True Crime Valentines: 6 Times Love Turned into Murder

Considering Valentine’s Day is meant to be a day for celebrating romance and demonstrating your love for your significant other, a shocking number of crimes of passion also take place around this time of year. Fueled by feelings of anger, jealousy, loneliness, and perhaps even lust, jilted lovers around the world seem to think that this is the appropriate time of year to exact their revenge on their beloveds in the most heinous ways.

As much as Valentine’s Day is intended to be a celebration of love, statistics also show that quite a few couples break up around February 14 for one reason or another. Some of those breakups end in murder. Here are six of the most vicious crimes of passion, most of which occurred on or around V-Day.

1. Oscar Pistorius Fatally Shoots His Girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp

It was one of the most notorious and gripping Valentine’s Day slayings of the 21stt century. On February 14, 2013, the world watched in shock and horror as the world-renowned South African Paralympic champion, Oscar Pistorius, was accused and convicted of murdering his 29-year-old model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. She was shot dead through the bathroom door in the home they both shared.

Reeva Steenkamp on the cover of “FHM Collections” magazine

What Happened

During the world-famous trial, Pistorius—who was also known as the Blade Runner for his incredible speed—admitted that he fired the shot that killed his girlfriend. However, he claimed that it was in self-defense, thinking that there was a home intruder on the premises. He said he had no idea Steenkamp was in the bathroom until after she’d been shot.

The investigation revealed that Steenkamp had sent text messages to her friends and family in the past fearing for her life and stating that she thought Pistorius might be dangerous.

This damning evidence against the decorated athlete would eventually lead to a murder conviction and a sentence of six years in prison, which is the minimum sentence in South Africa. The prosecution called for a 15-year sentence and the Supreme Court of Appeal eventually increased it to 13 years and five months.

Oscar Pistorius Receives Harsher Sentence
Oscar Pistorius; Photo: Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images

2. The Valentines’ Day Murder of Joanne Nelson

Joanne Nelson was just 22 years old when she was viciously attacked and murdered by her fiancé, Paul Dyson, who was 31 years old at the time.

Dyson killed Nelson in cold blood on Valentines’ Day 2005 by strangling her to death and then dumping her body in a nearby wooded area just months before they were set to say “I do.”

What Happened

The whole ordeal allegedly started with a couple’s quarrel on the night of Valentines’ Day 2005. Apparently, Nelson accused Dyson of being lazy and useless around the house, such as not knowing how to operate a washing machine. Her remarks enraged Dyson to the point that he attacked her and strangled her to death with his bare hands. He then took her lifeless body to a nearby wooded area where he buried it in an unmarked grave.  

Joanne Nelson
Joanne Nelson; Photo: Humberside Police via Hull Live

Afterwards, Dysoon contacted the police and filed a missing persons report, at first tearfully claiming that he had no idea what had happened to his fiancée.

After five weeks of searching, police finally uncovered Nelson’s remains in the wooded area near the home she shared with Dyson.

Paul Dyson’s father also served time in prison in the late 1960s for killing his wife’s lover. It seems as if murder runs in the family.

For a while, though, the younger Dyson maintained his innocence until a court hearing where he admitted to involuntary manslaughter. It wasn’t until a few months later, as recounted on an episode of Faking It: Tears of a Crime, that detectives noticed a vital piece of evidence that would lead to a murder charge. During a TV interview, the cameras closed in on Dyson’s folded hands showing that he had scars on his thumbs that were aligned with signs of strangulation.

Paul Dyson
Paul Dyson; Photo: Humberside Police via Hull Live

Police said that oftentimes when victims are being strangled to death, they’ll reach up and try to grasp onto the perpetrators thumbs in an attempt to remove their hands by pressing their nails into the skin. Dyson’s thumbs had noticeable marks that matched up with that description.

Paul Dyson also had a history of violence against women. His ex-wife claimed that he attacked her on their wedding night and that she spent their short-lived marriage fearing for her safety.

Dyson pleaded guilty to murder in November 2005 and was given a mandatory life sentence with a minimum 16 years in prison.

3. Man Murders Ex-Girlfriend in Front of Their 4-Year-Old Son

Juan Manuel Navarro and his then-girlfriend, Ignacia Manriquez, had three children together before Juan decided to end the relationship. They had an amicable breakup and remained on friendly terms until Navarro started begging Manriquez to take him back. But she vehemently refused.

Navarro started to get obsessive and would stalk Manriquez and their children, whom she was desperately trying to keep safe from their father. She and the children were eventually taken in by relatives where Navarro continued to harass her.

One day, Navarro showed up at Manriquez’s family home and one of the younger children let him in; they didn’t know any better. Manriquez showed Navarro a restraining order she’d filed against him, but he ignored it.

Also see: Billy Flynn Wiki: The Lovestruck Teen Who Shot Pamela Smart’s Husband

What Happened

On February 14, 1993, Navarro showed up where Manriquez and the children were staying and a huge argument ensued. She tried to get Juan to leave, but when he refused, Manriquez took the kids and left.

He followed her to a shopping center that was located nearby. According to witnesses, the couple were seen arguing in a public parking lot. Then Navarro pulled out a gun and put it directly to Manriquez’s head, shooting her point blank. He continued to shoot her several more times as her body crumpled to the ground. Several people witnessed the execution-style killing in broad daylight. Navarro then grabbed the couple’s four-year-old son, who’d witnessed the crime, and took off.

Ignacia Manriquez
Ignacia Manriquez; Photo: San Bernardino County District Attorney

Over two weeks later, Navarro returned the boy to the home of one of Manriquez’s relatives and then fled the county to Mexico.

He was found and extradited back to the United States in 2012 and sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder.

The young boy who witnessed the brutal murder of his mother at the hands of his father has reportedly never recovered and suffers tremendously from emotional trauma and anxiety to this day with a diminished mental capacity.

4. Wife Surprises Husband with Murder Instead of Valentine’s Day Gift

On the evening February 14, 2010, Richard Schoeck and his wife, Stacey Schoek, had planned on taking a lovely stroll through Belton Bridge Park in Lula, Georgia right before exchanging their Valentine’s Day cards. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan—at least, not for Richard.

What Happened

The couple was at the park that Valentine’s Day and it had become somewhat of a tradition for the two of them to exchange Valentine’s Day cards.

Richard and Stacey Richard Schoeck; Photo: Facebook

Although Richard was Stacey’s fifth husband, he doted on her dearly. According to his sister, Carol Fillingim, however, she didn’t deserve his undying affection.

As it turns out, Stacey was cheating on her husband and had arranged to have him killed that very night at the park.

Though investigators and Richard’s family suspected foul play from the very beginning, it would take three months before they had enough evidence to arrest Stacey and her two accomplices: her fitness trainer, Reginald Coleman, and one of her former employees, Lynitra Ross.

The motive behind the murder was allegedly to cash in on Richard’s life insurance policy, which totaled somewhere around $560,000.

On the night of the murder, Stacey called the local police around 9:00 p.m. and informed them that she’d discovered Richard shot in the stomach outside of their home next to his truck. Phone records revealed that all three suspects had been in close proximity and in communication with one another until the time when Stacey called the police.

Police said Ross acted as a liaison between Coleman and Stacey, while Stacey was the mastermind behind the whole murder plot. Coleman was the alleged triggerman. Ross and Coleman were given the same sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The former denied ever taking part in the crime, but both pleaded guilty.

5. Young Lovers Found Dead in the Wilderness

The year is 1971. Twenty-year-old nursing student, Patricia Mann, and her 19-year-old college freshman boyfriend, Jesse McBane, were planning on attending a Valentine’s Day dance that was being held at the local hospital in Durham County where she lived.

McBane went to pick up Mann in the car he shared with his brother; they went to the dance and had a good time…but they never returned home.

What Happened

McBane and Mann made it to the dance that took place on February 12, 1971, just two days before Valentine’s Day. They decided to leave around 11:30 p.m. Patricia was living in a nursing school dorm at the time that had a strict midnight curfew, which was extended to 1:00 a.m. for the sake of the dance.

She went to sign herself out of the dorm for the evening and the couple proceeded to go to a nearby lover’s lane in a wooded area that was being cleared for an upcoming new housing development at the time.

Patricia Mann
Patricia Mann and Jesse McBane; Photo: Family photo via News & Observer

Even though the young lovers both missed their respective curfews that night and McBane’s car was found abandoned in one of the open cul-de-sacs the next morning by Mann’s frantic fellow nurses and friends, the police didn’t take the case seriously. They assumed that the young couple had run off together to elope. But that was extremely out of character for both Mann and McBane, who were upstanding and responsible young adults. When it became clear that something was amiss, the police launched a full-fledged serious investigation into the matter.

It wasn’t until February 25, 1971 that a contract surveyor working the land found the young couple’s remains. Apparently, they’d been tied together to a tree and viciously tortured.

Initially, police had internal squabbles about the jurisdiction of the crime because the location of the bodies was right across Durham and Orange County borderlines. Eventually, they were able to resolve their differences and pursue a full investigation, albeit to no avail.

The case of the tortured and murdered young couple remains a mystery 48 years later. A few suspects and persons of interest were named in this case and all but one were cleared via polygraph tests. He was a doctor who worked alongside Mann at Watts Hospital, and for some reason, has refused to cooperate with investigators. He’s been considered a person of interest in the case for nearly 50 years, but police were never able to bring forth enough evidence against him to make an arrest.

However, new DNA technology and the well-preserved remains of the rope that was used on the victims has recently shed a new ray of hope on finding out who killed Patricia Mann and Jesse McBane.

6. Murder-Suicide at the Hartman Residence

This terrible crime didn’t happen on Valentine’s Day, but it is truly a heartbreaking story of love gone wrong.

Phil Hartman was a beloved comedic genius in Hollywood. A Canadian-born actor, he made his mark in the entertainment industry when he joined the cast of the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live in the mid-1980s. Throughout his career, Hartman graced numerous television and film screens with memorable live action and voice-animated roles on shows like The Simpsons and NewsRadio and in movies like Jingle All The Way. He was well known for his hyperbolic and hilarious impression of President Bill Clinton on SNL.

Sadly, his personal life wasn’t as jovial as his onscreen personas and knack for entertaining the masses made it seem. On May, 28, 1998, his life was tragically cut short while he was sleeping in his Encino, California home. He was 49 years old.

What Happened

Hartman had been married and divorced twice before he met his third wife, Brynn Hartman (nee Omdahl), a former model and aspiring actress, in 1987. They had two children together, whom Phil adored dearly. Their names are Sean and Birgen Hartman.

Unfortunately, the marriage was doomed from the very beginning. Brynn became extremely jealous of her husband’s success and fame—two things she’d tried, but failed to achieve of her own accord. As much as Phil tried to help her career progress by recommending her for film roles, she never was able to attain the same level of success.

Phil & Brynn Hartman
Phil & Brynn Hartman; Photo:

On top of that, Brynn also had a huge drinking and substance abuse problem that started long before she and Phil met.

Phil and Brynn had a huge argument the night before the tragedy. She’d recently fallen off the wagon, which was a major point of contention for many years throughout their troubled marriage. Shortly before going to bed that evening, Phil threatened to divorce Brynn if she didn’t get clean for good.

Sometime around 3:00 a.m. that morning, Brynn stumbled into the couple’s bedroom in a drug-inspired stupor (a coroner’s report stated she had cocaine in her system) and shot her husband twice in the head and once in the side while he slept, killing him.

Presumably feeling guilty about what she’d just done, Brynn drove to her friend Ron Douglas’ house and recounted the events of the night. The two of them then drove back to the Hartman residence in separate vehicles and Ron called the police around 6:20 a.m.

See also: Brynn Hartman Wiki: Learn More about Phil Hartman’s Wife & the Horrific Murder-Suicide

When the police arrived, they promptly removed Ron and the two Hartman children from the premises, but by then, Brynn had already locked herself in the bedroom. There, she turned a handgun, different from the one she’d used to murder her husband, on herself. Brynn died of a gunshot wound to her right eye.

Following this tragedy, Brynn’s brother, Gregory Omdahl, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which manufactured the antidepressants that Brynn was taking. He also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his sister’s psychiatrist, Arthur Sorosky, because he’d given Brynn samples of “Zoloft.”  In addition to imbibing cocaine that fateful night, Brynn had also allegedly taken a cocktail mix of antidepressants.

The two Hartman children were raised by Brynn’s sister, Katharine Omdahl, and her husband, Mike Wright. According to Phil’s will, both children are entitled to receive their inheritances incrementally after they each turn 25. Phil’s estate was valued at $1.23 million and, as per his will, Phil’s body was cremated. In commemoration of his life and death, Phil’s family and friends scattered his ashes over Emerald Bay, just off the coast of Santa Catalina Island.