The 10 Most Famous Unsolved Murders Still Plaguing Authorities

There have been nearly 185,000 unsolved homicides and non-negligent manslaughters in the United States since 1980, according to a study of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and hundreds of thousands more worldwide

While every unsolved crime is important, there are some which capture the imagination of the entire country – or world – and leave people searching for answers long after the cases have gone cold.

Here are 10 unsolved murders that are still plaguing authorities and true crime watchers alike.

1) The Zodiac Killer

No American serial killer has baffled law enforcement quite like the man dubbed the Zodiac Killer, who killed at least five people and injured two others in Northern California in the late 1960s. 

The Zodiac himself claimed to have killed 37 people in a series of taunting letters he sent to local newspapers. In some letters, he sent ciphers, one of which wasn’t solved until 2020 – 51 years after it was sent.

While many people have claimed their relatives may be the killer, and a team of journalists and former law enforcement and intelligence officials claim to have identified the killer, the case remains unsolved.

2) The Somerton Man

Also known as the Tamam Shud case, the Somerton Man refers to a man who was found dead on Somerton Park beach, just outside Adelaide, South Australia.

He was well dressed in a jacket and tie, but all the tags had been removed from his clothes. He had no identification, and in his pockets authorities found unused train and bus tickets, cigarettes, matches, gum, combs, and a torn piece of paper with the words “tamám shud” – a Persian phrase meaning “is finished” – typed on it.

An autopsy revealed no cause of death and the man went unidentified for decades, until researchers reportedly solved the mystery in July 2022. Though he was identified, how he came to die on the beach is still unknown.

3) The Chicago Tylenol Poisonings

In 1982, Chicago was gripped by a frightening mystery. Seven people who had purchased Tylenol from various pharmacies died. The pills they ingested were found to be laced with potassium cyanide, and the deaths resulted in major reforms to how over-the-counter substances were packaged. Yet to this day, no one knows who planted the poison or who was the intended target.

In addition to new regulations, the case also sparked copycats across the country, including cases of spouses using over-the-counter medication to kill their significant others.

4) JonBenet Ramsey

The death of JonBenet Ramsey – a six year old beauty pageant queen – shocked the nation. On December 26, 1996, JonBenet’s mother called police to report the young beauty queen missing after finding a ransom note demanding $118,000 for the safe return of her daughter. Her father, John Ramsey, found JonBenet’s body in the basement later that day.

For years, the Ramseys were suspected of killing their daughter until they were “completely cleared” in 2008 by DNA testing. In 2006, John Mark Karr (now Alexis Valoran Reich after coming out as transgender) falsely confessed to killing JonBenet.

To this day, no one knows for sure what happened to the young beauty queen. The case was recently handed over to the Colorado Cold Case Review Team after John Ramsey petitioned Governor Jared Polis to reopen the investigation into his daughter’s murder.

5) The Boy In The Box

On February 25, 1957, the naked and beaten body of a young boy was found in a box on the side of the road in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was malnourished and his real age was not determined, but he is believed to have been between 3 and 7 years old. The boy had been freshly groomed, with a haircut and trimmed nails, but was also covered in scars, some of which were surgical.

Police determined the boy was killed by blunt force trauma, but to this day, no one knows his identity or the person or persons who killed him.

6) Tupac Shakur And Biggie Smalls

While it is believed they were killed by two different people, the fact that two of the most famous rappers in the world were murdered just six months apart gets them lumped in together. 

Tupac was murdered during a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996, while riding in a car with record producer Marion “Suge” Knight. It is believed that an altercation with Crips gang member Orlando Anderson earlier in the night led to Tupac’s murder, and that Anderson was the culprit. Anderson, however, was murdered in 1998, before he could be charged with Tupac’s murder.

As for Biggie Smalls, or the Notorious B.I.G., he was also murdered in a drive-by shooting, but in Los Angeles, California. No one has ever been named as a suspect in his death.

7) The Disembodied Feet

Starting in August 2007, five human feet washed up on a shore near Vancouver, British Columbia. All the feet were still wearing sneakers, and no other body parts or clothing were ever found. 

Canadian authorities still don’t know who the feet belonged to or how they got to shore, though DNA tests did prove one foot belonged to a man who had been missing for several months.

8) The Hall-Mills Murders

In 1922, Episcopal priest Edward Wheeler Hall was having an affair with a member of his choir, Eleanor Mills. Hall and Mills were both married, and after their bodies were found in a field in Somerset County, New Jersey, police suspected Hall’s wife, Frances Noel Stevens Hall, along with her brothers and a cousin.

An initial investigation resulted in no indictments, but public and media pressure forced then-New Jersey Governor A. Harry Moore to order a second investigation, which led to a trial. Mrs. Hall’s cousin, Henry de la Bruyere Carpender, requested a separate trial, and was ultimately never tried.

The other suspects, Mrs. Hall and her brothers, Henry Hewgill Stevens and William Carpender Stevens, were acquitted at trial, after the defense portrayed the prosecution’s key witness as unreliable and “crazy.”

9) The Black Dahlia

Twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Short’s body was found mutilated in a Los Angeles, California, neighborhood on January 15, 1947. Her body was cut in half at the waist, and an autopsy revealed she had ligature marks on her ankles, wrist, and neck, as well as a laceration on her right breast, with superficial lacerations to other parts of her body.

Days after her murder, someone claiming to be her killer called the editor of the Los Angeles Examiner and said he would eventually turn himself in and send in items belonging to Short. Days after that, a U.S. Postal Service worker found a suspicious envelope addressed to the Examiner and other local papers that included Short’s birth certificate, business cards, photographs, and other items, including an address book with the name Mark Hansen on the cover. Hansen was suspected of Short’s murder, but never charged, nor was anyone else.

10) Jack the Ripper

Perhaps the most famous serial killer of all time, Jack the Ripper operated in London, England, in the fall of 1888, killing at least five prostitutes in an impoverished part of the city. The women’s throats were cut and at least three victims had their internal organs removed, leading police to believe the killer had some medical or surgical knowledge.

“Jack the Ripper” came from a letter sent to media outlets from someone claiming to be the murderer, though the letter itself is believed to be a hoax.

Some believe that the close proximity of the murders meant the Ripper lived and worked near where the crimes were committed, while others believe a more educated individual was responsible. To date, despite the Ripper’s notoriety, no one has been charged in the crimes.

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