Chocolates, teddy bears, shiny heart-shaped balloons. Valentine’s Day is upon us and the lovey-dovey signs are everywhere.
But sometimes love has a dark side.
Whether you’re single, committed, or somewhere in between, these lethal liaisons are sure to make you grateful for your love life. Revisit the deadly romances below, then call up your sweetheart just to say I love you.
Ruth Snyder and Henry Judd Gray: A Blunderful Plan for Murder
Ruth Snyder wanted out of her marriage by any means necessary. When Ruth’s husband Albert refused to move on from the untimely death of his former fiancée—even insisting on hanging a portrait of her in the living room—Ruth felt, perhaps justifiably, spurned. So she struck up a relationship with a salesman by the name of Henry Judd Gray. Soon the illicit lovers transformed into murderous coconspirators. With what the two believed to be a flawless plan, Ruth convinced Albert to take out a hefty life insurance policy. Then, on the agreed upon night, Henry snuck into the couple’s house. When the lights were turned out, he attacked Albert with a window sash weight. The target did not go down easily, and what was to be a quick killing turned into a blood-spattered brawl that ended in Albert’s messy death. Ruth and Henry came out as the winners of the fight … until the cops showed up. Arrests were made, and the doomed couple was tried and convicted for first-degree murder. They were executed on January 12, 1928 in Sing Sing prison—where Ruth was the first woman to be put to death since 1899.
Martha Ann Freeman: The cuckolding and murder of Jeffrey Freeman
Martha Ann Freeman’s 2005 slaying of her husband Jeffrey in Brentwood, Tennessee is strangely similar to Ruth and Albert’s, with one bizarre twist. Their marriage was strained, and so Martha turned to the party scene to forget about the worries of her husband. One of her illicit suitors, Rafael Dejesus Rocha-Perez, turned into more than just a one-night stand—he became a secret roommate. Martha hid Rafael Dejesus Rocha-Perez in a closet for a month while husband Jeffrey still lived in the house. The resident lovers plotted and eventually attempted to kill Martha’s husband. The murder went south, of course, resulting in an epic struggle between the two men that ended in Jeffrey’s death. Later, as police searched the scene, they found the hidden living space where Rocha-Perez had been sleeping. At first, only the boyfriend was convicted in the murder; eventually, however, as with Ruth and Judd, both parties were implicated and sent to prison.
Sahel Kazemi and Steve McNair: Jealousy Takes Over
Here’s another Tennessee murder, this time at the hands of a cash-strapped 20-year-old mistress jealous of her football player beau. Steve McNair played professionally for the Houston Oilers / Tennessee Oilers / Tennessee Titans (same team, different names). He also played for the Baltimore Ravens. After 13 seasons, McNair had a 174-touchdown career. Yet his fame and success had a dark side. In a passionate murder-suicide, his young mistress Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi shot McNair four times before turning the gun to her own temple on July 4, 2009. It would be said that Kazemi was struggling financially, and suspected her lover had taken on an additional extramarital affair.
Edward Shue and Zona Heaster: A husband hides his wife’s broken neck
Women aren’t the only ones guilty of ending marriages with murder. Husband Edward Shue secretly killed his wife Elva “Zona” Heaster in 1897, telling authorities that she had died of “female complications.” Full autopsies were rarely conducted at the time; especially when a grieving husband showed such obvious protection over his deceased wife’s corpse. At the wake, Edward was careful to hold his wife’s head still; her neck was adorned with a scarf. It was only after her burial that Zona’s mother (pictured above left)—having never liked her son-in-law, and suspecting foul play all along—claimed to have seen the ghost of her daughter, whose neck was clearly broken, and who told her of the murder. The grief-stricken mother raised enough doubt to have the body exhumed. A complete autopsy was performed. They found, of course, that Zona’s neck had been broken, with ligaments severed in her throat. Hubby Shue was charged with the murder and found guilty in July 1897. He was sentenced to life.
Brynn and Phil Hartman: Drug Addiction Leads to Murder-Suicide
Photo via WireImage.com / IMDB
In 1998, a murder-suicide ended the marriage of comedian Phil Hartman and his wife Brynn, after Brynn shot her husband and then turned the gun on herself. The married couple—seemingly happy with two kids—had been struggling for some time, due largely to Brynn’s drug addiction. On the evening of the murder, she came home intoxicated, triggering an argument about her addiction. Hartman gave his wife an ultimatum: either she quit using, or he would leave. Brynn waited for Phil to go to bed, then entered their bedroom and shot him three times. What makes her story doubly unsettling is that Brynn went to the house of a friend after the killing, confessing to what she had done. The acquaintance didn’t believe her, and offered to escort Brynn home, the two driving in separate cars. Upon arrival, the acquaintace realized the severity of the situation and called the police. By the time they arrived, Brynn had locked herself in the bedroom, committing suicide a short while later.
Clara and David Harris: A Suburban Murder
Orthodontist David Harris’s murder by wife Clara is a story that involves no small amount of bizarreness. Clara, suspecting David of an affair with the secretary of their co-owned business, had her husband followed by a private investigation agency. On the night of July 24, 2002, the agency alerted Clara that her husband and his mistress had checked into a hotel in Nassau Bay—the very same hotel where the couple had gotten married ten years earlier. In a fury, Clara grabbed her 16-year-old stepdaughter and tore off to the hotel in her Mercedes. Arriving at the hotel, the enraged wife first entered and attacked her husband’s new lover. Sadly, the night didn’t end there. Returning to her vehicle—and with her husband’s daughter still in the car—Clara waited until her husband came out into the parking lot, at which point she barreled into him with their Mercedes-Benz. The attacker ran over her husband’s body three times while her stepdaughter pleaded for her to stop, giving ample proof to the prosecutor’s assertion of “wanting to hurt him.” Clara maintained that it had been a “crime of passion.” The suspect was sentenced to 20 years in jail for first-degree murder, with a fine of $10,000.
Mary Ann Cotton: England’s prolific husband-killer
To round off this list, we end with Mary Ann Cotton, who killed not one, not two, but four husbands and lovers. She also likely murdered eleven of her own children, her mother, and possibly a few bystanders. With a nearly twenty-year killing spree that stretched across the mid-1800s, Mary Ann became known as the England’s first female serial killer. She had a nasty pattern of finding a husband, ensuring a hefty life-insurance payout, and “nursing” him to his death. Sometimes she took out his or her own children, if they became obstacles in the way of her lifestyle. Despite hindsight’s clarity on Mary Ann’s obvious killing pattern, it took authorities years to finally realize her crimes, at which point it was believed that Cotton claimed at least 19 lives. She was charged, put to trial, and sentenced to death by hanging in 1873. The execution transpired but it was botched; the murderess ultimately died of choking as she hung.
Photos (in order): Murderpedia and Wikimedia Commons; Wikimedia Commons and Murderpedia; Wikimedia Commons; WireImage.com / IMDB; Wikimedia Commons