How many serial killers are homegrown in your state?

The Darkside of Kansas

~Dedicated to my long time friend, Chris McKenzie for his help in remembering my taxi driver’s name~

 I have always been asked where do I get my horrific ideas. Well, they come from many places. Books I’ve read, TV shows and movies, but mostly from the news. However, I have also had a couple of life experiences that have stuck in my head over the years.


I remember walking home in the 1960s with my friend Christine Warren from school. We were going to her house to play with her rabbits. I was in fifth or sixth grade. We were walking downtown in Shawnee, Kansas, and passed a parked car on the side of the road. Christine, who was nearest to the car, turned and whispered in my ear, “That guy isn’t wearing pants.”

I looked at her and said, “Huh? No way!”

Well, of course I had to step beside her and take a peek. I saw this nicely groomed, middle-aged man wearing sunglasses, a red pinstriped dress shirt, and a tie. As I looked down to his lap, I realized Christine was right. He wasn’t wearing any pants. He was naked from the waist down.

The man followed us in his car as we ran to Christine’s house. Her mother was in the front doing yard work, and the pantless man drove off. Christine’s mom called the police. They found him four blocks away. The police had received several reports of this man over the last two weeks.

Another time, I was with a group of older girls when a man pulled over and asked if any of us were available to babysit. He had his hand over his groin area the whole time he talked. When he saw he had our attention, he showed us what was underneath his hand. Being young and dumb we laughed and took off running. Knowing what I know now, we could have been in a lot of trouble both times.

How many of us have gotten that phone call from the pervert asking all kinds of personal questions? I know I have had at least three, maybe more.

But there is one encounter that has stuck with me over the years. It changed the way I view people. I worked at a plastic plant on the second shift, three thirty till midnight. I didn’t drive so my husband took me to work every day, then I called a cab to give me a ride home after my shift.

The taxi driver who picked me up was named DeLaTorre Collins. He had a five month baby girl named Satrina. He was nice and very personable. We struck up a causal conversation over the next few months. He talked about his girlfriend and his daughter. I talked about my husband and my son.

One night another driver picked me up. The next day I was shocked to read in the paper that Mr. Collins’ daughter had died. The newspaper reported they found bite marks all over the little girl. Their dog had viciously attacked her.

The police put the dog down and conducted an autopsy on the animal. The dog’s stomach contained no human remains. When the police confronted him, Mr. Collins confessed he threw his daughter against the wall for crying, and she stopped breathing. He got scared and decided he’d blame the dog. He took bites out of his own daughter to make the police believe his story.

I would have never guessed in a million years this guy was capable of doing such a horrible thing. The shock of that knowledge stays with me to this day. We never know what goes on inside another person’s mind. Serial killers and psychopaths fascinate us because they look like you and me. Yet they are not normal. And here in the United States we have many of them roaming around. This got me to wondering about my home state.

It might interest you to know that New York leads in the US with the most serial homicide cases  at (137). California (128), Florida (112), Texas (97), and, following shortly behind, is Washington (95) (

US holds the record for the most serial killers at 76%. Europe is second and has 17%. England has produced 28% of the European total, Germany produces 27%, and France produces 13%. As I dove into my research of Kansas Darkside, I discovered Kansas only rated a mere (24) in the break down of serial killers by state. But don’t let those statistics fool you. We had some notorious serial killers homegrown in the state of Kansas.

Let’s start with the Bloody Benders –a family who owned a small general store and inn in Osage township, Labette County, Kansas, from 1872 to 1873. They were not only Kansas’ first known serial killers but also the first known FAMILY of serial killers.

Bender Cabin near Cherryvale, Kansas Benders cabin

The family consisted of John Bender, his wife Kate (Ma), son John Jr. and daughter Kate. Their inn was a dingy place called the Wayside Inn. Kate Bender, 23, was cultivated and attractive. A self-proclaimed healer and psychic, she distributed flyers advertising her supernatural powers and her ability to cure illnesses. She also conducted séances and gave lectures on spiritualism.

Kate’s popularity became a large attraction for the Benders’ inn. Once inside Ma would fix them a hot meal while daughter Kate enticed them, and brother or father stood behind them with a hammer. Their house was rigged with a trap door under the kitchen chair where the men sat to eat. Once they were murdered and all their belongings stripped away from them, they would be stored in the cellar to await disposal.

Authorities found eleven bodies including one child buried on the property. The family fled town and was never found or convicted. To this day in Cherryvale Museum you can see the hammers they used as weapons.

Smith’s (above) and Hickock’s (below) mugshots taken by the KBI.

In 1959 Richard Hickock and Perry Smith murdered Herb and Bonnie Clutter and two of their children Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15, in their rural Holcomb home. They were killed for forty dollars and a transistor radio. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were hanged at Lansing in 1966 for the murder of the Clutter family.

Truman Capote wrote a book called “In Cold Blood” about this case. He chose not only to write about the murders but about the Kansas community and the family members left to pick up the pieces of their life. Even though these two killers are considered “Spree Killers” and not serial killers, they are still killers from my home state. My husband drives to Holcomb, Kansas, every week, and in some small way, I feel connected to this family. I live in a small town in Kansas, on a small farm.

In Cold Blood.jpg

In 1974-Dennis Radar murdered Joseph and Julie Otero by strangling them and two of their children, Josephine, 11, and Joseph II, 9, in their home at 803 N. Edgemoor, Wichita, Kansas.  The murders unleashed the beginnings of BTK, a serial killer in Wichita who, through the next 25 years, would often grip the city in fear. He sent the police and media letters demanding attention for his crimes. All told, police would eventually link him to ten murders in the Wichita, Kansas, area. He calls himself BTK for Bind, Torture, and Kill.

 Dennis Radar, dressed in his dog catcher uniform.

I think this would make a great story to tell from Dennis Radar’s daughter’s POV. Not many people know this, but his daughter helped the police capture him by giving her permission for them to use her DNA for comparison. Talk about conflict and having to pick up the pieces of your life after your father was convicted of such horrible crimes. What a great story that would make.

Rev. Bird

In 1983-Rev. Bird and Lorna Anderson- The car of Sandra Bird, wife of the Rev. Thomas Bird, ran off the road near a Lyon County bridge just outside Emporia. Sandra drowned in the Cottonwood River. Martin Anderson was shot and killed. The pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Emporia, Rev. Bird, was discovered to be having an affair with his church secretary, Lorna Anderson. They met in church and planned to kill Anderson’s husband, Martin Anderson, and Bird’s wife so they could be together. The two were convicted of their spouses’ deaths. Again, they were not serial killers, but premeditated murders from my home state.

I attended Emporia State University and earned my undergraduate degree there. Sandra Bird worked at the University years before I went, and I have been to the bridge mentioned above. Again, there is that connection.

Robert Andrew “Bob” Berdella- The Kansas City Butcher

In 1988, Chris Bryson was found running down a Kansas City street naked, beaten, and bloody wearing nothing but a dog collar and a leash. He told police about Bob Berdella, a local business person who owned Bob’s Bizarre Bazaar, a novelty shop that catered to occult type tastes. He told police how Berdella had captured him, held him hostage, raped him, tortured him, and photographed him over a period of several days.

Police later arrested Berdella and searched his home where they found several hundred Polaroid photographs, a detailed torture log, envelopes of human teeth, and a human skull. It was soon discovered that Berdella had murdered 6 young men in his home after drugging them and performing his sick acts of sexual torture. Some lived the horrors for only a few days, one for 6 weeks. After they were dead Berdella would cut up the bodies with an electric chain saw and a bone knife and place the body parts in empty dog food bags for trash collection on Monday. Neighbors petitioned (and were granted) to have the city tear down his house.

In 1989 Richard Grissom Jr. murdered Joan A. Butler, 24, Overland Park; Theresa Brown, 22, and Christine Rusch, 22, roommates living in a Lenexa apartment. A career criminal on parole for burglary and theft, at age 16 he had killed a Lansing, Kansas, woman.


Richard Grissom

He had connections to a Wichita woman found dead in her apartment about two weeks before Butler disappeared. Someone had viciously mutilated the body of 25-year-old Terri Maness. Dozens of officers on both sides of the state joined the investigation. A day after the roommates vanished, authorities found Grissom’s car abandoned at a Grandview apartment complex. Identification cards belonging to Rusch and Brown were inside along with keys to the women’s apartments. He was caught and convicted, but to this day, the bodies of these women have never been found. His neighbors and the city voted to burn his house down after his conviction. This would make a great police story on how they connected him to the murders.

John Robinson, husband, father, grandfather and serial killer

In 1990 John Robinson Sr. sought out and targeted lonely, troubled women. He also met some of his female victims through Internet sex and bondage networks. The Johnson County man left bodies in Missouri storage sheds and in barrels on property he owned in Linn County. Again, this story could take on a new life with a modern twist-Internet Murders.


Mass murderers Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh- Army buddies. Terry Nichols of Herington and Timothy McVeigh, formerly of Fort Riley, conspired to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building, in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring 500 others.  This is not just an Oklahoma tragedy, but a nation’s tragedy. The stories that come to my mind about what could be written are about the firefighters and police who risked their lives to save people. Also the FBI’s impressive tracking techniques and so many others.

English: Booking Photo for Terry A. Blair

2004–Terry Blair-aka The Prospect Killer in KC, Mo., was an African-American man who had just gotten out of prison for killing his wife and mother of his children because she was a prostitute. He was eventually convicted of killing seven prostitutes. I discovered no books were written about this case. I’ve asked myself why not? Is it a racial thing? A social economic component? These prostitutes had names. They were daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends. They counted in this world, and as a writer we have the ability to bring their story to life.

Books related to post:

The Bloody Bender -Books:

The Saga of the Bloody Benders, by: Rick Geary

Celebrated Criminal Cases of America, by:  Thomas Samuel Duke

History of Labette County, Kansas, by: Nelson Case

The Benders in Kansas, by:  John T. James

The Clutter Murders-Books

In Cold Blood, by: Truman Capote

Sentenced to Death: The American Novel and Capital Punishment, by: David Guest

Dennis Radar- Books

Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door, by: Roy Wenzl

Inside the Mind of BTK: The True Story Behind the Thirty-Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer, by:  John E. Douglas

CASE CLOSED: Serial Killers Captured – Bundy, Dahmer, BTK & More (Serial Killers Series) by: RJ Parker

The BTK Murders: Inside the “Bind Torture Kill” Case that Terrified America’s Heartland by: Carlton Smith

Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer by: Stephen Singular

Rev. Tom Bird and Lorna Anderson Book

Caged Bird by: Dave Racer

Movie-Murder Ordained

Richard Grissom Books

Suddenly Gone: The Terrifying True Story of a Serial Killer’s Grisly Kidnapping-Murders of Three Young Women by: Dan Mitrione

Bitter Harvest by: Ann Rule

John Edward Robinson Books

Tracker: Hunting Down Serial Killers by Grover Maurice Godwin

Online Killers: Portraits of Murderers, Cannibals and Sex Predators Who Stalked the Web for Their Victims by: Christopher Berry-Dee and Steven Morris

Digital Evidence and Computer Crime, Third Edition: Forensic Science, Computers, and the Internet by: Eoghan Casey

Anyone You Want Me to Be: A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet by: John E. Douglas

Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh Books

Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy by: Peter Israel and Stephen Jones

By Blood Betrayed: My Life With Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh by: Lana Padilla

Secrets, Plots & Hidden Agendas: What You Don’t Know about Conspiracy Theories by: Paul T. Coughlin

Terry Blair Books-NONE

Story edited by: Sally Berneathy

43 thoughts on “How many serial killers are homegrown in your state?

  1. Rebecca York says:

    Of course, I’ve got my own stories. when I was 8 I went to the five and dime to buy Halloween decorations and a man told me he had Halloween decorations in his car and he’d give them to me if I came to his car. My mom had taught me to be polite. She’d also taught me never to go to anyone’s car. I very politely declined–several times because he kept asking. Then, years later, there was the guy at the public swimming pool my friend and I went to. Like your guy in the car. My friend and I had swim masks which meant we could see under water, and she said, “look at that guy. His thing is sticking out of his bathing suit under the water.” He caught us looking at him and followed us around. I guess we were around sixteen.

  2. Linda Kage says:

    I drive by that Bloody Benders historical marker quite a bit! The last few names on the list I wasn’t familiar with, but wow, there really have been some scary people living not too far from me. Yikes.

  3. Larissa Reinhart says:

    Another great post! I just finished a manuscript and after my mother read it, she questioned my sanity and where I got the ideas for my bad guy. I’m not quite sure why my mind can go in those directions either, but like you, I had an unsettling experience in my childhood. I grew up in a village in rural Illinois and a nearby girl of my own age was murdered and buried in the cornfield behind my house. The killer was caught (the unstable grandson of the woman down the road). He had picked the girl up at the Little League game the whole town had attended that night. I don’t remember ever feeling scared or very upset (I was 10). I’m not sure if that’s the reason why I love mysteries and have an interest in profiling, but as an adult I am amazed at my childhood’s proximity to murder.

    • dianekratz says:

      Wow, that sounds like a great book Larissa! I know most writers write because its good therapy. I don’t know why I love thrillers. I think a lot of us like to on some levels be scared, its a love- hate thing, like rollercoaster rides. We know there will be dips, sharp turns, drops and we’ll be turned upside down, but we still stand in line until its our turn. Same thing with haunted houses. We have permission to scream! Maybe it’s a stress reducer! All I know is I LOVE it!

  4. Jo-Ann Carson says:

    Great, bone chilling post Diane. I especially liked your personal stories, which couldn’t have been easy to share.
    Happy writing

    • dianekratz says:

      Thanks Jo-Ann! I was inspired by your last blog, “What causes people to become …evil?” ( I also had a relative that was murdered, only her cause of death on her death certificate reads “undetermined”. Her husband killed her and his first wife too, but we can’t prove he did. Small town investigators messed up the crime scene and we have no evidence. My cousin has no resolution. He is raising her grandchildren and has to be civil with this man. Life isn’t fair and like I said before in real life sometimes the victims have NO justice. But we writers can send this man to prison, have him stung up and nearly beat to death, or send him to straight hell, which ever our minds feel at the time! “Justice” writer style! Thanks for stopping by! Diane

  5. great post Diane. thanks for sharing all those bad guys. just goes to prove the weirdest people can come from the nicest ‘families’. now i’m off to read a thriller or two.

  6. marsharwest says:

    Great, post, Diane. I think what struck me with your stats was how the US leads in seriel killers compared to Europe. All of Europe only had 17% compared to our 78%? Wonder what’s behind that? Something in our culture, not in theirs? Do they just not keep records over there? If the numbers were closer, I wouldn’t have thought about it, but jeez. Fascinating info.
    I always think the scariest stores and movies are about the things that can really happen. (For the most part, I’m not sure writers can come up with anything wierder than what happens in real life. LOL) You pick up the paper and read about the perverts out there who are coaches, priests, politicians, and successful business people. The folks we are supposed to look up to. Scary for certain.
    Thanks for sharing your personal stories and reminding us all to make sure we give the “Stranger/danger” talk to our kids and grandkids. But don’t forget the “your body is your body and no one can touch it if you don’t want them to.” So often, it’s not “strangers” doing the bad deed but friends and family.

    • dianekratz says:

      Absolutely right Marsha! Statistically kids are more likely to be hurt, maimed, molested by a family member or by someone the know and trust. We live in a very scary world. The intranet is also very dangerous not just for children but woman as well. John Robinson lured women with the promise of a great job. We need to be savvy and hope this is enough to protect ourselves. Thanks for commenting and stopping by! Diane

  7. Loved all the stories! It is, indeed, a scary world out there. When I first moved to Kansas City and lived in a high-crime area of town, I had occasion to run off intruders at gun-point. I think my hand was probably shaking so badly, they knew I really would shoot them!

    I, too, love to read mysteries thrillers. In books, the good guys triumph and the bad guys are always caught and punished. They make sense of a scary world, make it seem the bad guys can be controlled.

    • dianekratz says:

      I knew you’d be carrying a gun! Guns scare me. I don’t have any in my house except a BB gun, to scare of stray dogs in my trash. This gal drives a motorcycle and carries a gun…watch out bad guys… Biker Sally is out with her six shooter…OMG what a great character you’d make! Squeal! Thanks Sally for stopping by!

  8. Misty Dietz says:

    Wow, awesome post once again, Diane! It brought back a lot of memories too… I lived in Emporia and Americus (Kansas) as a child…in fact Rev. Bird was my family’s pastor…that caused shockwaves as you can imagine. I also remember seeing a man masturbating on a bike when I was in the 3rd grade. It made me confused and scared. All the stories you shared are compelling. And like Marsha, I wonder why we have so many serial killers in America… Thanks for the great post!

    • dianekratz says:

      Small world Misty! I know exactly where Americus is. Sorry your family was betrayed my their pastor. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story with us.

  9. Mary Roya says:

    Great blog! It really is a scary world out there.

  10. Lindy Dierks says:

    Great blog post! I was shocked to see the US had the most serial killers. 76%! Wow!

  11. Whats up! I simply wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the great info you have got here on this post. I might be coming back to your blog for extra soon.

  12. An excellent post, Diane. I’m surprised by the data regarding US serial killers. Such a huge spread between the US and the 2nd highest country. Surprising, but then it give us writers lots of material to work with. I’m almost finished book two in a trio series of thrillers, but over the last couple of months I’ve been entertaining thoughts of a serial killer novel. You’ve convinced me that IT MUST BE WRITTEN. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  13. C. K. Crouch says:

    Diane wonderful post. I read in True Blood when I was younger. I understand that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre really was based on some truth. I’m lucky I’ve only had one dealing with a scary situation. I was robbed while working in a convenience store aka gas station. It was my next to last weekend working. A man came in at 5:00 AM Sunday morning. He followed me behind the counter and demaned I open the register and give him the money. He had me in a choke hold. I refused to open the register, lucky for me we were in front of the closed one. I kept telling him I couldn’t open it. I even grabbed for the scissors and tried to stick him but he got me instead. I didn’t know this until Monday after I got off. His trial was finally held in June of 2011. He went to jail after confessing to not only robbing us but the store down the road. All he got from us was $200 in mainly ROLLED coins, pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I picked him out of two photo lineups. I identified him in court. We had him on video and he’s going to plead not guilty. I understand innocent until PROVEN guilty but we had the proof. But funny thing was I was more worried about having had too much money in my register and my eye strayed to it every so often wishing it would hurry up and do its automatic lock down.

    • dianekratz says:


      No one ever said criminals were smart! Rolled up coins? Whats up with that? Man I’ll bet that was scary for you! I’d never want to work at a place alone at night. I’m happy you were not hurt and he went to jail! Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Kathy says:

    I’m from Johnson County and have had similar experiences. I was a senior in high school in Olathe when Grissom was caught in Olathe. I remember hearing about it, but I don’t remember being scared by it. I probably should have been!

    • dianekratz says:

      Thanks for stopping by Kathy. I think when we are young we are more into ourselves, we don’t believe the world can hurt us. This makes younger people more vulnerable to become victims of crimes. They make easy targets for predators. Of course we can’t live our life being in constant fear.

  15. I just want to say I am new to blogging and actually loved you’re page. Most likely I’m planning to bookmark your website . You really come with really good stories. Thank you for sharing your blog site.

  16. forensics4fiction says:

    Excellent post Diane! I have to think that part of the reason the US leads in serial killers is that we’re the best at identifying and documenting them. That scene at the end of Silence of the Lambs where Dr. Lector is walking around a third world country really creeps me out. I wonder how many of these guys are flying under the radar around the world? Who gets your “creepiest” award?

    • dianekratz says:

      For me, its the real life bad guys who are fathers, grandpas and husbands.Also the growing number of child murders. Dr. Katharine Ramsland had a very interesting article about this at: I’ve seen kids that truly scare me! I’m talking First Graders who kill animals, stalk their parents and siblings. That’s scary! But if we are talking Hollywood Dr. Lector is the best villain ever! He’s smart, cunning and has no remorse. When he ripped the guards face off and put on his own face…it revealed his true nature and captured the essence of a psychopath! AWESOME movie!

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    Very interesting topic , regards for putting up.

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  19. Terri Austin says:

    Great post, Diane, and very creepy! I remember seeing a TV show about a family on the frontier killed the travelers who stopped for a meal. Now I know where they got the idea.

  20. Alica says:

    Your mode of explaining the whole thing in this paragraph is really fastidious, every one be capable
    of easily know it, Thanks a lot.

  21. Denise says:

    Really neat to read all these, my Grandmother grew up and lived in Olpe, KS, not far from Emporia, and in the Richard Grissom days, I used to frequent a bar called Eyes. I can remember him being there, and how he would just stand by pillars staring at people. Looking at the pics, I too could have been a victim!! I wish those families could have gotten to bury their girls.

    • dianekratz says:

      Thank you Denise for stopping by. I know exactly where Olpe, Kansas is located. I went to Emporia State University as an undergrad. I finished my practicum for grad school at the county mental health office in Emporia too. Having lost a child of my own, I couldn’t imagine the pain these parents they go through everyday, not knowing where their girls are. The whole point of that post was, they are everywhere, and anyone could be a victim. It’s a very small world! I hope you come back!

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