The world of true crime is a diverse place of various incidents, running a wide gamut of locations and circumstances. From city prowling serial killers to incidents in international waters, you can never been too sure where evil will make its presence felt. Case in point, the suburbs, in any community, are often regarded as a safe haven for many, a calming place free from the hustle and bustle of bigger metropolitan areas.
However, as this list will show you, the suburbs and small communities have played host to a sizable crop of disturbing true crime stories. Fair warning, this list will touch upon some rather distressing topics, so definitely be ready before proceeding any further.
10. Murder of Tara Lynn Grant
The murder of Tara Lynn Grant unfolded in Washington Township, Michigan, in 2007. Grant, a 34-year-old mother of two, disappeared under very mysterious circumstances, with her husband Stephen Grant declaring her as missing in February of that same year. It was later revealed that Stephen himself had murdered Tara and dismembered her body following a domestic dispute. Authorities would later find Tara’s dismembered remains hidden in various locations in the state of Michigan.
Stephen was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 50 to 80 years in prison, with another six to ten years added on for mutilating her body. The Tara Lynn Grant murder case shocked the local community and even garnered national attention due to its brutality. It was simply unbeleivable for many people that such a heinous crime could’ve occured within such a seemingly normal family. The case raised questions about domestic violence and anyone can be capable of some truly heinous crimes in the right circumstances.
Tara Lynn Grant’s sickening murder serves as a grim reminder of the horrors of domestic violence and the tragic consequences it can have. Tara’s memory still lives on almost two decades later, still serving as a poignant symbol of the need to address issues of abuse within a familial environment.
9. The Silk Road
If you’ve been plugged in to the internet for long enough, then the term dark web has likely entered your vocabulary. Basically it refers to overlay networks that use the Internet but require specific software, configurations, or authorization to access.
This brings us to the Silk Road, a notorious online black market that operated on the dark web from 2011 to 2013. Using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a form of payment, users were able to buy and sell a wide range of illegal goods and services. The puppetmaster behind this illicit marketplace was one Ross Ulbricht, operating from his suburban home under the name of “Dread Pirate Roberts.”
While the website primarily branded itself as a place for more than just the purchase of drugs, that became what it was predominetly known and used for. This heavily contributed to growing concerns about public safety and the ease of accessing illegal substances online.
Ross Ulbricht was charged and arrested in 2013 for crimes including money laundering, hacking, and even conspiracy to commit murder. The latter charge involved alleged murder-for-hire, targeting various individuals who threatened the operations of the Silk Road website. In 2015, Ulbricht was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
8. The Austin Yogurt Shop Murders
In a disturbing act of violence, four teenage girls were found murdered at a local yogurt shop in Austin, Texas, on December 6, 1991. The victims, Amy Ayers, Eliza Thomas, Jennifer Harbison, and Sarah Harbison, were not only shot but also the shop was set on fire in an attempt to destroy evidence. News of the incident quickly traveled through the community, leaving the case’s investigators with a baffling and very disturbing crime scene.
Despite an intense and protracted investigation, the case remains unsolved, and numerous theories have emerged over the years. Complicating the matter, the crime scene was contaminated, and evidence was mishandled in the early stages of the investigation. Despite multiple suspects being considered, none have been definitively linked to the murders.
The Austin Yogurt Shop Murders continue to haunt both the victims’ families and the community as well, serving as a tragic aexample of an unsolved crime. At the time of this writing, he case still remains open, with law enforcement and amateur sleuths periodically revisiting it with hopes of one day bringing the perpetrators to justice, offering some closure to the families and the community at large.
7. The Menendez Brothers
Beverly Hills, that’s where I want to be, but we can’t think of too many who’d want to die there. This was the fate that befell Jose and Kitty Menendez, both murdered by their own sons, Lyle and Erik, in August 1989.
The tale of the Menendez Brothers, Lyle and Erik, is regarded as one of the most sensational and disturbing murder cases in American history. In the late-’80s, the two brothers brutally killed their wealthy parents in their own lavish mansion located in Beverly Hills, California. The crime, initially regarded as a random act of violence, was soon determined to have been fueled by more sinister motivations.
After their arrests, Lyle and Erik would claim that they acted in self-defense, stating that they were subjected to years of abuse, both physical and emotional, at the hands of their parents. In 1993, the brothers were put on trial, a legal proceeding that ended up capturing the entire nation’s collective interest. On one side, the defense argued that the alleged abuse of Jose and Kitty Menendez drove their sons to murder, wheras the prosecution portrayed Lyle and Erik as sadistic bloodthirsty monsters. While not initially convicted, both brothers ended up being found guilty in a 1996 retrial, wherein they were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
6. The Original Night Stalker
Joseph James DeAngelo, better known as the Golden State Killer, was an elusive serial murderer, as well as sexual predator, who terrorized California from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. DeAngelo’s crime were simultaneously heonous and extremely calculated, often targeting the residents of single-story suburban houses. This macabre methodology allowed DeAngelo to commit horrific acts of sexual assault before murdering several of his victims and their partners. These crimes earned him the fitting moniker of the Original Night Stalker, predating Richard Ramirez, another serial killer with a similar title.
DeAngelo’s ability to evade law enforcement made him one of American history’s most notorious and feared criminals. It was wasn’t until April 24, 2018, that Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies arrested DeAngelo in the side yard of his Sacramento home. DNA analysis had come a tremendously long way since the days of DeAngelo’s original crimes and finally gave law enforcement all they needed to track him down.
After more than 40 years of eluding capture, investigators used modern DNA analysis to identify and arrest DeAngelo. In the summer of 2020, DeAngelo plead guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder, as well as several acts of burglary and sexual assualt. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole later that same summer.
5. The BTK Killer
In the pages of The Last Book on the Left, written by Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, Henry Zebrowski, they make a point of stating just how unlikable the BTK Killer is. They specify that no serial killer is actually likable but, unlike a few others who at least have a tragic backstory, the BTK Killer — AKA Denis Rader — is perhaps the most loathsome of all.
The BTK stood for “Bind, Torture, Kill” which was Rader’s prefered method of handling his victims during his infamous crimes. Between 1974 and 1991, Rader turned Wichita, Kansas, as well as its surrounding areas, into his own personal hunting ground. As his disturbing moniker would imply, his sickening crimes were marked by the binding, torturing and eventual murders of his victims.
Adding to his repugnant crimes was Rader’s immense ego, often taunting the media and law enforcement with cryptic lettes and detailed descriptions of his murders. He even went as far to include sickening mementos of his murders in his sinister little care packages. Rader went untouched by law enforcement for decades, that is until his ego got the better of him for the last time and was finally undone by the advent of modern technology. Rader was ultimately sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole, much to the relief of many.
4. The West Memphis Three
In the ’90s and early-2000s, the case of the West Memphis Three garnered immense attention and controversy. The case revolved around the the convictions of three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr., for their alleged involvement in the brutal murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993. Much of this was fueled by the “Satanic Panic” revolving around the fact that the trio enjoyed playing Dungeons and Dragons. (In fact, the fan favorite, D&D-playing character of Eddie in season four of Stranger Things was directly inspired by Echols.)
The case itself was affected by several issues, not the least of which being the questionable confessions from Misskelley, who was intellectually limited. In addition to Misskelley’s comments, the trial was plagued by allegations of Satanic ritual abuse, which only intensified the proceedings.
The case gained immense notoriety due to the efforts of various supporters who believed in the innocence of the three men. Additionally, documentary films like Paradise Lost and West of Memphis led to increased public scrutiny due to elaborations on the flawed investigation. However, in 2007, new DNA evidence did not link the West Memphis Three to the original crime scene.
After spending nearly two decades behind bars, Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley entered an Alford plea, which allowed them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that there was enough evidence for conviction. They were subsequently released from prison in 2011.
3. The Slender Man Stabbing
If you were the type to frequent horror message boards and binge creepy content on the 2010s internet, then you might be already familiar with the Slender Man. Simply put, the character is a internet-born horror character, a tall faceless man in a suit who often lurks in the woods of small towns. However, the character has also gained some unfortunate notoriety due to his involvement in the aptly named Slender Man Stabbing.
In 2014, two 12-year-old girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, lured their friend, Payton Leutner, into the woods where they brutally stabbed her 19 times. Thankfully, young Payton survived the attack and was able to crawl to a nearby road where she was eventually rescued. It was later revealed that Weier and Geyser committed the act as part of a ritual to become proxies of the Slender Man, protecting them from his evil powers.
Soon the two girls and this once-niche internet character were making national headlines, raising discussions about the the influence of the modern internet. Both girls were ultimately found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, and they were committed to psychiatric facilities.
2. The DeFeo Murders
If you grew up in New York, more specifically within the Long Island area, then the name Amityville should be instantly familiar to you. Back in 1974, on the night of November 13, the small town of Amityville was rocked by something ripped right from the pages of a horror novel. On that night, Ronald DeFeo Jr., the eldest son of the DeFeo family, murdered six of his family members in cold blood. This included his parents, Ronald DeFeo, Sr. and Louise DeFeo, and his four younger siblings, Dawn, Allison, Marc, and John Matthew. This alone makes it quite disturbing but it only gets creepier when you learn the specifics of the killings.
It was learned that Ronald, only 23-years-old at the time, carried his heinous actions out while his family members were in bed, shooting them all while they were asleep. However, physical evidence indicates that Louise DeFeo and Allison were both conscious prior to their respective demises. The story here doesn’t even end with the murders themselves, as the subsequent homeownwers, The Lutz family abandoned the home, citing supernatural disturbances as the cause. It was these paranormal claims that inspired Jay Anson’s 1977 book The Amityville Horror and the subsequent horror film franchise.
1. The Cheshire Home Invasion
The Cheshire Home Invasion occurred in Cheshire, Connecticut, in July 2007. The incident involved the Petit family, consisting of Dr. William Petit, his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit.
Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, two career criminals, invaded the Petit family’s home, tied up the entire Petit family, and subjected them to various acts of horrific violence. The assailants set the house on fire, causing the deaths of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela, leaving Dr. Petit as the only survivor. Following their horrific misdeeds, Komisarjevsky and Hayes were apprehended, tried, and sentenced to death. During the trial, it was argued that the crime may have had a few contibuting factors, the main one being monetary. Another reason may have been Komisarjevsky’s own sick interest in Michaela who had had sexually assualted amidst the invasion.
Needless to day, the case shocked the nation, exposing many to the viscous brutality that some criminals are capable of. It jumpstarted new conversations about home security, the response of various law enforcement groups, and the how repeat offenders are dealt with via the legal system.