When you get married, you pretty much know what to expect: for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. You’re probably thinking OK, not every year is going to be in the black, perhaps they'll get the flu, but what about that third one?
In the cases below “for worse” is the worst thing you can imagine. From Paula Dietz and the BTK Killer to Carole Hoff and John Wayne Gacy, here are five people unknowingly married a murderer.
Annette Craver was only 15 when she met Felix Vail, who was in his early 40’s at the time. When she was 17, they married and left Houston to travel the country. A year later, the marriage was crumbling. Annette inherited $100,000, signed property over to Felix, and a few months later, she vanished.
Felix told Annette’s mother that she wanted to leave him and he put her on a bus to Mexico. Her mother Rose didn’t buy it and with good reason: Annette was not the first of Felix’s partners to die or disappear mysteriously. In 1962, Felix’ first wife, Mary Horton Vail, drowned after Felix claimed she fell from a boat and he was unable to save her. However, Mary’s body had bruising on the head and neck and she was found with a scarf in her mouth.
Related: Mr. Murder: 8 True Crime Books About Killer Husbands
In 1973, Felix’s girlfriend, Sharon Hensley, went missing after she was last seen with Felix. He claimed that she left him in Key West to travel the world with an Australian couple.
In 2016, Felix was finally brought to justice for the murder of Mary Horton Vail and is now serving life without parole. Annette and Sharon were never heard from again. Their families and friends grieve the loss of their loved one, but are certain that the man responsible for their disappearances is now behind bars.
Judith Mawson met her future husband, Gary Ridgway, at a Seattle bar in 1985. She was newly single after a failed marriage and Gary seemed perfect: he was handsome, polite, treated her well, and had a good job. She thought she won the lottery.
It wasn’t until they were married for 13 years that Judith found out her “perfect husband” was the Green River Killer and responsible for the murders of up to 70 women. Gary was arrested in 2001 after spending years targeting female runaways, prostitutes, and drug addicts, having sex with them, and then strangling them. Judith has since said she had absolutely no idea that her doting husband was a secretly a murderous monster.
Related: Gary Ridgway: The Green River Killer Who Evaded Capture for 20 Years
Judith cut all ties with Gary after he confessed. In 2007, author Pennie Morehead published Green River Killer: Biography of an Unsuspecting Wife, The book tells Judith's story and explores the dual lives led by Ridgway.
In May of 1971, Paula Dietz married Air Force veteran Dennis Rader. They lived in the small town of Park City, Kansas, and had two children. Paula was a bookkeeper and Dennis worked for reputable companies like ADT Security Services. Dennis was a Cub Scout leader and they were devout Lutherans. Their marriage seemed idyllic.
While not everyone may immediately recognize the name Dennis Rader, most are probably familiar with Rader's grisly nickname: the BTK Killer. Rader signed his taunting letters to the media and police with the acronym. It described his MO: Bind, Torture, Kill.
Related: Nightmare in Kansas: The Chilling Case of BTK Serial Killer Dennis Rader
Between 1974 and 1991, Rader murdered a family of four, stabbed a 21-year-old woman to death, and strangled a mother of four while her children were in the next room, among several other horrific murders.
When Dennis was finally caught and arrested in February of 2005, Paula was devastated. She fled the state, did not appear at his court hearings, and filed for an emergency divorce, which waived mandatory waiting periods. She is not in contact with Dennis and maintains a private life.
The Unknown First Reeves Wife
Details about the first wife of Jack Wayne Reeves are virtually unknown, except that she was 15, he was 18, and the marriage was annulled in 1960 after two years. What we do know is that she is a very lucky person who quite likely escaped the fate of his next three wives.
Jack and his second wife, Sharon Reeves, were married for 18 years and had two sons. Seventeen years into their marriage, Sharon filed for divorce. One week after the divorce was final, Sharon was found dead in her home from a shotgun wound to the chest. The death was initially ruled a suicide and it was believed she pulled the trigger with her toe. It wasn’t until 1994 that the death was reexamined and categorized as a homicide.
Related: The Tragic Murder of Author Helen Bailey
Jack’s third wife was Myong Reeves. They were married a few years before Myong drowned in a lake while on a camping trip with Jack. Myong’s sister was incredibly suspicious due to Myong’s strong aversion to water, but by the time she requested an autopsy, Jack already had Myong cremated.
Jack met his fourth wife, Emelita Reeves, through a mail order bride service when she was 18 and he was 46. When Emelita became pregnant, Jack sent her back to the Philippines because he didn’t believe the child was his. However, once he saw a photo of his son, he brought her back to the United States. Emelita told friends she planned to divorce Jack and was found dead shortly thereafter.
Jack was arrested for Sharon’s murder in 1995, less than six months after Emelita’s body was found. He was convicted for the murder of Sharon, then later for Emelita’s and is currently serving a combined 134 year prison sentence.
In the summer of 1972, Carole Hoff, a divorcee and mother of two, married a man named John Wayne Gacy. Gacy seemed a good person; he was liked by his neighbors, active in his community, and was about to launch his own construction business. Yet darkness lurked. Shortly before the marriage took place, Gacy was arrested for luring a young man into his car and assaulting the youth.
In the years that followed, Gacy lured a number of boys and young men into his home, where he would rape and murder them, then dispose of the bodies in his backyard or crawlspace—all while keeping up the appearance of a family man and good neighbor. Hoff and Gacy remained married until 1976, by which point their relationship had strained. She requested a divorce, Gacy agreed, and Hoff gathered her daughters and moved out of the home. After the divorce was final, Gacy went into overdrive, claiming a disturbing number of additional victims before finally being apprehended in December 1978.
Gussie Fava is the co-host of Married to Murder, a true crime comedy podcast that covers cases where couples kill together or each other. You can listen to Married to Murder on iTunes or Stitcher.
Featured photo: Alchetron; Additional photos: Unidentified Wiki; Find a Grave