigger crime that would prove they weren’t just above the law—they were too smart to get caught.
They spent the winter months of 1924 planning the crime to the smallest detail: They would kidnap a child and ask for a $10,000 ransom. They had even decided how they would request the money. The wealthy University of Chicago students eventually kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy in May 1924 as an affirmation of their intellectual supremacy.
The pair spent nearly two hours driving around the streets of the South Side of Chicago, looking for a possible victim until they spotted Bobby Franks. Franks was Loeb's cousin–he knew that Franks's father would be able to pay the ransom. After offering the boy a ride and taking a chisel to his head, they dumped his body. After a failed attempt to collect the ransom, a pair of glasses belonging to Leopold discovered near the body linked the murder to the boys. Leopold and Loeb were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison plus 99 years.
Fascinated with poison from a young age, Young would poison his father, step-mother, younger sister, several classmates, and at one point even himself. He used a poison that made them violently ill; the symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, and excruciating stomach pain. When he was only 14, in November 1961, Young served his sister Winifred a cup of tea exposed to poison that would later cause her hallucinations. She was taken to the hospital where doctors came to the conclusion that she had consumed the poisonous Atropa belladonna. Young's father was suspicious of his son, but unable to find anything incriminating in his room. Regardless, he warned his son to stop using chemicals.
Young eventually killed his stepmother, and after the 15-year-old was sent to a psychiatrist, the police were brought in. Young landed himself in a psychiatric facility for people who have committed criminal offenses and was diagnosed with a personality disorder. Dubbed the “Teacup Poisoner,” he killed a fellow inmate and poisoned several staff members before being released nine years later, deemed “fully recovered.” He would eventually land back in prison in the early 1970s to live out the rest of his days, after poisoning at least seven more people and killing one.
David Brom is known as a mass murderer, having killed nearly his entire family—parents, brother, and sister—with an axe on a February morning in 1988. The murders happened after Brom got into a fight with his father in their Minnesota home the night before. The morning after the murders, the 16-year-old skipped school and convinced a fellow student to as well, bragging to her about what he did in graphic detail. He detailed the ways he killed his family with an axe and the fact that his father had struggled during the attack. Brom informed the student that he had gotten into an argument with his father at about 11:30 P.M. over the music he was listening to. He then stayed awake until 3:00 a.m. and entered his parent's room and killed his father first. He attacked his brother and killed his mother and sister last.
The news reached his school’s administration, who notified police. Initially, Brom's case was referred to the juvenile court system because of his age. However, due to the severity of the crimes, Brom was sent into the adult judicial system. Brom's defense was insanity and much of the trial and media attention focused on whether or not Brom was legally insane at the time of his crimes. In October 1989, Brom was convicted of first-degree murder and was given three consecutive life sentences. He remains in prison to this day.
Robert Thompson and John Jon Venables
In February 1993, Thompson and Venables—both 10-years old at the time—were skipping school and decided to lure a young two-year-old boy away from his mom. CCTV showed the boys observing children, most likely searching for a victim. Throughout their time in the shopping center, the boys were also seen stealing various items: sweets, a troll doll, batteries, and a can of blue paint. Eventually the boys spotted James Bulger and decided to approach the boy while his mother was distracted. The boys led Bulger by the hand out of the mall where they planned to push him into oncoming traffic. However, the boys decided to travel two and half miles through Walton, Liverpool, to a set of railroad tracks.
During their walk through Liverpool, the boys were seen with Bulger by a total of 38 people—Bulger had a bump on his forehead and was crying, but bystanders did not intervene. Once they reached the railroad tracks, the boys stripped Bulger of his clothes, stuffed batteries into his mouth, threw paint in his eye and bricks and stones at his body, and dropped a 22-pound iron bar on him before weighing his body down on the tracks using rocks so a passing train would mutilate the boy’s body. The police used CCTV footage to track the two child murderers down, and the two boys were found guilty, becoming the youngest individuals to be convicted of murder in the 20th century.
When Eric Smith was younger, he was considered a loving and funny boy. That quickly changed as he got older. Smith had been diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder—a mental disorder that causes individuals to act out violently and unpredictably. It was a rare disorder that was even rarer at Smith's age. Smith was a loner and was often bullied because of his appearance, as he had protruding low-set ears, thick glasses, red hair, and freckles. It seems this led to Smith's suppressed rage later taken out on his victim: Derrick Robie.
At age 13, Eric Smith murdered Derrick Robie—a four-year-old boy—after luring him into the woods while they were on their way to the same summer camp. After luring the young boy into the woods, Smith hit him over the head with a rock, strangled him, and sodomized him with a tree limb, which Smith would later say he used to confirm the boy was dead. The body was found within hours after the little boy’s mother reported him missing. Within the same week, Smith confessed to his family. He was charged with second-degree murder and is currently in a medium security prison in New York State.
Craig Chandler Price
Known as the Warwick Slasher, Craig Chandler Price was arrested for four murders. Price killed his first victim when he was just 13 years old after breaking into her home, only two houses down from his own. He stabbed the 27-year-old woman living there 58 times with a kitchen knife. At the age of 15, he would brutally stab three more neighbors, a mother—Joan Heaton—nearly 40 and her two young daughters. With his first murder unsolved, Price was able to commit his second horrific crime. Similarities in the killings led police to bring in the FBI to investigate a possible serial killer. At first, tying Price to the scene seemed impossible–but then an observant detective noticed a cut on Price's hand.
When he was arrested, Price calmly confessed and showed no remorse for the killings. He even described the night he was in the Heatons' house, how he bit Heaton's face as he knifed her and mimicked the final cries of her dying daughters. He was sentenced as a minor and upon his potential release bragged he would “make history,” before earning an additional 10-25 years for various instances of criminal behavior while in prison. He will be in jail until at least 2020, when he will be 46.
This Canadian serial killer and child rapist showed signs of psychopathy at a young age. By the time he was a teenager, Woodcock was using his bike to wander around the edges of Toronto and select his victims. He would ride his bike and evolve a fantasy in which he led a gang of 500 invisible boys called the "Winchester Heights Gang." His foster parents were aware that he spent time wandering around on his bike, but were shocked to discover that Woodcock had been sexually assaulting children. He assaulted many children and would eventually kill three—all under the age of 10—between 1956 and 1957. The murders were carried out by strangulation. Woodcock would also beat his victims and forcibly insert objects into their privates before killing them.
He was caught after being seen cycling away from his last victim and found not guilty by reason of insanity. Woodcock would be sent to a maximum security mental health center. As he seemed less dangerous over time, the man was released to a lower level facility.
In that facility, Woodcock, now going by the name David Michael Krueger, fell in love with a fellow patient who rejected his sexual advances. While out on a weekend pass, Krueger convinced a former lover, Bruce Hamill, to help him kill that man. Hamill and Krueger stabbed Dennis Kerr to death. Immediately after the murder, Krueger reported himself to the police–he was transferred back to the high-security facility, where he passed away 19 years later.
This child killer from Jacksonville, Florida earned his life sentence for murdering an eight-year-old neighbor in 1998 when he was only 14 years old. Phillips alleges that he was home alone the day Maddie Clifton came over to play baseball. He agreed to play even though he was not allowed to have friends over when his parents weren't home. After he accidentally hit her in the eye with the ball, the young girl began to scream and cry loudly. Knowing that his father would arrive soon and fearing his reaction, Phillips pulled her into the house and strangled her with a phone cord for 15 minutes. He proceeded to hit her with a bat and then stuffed her body under his waterbed mattress.
Phillips interacted with his father upon his arrival home for a few minutes before returning to his room. Realizing that Clifton was still alive, he stabbed her 11 times to stop her moaning, which finally killed the young girl. He left her body underneath his bed. It was discovered by his mother, who thought the waterbed was leaking, but came to find it was the young girl’s decomposing body. She ran outside the house to contact police, who arrested Phillips the very same day at his school.
Sandy Charles is perhaps one of the most bizarre child murderers on the list. Charles, along with a young accomplice, murdered a seven-year-old boy after watching the horror movie Warlock. The film follows a warlock who drinks the liquefied fat of an unbaptized child to gain special powers. The killer teen stabbed and smothered his young victim in the woods only a few hundred yards from where he was staying with his grandmother in Sinotte Crescent, an isolated community in Canada.
After stabbing his victim, Charles beat the boy with a rock and a beer bottle, then proceeded to cut strips of fat and skin from the boy’s body. He then took the body parts home, cooked, and ate them, confessing that he thought drinking boiled-down fat from a virgin would give him the power to fly—as shown in the horror film. Charles was suffering bizarre delusions due to schizophrenia, only strengthened by his constant rewatching of Warlock and its sequel. He had contemplated suicide but decided against it when "spirits in the room" told him that he'd be better off killing someone else. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a psychiatric hospital.
In April of 2006, the bodies of Marc and Debra Richardson and their eight-year-old son were found in their home. The murderers were the Richardsons’ 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine, and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Steinke, who she had met at a punk rock show that same year. The two had an interest in dark horror and creatures like vampires. Steinke even claimed he was a 300-year-old vampire: He told friends he liked the taste of blood, and wore a small vial of blood around his neck. Richardsons' parents did not approve of Steinke and punished her for dating him because of the age difference.
The pair, who were deeply infatuated, refused to be separated–and so Richardson came up with a plan. She proposed the idea to kill her parents so she and Steinke could finally live together. Hours before the murder, the two had watched Natural Born Killers. During a conversation with an undercover cop while in police custody, Steinke said that the movie was “the best love story of all time.”
Richardson was found guilty of three counts of murder in the first-degree and sentenced to the maximum allowance for juveniles, 10 years. Steinke received three life sentences. It is believed that Richardson is the youngest person to be convicted of multiple murder in Canada. She was released after serving her full sentence in 2016. Reportedly, she has shown genuine remorse for her crimes.
Featured photo of Mary Bell: Alchetron