11 Chilling Christmas Murders You Probably Haven't Heard About

Two mysteries, estranged lovers, and revenge all play a part in these Christmastime murders.

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Chilling Christmas Murders

Two mysteries, estranged lovers, and revenge all play a part in these Christmastime murders.

Sodder Family Murders

It’s a West Virginia murder that may have not been a murder at all. Five of the Sodder family children were given permission to stay up late on Christmas Eve in 1945 while their parents and younger siblings went to sleep. When a fire broke out overnight, it was assumed the children had perished in the blaze, but their remains were not in the debris. One witness claimed to see the children in a vehicle with adults not long after the fire started. A waitress in South Carolina claimed she served the children breakfast on Christmas morning. Save for a mysterious letter sent to the Sodders in 1968, the five children were never heard from or seen again.

Covina Massacre

A man dressed as Santa opened fire at a Los Angeles-area home on Christmas Eve in 2008 before setting the house ablaze and killing himself at his brother’s home. Bruce Pardo, who was reportedly upset about his recent divorce, opened fire at the home of his ex-wife’s parents during a family Christmas party. When the dust settled, nine people were dead and three more—including an eight-year-old girl—were injured. There was evidence Pardo had planned to flee after the killings, but police believe he turned the gun on himself in part due to severe third-degree burns he sustained while setting the home on fire.

Dayton, Ohio Christmas Killings

Four people in a holiday rampage killed six people in a three-day spree killing in 1992. The small gang, ranging in age from 16-20, was known as “Downtown Posse” and was frequently seen panhandling around Dayton. Their first victim was tied up and shot with his own gun early on Christmas Eve. Their final victims were two friends of the gang who were murdered to keep them from talking to the police. They were killed on December 26. Three of the killers are serving life sentences. A fourth was executed in 2009.

Sameena Imam

34-year-old Sameena Imam thought she was taking a quick Christmas Eve trip with her Costco co-worker and lover, Roger Cooper, in 2014. They had been together for two years, and Imam had issued him an ultimatum—it was time for him to get serious about her and leave his wife. Instead, Cooper and his brother, David Cooper, completed a plan they’d hatched weeks prior while communicating with each other in a Star Wars-esque code. Roger Cooper and Imam stopped by David Cooper’s house where it is believed the brothers attacked Imam and dosed her with chloroform and heavy metals before disposing of her body. Her family reported her missing when she didn’t return home for Boxing Day. The brothers were in jail by January 7, 2015 and were sentenced to 30 years in prison later that year.

Tricia McCauley

The actress known for her role as Jenna Dewan’s stand-in for the film Step Up was killed on Christmas Day in 2016 when she crossed paths with a homeless man in Washington, D.C. Investigators say the man, Duane Johnson, climbed into McCauley’s vehicle where he beat and raped her before strangling her to death. Johnson pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

JonBenét Ramsey

The six-year-old beauty pageant star was found strangled to death in the basement of her parents’ Colorado home on December 26, 1996. Her mother, Patsy, had reported her missing that morning after finding a ransom note demanding $118,000. After JonBenét’s body was found, investigators eventually zeroed in on Patsy and JonBenét’s father, John, and the pair were indicted for their child’s murder. Prosecutors chose not to pursue the case due to a lack of evidence. Patsy died of ovarian cancer in 2009. John has since remarried. No one has ever been charged for JonBenét’s death.

Dallas Christmas Killings

A man killed his children, his estranged wife, and some of his wife’s family members on Christmas Day in 2011. Aziz Yazdanpanah was dressed as Santa when he arrived at his ex-wife's apartment and reportedly opened presents with his teenage children, niece, and brother- and-sister-in-law before shooting them all and then turning the gun on himself. One of the victims managed to call 911, but police found all seven people deceased when they arrived on the scene moments later.

Lawson Family Murders

Charlie Lawson had been complaining about headaches and insomnia for months prior to murdering his wife and seven of their eight children on Christmas Day in 1929 before turning his gun on himself. The bodies were discovered late on Christmas Day when relatives came by to visit. Lawson’s body was found with two notes in his pocket, according to Rockingham Now. They said “Trouble can cause…” and “Nobody to blame.” The remaining child, 16-year-old Arthur, was not home at the time of the murders. Charlie apparently gave his son permission to leave and then killed the family while Arthur was away.

Za'Zell Preston

Za’Zell Preston was studying to become a domestic violence counselor when she herself became a victim of domestic violence. On Christmas Eve in 2011, her husband William Wallace beat her to death after an argument and then dragged her lifeless body into bed for the night. On Christmas morning, he propped her on the couch before ordering Preston’s young daughters to open their presents next to their mother’s body. Wallace was convicted of second-degree murder and is due to be released from prison in 2036.

Stephanie Kilhefner

Dustin Lee Klopp took his two small children to celebrate Christmas with his parents in 2014, and then he called the police to confess that he’d killed his wife, Stephanie Kilhefner, the night before and placed her body in a shed on their property. On Christmas Eve, Klopp reportedly punched Kilhelfner, slit her throat, and then struck her several times with an ax. The 36-year-old died by suicide in his jail cell in March 2015.

Michele Anderson Carnation Murders

The Carnation Christmas Eve murders rocked the small Washington town east of Seattle when the bodies of six people were discovered at a home on December 26, 2007. Michele Anderson, along with her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, shot and killed Anderson’s parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew on Christmas Eve that year. The motive was reportedly money—Anderson claimed her brother owed her $40,000 and she was frustrated her parents were on his side. Anderson was sentenced to six consecutive life terms in prison.