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.
8. The Lawson Family Christmas Day Massacre
One of the weirdest Christmas mass murders to come out of the 20th century is the Lawson Family Christmas Day Massacre, which took place in 1929.
The Lawsons were a working class family, so it was strange for a family of their limited means to purchase fine clothes and take a family portrait shortly before Christmas. This was an activity reserved for wealthier families.
Family patriarch Charlie Lawson’s odd behavior precipitated him violently killing nearly his entire family on Christmas Day.
He began with his two daughters, Carrie, 12, and Maybell, 7. He shot them in the head, then continued to bludgeon them in the head to make sure they were dead, before hiding their bodies behind the family barn.
Then he murdered his wife, Fannie, by shooting her with a shotgun.
Next, he killed his daughter Marie, 17, and two toddlers, James and Raymond, in the same manner. He also killed his baby daughter, Mary Lou, who was just four months old.
The family members were discovered in the woods by Charlie’s eldest son, Arthur, who was in town running errands. Charlie had placed rocks under their heads and crossed their arms right before killing himself as well.
The motive behind the killings remained a mystery until six decades later, just before a book about the murders was set to be published.
In 1990, Charlie’s niece, Stella Lawson Boles, came forward to reveal a secret conversation she’d overheard between her mother and other family members at the mass funeral.
Apparently, Fannie had confided in them her suspicions about an incestuous relationship between Charlie and his daughter Marie before that fateful Christmas. A friend of Marie’s, Ella May Johnson, later claimed that Marie had told her she was pregnant with her father’s baby, and that her parents were aware of it, weeks before the ghastly murders.
9. The Murder of a Church Organist
On Christmas Eve 2012, church organist Alan Greaves was headed to midnight mass at St. Saviour’s Church in South Yorkshire, England when he was attacked by Ashley Foster and Jonathan Bowling for no apparent reason. The two men had just left a Christmas feast at Foster’s family home and seemed to be angry about something.
Unfortunately, 68-year-old Greaves just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The pair attacked him with a pickax, seemingly just for the fun of it, and left him to die on the street. His body was discovered by a passerby. He was taken to the hospital immediately, but succumbed to his injuries just three days later.
The two were apprehended. Jonathan Bowling was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison, while Ashley Foster was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to nine years in prison.
10. The Ax Murder of 2014
A heated argument with her husband, Dustin Klopp, left Stephanie Kilhefner, 34, dead.
Authorities said Klopp had knocked her out cold before slitting her throat and, horrifyingly, chopping up her head with an ax. He proceeded to hide the battered body in the shed.
He later took their two children, who were two and five at the time, to celebrate Christmas at their grandparents’ home.
After confessing the crime to his father, the senior Klopp drove his son to the police department where he told them about what had happened. Klopp was already known to police in several states, including Florida, for petty crimes and DUI convictions.
Klopp hung himself in his cell while awaiting trial on the murder charge.
11. The Covina Christmas Massacre
Another notably bizarre case where a man dressed up as Santa Claus to kill his family on Christmas Day, called the Covina Massacre, took place in 2008.
A week after his divorce had been finalized, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo donned a Santa Claus costume and then showed up at his ex-wife Sylvia Pardo’s holiday party. He opened fire on her and her 25 guests, including the eight-year-old little girl who answered the door.
When he was fresh out of bullets, he brought out a flamethrower and used it to murder a total of nine people that included his ex-wife and her parents. Pardo ended up taking his own life as well, but the combination of the holiday lights, the fireplace, and the flamethrower cause the entire house to burst into flames.
12. A Love Affair Gone Horribly Wrong
In 2015, 34-year-old Sameena Imam was involved with the wrong man. Roger Cooper, who was already married and was having multiple extramarital affairs in addition to seeing Imam, plotted to kill the Costco marketing manager with his brother David Cooper via text message, using Star Wars code.
Imam had threatened to confess the details of the affair to Roger’s wife. She had arrived at David’s house on Christmas Eve looking for Roger because they were supposed to go out, but David was trying to stall her while his brother was preparing to kill her.
David ended up killing Imam on his couch by smothering her with a rag soaked in chloroform and other chemicals.
The brothers were sentenced to 30 years each in prison.