The 13th Floor

8 Terrifying, True Christmas Murders

The yuletide season is supposed to be one filled with peace on earth, good will towards men, and a celebration of joy. With empty pockets trying to pay for expected commercialized happiness, exhaustion from the rest of the year weighing heavy, and depressing weather surrounding the season; for many people, Christmas is the worst time of the year. We’ve been shining a light on plenty of fictionalized tales of terror with Holiday horror movies, but lest we forget that this time of year isn’t always filled with Christmas spirit.

O’Dowd’s Dead Body Hidden Under Christmas Presents (2011)

Patty Michelle White was down on her luck when the aunt of her ex-boyfriend, Michelle O’Dowd, offered for the woman to stay at her place. White would do odd jobs for O’Dowd to “earn her keep” so to speak, but O’Dowd’s twin brother knew something was up with Michelle failed to show up for work. He arrived at Michelle’s home to discover her car and pets still in tact, as well as the Christmas decorations and presents under the tree untouched. Except for the human foot sticking out from underneath the gifts. White later confessed to beating and strangling O’Dowd before hiding her body underneath the Christmas presents and fleeing to South Carolina. While this story is morbid beyond belief, the saddest part is perhaps that neighbors in the gated community were on record saying they had heard screaming the night of O’Dowd’s murder, but no one thought to call the police.

The Ashland Tragedy (1881)

17-year-old amputee Robert Gibbons, his 14-year-old sister Fannie, and their 15-year-old friend Emma Carico were fast asleep on Decemeber 23rd, 1881 when three assailants entered the Gibbons family home and brutally murdered the trio with an axe and a crowbar. Once the three assailants had finished murdering these children, they set the family house ablaze. The flames caught the attention of neighbors who ran into the home to find the three with skulls smashed, and the fire presumably set as a means to hide any evidence. The town doctor would later discover that the two girls had been raped in addition to this horrific murder and George Ellis, William Neal, and George Craft were convicted for the crimes. Ellis was killed by a lynch mob while Neal and Craft were legally hanged following the trial.

The Covina Massacre (2008)

One week after his divorce had been finalized, Bruce Pardo showed up to his ex-wife’s family home on Christmas Eve 2008 and began shooting at 25 people inside, including the 8-year-old survivor who unluckily answered the door. Pardo entered the home dressed in a Santa Claus suit and would murder nine people, injure three others, and set the house on fire. Pardo’s ex wife, both of her parents, her two brothers and their wives, her sister, and her nephew were the unfortunate victims of his murder spree. The following morning on Christmas Day, Pardo would die from a self-inflicted gun wound to the head.

The Los Feliz Murder Mansion (1959)’s own Alyse Wax wrote a wonderful piece dedicated entirely to The Los Feliz Murder Mansion’s grim origins but this list would be incomplete without this historic infamous murder. At 4:30am on December 6th, 1959, cardiologist Harold Perelson smashed his sleeping wife Lillian in the head with a ball-peen hammer and left her to die while he moved on to try and murder his daughter Judye. His aim was off and she managed to escape and inform a neighbor, but her screams woke up her younger siblings. Unable to kill his younger children, Perelson told the children to go back to bed, saying, “This is a nightmare.” He then took a handful of pills and was dead before the ambulance arrived for his wife. Until just recently, the home sat for 50 years uninhabited, supposedly complete with the ominous Christmas tree and neatly-wrapped Christmas presents with its intended recipients no longer alive to open them.

Dustin Klopp’s Axe Murder (2014)

Stephanie Kilhefner spent Christmas Eve 2014 concealed inside of a bag in a shed. After an argument with her husband, Dustin Klopp, he knocked her unconscious, slit her throat with a knife, and then put an axe through her head. After cleaning up the crime scene and hiding the body, Klopp woke up their 2 and 5 year old children to celebrate Christmas at their grandma and grandpa’s house. Klopp allegedly made a confession to his father, who then drove him to the State Police department where he confessed to the slaying. Luckily, the children were not witness to the death of their mother.

Alexis Valdez’s “Present” (2013)

18-year-old Alexis Valdez was living with his aunt and her boyfriend Silvestre Diaz-Hernandez. When he and Silvestre got into an argument about Valdez’ inability to contribute to paying rent. Rather than moving out or talking it out like a civilized person, Valdez smashed Diaz-Hernandez’s head with a hammer. Valdez then closed the windows, turned up the music, and cut off his victim’s head, left arm, ears, nose, and gouged out the eyes. As an early Christmas present for his aunt, Alexis left the decapitated head on her pillow. Police found him covered in blood and confessed that had his aunt been home, he would have killed her too.

The Lawson Family Massacre (1929)

Charlie Lawson was a working-class sharecropper that purchased new outfits for his family for their family portrait shortly before Christmas. This may not seem too peculiar, but for a man of his means at this time, this behavior was extremely odd. A week or so later on Christmas Day, Lawson did the unthinkable. His two daughters Carrie (12) and Maybell (7) were on their way to their aunt and uncle’s house when he shot them with a shotgun and followed up by bludgeoning them before hiding their bodies in the tobacco barn. He followed up by murdering his wife Fannie by gunfire. Marie (17) heard the gunfire and screamed while James (4) and Raymond (2) took to hiding. Lawson found Marie and shot her before killing the two boys, and the baby daughter Mary Lou (4 months). All of the family members were found with their arms crossed and rocks under their heads. Charlie then walked into the woods, paced around a tree, and put a bullet into his head. The sole survivor was his eldest son Arthur who had been sent into town on an errand just before the massacre took place.

Texas Christmas Massacre (2011)

The Yazdanpanah family was in the middle of opening their Christmas presents when they heard a knock on the door. Dressed in a Santa Claus suit, Aziz Yazdanpanah opened fire on his family and killed his estranged wife, Fatemeh Rahmati, their 14-year-old-son, Ali, and their 19-year-old daughter, Nona. Fatemeh’s sister Zohreh Rahmaty, her husband Mohamad Hossein Zarei, and their 22-year-old daughter Sahra were also victims to his gunfire. The seven bodies (Aziz’s suicide included) were found sprawled among presents, shredded wrapping paper, and the television still playing in the background. Tragically, the final text Sahra Zarei would send would be to her boyfriend, annoyed that her uncle had shown up in a Santa Claus suit saying: “Now he wants to be all fatherly and win father of the year because he fucked up before.”

*Header Photo: iStock


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