While most murderers in history have been male, there are no shortage of homicidal females. There are many notable female killers, but here are the top 7.
1. Bonnie Elizabeth Parker
Bonnie Parker, the other half of the crime duo “Bonnie and Clyde,” was born on October 1, 1910 in Rowena, Texas. As a young woman she proved to be exceptionally bright, with an interest in poetry and literature. She even aspired to be an actress, having been relatively short and attractive.
At 16, she married a boy named Roy Thornton, who turned out to be physically abusive. When he went to prison for robbery, Bonnie went to live with her grandmother and the couple never saw each other again, despite the fact that they never divorced. In 1930, Bonnie met Clyde Barrow – an ex-con who soon found himself in prison. To prove her undying love for the man, Bonnie smuggled a gun into the jail for him, which he used to escape. He was caught a week later, though his mother would eventually convince the judge to grand him parole. He and Bonnie were reunited and became associated with a local crime syndicate. Bonnie was captured after a robbery and was imprisoned for two months. After she claimed she was kidnapped by the gang, she was released and free to rejoin their crime spree.
The group lived a life on the run, responsible for a series of robberies and murders including those of multiple police officers. The couple was killed in a hail of gunfire during an ambush in 1934 and despite their wishes to be buried next to each other, they were laid to rest in separate cemeteries.
2. Elizabeth Bathory – “The Female Dracula”
Elizabeth Bathorywas born in Transylvania in 1560 to a family of kings, knights, cardinals and other distinguished titles. For all intents and purposes, she was always extremely disturbed, to the point that she had her husband (Count Nadady) build her a torture chamber where she could carry out her murderous fantasies.
She began torturing servant girls, including shoving pins and needles under their fingernails and covering them with honey so as to attract ants and bees. It is reported that her beloved also indulged in her dark habits, but when he died she became much, much worse.
Bathory began kidnapping and killing peasant girls with the help of her nurse, Ilona Joo, and local witch DorottaSzentes. She bit off large chunks of their flesh, and even forced one unfortunate girl to cook and eat pieces of her own body. It was reported that she believed drinking their blood would keep her looking young. Her deranged spree lasted until she developed a taste (no pun intended) for the children of royals. She and her little helpers were put on trial for a massive 80 counts of murder. While Bathory managed to escape execution, she was placed in a dark room with only small cracks for air and food to pass through. In August of 1614 she was found dead in her cell.
3. Aileen Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos was born in Rochester, Michigan on February 29, 1965 and was often sexually abused by her grandfather and brother. When she became pregnant as a young girl, she decided to give the child up for adoption. After being thrown out of her home as a teen, she turned to sex work and hitchhiking as a way to survive. She was in and out of trouble with the law for violence, and eventually moved to Florida where she continued her sex work.
When all was said and done, she had killed six men that she had claimed sexually assaulted her. The first man, Richard Mallory, was found dead in a junkyard. While it wasn’t revealed in court, he had previously served a prison sentence for sexual assault. After a while, she retracted the claim that the following five men had been killed in self-defense, and she was sentenced to death. She was executed via lethal execution in 2002.
4. Amelia Dyer – “The Reading Baby Farmer”
Amelia Dyer (aka “The Reading Baby Farmer”) was born in 1829 and raised in Bristol. After learning to read and write, she developed a love of poetry and literature but was forced to care for her mother who became mentally ill after developing Typhus. Police believe that this had a negative effect on Dyer.
After being arrested for neglect in 1879 when a series of infants under her care ended up dying mysteriously. She served a six month prison sentence, spent a stint in several mental health facilities, and resumed her child care duties. She moved to Kensington Road, and it wasn’t long after that the bodies of small children were being fished out of the Thames River.
Following the death of her husband, Dyer was hard up for money and turned to “baby farming” to earn a living. She would take in children – usually illegitimate – for a lump sum. She would then kill those children and their bodies would eventually be found in the river.
Police were on her trail immediately, and she was arrested in 1896 and plead guilty to one murder, though reports indicate she killed hundreds of babies over the course of her lifetime.
She was executed for her crimes in June of 1896 and offered no final words before she was hanged.
5. Jane Toppan
Jane Toppan was born Nora Kelly in 1887 in Boston. Her mother passed away in childbirth and her father was forced into an insane asylum after he was found trying to sew his eyelids together. She was later adopted by Abner Toppan and his wife and her name was changed to “Jane.”
While exhibiting totally normal behaviors through most of her life, it wasn’t until after her lover dumped her that she began what many consider to be a slow decent into madness. She attempted suicide and suffered a mental breakdown, causing her to be taken to the asylum.
After stabilizing, she became a student nurse at a hospital in Cambridge. She was an excellent student and eventually ended up being hired as a caretaker for many families, all of whom inevitably ending up perishing under her “care.” It wasn’t until the wife of a patient demanded an autopsy that it was discovered the last three victims had extremely high and lethal levels of morphine in their blood.
She was arrested for her crimes where she admitted to an astonishing 31 murders. She condemned herself by telling the courtroom that it was her “ambition, to have killed more people – more helpless people – than any man and woman who ever lived.” She was declared criminally insane and lived the rest of her life in an asylum, where she died in 1939.
6. Velma Barfield – “Death Row Granny”
Velma Barfield (aka “Death Row Granny” ) was born on October 23,1932 in South Carolina, and as a child, she accused her father of being physically and sexually abusive to her and her sisters, though this was later disputed by other relatives. Her marriage to Stuart Taylor seemed like a happy one, until Taylor received head injuries in a car crash, which rendered him unable to work. Velma got a job and Stuart developed a drinking habit. He became suspicious when she would use his checks to fund her pill addiction and fearing that he may find out her secret, Barfield poisoned him with an arsenic-based rat poison which she mixed into his beer. An autopsy proved that he had been poisoned, and Barfield was arrested.
She was charged with the murder of her husband and later admitted to killing two elderly people, her own mother, a relative of her late husband. The body of a previous husband was exhumed and discovered to contain traces of arsenic, though Barfield denies killing him. The motives in the murders were always the same: Barfield had stolen money from the victims and poisoned them so she could nurse them back to health while she found a way to get the money back. (This wasn’t a good enough defense.) She was executed by the state of North Carolina on November 2, 1984 via lethal injection.
7. Mary Ann Cotton
Mary Ann Cotton, born on October 1, 1832 in Low Moorsley, County Durham, is a famous British serial killer from the 19th century. She was a crazy lady who had a habit of poisoning her victims, including husbands, step-children, lovers, a friend and eight of her own children. Her weapon of choice? Arsenic.
She wanted to kill these people for their insurance money, and the only husband to survive her reign of terror became suspicious of her after two of his children from a previous marriage died after she pestered him about taking out insurance. Once the couple had a daughter, she walked out on him.
With husband #1, William Mowbray, Mary had five children, four of whom died from “gastric fever.” They moved a distance away and had three more children, who also died. She eventually killed him as well. Husband #2, George Ward, saw the death of Cotton’s 3.5-year-old daughter, leaving Mary with just one living child of the 9 she had birthed. Shockingly – or not- he also died.
This pattern continued until she was arrested and hanged on March 24, 1873. All in all, she claimed 21 victims, 8 of whom were her own flesh and blood.