Oscar Romero was a well-known archbishop serving the Catholic Church in El Salvador during very turbulent times. Serving during the 1960s and 1970s, he was a very outspoken proponent concerning human rights and the horrific conditions faced by the poor during that country’s bloody and vicious civil war. Presiding over his flock left him an open target and after speaking out and encouraging civil disobedience, in particular calling out the injustice of the U.S. in supporting the government during this tumultuous time, his assassins used this as an opportunity to send a message to his supporters by killing him while he said Mass at a small church. While many theories abound, and nothing was ever proven, most believe he was killed by a Salvadorian death squad.



Palme was Sweden’s prime minister (1982-1986) who was shot and killed while walking home with his wife after a night at the movies. A vocal advocate of intense regulation and investigation of his country’s nuclear energy program, especially after the incident at Three Mile Island in 1979, he also pushed a number of other political “hot” topics while in office. It may have been his ideas concerning European security, his push for economic reform of a socialist nature, or any other number of items on his political agenda. Which button he pushed or which topic set someone off is not known to this day. It has not even been proven that the murder was politically motivated and may have just been a random act of violence. No one has ever been charged with his murder nor has anyone been able to pinpoint the motive behind the crime.



In 1957, a large cardboard box was found along Susquehanna Road in Philadelphia. While unusual, such a find was not newsworthy. It was what was discovered once the box was opened that set law enforcement officials’ hair on end and provoked intense public outrage. Inside the box was the nude body of a young white male aged between four and six. Further complicating the issue was the manner in which the body was found. Horrific bruises showed signs of a brutal beating, but that was juxtaposed against the obvious tenderness someone showed in caring for his remains. He was clean and well-kept and wrapped in a blanket in a manner that suggested great care after his death. Despite the public’s cry for justice and advancements in DNA testing as an investigative tool, the case remains unsolved to this day.



On May 23, 1918, a bloody and violent murder spree began in New Orleans. The bodies of Joseph Maggio and his wife were found in their apartment over their privately owned grocery store. While the robbery was not a motive, concluded by the investigating officers at the scene, a bloody axe left at the home and the brutal nature of the killings sent fear through many in this coastal town. The killer left a single cryptic clue written in chalk. The killer was fond of his weapon of choice and used it with great skill to commit a second string of murders against another grocer and his common-law wife, which also left little or no evidence. All told the “Axeman of New Orleans” left eight dead before ending his killing spree. While the police had a strong suspect in the killings, the lack of scientific advances in police investigation at the turn of the century left them unable to bring charges against anyone.



On January 15, 1947, police were called to investigate the report of a woman’s body found in Leimert Park in Los Angeles. What they found when they arrived sparked a fascination that continues to this day. The carefully mutilated body, or should I say body parts, of Elizabeth Short were found laying out in the open in a most gruesome manner. The ritualistic nature of the disembodiment led to speculation of the manner in which the murder was carried out but did not lead to any solid suspects. Because of the sensational nature of the murder, the LAPD was inundated with false confessions, which also helped to further complicate the case and muddy the investigation. To date, no motive or clear suspect has ever been found and no one has ever been charged.



Unlike most of the cases on this list, the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden quickly brought forth a viable suspect: their daughter Lizzie. A large inheritance and suspicious behavior on her part in the days before the murder led many to believe she had the motive and means to have killed them both. She attempted to buy prussic acid (poison) the day before the murders. While the crime was being investigated it was found she burned a dress in the family wood stove shortly after the murders. No conclusive weapon was found, though they did find an axe that would have created the type of wounds suffered by Lizzie’s parents. Lizzie was actually brought to trial but was acquitted due to the lack of firm evidence. Shunned by her community for the remainder of her years, her brazen act prompted a children’s rhyme that is still quoted to this day: “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks when she’d seen what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” No deathbed confession was given and the case is still considered unsolved.



The Zodiac Killer captured the imagination of the American public during a particularly unsettled time. It was the “Summer of Love,” the beginnings of a large and persistent protest of America’s involvement in Vietnam and the beginnings of a budding counterculture. It was in this environment of the “public’s right to know” that a prolific serial killer decided to play cat and mouse with the press concerning a number of unsolved murders. His use of symbols, cryptic hints, and a code that has yet to be deciphered soon captured the public’s fascination. Speculation was rife as to the identity of the Zodiac Killer, with over two thousand leads investigated to no avail. With seven known victims, and numerous others suspected of dying at his hands, the Zodiac Killer has yet to be identified.




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