Eight Chilling Halloween True Crime Cases

Halloween, a beloved tradition, is usually filled with fun spooks and sweet treats. However, its playful facade has also been cloaked in chilling real-world crimes.

At CrimeDoor, we’ve compiled a list of true crimes that took place on Halloween. The significant media attention these cases have garnered has etched them deeply within public memory. Amplified by the annual Halloween buzz, these true crime stories have achieved a chilling infamy, mesmerizing and horrifying audiences in equal measure.


A Mysterious Halloween Disappearance 

Cindy Song

Cindy Song was a Korean student who went missing after attending a Halloween party in 2001. Image Source

On Halloween 2001, Penn State student Cindy Song had her life mysteriously cut short. 

She attended a Halloween party that night and then eerily vanished without a trace. This was at odds with Cindy’s otherwise disciplined lifestyle, balancing two jobs alongside her university curriculum

Cindy, a university student from South Korea, was on track to graduate from Penn State University in a few short months. During that ill-fated Halloween night, she was dressed as a bunny. 

Her disappearance brought a frenzied search and significant media attention, but unfortunately, Cindy Song remained missing. Her belongings, including a cell phone and a backpack, were later found intact in her apartment, adding more mystery to her disappearance. 

Suspect Hugo Selenski’s backyard contained multiple bodies, but not that of Cindy Song. Image Source

Hugo Selenski, a notorious bank robber and serial killer, emerged as a suspect in Cindy Song’s disappearance in 2003. Selenski admitted to abducting Cindy but alleged his accomplice, Michael Kerkowski, was responsible for her death. A search of Selenski’s property revealed multiple buried bodies, but none were Cindy’s.  They did, however, find the bodies of both Kerkowski and his wife, marking a dead end in the case. Despite the informant’s tip and Selenski’s confession, investigators have still been unable to definitively link him to Cindy’s case. Today, the case remains unsolved. 


A Disgusting Duo

The Tool Box Killers and the Murder of Shirley Ledford

Shirley Ledford, a 16-year-old California girl, unfortunately became the victim of one of the most brutal and horrifying stories of Halloween true crime. 

Shirley Ledford was murdered at just 16 years old by the Tool Box Killers. Image Source

As Ledford left a Halloween party in the San Fernando Valley, she planned to hitch a ride home. This decision would prove disastrous when two men, Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, spotted and abducted her. 

 Ledford was subjected to hours of torture, which was recorded by her killers. Her screams have become one of the most disturbing artifacts of the case, leading it to be widely referred to as the Tool Box Killers case

The twisted duo, Bittaker and Norris, perpetrated the murder in the most sadistic way possible, using a variety of tools, hence the infamous name. 

The Tool Box Killers Image Source

Days following Ledford’s brutal murder, her body was found discarded on someone’s lawn, where a jogger discovered it. The nature of Ledford’s injuries was so gruesome that detection and confirmation of her identity took a significant amount of time. 

Bittaker and Norris were eventually arrested and convicted for their crimes, including the Halloween night murder of Ledford.  The gruesome recording made by Bittaker and Norris during Ledford’s torture served an important yet ghastly role in the trial proceedings. The chilling audio was played in court, reportedly inducing strong emotional responses from those present; some jurors reportedly wept openly, while others felt physically ill. 

Shirley Ledford’s story serves as a grim reminder to the shocking capacity for human cruelty. Her murder, brutally enacted on a Halloween night over four decades ago, remains one of the most harrowing true crime Halloween horrors. 


A Bright Future Darkened

The Murder of Arpana Jinaga 

Arpana Jinaga Image Source

In the early morning hours of November 1, 2008, Arpana Jinaga, a 24-year-old software engineer and Indian immigrant, was found brutally beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled to death in her apartment complex. She had been one of the hosts of a Halloween party the previous night, attended by various residents including Emanuel Fair. 

Detectives zeroed in on him after noticing him in photos of the party and finding his DNA at the crime scene. On October 30, 2010, Fair was placed in a holding cell in Seattle’s King County jail while he awaited trial.

Emmanual Fair spent eight years in jail awaiting trial on the murder of Jinaga and was later found not guilty and released. Image Source

Despite never being officially convicted, Fair spent nearly eight years in jail awaiting his trial. He faced two trials; the first in 2017 resulted in a hung jury, and the second in 2019 finally led to a verdict of not guilty. Jurors determined that the detectives and prosecutors had never presented a strong enough case against Fair, leading to his release. 

In the aftermath of his release, Emanuel Fair has taken legal action against those who had the authority to detain him, including the city of Redmond, the Redmond Police Department, the lead Detective, and the prosecutor on his case. The lawsuit argues that Fair’s prolonged custody and the mishandling of the case were due to racial discrimination1. As of now, the case stands in litigation with Fair’s legal team expanding their allegations, and Arpana Jinaga’s murder remains unsolved. 


A Wine Country Nightmare 

The 2004 Napa Halloween Murders

Victims Adriane Insogna, and Leslie Mazzara Image Source

On Halloween night of 2004, the serene scenery of Napa, California was disturbed by a gruesome crime that would be remembered as the Napa Halloween Murders

Late in the quiet evening, an intruder broke into the home of Lauren Meanza, Adriane Insogna, and Leslie Mazzara. Both Insogna and Mazzara were brutally murdered while Meanza, though present, escaped uninjured from the assailant. She managed to flee the scene under the night’s shroud, dressing in her sleepwear.

As investigators delved into the case, they found it challenging to find a credible lead. After a year, a DNA match pointed towards Eric Matthew Copple, Insogna’s friend, and Mazzara’s former boyfriend. Initially, Copple proclaimed innocence, but as evidence piled against him, he buckled. He confessed to the double murder, revealing jealousy as the driving force behind his violent act.

Eric Matthew Copple at his trial. Image Source

In August 2007, Eric Matthew Copple pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This conviction provided some closure to the grueling ordeal and offered a measure of justice for the victims.


The Trick or Treat Murder

Joan Rabel and the Murder of Peter Fabiano 

A newspaper clipping about the Trick or Treat Murder of 1957. Image Source

Joan Rabel would eventually become infamously involved in a chilling and tragic event known as the “Trick-or-Treat Murder” of Peter Fabiano during the mid-century. 

Joan Rabel, a writer and photographer arrived at Peter Fabiano’s salon in 1957 seeking employment after her divorce. During her time at the salon, she and Betty Fabiano, Peter’s wife, became close friends, and Joan was welcomed into the Fabiano family. 

Reports later suggested that Rabel had developed a disdain for Peter Fabiano. This sentiment was allegedly fueled by Rabel’s strong feelings for Betty and the belief that Peter was mistreating her. Rabel allegedly then enlisted Goldyne Pizer, to help kill Fabiano. 

On the night of October 31, 1957, Peter Fabiano answered an unexpected knock on his door, likely presuming it was late-night trick-or-treaters. In a horrifying twist that no one could have foreseen, the figure standing on the doorstep was not a harmless reveler seeking sweets, but a masked assailant, Goldyne Pizer.

Pizer, disguised in a Halloween costume and mask, shot Peter Fabiano with a .38 caliber gun that was concealed within a paper bag, mimicking a typical treat bag. This act of brutality resulted in the immediate death of Fabiano. 

Upon her confession to the crime, Goldyne Pizer was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Joan Rabel was also arrested based on Pizer’s confession implicating her as an accomplice. They were both held without bail after their arraignment.

Following a dramatic trial, Pizer and Rabel were found guilty. In a shocking turn of events, they didn’t receive the expected punishment of death for their crimes, likely due to societal norms of the time and the idea that women were less capable of carrying out such diabolical acts. Instead, Pizer and Rabel were convicted to life in prison


Vanished in the Night

Karen Swift

Karen Swift, mother of four, was murdered and her husband is standing trail in 2024. Image Source

Karen Swift, a mother of four, was found murdered near her home on Halloween night in 2011 after attending a Halloween party in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Her abandoned mini-van, with her purse still inside, was found a mile away from home. However, it wasn’t until six weeks later that her body was discovered two miles from her home in a cemetery. Karen Swift’s Halloween disappearance began one of the most distressing true crime narratives associated with the holiday.

In a twist of events, Karen’s estranged husband, David Swift, emerged as a person of interest. Three weeks before her disappearance, Karen Swift had filed for divorce, contributing to the suspicion around David Swift. After over ten years of diligent investigations, on August 9, 2022, David Swift was finally indicted for premeditated first-degree murder according to the Dyer County Sheriff’s Office.

David Swift stands accused of his wife’s murder in 2011. Image Source

Adding further drama to this already gripping tale, David Swift was arrested in Alabama and then appeared to face felony stalking charges in Jefferson County related to his then ex-wife in July 2023. On bond during this time, this led to him being placed back in custody, and he is expected to go on trial for Karen’s murder in January 2024.


Shadows in Suburbia

The Liske Family Massacre

The victims of the Liske Family Massacre. Image Source

BJ Liske, a 16-year-old teenager from Martin, Ohio, committed a horrifying triple murder on Halloween 2010, bringing real-life terror to an occasion known for celebration. The victims were his older stepbrother, Derek Griffin, who was brutally bludgeoned with a claw hammer, and his father, William Liske Jr., and stepmother, Susan Liske, who were both shot to death.

Liske, known to have had previous run-ins with the law and struggled with mental health issues, fled the crime scene soon after the murders were committed. However, he was quickly located and apprehended by law enforcement in a neighboring county.

Family member Devon Griffin was devastated to uncover the gruesome scene, which he initially thought was a Halloween prank.

BJ Liske had a history of mental illness leading up to when he murdered three of his family members. Image Source

The brutal Liske family murders led to an exhaustive investigation and a trial that gripped the community. BJ Liske was swiftly apprehended in Carroll County, within 24 hours of the grisly discovery. Charged with three counts of aggravated murder, he was subjected to a meticulous trial where the prosecution laid bare his atrocities. While the defense tried to leverage Liske’s history of mental health problems and juvenile offenses, it was insufficient to mitigate his actions. The jury, after deliberation, landed a guilty verdict. Liske was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On March 31, 2015, Liske, aged 29 at that time, was found dead inside his cell at the Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio. An Ohio State Highway Patrol lieutenant confirmed the cause of death was a self-inflicted wound. 


The Dark Side of High Society

The Death of Martha Moxley

The Martha Moxley case is one of America’s most controversial and high-profile murder investigations.

A 15-year-old girl from Greenwich, Connecticut, Martha Moxley was brutally murdered on the night of October 30, 1975. She was last seen alive at a party at the home of her neighbors, the Skakel family, one of the wealthiest families in the region and relatives of the Kennedys, America’s famous political dynasty.

Martha’s body was found the next day under a tree in her family’s backyard. Her jeans and underwear had been pulled down, but there was no evidence of sexual assault. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head from a golf club that belonged to the Skakel family.

The murder remained unsolved for more than two decades until new developments surfaced in 1998. At this time, Michael Skakel, a cousin of the Kennedys and a member of the family that hosted the party Martha attended the night she was killed, became a prime suspect.

A grand jury was convened in 1998, and Skakel was arrested for Martha’s murder in 2000, based on incriminating statements he’d reportedly made over the years. Skakel was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

Michael Skakel’s murder conviction was vacated in 2020. Image Source

However, in 2013, Skakel was granted a new trial on the grounds that his attorney, Michael Sherman failed to provide an adequate defense during the 2002 trial. He was released on bail after serving 11 years in prison. Then, in 2018, the Connecticut Supreme Court vacated his conviction, only to reinstate it a year later. However, in 2020, they once again reversed their decision, reaffirming that Skakel’s conviction should have been vacated due to deficiencies in his attorney’s representation.

As a result, despite being found guilty in 2002, Michael Skakel is currently free with the murder of Martha Moxley officially unsolved once again. This case has garnered significant attention, stirring debate, sorrow, and anger for over four decades.


Final Thoughts

Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.
– Stephen King

In the spirit of Halloween, we often find ourselves embracing the darker, more unsettling aspects of human nature. Though the holiday revels in outward manifestations of fear, it also serves as a stark reminder that true horror resides not in the creatures that lurk in the shadows, but within the human psyche itself. 


Lou Nightingale
Author: Lou Nightingale

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