Special Report

The States With the Most Serial Murder

7. Louisiana
> Adjusted number of serial killings per 1 million:
> Total no. of serial killings: 276
> Worst decade for serial killings: 2000’s

While nationwide the 1980s were the worst years for serial killings, in Louisiana it was last decade — there were more serial murders between 2000 and 2010 than in any other decade since the beginning of the 20th century. Derrick Todd Lee, a notorious serial killer in the state, was active in the early part of that decade. Also known as the Baton Rouge Serial Killer, Lee is currently awaiting execution for several murders across Louisiana.

Serial murderers in Louisiana have shot and strangled at least 149 victims since 1900, the two most common killing methods. Many victims met their killer at a bar. Between 1990 and 2010, 25 Louisiana residents were murdered by a serial killer they met at a bar.

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6. Oregon
> Adjusted number of serial killings per 1 million:
> Total no. of serial killings: 162
> Worst decade for serial killings: 1980’s

Dayton Leroy Rogers, known as the Molalla Forest Killer, is currently on death row for the stabbing murders of seven Oregon women in the late 1980s. After adjusting for population, Oregon has the sixth greatest frequency of serial murders in the country. Across the nation, serial killers have used a firearm to kill a significantly larger number of victims than any other method. In Oregon, however, serial killers have strangled victims to death more than any other killing method. Since 1900, serial killers have strangled to death 52 Oregon residents.

Despite the relative prevalence of serial killings, violent crime more generally is relatively rare in Oregon. About 232 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 state residents annually, lower than all but 10 other states.

5. Washington
> Adjusted number of serial killings per 1 million:
> Total no. of serial killings: 277
> Worst decade for serial killings: 1980’s

Contrary to popular belief, serial killers do not always appear to be sociopathic monsters with debilitating mental illnesses. In fact, many crimes documented over the past century were committed by individuals leading seemingly normal lives. Robert Yates, for example, who targeted prostitutes, was a decorated U.S. Army National Guard helicopter pilot, father of five, and active community member. He was accused of committing at least 13 murders in the Washington area during the 1990s. Gary Ridgway, who came to be known as the Green River Killer, worked as a truck painter, attended church, and is reported to have read the Bible regularly. He eventually confessed to committing 48 murders, mostly of women, over a 20-year period in the Seattle area.

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4. California
> Adjusted number of serial killings per 1 million:
> Total no. of serial killings: 1507
> Worst decade for serial killings: 1980’s

Serial killing activity in the United States peaked during the 1980s. Of the 2,670 total serial murders that decade, roughly one-fifth took place in California. However, it was two decades earlier, during the late 1960s, that one of the nation’s most notorious serial killers was active in the state. The Zodiac Killer was likely responsible for at least five murders in northern California during 1968 and 1969. In written correspondence with the police and the media, the unidentified Zodiac Killer claimed to have killed as many as 37 people. To this day, the Zodiac Killer’s identity remains a mystery.

Serial killers claim the lives of their victims in different ways, from poisoning to suffocation. In California, shootings and strangulations are the two most common methods of serial murder. Since 1900, 552 Californians died from gunshot wounds inflicted by serial killers, and 334 Californians were strangled to death at the hands of a serial killer.

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