Murder. A heinous crime, yet one that people tend to be extremely fascinated by. If you like true crime, take a look at 10 of the most gruesome murders the state of New York has ever seen – some may date all the way back to the 1800s, but all of them are horrible.
1. First Known Female Serial Killer
In the 1890s this was the nickname given to Lizzie Halliday, New York’s first known female serial killer. She was also the first woman to ever be sentenced to death by the electric chair although that sentence was never carried out.
Lizzie imigrated to the states as a child and as she got older showed a propensity to experience what would be later called “spells of insanity.” Halliday committed at least four murders including two women she was old friends with and her sixth husband who she stabbed, shot, and mutilated. Yes, sixth. Of the previous five, she is suspected of killing possibly two of them and attempted to kill another by poisoning with arsenic.
She also had a love of burning things. In 1888, she burned down the saloon of the two female “old friends” that she would later murder and burned both the barn and house of her sixth husband who she would later murder.
Apprehended and sentenced to death by electrocution, the governor of New York went on to commute her sentence and instead institutionalized her for being mentally insane. She was sent to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane where she would live out the rest of her life. While there, she attacked and killed a nurse by stabbing her 200 times with a pair of scissors.
2. 400 Year Sentence
Arohn Kee was a serial murderer and rapist who had a sick penchant for forced sodomy of teenage girls who lived in several different Harlem housing projects. He took his first victim in 1991.
All told, Kee raped and murdered by strangulation three separate girls Paola Illera, 13, Johalis Castro, 19, and Rasheeda Washington 18 over the course of eight years. Castro’s body he burned beyond all recognition and could only be identified by her ankle bracelet. During this time he also raped and committed forced sodomy against four other teenage girls.
Once arrested, Kee conducted an incredible rant in court where he claimed he was the victim of a massive conspiracy involving DNA swapping. At the end of the trial, Kee declared “Fuck all o’ y’all!” to the entire courtroom. He was convicted as a result of the massive DNA evidence and the testimony of the rape victims he hadn’t killed and, in 2001, was sentenced to three life sentences for the murders and 400 years for the rapes.
From prison, Kee later made twenty 5 x 7 inch “rape cards” which depicted handwritten accounts of his crimes and the things he had said to his victims including “Say, ‘I love it’,” “Be quiet and take it like a woman,” and “Act like you love me.”
3. No Parole in Sight
Described by some completely oblivious individual as a “devoted” mother, Schenectady, NY resident Marybeth Tinning is actually a serial child murderer but unlike other cases of child murder all these children were her own.
From 1975 to 1985, Tinning gave birth to or adopted a total of nine babies, boys and girls. None of these children lived past their fifth birthday and most died within a few months of being born. Tinning was a regular in Schenectady hospital trauma centers where she would bring her dead offspring in a panic saying they weren’t breathing. Hospitals consistently declared the cause of death as being Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) but literally no one ever caught on that nine dead children from SIDS was a statistical impossibility.
Tinning’s ultimate motivation for these murders, according to investigators, was to garner sympathy and attention. They believe that after each baby’s death, Tinning got a kind of emotional high from the attention she received which included police on manhunts in the search for people who might have smothered her children but who, in reality, did not exist at all.
Tinning was finally investigated after a call to the police from the hospital where she took her ninth child, three-month-old Tami Lynne, after she claimed she found Tami unconscious in her crib with blood coming out of her mouth. Once arrested, Tinning admitted to the murder and confessed that she’d also been slowly poisoning her husband.
Despite ample circumstantial evidence in the form of eight child corpses, Tinning was only charged with the death of Tami Lynne. She was found guilty and remains in prison where she has been denied parole four times because she continues “to demonstrate no insight into her crime.”
4. The Happy Land Club
On March 25th, 1990, Julio Gonzalez went to see his ex-girlfriend, Lydia Feliciano, at the “Happy Land” club in the Bronx where she worked as a coat check girl. The club had previously been shut down for code violations. Lydia had recently broken up with Gonzalez and when he arrived he had been drinking. Predictably, the brief meeting turned into an argument before bouncers tossed him from the club.
What happened next was not so predictable. Having vowed to Lydia that “Tomorrow you’re not going to work here any more. I told you and I swear it,” Gonzalez went and purchased gasoline in a jug, brought it back to Happy Land and doused the place, including the stairs, lit it, and left.
The venue had sealed all the exits save the main entrance in order to keep people from getting in for free. All told, 87 people burned to death in the Happy Land club. Lydia, presumably the main object of Gonzalez’s rage, however, did not burn in the fire but was actually the first to notice it and leave. She claims that she warned others but no one and I mean no one heard her at all.
So exhausted was he from burning 87 people alive that Gonzalez went straight home and went to sleep which is where police later found and arrested him. He was later sentenced to 25 years to life.
5. Innocent Until Proven Guilty
By all accounts, Waneta Hoyt was a good mother who’d simply had a string of bad luck…over and over and over again. From 1965 to 1971, Waneta had five children and, one by one, they all seemingly succumbed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). No one gave it a second thought until 1995 when authorities from a neighboring county began looking at SIDS deaths in the area again with the idea that some of them might be murder.
Hoyt confessed to the murders by suffocation when faced with authorities and was tried and sentenced to 75 years to life. She died in 1998 of pancreatic cancer while still appealing her sentence. Since she died before her appeal could be heard, New York state officially exonerated her.