It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but that doesn’t always mean crime will stop. There are actually a disturbing number of murders that have taken place place on Christmas — either the day of or the night before on Christmas Eve. Learn more about the most gruesome killings that have happened over the holidays.
The Sodder Family Murders
This one is more of a suspicious death case than a cut and dry murder. On Christmas Eve 1945, a fire ripped through the home of George and Jennie Sodder and their family in the city of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Four of their children survived, but the bodies of the other five children have never been found, according to Crime & Investigation.
So, did they really die? George was a critic of Benito Mussolini and the Fascist government of Italy, and one conspiracy theory suggests the Mafia took the children. Their parents never gave up hope that their kids had survived, and even put up a billboard offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of any of them. George and Jennie died still believing their children could be alive.
A Star Wars Connection
David and Roger Cooper plotted to poison Sameena Imam in 2014 through text messages coded with Star Wars phrases, the Mirror reported. She was having an affair with Roger, and although she believed that by 2015, they would be together publicly, he didn’t want his wife to know about their relationship, Vice reported.
The brothers decided to kill Imam and spent months planning the murder. They first attempted to have David abduct her on December 12, exchanging messages like “Death Star Complete” and “Stay on target, you are expected Vader,” but the plan failed. Then, on Christmas Eve 2014, Roger and Imam arrived at David’s home in Leicester and David smothered her with a rag soaked in chloroform.
David disposed of the woman’s body just hours after her death. After police were informed she was missing following Boxing Day, her car was found miles away from her body on January 4, 2015, Vice reported. Finally, after a tip from the public, her body was found, and the brothers were arrested on suspicion of murder on January 7, 2014. On October 21, 2015, Roger and David were both found guilty of murder and sentenced to 30 years behind bars respectively.
The Santa of Covina
On Christmas Eve 2008, in Covina, California, Bruce Pardo went to his ex-wife’s family home a week after his divorce was finalized and began shooting, according to The 13th Floor. There were 25 people inside, and nine were killed. One of the most bizarre aspects of the Covina massacre was that Pardo entered the home dressed in a Santa Claus suit.
Pardo also set the house on fire, and three others were injured in the shooting. His ex-wife, her parents, her two brothers and their wives, her sister and her nephew were all victims in the massacre. The following morning on Christmas Day, Pardo died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head at his brother’s home in the early hours of the morning, and he never faced justice.
The Christmas Killings
From December 24 to December 26, 1992, six people were killed and two injured in one of the worst killing sprees in Dayton, Ohio’s history, the Dayton Daily News reported. The massacre became known as the “Christmas killings,” and began when Laura Taylor, DeMarcus Smith, Heather Matthews and Marvallous Keene shot their first victim, Joseph Wilkerson, to death on December 24 inside his home.
They continued their shooting spree for days. Their initial motive was robbery, but when Keene grew paranoid about “snitches,” according to Crime & Investigation, two of the victims were killed when the group became concerned they could implicate the four in the other deaths. The killers were arrested on December 26, and Taylor, Smith and Matthews are serving life sentences for murder. Keene was convicted in five of the killings and was executed by lethal injection on July 21, 2009.
The JonBenét Ramsey Homicide
JonBenét Ramsey was found dead on Christmas Day at her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. A handwritten ransom note was found at home, and her father, John, found the girl’s body in the basement of their house around eight hours after she was reported missing.
The 6-year-old took a blow to the head that broke her skull and she had been strangled — a garrote was found tied around her neck.
Her death was ruled a homicide, and initially during the investigation, authorities suspected that JonBenét’s parents and her brother, Burke Ramsey, were involved in her killing. They were later cleared following DNA testing. The crime is still unsolved and remains open with the Boulder Police Department.
Tragedy in Atkins
In December 2020, Pope County Sheriff Shane Jones released a statement after an investigation near Atkins, Arkansas, involving five deaths was determined to be a case of murder-suicide. The youngest deceased was a 7-year-old girl named Danielle Collins. Among those individuals found in the home was Levenah Countryman, 10, Abigail Heflin, 12, Jaquita Chase 31 and Patricia Patrick, 61.
“While all loss of life is heartbreaking, this situation has been particularly tragic,” Jones shared about the tragic incident over the holidays. “Anytime children are senselessly taken from those who love them, the pain is beyond compare. When you add to that the loss of the adults involved, the pain is unfathomable.”
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