Thanks to advancements in fields like crime-scene forensics and DNA analysis, countless murderers are brought to justice every year. That hasn’t always been the case, however, and many gruesome murder cases throughout history have remained unsolved due to lack of evidence or improper investigation techniques of the time.
10. Jeanne Van Calck
Jeanne Van Calck was a nine-year-old girl living with her grandparents in Brussels in 1906. She’d often visit her mother accompanied by one of her grandparents, though on February 7, she reportedly ventured out alone, as her grandfather was working. Sadly, she never made it to her mother’s house. A machinist named Joseph Eylenbosch discovered her body in a package near 22 Rue des Hirondelles. She had been dismembered by the killer, with her legs missing and a large quantity of alcohol in her system.
The murder of Jeanne Van Calck remains one of Belgium’s oldest unsolved murder mysteries. Investigations revealed that Jeanne had died by choking on her own vomit after being forced to consume the alcohol. The coroner suspected that the murderer had some professional knowledge of amputation, suggesting that he was a doctor or butcher. There was a thorough search for her missing legs, and they were subsequently found on February 16 in a royal park.
Many suspects were arrested in the aftermath, including a Spanish man, an Algerian man, and a butcher’s apprentice named Jean Many. All of them were eventually acquitted due to lack of evidence, however, and the case remains unsolved.
9. Amber Hagerman
Nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted on January 13, 1996 while riding her bicycle near her grandmother’s house in Arlington, Texas. A witness saw a man in a black pickup truck snatch her off her bike as she screamed and kicked. Amber’s body was discovered in a creek four miles from the abduction site four days later, and the autopsy results revealed that she had died from cut wounds to her neck.
Despite receiving and investigating over 7,000 tips related to the case, it remains unsolved as of November, 2023. Thr abduction and murder of Amber Hagerman inspired the creation of the AMBER alert system in the United States, aimed at quickly disseminating information about missing children to law enforcement and nearby families. The system has since saved numerous children from a similar fate across the country.
As for Amber, the case remains active even today, and the detectives hope that recent advancements in DNA technology could aid in solving it.
8. The ‘Boy In The Box’ Case
On February 23, 1957, a college student at the La Salle College in Philadelphia discovered the body of a young boy in the Fox Chase neighborhood, wrapped in a blanket and placed inside a cardboard box from a baby bassinet. The boy, estimated to be between four and six years old at the time of his death, had been severely abused and had been dead for several days. His identity remained unknown for over six decades, and he became widely known as the ‘Boy in the Box’. Despite extensive investigations and countless tips, the case remained one of Philadelphia’s most enduring unsolved mysteries.
In December, 2022, the Philadelphia police revealed the boy’s identity as Joseph Augustus Zarelli, thanks to newer DNA technologies and detective techniques. While the boy’s parents are now deceased, he still has a few living siblings, and the authorities continue to hope that publicizing his name may result in new leads in the investigation.
7. JonBenet Ramsey
The body of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was discovered in the basement of her family’s home on December 26, 1996. She had been brutally killed, with the autopsy revealing signs of strangulation and a skull fracture, along with sexual assault.
Despite investigations and a multitude of suspects over the years, JonBenet Ramsey’s murder remains unsolved, with no arrests made to date. Initially, primary suspects were her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, along with their son Burke, though DNA evidence in 2008 cleared them of any involvement. Further testing found an unidentified male’s DNA on the victim’s clothing.
Boulder police and prosecutors have analyzed over 1,500 pieces of evidence and interviewed more than 1,000 people so far, though the killer remains at large.
6. The ‘Ice Box’ Murders
The Ice Box Murders refer to the grisly killing of Fred and Edwina Rogers – an elderly couple living in Houston. Their bodies were found by two police officers doing a routine welfare check on June 23, 1965. The scene – as they later described – was one of pure horror, as the bodies were dismembered, cut up, and neatly placed inside the couple’s refrigerator. Edwina had been shot in the head, while Fred had been beaten to death with a hammer before they were dismembered. The killer drained their blood and cut them into pieces before storing the remains in the refrigerator.
The primary suspect was the couple’s son, Charles Rogers – a recluse who almost never communicated with his parents and was rarely seen by the neighbors. The house had been thoroughly cleaned, but traces of blood were found on the keyhole of Charles’s bedroom door. Despite a nationwide manhunt, Charles Rogers disappeared and was declared legally dead in 1975.
Various theories have come to light since then, with some suggesting that Charles was physically and emotionally abused by his parents, leading to him brutally murdering them. Some think that he fled to Central America after the murders.
5. Dian Fossey
Dian Fossey was a primatologist and conservationist working in her remote cabin in Karisoke, Rwanda. On December 26, 1985, she was found murdered in the same cabin, with a machete and a small crawl space cut through the bedroom wall being the only evidence.
Fossey was known for her work with mountain gorillas, as she had spent her life in the Rwandan mountains after first traveling to Africa in 1963. She was Inspired by Jane Goodall’s research on chimpanzees, and after a trip back home, returned to Africa in 1966 and established her research camp in the remote mountains.
Fossey’s murder remains unsolved, though some theories suggest that it was retaliation by local poachers due to her radical anti-poaching efforts and her knowledge of illegal wildlife trade in the region.
4. The Torso Murders
Between 1934 and 1938, at least 13 people were found murdered in what has now come to be known as the infamous Cleveland Torso Murders case. The serial killer has also been called the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, named after the area the murders were committed in, though their true identity remains unknown to this day.
The killings happened during the social and political turmoil of the Great Depression era. The victims were dismembered and decapitated with surgical precision. The first known victim was discovered in 1934, with additional murders continuing until 1938.
Numerous suspects – including a local doctor and surgeon Dr. Francis E. Sweeney – were interrogated, though no one was definitively linked to the crimes. However, the killings did stop immediately after Dr. Sweeney admitted himself to a sanitarium.
Interesting, one of the men leading the investigation was none other than Eliot Ness, the man who famously brought down Al Capone. The psychological damage the case did on Ness as he found himself unable to bring any killers to justice was immense, including being a driving factor in the former Untouchables leader’s alcoholism.
3. Emily Dimmock
Also called the Camden Town Murder, the killing of Emily Dimmock in London in 1907 remains one of the city’s oldest unsolved murder cases. Her body was found on September 12, 1907, in her flat at 29 St. Paul’s Road, Camden Town. Emily, a 22-year-old engaged to Bert Shaw, had her throat cut from ear-to-ear while she was asleep. The murderer left the scene after the act and locked the doors behind them.
Several suspects were tried, including her former associates and a man who had been seen with her in the days leading up to the murder. Despite these leads, no conclusive evidence could be found to charge anyone with the crime. The case has since remained unsolved.
2. The Villisca Ax Murders
The Villisca Ax Murders refer to an unsolved murder case from 1912, when a family of six and their two guests were brutally bludgeoned to death in their sleep in the small town of Villisca in Iowa. The victims were Josiah and Sarah Moore, their four children, and visiting girls Lena and Ina Stillinger, and the incident happened overnight on June 9, 1912. The bodies were discovered the next morning when Josiah Moore failed to answer a call from his clerk.
The killer, or killers, used an axe found in the family’s backyard. They left several pieces of evidence at the scene – including raw bacon on the floor, mirrors covered with sheets, uneaten food on the table, and cigarette butts in the attic – though most of it was destroyed by later visits by people in the town.
Numerous suspects were investigated over the years, but no one has ever been convicted for the murders. The case remains unsolved and is considered one of the most brutal crimes in Iowa’s history. Today, the Moore home in Villisca is considered one of the most haunted places in America.
1. Elizabeth Short
Elizabeth Short’s body was discovered in a Los Angeles neighborhood by a mother and her child on their morning walk on January 15, 1947. It was a horrible sight, as the body was cleanly sliced in half and left on the sidewalk. The case has since been dubbed the ‘Black Dahlia’ murder and remains one of the most enduring murder mysteries in history.
Short was an aspiring Hollywood actress. The body was found without a drop of blood at the scene, indicating that she had been killed elsewhere. She was identified through her fingerprints by the LAPD and the FBI.
Despite extensive investigations, widespread media attention, and numerous theories, the case remains unsolved to this day. Elizabeth Short’s murder has since inspired numerous books and films, along with countless internet theories about the true identity of her murderer.