Most, if not all of us, have secrets. It’s part of the human experience. In most cases, our secrets can be shameful or embarrassing, but sometimes people keep incredibly dark secrets and hold on to them for their entire lives. Then, just as they are about to leave their Mortal Coil, they decided to share their deepest, darkest secrets. These are 10 of the most haunting deathbed confessions.
10. Frank Thorogood
Brian Jones was one of the founding members of the legendary rock band the Rolling Stones, which formed in 1962. By 1969, Jones’ alcohol and drug abuse had gotten worse and he clearly wasn’t interested in playing in the band. In June of that year, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards told him that his tenure with the band was over. The Stones replaced Jones with Mick Taylor on guitar and they carried on with what would become their long, illustrious career.
Tragically, Jones died on July 3, 1969, at the age of 27, just a month after being kicked out of the band. He was found drowned in his pool. Before he died, he was quite intoxicated. The medical examiner ruled it “death by misadventure.”
But, since it was a famous person who died young, theories started to form that Jones’ death wasn’t an accident and he was murdered.
Two books specifically accuse Frank Thorogood, a construction worker who was doing work on Jones’ property, of killing Jones. Thorogood was the last person to be seen with Jones. Thorogood also was acting strangely after the death and he burned several items in the house.
Thorogood apparently confessed to Jones’ driver, Tom Keylock, that he killed him on his deathbed in 1993. Keylock said that Thorogood got into an argument and drowned him.
However, Thorogood never confessed this to anyone else, so it is unclear if the deathbed confession is true or not. Keylock died in 2009.
9. James Brewer
The few people in Shawnee, Oklahoma, who knew the couple that called themselves James Anderson and Dorothy Powers said that they were quiet and humble. They moved to the city in the late 1970s and both were deeply religious. They were active in their church and James was the leader of a bible study.
In 2009, James was in the hospital because he suffered two serious strokes. He told the police that his real name was James Brewer. He had been on the run since 1977 after skipping bail for murdering his neighbor, 20-year-old Jimmy Carroll, in Hohenwald, Tennessee. He thought that Carroll was trying to seduce his wife, so he shot him twice, killing him.
It turned out that Brewer didn’t die from the strokes. He recovered and turned himself in to the police in Hohenwald. The district attorney chose not to go to trial because of Brewer’s physical condition.
8. Alice Mock
In November 1986, 76-year-old Alice Mock of Middletown, Delaware, asked her neighbor to come over. Mock was dying and she had to be honest with someone before she departed this world.
She said that in 1975, she was drinking with a man named Wayman Cammile Jr. and she invited him back to her apartment. He agreed and then went back to her place and drank some more. When Cammile passed out, Mock stole some money from him. But she realized that if he woke up and found the money gone, he’d know that she’d stolen it. She was also worried that her landlord would find her, a white woman, in bed with an African American man and throw her out.
So to cover up the theft and save herself from being evicted, she called the police and said that Cammile had raped and robbed her. Cammile was arrested and charged with sexual assault. The District Attorney gave him a choice: he could go to trial and risk getting 45 years in prison or plead guilty and get 15 years. Cammile ended up choosing to plead guilty, even though he was completely innocent.
Mock died several days after making the confession and the neighbor went to the police. In June 1986, Cammile was released after spending nearly 12 years in prison.
7. David Lee Wilson
On September 10, 1994, there was a gang-related shooting outside of a party in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Several people at the party were members of the gang the Crips. 19-year-old Karen Summers, a mother of a 4-month-old baby, was killed in the shooting. She was shot with a Lorcin pistol and the shooters fled in a maroon Ford Taurus.
A few days later, the police interviewed Michael Lee Wilson, who was a member of the Bloods, the rival of the Crips. Three days before the shooting that killed Summers, he had been shot in the leg by a Crip. He also owned a Lorcin Pistol and had access to a maroon Taurus. Amazingly, even though he had motive, access to the type of gun used in the shooting, and access to a car that matched the description of the getaway car, they didn’t arrest them.
Instead, they arrested two 17-year-old boys, De’Marchoe Carpenter and Malcolm Scott. Two eyewitnesses said they were at the shooting.
Even though the witness statements contradicted each other and there was absolutely no physical evidence tying Carpenter and Scott to the shooting, they were found guilty. They were both sentenced to life plus an additional 170 years in prison.
Wilson, meanwhile, was eventually arrested for beating a convenience store clerk to death with a baseball bat in February 1995 and sentenced to death. Two days before he was executed in January 2014, Wilson recorded an interview with the Oklahoma Innocence Project. In the interview, he confessed to being involved in the shooting that killed Karen Summers and that Carpenter and Scott had nothing to do with it.
Wilson was executed on January 9, 2014.
The interview was entered into evidence and on May 9, 2016, Carpenter and Scott were released from prison after spending 20-years behind bars.
6. Unknown Woman
On March 14, 1960, 50-year-old Lillian Oetting, 50-year-old Mildred Lindquist, and 47-year-old Frances Murphy left their upscale homes in Riverside, Illinois for a short vacation in Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois. After eating lunch at a lodge, the women went for a hike through St. Louis Canyon. When they didn’t return back to the lodge later that day, the police were notified.
They organized search parties to look for the three women, who were all wives of corporate executives. Their bodies were found two days later in a cave by a camp supervisor and four teenagers. Their hands had been bound with twine, and they had been beaten to death with a frozen tree branch and then dragged into the cave.
21-year-old Chester Weger, an employee at the lodge, became an early suspect. He had scratches on him and there was blood on his jacket. He explained the scratches were from grooming his sideburns and the blood on the jacket was raccoon blood. He stained it earlier when he was hunting. Weger cooperated with the police, gave them his jacket, answered all their questions, and even passed lie detector tests.
Eight months after the murder, Weger confessed. He then led the police and the press through a walk- through of the crime.
At his trial for the murder of Lillian Oetting, he said that the confession was coerced and the walk-through was coordinated by the lead detective on the case. Nevertheless, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. He did not go to trial for the murder of the other two women.
Since his trial, Weger has maintained his innocence. There have also been several attempts to exonerate him. In 2004, Weger’s lawyers filed a motion to have DNA evidence, like hair that was found in the women’s hands, tested and compared against Weger’s DNA. It later turned out that the DNA was not stored properly and couldn’t be tested.
The motion also revealed that someone had possibly made a deathbed confession regarding the murder of the three women.
In 1982 or 1983, the police were called to St. Luke’s Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago because a terminally ill woman wanted to clear her conscience. When the officer got to her bedside, she said when she was young, she was hanging out in a state park near Utica with some friends. She said that “things got out of hand” and multiple people died. After they were dead, they dragged the bodies.
At this point, the woman’s daughter stopped the interview and sent the police out of the room. The woman’s name was never recorded and it’s unclear if she was referring to the murder of the three women or not. It is also possible that the woman wasn’t in her right mind at the time of her death.
Weger has continued to maintain his innocence from behind bars. He has applied for parole several times, but has always been denied. At the time of this article, he is 79-years-old. He is the third longest imprisoned inmate in Illinois.
His lawyer now says DNA technology has advanced and the DNA can be tested, but the courts have not granted permission to do so.
5. Hannah Quick
On February 7, 1980, a fire broke out at a three story townhouse in Brooklyn. The fire ended up killing 27-year-old Elizabeth Kinsey and her five children, who ranged in age from 9-years-old to 9-months-old.
The fire marshal determined that, based on the burn patterns, an accelerant was used, even though no trace of an accelerant was found. He based his theory on the fact that the patterns indicated that there were two fires started in one room.
The police interviewed other people in the townhouse and the landlord said she saw three men enter before the fire started and then leave right afterwards. This led to 25-year-old Raymond Mora, 30-year-old Amaury Villalobos, and 34-year-old William Vasquez being arrested the day of the fire.
They were convicted in 1981 and given life sentences. Mora died in 1989 in prison at the age of 44. Villalobos and Vasquez were paroled in 2012.
In 2011, The New York District Attorney’s office set up the Conviction Review Unit, which looks at problematic convictions. In April 1995, they started to look into the arson and after 10 months of research they concluded the men were innocent.
First off, what experts know about house fires has changed since the early 1980s. Notably, they are now aware of a phenomenon called a “flashover.” It happens when a room gets so hot that fires sporadically start in the room. This makes it look like someone poured accelerant around the room and lit multiple fires.
The second problem was Hannah Quick. Quick was a drug dealer and the townhouse was called a “shooting gallery,” which is a place that rents out rooms so people can do drugs in them. Quick’s family also said she was a chronic liar who abused drugs and alcohol. She died in 2014.
A lawyer with the Conviction Review Unit got in contact with Quick’s daughter and she said that her mother confessed on her deathbed that she lied about seeing the men at the townhouse. Her mother said that they were completely innocent.
All three men were exonerated in December 2015. For spending 32 years in prison, the city of New York agreed to pay Villalobos and Vasquez $15 million each. Mora’s family has also filed a suit, but it has yet to be settled.
4. Russell Smrekar
In 1975, Michael Mansfield was 20-years-old and a student at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois. He was a good student, but in the fall he had been arrested for possession of stolen goods. The district attorney made a deal with him that they would drop the charges if he testified that a fellow student, 21-year-old Russell Smrekar, gave him the stolen goods. Mansfield decided to take the deal.
For Christmas holiday, he went back to his parents’ home in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. On New Year’s Eve, he walked out the door and disappeared.
On June 2, 1976, the co-workers of 51-year-old Ruth Martin, who lived in Lincoln, became worried when she didn’t come into work. They got in contact with her husband, who left work and went directly home. In the garage, he found a .22 caliber bullet and a blood stain. But Ruth Martin was nowhere to be found.
Two days later, her car was found abandoned in Bloomington, Illinois. The police found more blood in the trunk.
On October 9, 1976, a call came into the 9-1-1 dispatch in Lincoln because shots were fired in a quiet neighborhood. The police went to the home of Jay and Robin Fry, who were both 25-years-old. They had been gunned down with a shotgun. Sadly, Robin was three months pregnant with their first child.
At the time, the police had no idea that the two disappearances and the double murder were connected. Then they started to look into what possible motive someone could have to kill Ruth Martin and the Frys. They soon saw a connection.
Jay Fry and Ruth Martin were going to testify against Smrekar for stealing. Jay worked at a grocery store and chased Smrekar down in the parking lot after he stole an item. While he ran through the parking lot, Smrekar threw the stolen item under Martin’s car.
The stolen item was a package containing two steaks valued at a total of $4.
Robin Fry was only killed because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They also found out that Michael Mansfield had disappeared before he had a chance to testify against Smrekar. The stolen goods that he was going to testify about were a guitar and some records.
Smrekar was arrested and convicted of the murders of the Frys. He was given two sentences of 100-to-300 years in prison.
Every so often, investigators visited Smrekar and ask him what happened to Michael Mansfield and Ruth Martin. He said he knew nothing about their disappearances and its just a coincidence that they went missing.
In October 2011, Smrekar was 56-years-old and dying. That is when he finally admitted to killing both Michael Mansfield and Ruth Martin. He didn’t say where Mansfield’s body was, but he said that he buried Martin’s body under a highway that was under construction. Sadly, despite the confession, her body, like Mansfield’s, has never been found.
Smrekar died on October 26, not long after confessing.
3. Larry Sherrard
In February 2014, a woman named Pam Rhinehart went to the police station in Elizabethtown, Kentucky with a disturbing story.
She said that for the past eight months, she had been taking care of her ailing uncle, Larry Sherrard. As he was nearing the end of his life, Sherrard said to Rhinehart, “I don’t want to go to hell.” He then proceeded to tell her that, in the 1980s, he shot a man in the head, wrapped him up in a carpet and then dumped the body in a cave.
But that wasn’t all. He said that in the 1990s, he shot another man. This one he buried. Sherrard didn’t say who his victims were, but he did say that they were both killed because they cheated him in a drug deal. The same afternoon that Sherrard went into a coma, he died.
The police looked into their cold cases and found a case that was similar to the first murder that Sherrard described. In July 1989, spelunkers found a body at the bottom of a cave with a bullet hole in his skull. He was identified as Thomas Jones, Jr.
The police went to the area where Sherrard said the second body was buried. They found bone fragments and pieces of clothing. That victim has never been identified.
2. Christine Kett
On the evening of January 11, 1867, a teenage boy found the bloody body of his 18-year-old sister, Christine Kett, in their Dayton, Ohio home. He went and got the neighbors and the police were notified.
Christine’s body was in the kitchen doorway that led to the cellar. Her lower body was in the kitchen and her upper body was at the top of the stairway. Her head had sustained several blows with a sharp object, like a hatchet or an ax. There was also a pistol found near her body and Christine had gun powder on her finger and face, but it didn’t appear that a bullet had been fired.
A short time later, Christine’s mother, who was also named Christine, came home and found a group of people in front of her house. She became hysterical when she was informed her daughter died.
Over the years, Mrs. Kett accused many people of murdering her daughter and the police arrested several men. One suspect was Christine’s brother since he found the body and it was his gun found near her. However, no one could be tied to the crime scene so no one was ever formally charged.
The police finally concluded that Christine accidentally shot herself after she tripped while carrying the pistol.
17 years after the murder, Mrs. Kett was bedridden with inflamed bowels and she was nearing death. She had her son come to her bedside, and she told him that she had killed Christine. On the day that she died, Christine was supposed to come home at noon to make dinner. She was a few hours late, and Mrs. Kett snapped. She grabbed an ax and as Christine ran towards the cellar, Mrs. Kett struck her in the head.
Mrs. Kett then grabbed the gun and the flask with the gun powder. She smeared the powder on Christine’s fingers and her cheek and planted the gun. She then went out to the market and returned after she knew her son would find the body.
Mrs. Kett asked her son to keep it a secret until he was on his deathbed, and he agreed. Mrs. Kett died hours later after suffering a stroke.
Her son didn’t wait until his deathbed to reveal her secret. Instead, he told a reporter the story shortly after his mother passed away.
1. Geraldine Kelley
Geraldine and John Kelley met as children in Somerville, Massachusetts. As young adults, they married and Geraldine gave birth to a daughter in 1970. The following year, she gave birth to a son.
In 1981, Geraldine and John were attending a wedding. John drank too much and got into a fight with three other guests. The fight resulted in the death of John’s brother-in-law.
Fearing he might be charged with the death, John packed up his family and they moved out west. The family ended up in Ventura, California, where John and Geraldine landed jobs at a motel. John continued to drink and the couple would fight. Their kids moved out in 1989, and became estranged from their parents.
In early 1992, Geraldine called her kids and told them John was dead. He had been struck by a car while he was out town. She also relayed a similar story to the owner of the motel. Geraldine continued to work there for another six years, until she moved back to Somerville in 1998.
In November of that year, Geraldine was on her deathbed, stricken with breast cancer. Her daughter came to see her and Geraldine said that she had killed John in late 1991. She said he was abusive, so she shot him. She then said that his body was in a freezer in a storage locker… and it wasn’t a storage locker in California, it was one in Somerville! When she moved across the country, she had the freezer with the dead body of her husband inside of it shipped across the country with her.
After Geraldine died, her daughter went to the police and they found the skeletal remains in the freezer. John had been shot once in the back of the head. The police also found the murder weapon among Geraldine’s possessions.
Robert Grimminck is a writer for TopTenz and the creator of the YouTube true crime channel Criminally Listed.