Monsters among us: veteran serial killers

Eric Dehm
May 01, 2018 - 11:00 am

US Army Photos

The recent arrest of the Golden State Killer, some 30 years after he's thought to have committed his last murder made major headlines for several reasons. First, it was shock that a years old cold case had been solved. Second, a true-crime book about the case written by Michelle McNamara, the wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, was released shortly before the announcement, and two years after McNamara's death. 

But there was a third aspect of it that caught my eye. As I scrolled through the stories about the arrest, I noticed I had something in common with Joseph James DeAngelo, the man now alleged to be the serial killer. He and I had both served in the US Navy, with DeAngelo serving during Vietnam as a Damage Controlman, rising to the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class. 


US Navy Photo

Unfortunately, while the vast majority of veterans are kind, caring, contributing members of society...some of them are monsters. DeAngelo is the latest in a surprisingly long list of vets who became serial killers. Including these 5 infamous cases:

5. The Cleveland Strangler - USMC

Cuyahoga County (OH) Sheriff's Office

When police raided Anthony Sowell's house in Cleveland in 2009, they found the bodies off 11 women. No word on whether they found any mementos from his seven years serving as a Marine. Sowell, who currently awaits execution on Ohio's death row, served in the Marine Corps from '78-'85 with a Good Conduct Medal, a deployment to Okinawa and two LOA's to his credit. Needless to say, his conduct appears to have worsened significantly after leaving the Corps. 

4. Green River Killer - US Navy

King County (WA) Booking Photo

Gary Ridgway's body count is staggering, with some estimates putting it in the triple digits. He likely doesn't get as much attention as others on this list because of simple timing as he was apprehended just two months after the September 11th terror attacks. It's believed he killed that many prior to his arrest, he murdered at least 71 women in the Seattle-Tacoma area of Washington State, but nobody's sure, with even Ridgway himself saying he lost count. Prior to his extended reign of terror, Ridgway served in Vietnam on board a Navy supply ship. 

3. The DC Sniper - US Army

US Army Photo

Technically, there were two DC Snipers, but John Allen Muhammad was the madman behind the rampage that terrorized our nation's capitol and the surrounding area in 2002. Muhammad served the longest of anyone on this list, joining the Louisiana National Guard in 1978, serving during the First Gulf War before being honorably discharged in 1994. Muhammad is believed to have killed a total of 17 people, 10 during the beltway attacks, seven elsewhere. He was executed in Virginia in 2009.

2. Son of Sam - US Army

US Army Photo

Before David Berkowitz was taking orders from a dog to murder six New Yorkers in 1976 and '77, he was following the orders of his Army NCOs. He enlisted in 1971 at 18 years old and served stateside as well as in Korea. The man who would become known as Son of Sam was known as Corporal Berkowitz when he was honorably discharged following the fulfillment of his enlistment. These days, the 64-year-old is called inmate Berkowitz, as he continues to serve six life sentences in New York. 

1. Jeffrey Dahmer - US Army

US Army Photo

Jeffrey Dahmer. His name is synonymous with evil, but his service is perhaps the least known on this list. The cannibal from Wisconsin had already committed his first murder when he enlisted in the Army in 1979 where he served as...a medic. I know! You may never look at the guy drawing your blood the same again. Dahmer's service was short lived. He served until 1981 when he was discharged after being found not suitable for military service, with alcoholism being given as the driving force behind the decision. But get this, Dahmer was given an honorable discharge apparently because his commanders didn't feel his Army problems would carry over to civilian life. Good call guys. Dahmer was killed in prison, beaten to death by another inmate. Before you cheer that man as a hero, just know the inmate was Christopher Scarver, a schizophrenic who was in prison for cold-blooded murder.