The holidays are supposed to be the jolliest time of the year, full of joyful memories, good tidings, and being surrounded by friends and family as you enjoy decadent feasts and open presents from loved ones.
But in some cases, Christmas can bring out the worst in people and present an opportunity for them to commit some of the most heinous crimes imaginable. From slaughtering loved ones at family gatherings to covering up missing persons and murder cases, the following incidents are proof that even the holidays aren’t exempt from brutality.
1. The Murder of JonBenét Ramsey
Over 20 years after her untimely death, the mystery behind who killed six-year-old beauty pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey still remains unsolved, with no clear motives.
New theories are constantly emerging regarding the circumstances of her death and the family’s involvement. Numerous TV specials, interviews, and documentaries have been released in the two decades since this case took the world by storm.
Many people have speculated that her parents and her brother, Burke, who was nine years old at the time, may have had something to do with it.
JonBenét’s body was discovered on December 25, 1996, in the basement of the family’s Boulder, Colorado home by her father, John Ramsey. Her mother, Patsy Ramsey, had reported her missing about eight hours prior, claiming she’d found a lengthy ransom note in the family’s home.
The autopsy report showed that the girl had been strangled to death and hit over the head numerous times.
While this is a cold case, the investigation’s still ongoing.
2. Double Homicide: The Murder of Minnie and Ed Maurin
This case went unsolved for nearly 30 years. Unlike the JonBenét Ramsey case, however, a conclusion was eventually reached.
On Christmas Eve 1985, the bodies of Edward “Ed” Maurin, 81, and Wilhelmina “Minnie” Maurin, 83, were discovered in a wooded area near Washington, D.C. They had been shot dead.
Family members had reported them missing on December 19, 1985.
In 2012, the case was finally closed as Ed and Minnie’s surviving children, who were around the same ages as their parents were when they were killed, watched one of the two killers being apprehended and brought to justice. Fifty-three-year-old Rick Riffe was arrested in Alaska and then extradited to Washington in 2012 for the trial. He committed this heinous crime alongside his now-deceased brother, John Riffe.
At the time of the murder, the pair was looking for a rich couple to rob. A friend of theirs suggested that the Maurins were the perfect target, because they were wealthy. Rick and John kidnapped the couple from their home, forced them to drive to the nearest bank and withdraw $8,500, and then shot them dead in their car and hid their bodies in a nearby wooded area.
3. Pregnant Woman Murdered by Drug Addict Partner
On Christmas 2016, West Yorkshire, England resident Nicola Woodman was brutally murdered by her drug addict boyfriend, James Hutchinson, in her own home. The mother of two’s body was discovered with 102 injuries, including knife stabbings, pick-ax wounds, and bruises all over.
In a drug-fueled rage, Hutchinson thought Woodman was cheating on him and that she’d been impregnated by another man. Judging by the pregnancy test that was found at the scene of the crime, it’s believed that the couple had just found out they were expecting. The attack lasted for about an hour before Woodman succumbed to her injuries.
This was not the first time Hutchinson had attacked his girlfriend in such a violent manner. Neighbors claimed that they’d witnessed Hutchinson dragging Woodman down the street by her hair and they’d been in an abusive relationship for a long time.
Once convicted, Hutchinson was sentenced to 23 years in prison for the murder.
4. Body Hidden under Christmas Presents
At this gruesome crime scene on December 2, 2011, 67-year-old Michele O’Dowd was found dead in her Florida home by her twin brother, Phil Axt.
O’Dowd had allowed her nephew’s ex-girlfriend, Patty Michelle White, who was considered a close family friend, to stay with her for a little while. White was down on her luck and needed money and a place to stay. She helped out with household chores and even did the grocery shopping for the two of them using O’Dowd’s debit and credit cards.
The murder was an act of desperation. White strangled and beat O’Dowd to death, then hid her body under the Christmas presents that were meant for the rest of the family before fleeing to her home state of South Carolina to stay with family there.
Axt went to check on his sister after she’d failed to show up for work one day. Upon entering her home, he saw that it had been ransacked and there was an empty bottle of alcohol near a pile of gifts. O’Dowd’s car and dog were still there.
He then noticed a foot sticking out from under the presents and slowly uncovered the corpse of his sister, which had already turned cold.
White was eventually pulled over while driving with her mother in South Carolina. She confessed to the murder.
She’d stolen O’Dowd’s credit and debit cards, withdrawing a total of $1,000 cash from two different ATMs. She was caught on camera at both of them.
Eventually, White was extradited back to Florida where she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
O’Dowd lived in a gated community where neighbors reportedly heard her screams on the day of her murder, yet not one of them bothered to call the police.
5. The Cardiologist’s Silver Hammer
On December 6, 1959, cardiologist Harold Perelson murdered his wife in the most grisly way imaginable: by bludgeoning her to death with a ball-peen hammer while she slept. Following that, he moved on to his eldest daughter Judye’s room and attempted to murder her in the same manner.
Though battered, Judye was able to escape and alert her neighbors as to what had happened.
The sound of her screaming awakened her two younger siblings, but Perelson couldn’t bring himself to kill them as well. He cradled them back to sleep and told them they were just having a terrible nightmare.
By the time the police arrived on the scene, Perelson had already swallowed a handful of pills and was dead.
According to urban legend, the Los Feliz home where the Perelson family lived was left untouched and uninhabited for over 50 years, with some believing that the unopened presents and all of the Christmas decorations remained completely intact.
6. The Gibbons Family Christmas
It was Christmas Eve 1881 in Kentucky, when three teenagers, siblings Robert and Fannie Gibbons along with their friend Emma Carico, were fast asleep at the Gibbons family home in anticipation of Christmas Day.
Multiple intruders broke into the Gibbons home, raped the two girls, and bludgeoned all three teenagers to death with a crowbar before setting the house ablaze to cover up their crimes.
Neighbors immediately saw the blazing fire and ran into the house to try to rescue the teens, but realized that their heads had been bashed in.
The three men who were found guilty of the crime were George Ellis, William Neal, and Ellis Craft. They’d confessed to the crime and were taken to jail to avoid being killed by a lynch mob. The latter two men were convicted and sentenced to a legal public hanging, but Ellis recanted his confession and was taken from jail and lynched by angry townsfolk.
7. Santa Claus Is Coming to…Murder
Christmas Day 2011, also known as the Texas Christmas Day Massacre, was a grisly scene.
Newly separated from his wife, Fatemeh Rahmati, 56-year-old Azizolah “Bob” Yazdanpanah dressed up as Santa Claus and showed up at his estranged spouse’s apartment.
He then proceeded to gun down his ex-wife, their two children, Nona Yazdanpanah, 19, and Ali Yazdanpanah, 14, and three of his wife’s family members who were gathered in the home.
At the time of the attack, the family was happily opening Christmas presents.
After killing all those people, Yazdanpanah killed himself with the same gun.
Friends and family members speculated that Bob, who had been unemployed for several years, was about upset about the breakup of his family and his inability to support them.