Top 10 Notorious California Serial Killers

By Jack Mash

From the 1849 gold rush to modern day Silicon Valley, California has been a state of many faces and haunted by some of America’s most notorious california serial killers.

Spanning nearly two centuries of true evil, these top 10 Californian monsters have killed hundreds of innocent people in their wake.

From the Zodiac Killer to Dorothea Puente, some are still shrouded in mystery while others’ twisted stories we all know by heart.

Explore with us as we look closer into history and pay homage to California’s dark past full of savage deaths that shook entire neighborhoods – and even left national-level ripples – upon discovery

1. The Zodiac Killer

Zodiac Killer

Background: The true identity of the Zodiac Killer remains unknown. They were active in the San Francisco area during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Modus Operandi: Mailed cryptograms and letters to newspapers.

Number of Victims: Possibly 37 victims, officially 5 confirmed dead and 2 injured.

Period: Late 1960s – early 1970s

2. Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker)

Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker)

Background: Born in El Paso, Texas, Ramirez had a troubled upbringing, marked by drug abuse and exposure to violence.

Modus Operandi: Home invasion, sexual assault, and murder.

Number of Victims: 14 confirmed dead and numerous sexual assault victims.

Period: 1984 – 1985

3. Charles Manson (Manson Family)

Background: Born in Cincinnati, Manson had a troubled childhood marked by abuse, neglect, and criminal activities.

Modus Operandi: Cult leader; orchestrated murders as part of an apocalyptic race war.

Number of Victims: 9 confirmed via the Manson Family murders.

Period: 1969

4. Rodney Alcala (The Dating Game Killer)

Background: Alcala was born in Texas and raised in California. He served in the US Army for a brief period.

Modus Operandi: Approached victims through photography and was known for using charm.

Number of Victims: At least 8, possibly over 100 victims.

Period: 1970s – 1980s

5. Ted Bundy

Background: Bundy was born in Vermont and held a degree in psychology. He was often described as charming and intelligent.

Modus Operandi: Manipulated and lured victims, utilized blunt force and strangulation.

Number of Victims: Confessed to 36 murders, estimates range from 30-100 victims.

Period: 1974 – 1978

6. William Bonin (The Freeway Killer)

William Bonin (The Freeway Killer)

Background: Bonin, a Vietnam War veteran, was raised in a broken home marked by abuse and neglect.

Modus Operandi: Kidnapping and murdering young male hitchhikers.

Number of Victims: At least 21 confirmed victims.

Period: 1979 – 1980

7. Herbert Mullin (The Psychopathic Killer)

Background: From Santa Cruz, California; Mullin had a history of mental illness and drug abuse.

Modus Operandi: Believed killing prevented earthquakes; murdered schoolmates, strangers, and family members.

Number of Victims: 13 confirmed victims.

Period: 1972 – 1973

8. Edmund Kemper (The Co-Ed Killer)

Background: Born in California, Kemper had a troubled upbringing marked by abuse, neglect, and parental divorce.

Modus Operandi: Picked up female hitchhikers, killed and dismembered them.

Number of Victims: At least 10 confirmed victims.

Period: 1964 – 1973

9. Larry Gene Bell (The San Diego Serial Killer)

Background: From North Carolina, Bell moved to San Diego during his late teens.

Modus Operandi: Abducted, raped, and murdered women.

Number of Victims: 5 confirmed victims.

Period: 1984 – 1986

10. Cary Stayner (The Yosemite Killer)

Cary Stayner (The Yosemite Killer)

Background: From Merced, California; experienced abuse and neglect as a child.

Modus Operandi: Abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered visitors of Yosemite National Park.

Number of Victims: 4 confirmed victims.

Period: 1999 – 2000

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Bottom Line

This list of infamous serial killers is not exhaustive.

There are many others responsible for numerous deaths and terrible atrocities.

Each has taken countless lives and committed terrible atrocities, reminding us of the need to remain vigilant against evil.

Stay safe!

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