With the celebrity death toll at an all time high, 2016 is becoming unofficially known as the year of death and despair. Adding to the already soiled reputation held by 2016 is the alarming number of suspected serial killer arrests. Today we’ll look at some of the most shocking serial killer cases from the past year.
When Kala Brown was discovered alive and being held captive on the property of Todd Kohlhepp in early November of 2016, investigators believed that it was finally case closed on an ongoing investigation that began three months earlier. They had no idea that it was only the first chapter of the story of Todd Kohlhepp. Shortly after his arrest, Kohlhepp was charged for the murder of Brown’s boyfriend, Charlie Carver. After directing investigators to Carver’s body, Kohlhepp admitted to the previously unsolved murders of four people inside Superbikes Motorsports in 2003. In addition to Carver’s body, the bodies of another couple were found buried on the property. Kohlhepp is currently awaiting trial for the seven murders, as well as the abduction of Kala Brown.
In September of 2016, 911 dispatchers received a phone call from a woman in Ashland, Ohio who claimed she was being held captive against her will. In a whisper, the woman carefully directed police to the home she was being held in and police were able to arrest her captor, identified as Shawn Grate. After his arrest, police located two bodies inside Grate’s home. Grate then candidly admitted to having killed at least five women, including one woman whose death was initially filed as a drug overdose. Grate was also able to lead investigators to one previously undiscovered body, hidden behind a home in Madison, Township.
James Dale Ritchie
In early November of 2016, police attempted to apprehend a suspect who was trying to skip out on a bill from a taxi driver. As officers approached the man, identified as James Dale Ritchie, he swung around and opened fire. Sgt. Marc Patzke was able to return fire with Ritchie, killing him during the shootout. Patzke was later taken to the area hospital and was able to make a full recovery from his injuries. It wasn’t until an analysis performed on the gun Ritchie had used during the altercation indicated that it had been linked to five unsolved homicides in the area that police began to suspect that Ritchie had been a serial killer. Investigators are still reluctant to label Ritchie as a serial killer, since their investigation is still underway, but the families of victims involved in the unsolved homicides are confident that Ritchie was the man police had been searching for.
On December 19, 2016, Orange, New Jersey police charged Khalil Wheeler-Weaver with the previously unsolved murders of two young women. 20-year-old Sarah Butler had been home from college for Thanksgiving break when she disappeared. Her body was later found under a pile of leaves and debris in Eagle Rock Reservation. After Wheeler-Weaver’s arrest for the strangulation death of Sarah Butler, police were able to link him to the murder of a second woman, Joanne Brown, who had also been strangled and left inside an Orange home. Police are now following leads which may connect Wheeler-Weaver to at least one other unsolved murder within the Orange area.
In another case from November of 2016, San Antonio police indited Johnny Avalos for the murder of four women, including the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. According to the reports, Avalos is currently facing two capital murder of multiple people charges. Investigators were able to tie Avalos to the murders after he had been arrested for the sexual assault of a teenager. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if Avalos is found guilty.
Claremont Serial Killer
Australia’s longest-running murder investigation is seemingly coming to a close. For decades police have hunted an unknown suspect, known only as the Claremont Serial Killer, who was believed to have been involved in the kidnap and murder of several young women in the 1990s. In December of 2016, police have finally put a name to this mysterious killer: Bradley Robert Edwards. Though Edwards is still awaiting trial, police are confident that he had been behind the murders of at least two of the women linked to the Claremont Serial Killer and may be connected to other abductions near the city of Perth.
Jimmy the Serial Killer
Police in Bangkok announced in October of 2016 that they arrested a man they believe to have been involved in the mysterious murders of homeless people around the city and surrounding areas. Police believe that a Myanmar national, identified only as “Jimmy”, was connected to four of the murders after conducting DNA tests on blood stains found on several articles of clothing in his possession. Investigators also believe that they may be able to connect the suspected serial killer to a fifth victim. In spite of Jimmy’s arrest, Coconuts Bangkok reports that there has been a sixth victim within the area, sparking some concern that there may be more than one serial killer operating within the city.
Though William Reece has spent most of his life in and out of prison for charges related to the kidnap and sexual assault of teenagers and young women, it wasn’t until Spring of 2016 that officials realized that they had a serial killer in custody. Reece was picked up in September of 2015 for the murder of a 19-year-old Oklahoma woman. The case had been previously unsolved for nearly two decades. While in custody in Oklahoma, Reece requested to be transferred to Galveston County, Texas where he agreed to lead investigators to two other bodies. Jessica Cain had disappeared in 1997 following a party with fellow drama club members from her high school. Reece was able to point out the horse pasture where he had hidden her body. From there, Reece took investigators to a second location where they uncovered the remains of Kelli Cox. Police believe he could be connected to more murders, including the abduction of 12-year-old Laura Smither. He has since been extradited back to Oklahoma.
In 2006 Chanel Petro-Nixon was found strangled and stuffed into a garbage bag shortly after she had been reported missing. The prime suspect had always been Chanel’s childhood friend, Vernon Primus, who had been deported back to the Caribbean last year after serving four years for raping and kidnapping another woman. During that time Primus had attacked and stabbed a realtor and has been accused of keeping his former girlfriend captive for several months after showing her news clippings of Chanel’s murder. Police believe that they finally have enough evidence to convict him of the 2006 murder and suspect that he may be linked to more.
Joshua Dukes was indited on capital murder charges in November of 2016 for the 2015 robberies and murders of Broderick Smith, Daniel Omar Gomez, Eli Nunez and James Hankins. Police are now saying that Dukes could very well be a serial killer. Dukes was particularly brutal in the murder of the men, with Smith being shot execution style when he failed to open the safe at the auto parts store he had been employed at. Investigations are still underway as Dukes awaits trial.