The holidays are not joyous for everyone. In fact, they can be downright deadly for some. Here’s a look at six murders that took place on Christmas.
Shot by Lee Shelton, the inspiration for the song “Stagger Lee,” Billy Lyons was a levee hand who was killed on Dec. 25, 1895 in St. Louis. The men had been drinking at a bar on 11th and Morgan Streets when they began to argue. When Lyons took Shelton’s hat, Shelton pulled his gun and demanded he give it back. When Lyons refused, Shelton shot him in the abdomen. Shelton left the scene but was eventually arrested. Lyons died later in a hospital. Shelton was convicted of the killing and served 12 years. Shortly after the killing, a folk song named “Stagolee” (later known as “Stagger Lee”) began to gain popularity. In 1950, singer Lloyd Price took his version of the song to No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts in the United States.
On the afternoon of Dec. 25, 1929, North Carolina farmer Charles Lawson killed six of his seven children and his wife, before turning his gun on himself. After sending his oldest son, Arthur, on an errand, Lawson ambushed two of his daughters, Carrie and Maybell, who were on their way to visit their uncle and aunt. He killed the girls with a shotgun and then killed his wife, Fannie, on the front porch. He then went inside the home and shot daughter Marie before killing his young sons, James and Raymond. His final victim was 4-month-old Mary Lou. When he was done with his rampage, Lawson placed rocks under the heads of his family members and crossed their arms before going into the nearby woods and shooting himself. When visitors came to the family home following the killing, they found a Christmas cake, baked by Marie, still in the kitchen.
Perhaps the most famous of all Christmas killings was that of JonBenét Ramsey, a 6-year-old who was found dead on Dec. 26, 1996, in the basement of her family’s Boulder, Colo., home. Her parents notified police at 5:52 a.m. that their daughter was missing. A note asking for $118,000 ransom was found. But that afternoon Ramsey’s body was located underneath a blanket in the basement. The girl had been strangled to death. Her hands were tied and tape was over her mouth. There also were signs of sexual assault. Just who killed Ramsey was never clear, however, and the case remains unsolved.
Bruce Pardo donned a Santa Claus outfit before going to the home of his former in-laws in Covina, Calif, on Dec. 24, 2008. Pardo knocked on the front door of the home, which was full of 25 people celebrating Christmas. Pardo was carrying a gift-wrapped package that held a homemade flamethrower and two guns. As soon as the door opened, Pardo began shooting. His first victim was his 8-year-old niece, who he shot in the face. He continued firing as people fled the party. When he was done shooting, he took the flamethrower from the package and set the house on fire. After completing his attack, Pardo took off the Santa suit and drove to his brother’s home in Sylmar, where he shot himself at 3:30 a.m. on Christmas Day. Pardo killed nine people that day and injured another three.
Angry over the fact his wife left him, Aziz Yazdanpanah put on a Santa Claus costume and drove to her Grapevine, Texas, apartment on Dec. 25, 2011. There he found his estranged wife, son, and daughter, as well as his wife’s sister, her husband, and their daughter. He proceeded to shoot each of them in the head before killing himself. When officers arrived at the apartment, they found seven dead. Their bodies were lying among open presents and discarded wrapping paper.
Melissa Young gave her friend Alan Williamson a pair of tennis shoes and a calendar as a Christmas present on Dec. 25, 2013. When he told her he did not want the gifts, Young gave Williamson something else — multiple stab wounds that led to his death. Young was at an apartment in the Glenure Loan area of Edinburgh, Scotland, the day she stabbed her neighbor at least 29 times. It was later determined Young, who is a transsexual woman, had four different drugs in her system and was legally drunk. She remained at the scene until police arrived and took her into custody. When she went to trial, Young claimed she was mentally ill, but she was convicted of the murder and sentenced to at least 20 years in prison.