The F.B.I. describes serial killers as a person who murders three or more people usually with the murders taking place over more than a month and including a significant break between them. They make a distinction that serial killing is not the same as mass murdering, nor is it spree killing, where murders are committed in two or more locations in a short time. Former chief of the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit and author of “Mind Hunter, John Douglas says, “A very conservative estimate is that there are between 35 and 50 active serial killers in the United States” at any given time.”
There seems to be a widespread misconception that serial killers are all deranged or socially awkward white males. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, there are serial killers of all races and ethnicity and most are found competent to stand trial.
When I started my research on African-American serial killers I knew of about 10, as I researched I learned more that I had never heard of. I researched for hours, murderer after murderer, method after method until I was so disgusted I concluded my list was as complete as it could be for my own sanity.
Sometimes it seems that African-American serial killers go undetected longer, or totally because of their choice of victims. It’s more common for African-American serial killers to target victims in urban neighborhoods where the crime rate is higher to begin with. Black on Black crime has become so an idea of normal violence that some wonder how hard the police investigate. In some of the cases where the victims were predominately white, the killer went undetected longer because the police were focused on a Caucasian perpetrator. Somehow it took the D.C. Sniper killings and attacks to bring mass awareness to the idea of an African-American serial killer though many had been prosecuted long before these killings.
A 2014 Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database annual statistics report showed that for the decades 1900–2010, the percentage of White serial killers was 52.1% while the percentage of African-American serial killers was 40.3%.
There have been a plethora of African-American serial killers throughout the decades. Just a few are
Jake Bird who in 1947, after a three-day trial was found guilty of first-degree murder and given the death penalty. While on death row he confessed to committing or being involved in at least 44 murders during his travels across the country. He was hanged at the Washington State Penitentiary in 1949.
Lonnie David Franklin Jr, nicknamed “The Grim Reaper” because he appears to have taken a 14-year slumber from his crimes, from 1988 to 2002. He is believed to be the culprit behind at least 10 murders. Jury selection for Franklin’s trial was scheduled for December 15, 2015.
Nathaniel White is a convicted serial killer who was active in Hudson Valley region of New York during the early 1990s. White confessed to beating and stabbing six women to death while on parole. He was charged with six counts of second-degree murder and was convicted on all counts on April 14, 1993. He was sentenced to 150 years to life.
Anthony Edward Sowell Jr was also known as the Cleveland Strangler. In 2011, he was charged with eleven counts of aggravated murder and over 70 counts of rape, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse. To date, he currently resides on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.
Milton Johnson is responsible for 17 murders in June, July and August of 1983 in Joliet, Illinois. Although he was sentenced to death he was spared in January 2003 when the Governor of Illinois commuted the death sentence of 167 inmates including Johnson.
Alton Coleman along with a 21-year-old female accomplice Debra Brown committed a string of vicious attacks and murders during a six-state killing spree in 1984. By the time the couple was caught, Coleman was charged or wanted for questioning in sexual assaults on at least 20 people in 13 separate attacks, including seven murders. Almost all of the victims were African-American. One of their victims was the 21-year-old Debra Brown 7-year-old niece who they killed in the process of raping and torturing her 9-year-old sister. He was executed by the state of Ohio.
Paul Durousseau (murdered seven young women (including two who were pregnant) between 1997 and 2003. He is also suspected of multiple murders while stationed overseas in the American Military. All of his known victims were young, single African-American women. Charged with five counts of murder, on December 13, 2007, he was sentenced to die by lethal injection.
Kendall Francois from Poughkeepsie, New York was convicted of killing eight women, from 1996 to 1998. Originally on trial for murder, a month later he was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder, eight counts of second-degree murder, and attempted murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole until his death.
Lorenzo Jerome Gilyard, Jr.is alleged to have raped and murdered 13 women and girls from 1977 to 1993. He was convicted of six counts of murder on March 16, 2007. All were strangled and showed signs that they were involved in a struggle, Gilyard was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Michael Hughes was convicted and sentenced to life without parole for the murders of four women and girls in California. In a separate trial, he was sentenced to death for the murders of three other women.
Derrick Todd Lee nicknamed the Baton Rouge Serial Killer was initially overlooked by authorities because they believed the killer was of the white race. Lee is awaiting execution in Louisiana. He was linked by DNA to the deaths of seven women in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas in Louisiana, and in 2004 was convicted, in separate trials, of the murders of two women. One of the trials resulted in a death sentence.
“The Hitch-Hike Murderer” Anthony J Jackson rapist targeted college women near Boston University. On December 22, 1976, he was convicted of murder in the first degree, kidnapping, rape, and unarmed robbery, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Gerald Parker raped and murdered five Orange County, California women, attacked a sixth, and killed her unborn child during the 1970s although he wasn’t arrested for his crimes until 17 years later when a DNA link was established. Parker was sentenced to death in January 1999.
There is too much evidence of serial killers around the globe of all races to believe the myth that all serial killers are white. While the majority of sensationalized serial killer murders in the United States are perpetrated by Caucasian males there are many African-American ones operating in the U.S. as well.