20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History

Steve - October 23, 2018

Whilst murder is a terrible and evil crime in itself, the killing of a close relative resides even deeper within the levels of Dante’s Hell. Among such violent assaults, patricide and matricide remain perhaps the worst of all: the killing of the very people who brought you into the world, protected you in infancy, and raised you into adulthood. Despite the horrific and condemned nature of the crime, history is littered with incidents of such murders by sons and daughters.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Tullia the Younger, depicted driving over the corpse of her Father. Wikimedia Commons.

Here are 20 of history’s most interesting cases of patricide and matricide, ranging from ancient to modern and chilling to sympathetic in motivation or justification:

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
King Bimbisara, depicted offering devotion and prayer to the Buddha. Wikimedia Commons.

20. King Bimbisara of Magadha was murdered by his son and successor Ajatashatru, who was later himself murdered by his son and successor Udayabhadra

Bimbisara (b. 558 BCE) was a member of the Haryanka dynasty that ruled the Magadha Kingdom of modern-day India, reigning as king from 543 to 492 BCE. During his reign the kingdom expanded considerably, including the successful annexation of the neighboring kingdom of Anga, and was celebrated for its cultural accomplishments; Bimbisara was also a close personal friend and protector of Siddhārtha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, and according to legend enjoyed as many as 500 wives.

In the year 492 BCE Bimbisara was overthrown and imprisoned by one of his sons, Ajatashatru, who greedily coveted his throne despite being allegedly saved from abandonment as an infant by the paternal generosity of the king. According to local tradition, in 491 BCE, soon after the birth of his own first child a year later, Ajatashatru was reminded of his father’s kindness by his wife and rushed with an ax to free his father from his chains. However fearing his son meant in fact to murder him with the weapon, Bimbisara ingested poison hidden in a ring and died; the more likely and historically accepted interpretation is that Bimbisara died of starvation in his own son’s captivity. Ajatashatr’s reign was prematurely ended itself, however, believed to have been himself brutally murdered by his son Udayabhadra for the bloodied throne in the year 460 BCE.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Police mug shot of Sidney Harris Fox. Wikimedia Commons.

19. Sidney Harris Fox murdered his mother on the very day her life insurance policy was due to expire

Sidney Harris Fox (b. 1899 CE) was a British criminal and con-man, beginning his criminal life with petty theft whilst in his early teens before advancing to cheque forgery during the First World War. Offered immunity from prosecution in return for military service, Fox successfully gained an officer’s commission in the Royal Air Force by erroneously claiming to be an Old Etonian before being caught continuing to issue fraudulent bank cheques and imprisoned for three months. Living in poverty, Fox and his mother, Rosaline, survived on a combined 18 shillings per week (the equivalent of £53.75 in 2018). Habitually cashing worthless cheques across Britain, Fox was imprisoned in 1927 for these crimes and his mother was sentenced to a workhouse; upon release Fox again returned to crime, initiating a relationship with a wealthier woman in order to steal her jewelry and was imprisoned once more until 1929.

Persuading his mother in April 1929 to register a will listing him as her sole beneficiary, Fox also took out a short-term life insurance policy against her accidental death expiring on October 23. On precisely the 23rd of October 1929, Fox raised the alarm of a fire in their shared hotel suite and his mother’s deceased body was subsequently recovered. Despite a doctor certifying death by suffocation and Fox’s account of events, a patch of suspiciously unburnt carpet near the stove resulted in the exhumation of his mother’s body for a forensic post-mortem; the examination of Rosaline, employing revolutionary new techniques of forensic pathology, revealed busing on her larynx and an absence of soot in her lungs, resulting in the medical conclusion that she had been strangled and the fire set after death. Fox was charged with murder, failing to provide an adequate defense or explanation for his actions, and was hung at Maidstone Jail on April 8, 1930.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Amastrine, the first known woman to issue coinage in her own name, appearing on one such coin. British Museum/Wikimedia Commons.

18. Amastrine outlived her husband to become one of the earliest sole female rulers, before being drowned by her sons

Amastrine (b. date unknown) was a Persian princess, the daughter of Oxyathres and the brother of the Persian King Darius III. Given in marriage to Craterus by Alexander the Great, her betrothed decided to marry another woman and in turn arranged for Amastrine to marry Dionysius, the tyrant of Heraclea Pontica; Amastrine and Dionysius were married at Bithynia in 332 BCE, and as wife, she bore him two sons: Clearchus II and Oxyathres.

After the death of Dionysius in 306 BCE, Amastrine became the sole guardian of their children. Remarrying in 302 BCE to Lysimachus, the short-lived marriage rapidly broke apart and Amastrine returned to Heraclea to govern the city in her own name. An effective ruler by surviving historical accounts, as ruler of Heraclea Amastrine oversaw the creation of Amastris through the amalgamation of Sesamus, Cromna, Cytorus, and Tium, a city later described by Roman Governor Pliny the Younger in 110 CE as “a handsome city” of great value.

However, despite her independent rise to unprecedented power for a woman of her time, Amastrine was drowned by her two sons in 284 BCE. In spite of their unsuccessful marriage, Lysimachus avenged the death of his former wife by executing both Clearchus and Oxyathres and assuming control of Heraclea.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Barbara Daly Baekeland, the mother and victim of Antony Baekeland. Wikimedia Commons.

17. Antony Baekeland murdered his mother after being forced into an incestuous sexual relationship with the former model

Antony Baekeland (b. 1946 CE) was the son of New York model and socialite Barbara Daly Baekeland and writer Brooks Baekeland. Growing up in a nomadic environment, living and traveling across Europe and North America during his formative years, accompanied by his parent’s many extramarital lovers, Antony displayed early signs of increasingly severe mental health problems. Not only exhibiting regular symptoms of schizophrenia for which he was later formally diagnosed, but Antony also possessed paranoid tendencies and engaged in erratic behavior, including several instances in which he threatened his mother with knives; however, due to his father’s belief that psychiatry was an immoral profession, Antony was denied access to appropriate medical treatment.

Attempting to “cure” Antony’s homosexuality, his mother first hired prostitutes for him and at some point after divorcing Brooks in 1968 manipulated her son into an incestuous sexual relationship with herself. In July 1972 Antony made his first attempt on his mother’s life, trying to throw her under traffic in London but finding himself too physically weak to do so. Admitted to a private psychiatric hospital, Antony was released soon after at his mother’s behest despite the warnings of doctors that he remained a danger. Just two weeks after his release, on November 17, 1972, Antony repeatedly stabbed his mother to death.

Confessing his crime to police, Antony was institutionalized at Broadmoor Hospital until July 21, 1980, whereupon he immediately flew to New York City. On July 27, Antony attacked his 87-year-old maternal grandmother Nini Daly with a knife; stabbing her eight times, and breaking several bones, he failed and was arrested for attempted murder. Before his trial could commence, Antony committed suicide by plastic bag suffocation on March 20, 1981.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Sculpture of Rana Kumbha at Birla Temple. Wikimedia Commons.

16. Rana Kumbha became king after the patricide of his father at the hands of his brothers, before being murdered by his own son

Kumbhakarn (b. date unknown), popularly known as Rana Kumbha, was the son of Rana Mokal Singh and the ruler of the Mewar kingdom of western India between 1433 and 1468 of the Common Era. Ascending to the Mewar throne after the assassination of his father by two of his brothers, Chacha and Mera, Kumbha’s reign is widely depicted as being a successful one despite being surrounded by regional enemies.

Triumphantly defending his territory from Muslim invasion in 1443 CE, achieving victory at the Battle of Mandalgarh and Banas, Kumbha also defeated the combined armies of Malwa and Gujarat and expanded his holdings at the expense of the Nagaur and Marwar kingdoms. Not only a military strategist, erecting 32 of the kingdom’s 84 fortresses, Kumbha was also an advocate of artistic developments, presiding over a period of celebrated cultural accomplishments.

In 1468 CE, Rana Kumbha was himself the victim of both patricide and regicide at the hands of his son Udai, later Udai Singh I of Mewar. Undoing the great successes of his father, under the reign of Udai much of Mewar territory was captured by its rivals, including by his brother Raimal during a civil war. After just five years as king, in 1473 CE Udai was killed by a lightning strike in Dehli as he sought to marry his daughter to the Sultan as part of a political alliance; many commentators of the age believed this unfortunate demise was a karmic act of revenge for his crimes and poor leadership.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
King Sennacherib during his Babylonian war, as depicted in a relief at Nineveh. Wikimedia Commons.

15. King Sennacherib of Assyria was murdered by his eldest son after overlooking him for the throne

Sennacherib (b. 740 BCE), son of Sargon II, was King of Assyria from 705-681 BCE after ascending to the throne of Assyria after his father died in battle; ancient sources offer three separate dates as Sennacherib’s first reigning year – 705, 704, and 703, suggesting the transition was not smooth, with uprisings recorded in Syria-Palestine and in Babylon during this time.

Primarily remembered for his military endeavors, particularly against the kingdoms of Babylon and Judah, Sennacherib sought to ruthlessly and violently conclude the “Babylonian problem” wherein the people of the city of Babylon refused to accept Assyrian rule. Sennacherib besieged the ancient city, which after prolonged resistance fell in 689 BCE, whereupon Sennacherib ordered the city utterly destroyed; even the mound of land upon which the city once stood was erased, with the diverting of the waters from surrounding canals over the site.

In addition to his militaristic activities, Sennacherib’s reign is widely considered to have been the artistic pinnacle of the Assyrian nation. Among extensive building projects, of particular note Sennacherib oversaw the beautification of the conquered Akkadian capital of Nineveh, including the construction of a 50km long canal to deliver water to the desert city and the “Palace Without Rival”, a wonder considered to have been either a prototype to or the actual Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Despite these immense successes, Sennacherib was assassinated in 681 BCE. The precise cause of his death is unknown, but it is widely believed that his eldest son was responsible in retribution for Sennacherib naming his youngest, Esarhaddon, as his successor; the death of Sennacherib was celebrated among Babylonians as divine judgment for the destruction of the sacred city.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
A mugshot of John Emil List, taken 2002. New Jersey Department of Corrections/Wikimedia Commons.

14. Guilty of not only matricide, John Emil List also committed filicide and uxoricide before going on the run for 18 years to escape justice

John Emil List (b. 1925 CE) was a mass murderer and one of the United State’s most wanted fugitives during his 18-year manhunt. Born in Bay City, Michigan, List served in both WWII and the Korean War before settling down as an accountant and marrying Helen Morris Taylor; Helen Taylor was a war-widow and alcoholic, with a child, Brenda, from her previous marriage to a deceased soldier.

On November 9, 1971, List murdered his entire immediate family. Starting by shooting his mother in the face and wife in the back of the head, List waited until his daughter and youngest son returned from school before killing them in an identical fashion to their mother; after making himself lunch, List then drove his eldest son home from soccer before shooting him repeatedly in the chest. Having written letters to work and his children’s schools saying that the family was going on holiday, providing himself with a months head start before the bodies were discovered, List carefully cut himself out of each family photograph in the house and disappeared.

Assuming the new identity of Robert Peter Clark, List remarried in 1985 before being finally apprehended on June 1, 1989, in Virginia, after a neighbor recognized him from a chance airing of List on the then-new television program “America’s Most Wanted”; after learning of his true identity his second wife, Delores Miller Clark, filed immediately for divorce. Charged with five counts of first-degree murder, List defended his actions citing financial problems and that his family was falling away from God; he contested that by killing them, he had ensured their souls a place in Heaven. Rejecting his defense of medical incompetency, List was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole; he died in custody at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey, on March 21, 2002.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
The Sigiriya Rock and its surrounding gardens, the chosen capital of Kashyapa I. Wikimedia Commons.

13. Kashyapa I of Sri Lanka murdered his father by sealing him inside a wall, before being overthrown by his half-brother and the rightful heir

Kashyapa I (b. date unknown) was the second king of the Mauryan dynasty of Sri Lanka, ruling as King of Sinhala from 473 to 495 CE. Although the eldest son of King Dhatusena, as Kashyapa was not the son of a royal consort, instead of a non-royal concubine, his younger brother Moggallana was the rightful heir to the throne. Dissatisfied by this arrangement, Kashyapa formed an alliance with the commander of the royal army, Migara, and initiated a palace coup to overthrow his father in 473 CE. Misled that Dhatusena had hoarded a vast treasure, upon realization that this supposed wealth was a technologically advanced irrigation tank Kashyapa murdered his father by entombing him inside a wall; following this event, Kashyapa was popularly known as “Pithru Ghathaka Kashyapa” (Kashyapa the Patricide).

Despite a prolonged period as ruler, during which time the impressive Sigiriya citadel and elaborate surrounding city was constructed for his capital, Kashyapa’s half-brother Moggallana never capitulated, choosing instead flight into exile and in 495 CE returned to Sri Lanka with an army to claim his rightful throne; in the resultant battle, Moggallana’s army proved victorious and in defeat Kashyapa threw himself upon his own sword.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Ronald DeFeo’s mug shot, taken November 14, 1974. Wikimedia Commons.

12. The inspiration for The Amityville Horror, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered both his mother and father, along with his two brothers and sisters

Ronald DeFeo Jr. (b. 1951 CE) is an American mass murderer, responsible for the deaths of six immediate family members: his mother Louise DeFeo; father Ronald DeFeo Sr.; sisters Dawn and Allison; and brothers Marc and John Matthew. On the evening of November 13, 1974, a panicked DeFeo entered Henry’s Bar in Amityville, Long Island, New York, shouting: “You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!”. Police investigation at their shared residence identified the bodies of six members of the DeFeo family, all shot with a .35 caliber lever action Marlin 336C rifle; the parents had been shot twice, whilst the children were killed by a single gunshot.

Initially placed under police protection due to DeFeo’s claim of the murders being mob-related, investigators quickly suspected the truth and he confessed the following day telling detectives: “once I started, I just couldn’t stop. It went so fast”. Charged for the murders of his family members, at trial DeFeo pleaded insanity claiming he killed them all in self-defense after he heard their voices plotting to kill him. Rejecting this defense after psychiatric evaluation, and finding it implausible given the youngest victim, John Matthew, was just 9 years old, DeFeo was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years to life; he currently resides at the Sullivan Correctional Facility, New York, with all requests for parole denied.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Ajit Singh; artist unknown. Wikimedia Commons.

11. After a lifetime of war to retake his father’s lost throne from the Mughal Empire, Ajit Singh was murdered by his sons for that very seat of power

Ajit Singh (b. 1679 CE) was the son of Jaswant Singh and a ruler in the Marwar region of present-day Rajasthan between 1679 and 1724 CE. Born after his father’s death in December 1678, with both of the former ruler’s wives pregnant but possessing no living male heirs, the family’s lands were converted by Emperor Aurangzeb into the Mughal Empire. Initially open to cooperating with the Singh dynasty, offering to adopt Ajit and provide him with noble rank, Aurangzeb later sought to capture the young Ajit; men loyal to his father resisted the Emperor and transported the child into exile. Failing to capture the young prince, Aurangzeb claimed another child in his custody was the true Ajit Singh and placed him as a puppet ruler over Marwar.

After failing in a joint uprising against the Mughal Emperor with the Mewar ruler Rana Raj Singh I, a relative of Ajit’s mother, the next twenty years saw a sustained guerrilla war fought by Singh loyalists against the Mughal occupation of Marwar. Upon the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, Ajit Singh’s forces seized Jodhpur and expelled the Mughals from his father’s lands; continuing to pressure the Mughal Empire, Ajit was granted an imperial pardon in 1708, was appointed Governor of Gujarat in 1712 and Governor of Thatta in 1713, and married his daughter to the Mughal Emperor in December 1715.

However, despite a lifetime of struggle to regain his family’s position and honor, Ajit Singh was murdered by his sons Abhai and Bakhat in 1724 CE, with Abhai as his eldest succeeding him as Raja of Marwar. As was common practice for Rajput nobility 6 queens, 25 concubines, and 32 female slaves were burned on the deceased ruler’s funeral pyre, with 3 male advisors atypically committing self-immolation out of respect.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Berenice III and her mother Cleopatra Selene. Wikimedia Commons.

10. Berenice III of Egypt was murdered after just 19 days of marriage to her step-son, cousin, and half-brother Ptolemy XI

Berenice III (b. 120 BCE), also known as Cleopatra Berenice, was Queen Regent of Egypt from 81 to 80 BCE, having previously served as either consort or regent with her husband and uncle Ptolemy X Alexander I between 101 and 88 BCE. Born to Ptolemy IX Lathyros and Cleopatra Selene in 120 BCE, Berenice, as was customary in Ptolemaic Egypt, married her uncle Ptolemy X Alexander I in 101 BCE; the latter had deposed her father in 107 BCE, killing Berenice’s mother and grandmother, but Ptolemy IX would return to reign from 88-81 BCE after the death of Ptolemy X.

After the death of her father in late 81 BCE, Berenice, as the sole legitimate heir of the Ptolemaic dynasty, seized the throne herself and ruled for six months; historical accounts report that despite her short solo reign, Berenice was immensely popular among the people of Egypt. Compelled by interference by the Roman Dictator Sulla, who sought a pro-Roman ruler of Egypt, Berenice was forced relinquish the throne and marry Ptolemy XI Alexander II in 80 BCE; due to the incestuous inclinations of the Egyptian royal households, Berenice is believed to have been simultaneously Ptolemy’s stepmother, cousin, and half-sister. Just 19 days after their marriage, for reasons unknown and overlooking the popularity enjoyed by his wife, Ptolemy XI had Berenice murdered. In vengeance for her murder, the Egyptian people revolted and Ptolemy XI was lynched soon after by the citizens of Alexandria.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Crown Prince Dependra Bir Bikram Shah; date unknown. Wikimedia Commons.

9. Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal massacred most of his family at a party in 2001 before shooting himself in the head

Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah (b. 1971 CE) was the Crown Prince and later penultimate King of Nepal, serving as the shortest-lived monarch of his country, just three days, reigning from June 1-June 4, 2001. Educated at Eton College in England, Dipendra was awarded a Ph.D. from Tribhuvan University in Nepal and graduated from the Academy of Royal Nepalese Gurkha Army.

On June 1, 2001, during a party held at the Narayanhity Royal Palace Dipendra opened fire with an automatic weapon killing his father, King Birendra, his mother, Queen Aishwarya, and seven other members of the royal family including his younger brother and sister. After massacring much of his family, Dipendra shot himself in the head and entered a coma. Due to his sudden murder of most of the Nepalese line of succession, Dipendra himself was crowned King of Nepal but would die of his self-inflicted head wound just three days later on June 4; he was succeeded by the last King of Nepal, his uncle Gyanendra, who would reign until 2008 when Nepal declared itself a republic and abolished the monarchy.

The motives behind the massacre remain unclear, with the most prominent theory highlighting a disagreement over Dipendra’s choice of wife. Desiring to marry Devyani Rana, the daughter of an Indian royal house he had met during his studies in England, King Birendra objected and Dipendra would have been forced to renounce his claim to the throne in order to marry Devyani. Other interpretations of the events include Dipendra’s dissatisfaction with the decreasing power of the Nepalese monarchy, shifting from an absolute to the constitutional role following the 1990s People’s Movement, or as part of a wider conspiracy theory involving his uncle Gyanendra to seize power; this conjecture is supported by the absence of Gyanendra at the event, that none of his relatives at the party were killed, the lack of forensic examination during the only week-long investigation, and that Dipendra’s head wound was inflicted on his left temple despite being right-handed.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Agrippina, at the National Museum in Warsaw. Wikimedia Commons.

8. Agrippina the Younger was stabbed to death on the orders of her son, Emperor Nero, after he had failed to kill her with a self-sinking boat

Agrippina the Younger (b. 15 CE), also known as Agrippina the Minor, was a Roman empress of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and mother to Nero; the daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, Agrippina was also granddaughter to Augustus, the younger sister of Caligula, in addition to being the niece and fourth wife of Claudius. Described by historical accounts as an ambitious and ruthless political operator, upon the death of Tiberius in 37 CE Agrippina’s brother Caligula become Imperator and Agrippina began to expand her powers; such was her unchecked and violent ambition that upon the birth of Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, later Nero, her husband Domitius remarked: “I don’t think anything produced by me and Agrippina could possibly be good for the state or the people”.

Engaged in an incestuous relationship with Caligula, Agrippina participated in the failed Plot of the Three Daggers to murder her brother in 38 CE; in the aftermath of this treason, Agrippina was exiled to the Pontine Islands. However her stay was short-lived and in 41 CE Caligula was murdered by her paternal uncle Claudius, who subsequently lifted her exile and restored Agrippina’s position. Failing in her advances with the future-emperor Galba, Agrippina married – and likely murdered Gaius Sallustius Crispus Passienus – to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful inhabitants of Rome; later, after the execution of his third wife, Messalina, in 48 CE, Agrippina would marry Claudius to become Empress. Seeking to leverage her son into position to succeed Claudius, Agrippina ruthlessly murdered and exiled members of opposing factions. In 50 CE, Nero was formally adopted as heir by Claudius; later regretting this decision, Claudius would prepare for his natural-born son Britannicus to succeed him but died in 54 CE before enactment. It is widely believed Agrippina poisoned her husband to prevent the disinheritance of her son.

In the first months of Nero’s reign Agrippina was the true power in Rome, even granted the right to attend Senate meetings. However as Nero gradually asserted more independence, Agrippina began considering replacing her son with Brittanicus; upon learning of this plot in 55 CE, Nero had his half-brother poisoned. In 59 CE Nero resolved to eliminate the threat posed by his mother. First attempting poison, then by collapsing a roof over her bed whilst she slept, Nero’s final imaginative attempt was via a self-sinking boat; the vessel, designed to sink and drown Agrippina, failed, with his mother swimming to safety and greeted by crowds of admirers. In response to these humiliating defeats, Nero gave up the facade of subtlety and sent three assassins to stab Agrippina to death. The murder of his mother would weigh heavily on Nero, driving him to depression and madness, and, in the aftermath of a military coup, he would become the first Roman Emperor to commit suicide in 68 CE.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Chiyo Aizawa; date unknown. Wikimedia Commons.

7. Chiyo Aizawa strangled her father after he repeatedly raped and impregnated her over a 15 year period of imprisonment

Chiyo Aizawa (b. 1939 CE) was the first of six children born to Takeo Aizawa and Rika Aizawa. Her father was an alcoholic and highly abusive towards his family members, with her mother fleeing in 1953 but leaving behind her children; from then on, Takeo systemically raped Chiyo. By the time Rika returned several years later in an attempt to stop such treatment of her daughter, Chiyo had become pregnant 11 times. From these pregnancies, Chiyo gave birth to five daughters, two of whom died in infancy, and had 6 abortions; after the sixth in 1967, Chiyo underwent medical sterilization.

In 1968, Chiyo fell in love with a 22-year old man and sought to leave her father; in response, Takeo imprisoned her and threatened to kill her children should she seek to escape. On October 5, 1968, Chiyo strangled her father and was subsequently charged with parricide: a crime which carried the penalty of either death or life imprisonment under Article 200 of the Criminal Code of Japan. Even with the maximum permissible reductions due to mitigating circumstances applied in sentencing, Chiyo still faced incarceration for three and a half years; her lawyer contested this was unreasonable, given that Chiyo acted in self-defense and had been mentally incapacitated due to her horrific treatment. Whilst Tokyo High Court disagreed, in a landmark decision the Supreme Court of Japan struck down Article 200 in April 1973 and Chiyo was sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Emperor Taizu of Later Liang. Wikimedia Commons.

6. Emperor Taizu of Later Liang was murdered by his son, Zhu Yougui, who usurped the throne before his own death just a year later

Zhu Wen (b. 852 CE), also known as Emperor Taizu of Later Liang and Zhu Huang, was a military governor during the Tang dynasty of China and who overthrew the Empire of Tang in 907 to establish Latter Liang as its founding emperor. During the period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, beginning with the collapse of the Tang dynasty, the kingdoms of China consistently vied for power and control; Latter Liang successfully conquered much of central China but in seeking to unify northern China encountered competition from the rival states of Qi, Jin, and Yan.

Zhu’s reign lasted just 5 years when in 912 CE he was killed by his third and first natural-born son, Zhu Yougui; born in 888 CE, Yougui was the son of a military prostitute and only joined his father in court after his ascension to emperor. Jealous of the successes and preferential treatment shown to other family members, after the incapacitation of his father in 912 Yougui learned of a plan to enthrone his younger brother Zhu Youwen. Believing he would be executed by his brother to secure his position, Yougui conspired with Han Qing, an imperial guard general, and on July 18 stormed the palace and assassinated the emperor. Blaming the assassination on Youwen, Yougui ordered his brother murdered and seized the throne. However, as the truth leaked senior generals distanced themselves from their new emperor and in spring 913 CE Yougui faced an uprising by his cousin Yuan Xiangxian; in the course of an attack on the imperial palace, Yougui committed suicide and was demoted posthumously to the status of commoner for his crimes.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Lizzie Borden, circa 1890. Wikimedia Commons.

5. Lizzie Borden is widely believed to have brutally killed her father and step-mother with an ax, before being acquitted at trial for their murders

Lizzie Borden (b. 1860 CE) was an American who in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892 allegedly murdered her father and stepmother with an ax. Following the natural death of her mother in 1863, Lizzie was raised by her stepmother Abby Gray; whilst not openly hostile, Lizzie later became convinced the marriage was merely for her family’s considerable wealth as opposed to love. With tensions rising over their father’s gifts of real estate to their stepmother’s family, both Lizzie and her sister took an extended break in New Bedford. Upon their return Lizzie would stay at a local boarding house, only returning to the family residence four days prior to the murders.

On August 4, 1892, at some time between 0900 and 1030, Abby Gray went upstairs to make the guest bed. Forensic examinations discovered she had been struck on the side of the head by a hatchet just above the ear, before being brutally and fatally struck by a further 17 direct hits to the back of her head. Just before 1110, Lizzie called the maid from the downstairs living room shouting: “Maggie, come quick! Father’s dead. Somebody came in and killed him”; Andrew Borden was found with his eyeballs split in two, the product of 10 or 11 strikes with a hatchet.

After police discovered a broken-handled hatchet concealed in the basement, and with Lizzie noted as entering the basement twice in the middle of the night prior, Lizzie was questioned in connection with the deaths and on August 11 was charged with the murders. Despite being caught burning a dress in the aftermath of the murders and purchasing prussic acid in the days before, the presiding judge issued a defensive summary and instruction to the jury prior to deliberations; unsurprisingly, the jury consequently rendered a verdict of not guilty. Lizzie Borden is acquitted of double homicide.

Whilst John Moore, Lizzie’s paternal uncle, and Bridget “Maggie” Sulivan, the household maid, have been suggested as possible suspects, the focus of historical attention has always surrounded Lizzie. Bridget Sullivan provided a deathbed confession in 1948 that she knew Lizzie indeed murdered the family, wherein she told her sister she had falsified her testimony at trial to protect Lizzie from prosecution; it is generally believed that Lizzie was, in fact, the murderer, either committing the attacks in response to past sexual assaults, to cover up a lesbian relationship with Bridget or whilst in a fugue state.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Beatrice Cenci, as depicted by Reni or Serani. Wikimedia Commons.

4. Beatrice Cenci was beheaded for murdering her physically and sexually abusive father with a hammer

Beatrice Cenci (b. 1577 CE) was an Italian noblewoman who was executed for the murder of her father, Count Francesco Cenci, in 1599 CE. Born to Count Francesco Cenci and Ersilia Santacroce, her mother died when she was just seven years old at which point Beatrice and her elder sister Antonina were sent to a monastery to be raised. An abusive patriarch, Count Francesco was violent towards his children and first wife in addition to raping Beatrice several times; for these crimes he was imprisoned, but due to his noble status was released prematurely. Upon learning of attempts by Beatrice and his second wife Lucrezia Petroni to prolong his incarceration, Francesco expelled both to his rural castle in the Abruzzi mountains.

Resolving to rid themselves of their captor and tormentor, Beatrice, along with three other Cencis, plotted to murder Francesco. Although their plan to drug Francesco during a visit to the castle failed to kill him, Beatrice, her siblings, and their stepmother, instead subsequently bludgeoned the count to death with a hammer and threw his body off a balcony in an attempt to disguise the murder as an accident. Not believing the cause of death to be accidental, the papal police opened an investigation; although efforts were made to conceal their actions, including Beatrice’s lover dying under torture without divulging the truth and the additional murder of a vassal who was aware of the culprits, the plot was eventually discovered.

The four members of the Cenci family were arrested and sentenced to death. In spite of mass protests by the people of Rome in their defense, understanding and sympathizing with the reasons behind their murderous actions, Pope Clement VIII feared a spate of familial murders should he permit leniency. On September 11, 1599, Beatrice Cenci was beheaded on Sant’Angelo Bridge, as was Lucrezia, whilst her brother Giacomo was publicly tortured before having his head smashed with a mallet; Beatrice’s younger brother Bernardo, aged 12, was spared execution but the family properties were confiscated by the church and he was sentenced to life as a galley slave.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Jack Gilbert Graham; date unknown. Wikimedia Commons.

3. Jack Gilbert Graham murdered 43 people along with his mother when he bombed United Airlines Flight 629 in 1955

John Gilbert Graham (b. 1932 CE), nicknamed Jack, was a mass murderer responsible for the deaths of 44 people including his mother. Growing up in an orphanage due to the family’s impoverishment during the Great Depression, his mother, Daisie Graham, left him there even after becoming a successful businesswoman through remarriage to Earl King. Although they eventually reunited in 1954 their relationship was strained and reportedly argumentative, with his mother’s restaurant suffering after an unexplained and suspicious gas explosion the following year.

On November 1, 1955, United Airlines Flight 629 exploded soon after departure from Denver’s Stapleton Airfield, killing all 44 people aboard including Graham’s mother. Investigations revealed Graham had taken out a life insurance policy on his mother at the airport terminal just prior to her departure, valued at $37,500; combined with a history of insurance swindling, including an incident where Graham deliberately caused his new truck to be struck by a passing train to collect insurance, in addition to embezzlement and cheque forgery, Graham immediately became the chief suspect.

Identifying the components of a homemade explosive device linked with Graham’s house, he was charged with sabotage and subsequently murder. Confessing to his crimes, including telling a prison doctor that he “realized that there were about 50 or 60 people carried on a DC6, but the number of people to be killed made no difference to me; it could have been a thousand. When their time comes, there is nothing they can do about it”, Graham stood trial for only a single charge of premeditated murder; due to no federal statute existing criminalizing the blowing up of an airplane at the time, and a strong desire to seek the death penalty against Graham, prosecutors persuaded charges only for the premeditated killing of his mother.

After attempting suicide in February 1956, Graham was found guilty on May 5 and sentenced to death; the execution was conducted on January 11, 1957, with Graham’s final statement declaring: “as far as feeling remorse for these people, I don’t. I can’t help it. Everybody pays their way and takes their chances. That’s just the way it goes.”

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Cleopatra III. Wikimedia Commons.

2. Cleopatra III was murdered by her son Ptolemy X, after helping to elevate him to the throne of Egypt

Cleopatra III (b. 160-155 BCE), also known as Cleopatra Philometor Soteira or Kokke, was the daughter of Cleopatra II and Ptolemy VI and a Queen of Egypt during the Ptolemaic period. As was customary for the dynasty, between 170-164 BCE her mother and father engaged in joint rule with her uncle, Ptolemy VIII, before being expelled; their exile was short-lived, returning in 163 BCE and forcing Ptolemy VIII’s abdication. Cleopatra III’s parents subsequently ruled unimpeded between 163-145 BCE, during which time their daughter was born.

Upon the death of Ptolemy VI in 145 BCE from injuries sustained during the Battle of Oinoparas, Cleopatra’s uncle Ptolemy VIII once again became King of Egypt. First marrying Cleopatra II, Ptolemy VIII also married Cleopatra III in 139 BCE. Although this communal family rule worked for a time, in 132 BCE Cleopatra II rebelled and Cleopatra III was forced to flee with her uncle and husband to Cyprus in 130; by 127 the pair had once again settled their differences with Cleopatra II and returned to Alexandria, becoming joint rulers with her from 124 to 116.

After the death of Ptolemy VIII in 116 BCE, Cleopatra III jointly ruled with her mother, until her death in 115, and her son, Ptolemy IX. Expelling Ptolemy IX from Alexandria in 107 BCE, Cleopatra III sought to replace him with her second son, Ptolemy X. This proved to be a fatal error, and after 6 years of joint rule, Ptolemy X murdered his mother for alleged participation in a conspiracy against him in 101 BCE.

20 Chilling Cases of Patricide and Matricide from History
Charles Whitman in 1963. Associated Press/Wikimedia Commons.

1. Charles Whitman, the “Texas Tower Sniper”, murdered his mother and wife before killing a further 17 people from atop the UT tower

Charles Whitman (b. 1941 CE) was a former U.S. Marine who in 1966 was responsible for the massacre at The University of Texas at Austin, becoming known as the “Texas Tower Sniper“. Trained with firearms from a young age, with his father, Charles Whitman Sr. a collector, he became an accomplished marksman described by his father as able to “plug the eye out of a squirrel by the time he was sixteen.” His father was also highly abusive, demanding perfection from his family and punishing ruthlessly those who failed to adhere to his standards; enlisting in the Marines in June 1959, it is believed Whitman did so in response to a particularly severe beating from his father a month earlier after he returned home drunk after celebrating graduating 7th in his class from High School.

Enrolling at The University of Texas at Austin in 1961 Whitman’s fascination with the iconic campus tower was morbid from the start, noted as commenting in 1962 that “a person could stand off an army from atop of it before they got him.” In May 1966, Whitman’s mother separated from his father and sued for divorce; during this time, Whitman began abusing amphetamines and experienced debilitating headaches. Seeking to relieve his mother and wife of their worldly troubles and grant them salvation in heaven, on August 1, 1966, Whitman murdered his mother and placed her body peacefully in her bed; whilst the exact method is unknown, it is believed he rendered her unconscious before killing her with a single stab wound to the heart. Whitman then returned home and murdered his wife by brutally stabbing her repeatedly whilst she slept, before compiling his suicide note and heading to the university. Armed with a hunting rifle, Whitman shot and killed 17 people, and wounded a further 31, from the 28th floor of the UT tower, before being shot and killed by police; it remained the deadliest mass shooting in the United States until 1984, and the deadliest school shooting until Virginia Tech in 2007.

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“20 Historical Rulers Who Murdered Members Of Their Own Family”, Steve, History Collection, February 15, 2019