Arts and Entertainment

Top 5 of Ohio’s Deadliest Killers


If you want to scare yourself with some local true crime, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Robert Berdella
Robert Berdella looking smug

Robert Berdella was born in 1949 in Cuyahoga falls. Berdella’s family was Italian and Catholic, regularly attending mass. Berdella’s father seemed to favor his youngest son over Robert due to his less than desirable athletic abilities. His father valued athleticism more than intellectual prowess. This tension in the family would not resolve until ultimately Berdella’s father died of a heart attack at 39.

Berdella then went down a path of anti-authoritarianism, selling drugs to make some money here and there while trying to support himself through college at the Kansas City Art Institute. He was caught and arrested multiple times. Berdella also tortured at least 3 animals while at the Art Institute, a warning sign of the violence still to come.

Berdella was thought of as flamboyant and well-meaning by neighbors. For several years, he spent much time with male prostitutes, drug addicts, and runaways seeking shelter in his home. He later got very much involved in the neighborhood watch, even at one point becoming the chairman.

Robert Berdella is estimated to have killed his first victim on July 5, 1984. 19 year old Jerry Howell was drugged and tied to a bed for approximately 28 hours. Howell was tortured until, as Berdella says, he “either asphyxiated on [his own] vomit, or the combination of the gag and the medicines were too strong for him to be able to catch breath.”

This went on with at least 5 more known victims until his last captive, a 22-year-old male prostitute named Christopher Bryson, jumped a second story window wearing nothing but a dog collar and alerted neighbors. When police went through Berdella’s home, they found over 200 polaroids of the physical torture he subjected his victims to, incriminating him severely.

On October 8, 1992, Berdella died in prison from the same condition that took his father.

2.) Cleveland Torso Murderer

An exposition dedicated to the Cleveland Torso Murders at the Cleveland Police Museum

Cleveland police searching near a lake bed for remains of victims of the Cleveland Torso Murderer

This unsolved murder case involved 13 victims between September of 1934 and August of 1938. These victims were castrated and disassembled by the Cleveland Torso Murderer, who has still never been identified. The bodies were always found in the same condition, a headless torso that was amputated near the knees leaving something that could hardly be considered a body. Most of the bodies were found in a creek bed near the Cuyahoga River. Sometimes the dismembered pieces of a body would be scattered around an area leaving investigators with a sick puzzle when putting the body parts together. The investigation to find the Cleveland Torso Murderer lasted 5 years with 2 major arrests and no convictions.

3.) Jeffery Dahmer

Jeffery Dahmer in February of 1994 during an interview

Jeffery Dahmer was born in 1960 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dahmer and his family moved to Bath, Ohio when he was 8 years old. Just before his fourth birthday, he went through a double hernia surgery. According to his family, he wasn’t the same person after that. He was neglected as a child and developed an alcohol abuse problem in his teenage years. His killing span was from June 18, 1978 to July 19, 1991. He only went after gay men, and was gay himself. His convictions were first-degree murder, child molestation, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, and public intoxication. For more information, check out the Wikipedia entry.

4.) Donald Harvey

Donald Harvey’s mugshot from arrest in 1987

Donald Harvey, “Angel of Death” was a nurse’s aide,  when he began to take life into his own hands. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. His initial job in the hospital was to give patients medications and attend to any of their personal needs. People say he become obsessed with control and the power he had over the helpless patients that he tended to. H controlled all the routines that kept them alive. He soon saw himself as the “Angel of Death,” where he poisoned his hospital patients who were usually terminally ill. He felt as if he was helping them and putting them out of their misery. Harvey never stuck with one method but used whatever he could at the time to murder his victims. He was arrested in 1987 and plead guilty to killing 37 people,but that’s all they could convict him of. He was sentenced 8 life term sentences plus 20 years, and a fine. In 2017 Harvey died in prison at the age of 64.

5.) Ariel Castro

Ariel Castro from Puerto Rico was a husband and father of four children. Castro bought a home in Cleveland, Ohio, and originally lived there with his wife and kids until he got violent and they moved out. In 2002, Castro asked a young lady named Michelle Knight if she wanted a ride home. He ended up taking her to his house and raping her. Castro would keep Knight captive for 11 years. In 2003 Castro pulled the same story and took another girl wanting a ride back to his house, and then again he did it again in 2004. By 2004 Castro had Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus captive in his home chained in his basement before moving them to a barricaded room upstairs. Knight got pregnant multiple times by Castro which resulted in him starving and beating her until she miscarried. 

While all of this was going on, Castro maintained being a school bus driver, having his family over, and playing bass guitar with local bands. He even attended vigils for the missing girls that he was keeping captive. Finally, on May 6, 2013, Berry escaped and the police quickly freed the other women. On July 26, Castro pleaded guilty to 937 charges including rape, murder, and kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 1000 years. 

On September 3, 2013, Castro was found hanging in his prison cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio at 9:20 pm. He was pronounced dead at 10:52 pm that night. Most research has confirmed that this was a suicide.

By Kaylynn Bode, Katelyn Hensley, Kayla Parker, and Elise Strickland

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