5 Notorious Copycat Killers In The 20Th Century

5 Notorious Copycat Killers In The 20Th Century

Patrick Lynch - February 26, 2017

All cold-blood killings are reprehensible acts, and we continue to struggle to come to terms with these seemingly motiveless murders. It is especially chilling to know that there are people for whom taking a human life is no big deal. While most individuals would recoil in horror at the thought of murder, natural-born killers seemingly do so without a second thought. To date, the field of psychology has yet to create an accurate model to explain the motivations of killers fully.

Copycat killers add even more confusion to the mix. These are slayings committed in a manner that was the established M.O of a previous murderer. It’s suggested that the first known copycat killing occurred in the early 20th century as widespread media coverage of Jack the Ripper led to a slew of similar crimes. In the modern era, everything from television to video games has been blamed for promoting criminal activity. Certainly, the explosion in popularity of crime dramas featuring blood and death is a disturbing trend. In this article, I will look at 5 cases where real-life and fictional killings acted as inspiration for similar misdeeds.

5 Notorious Copycat Killers In The 20Th Century

1 – Heriberto Seda – Copycat of the Zodiac Killer

Also known as Eddie Seda, this serial killer modeled his crimes on the actions of the Zodiac Killer. Unlike his inspiration, however, Seda was caught after murdering three people and injuring six others during his reign of terror which lasted from March 1990 to October 1993. Seda was born in New York in 1969, and the recluse was obsessed with guns and the Bible. He admired the Zodiac Killer, especially the fact that the infamous individual was never caught.

Seda attempted to mimic the Zodiac Killer and selected victims based on their astrological sign. He sent cryptic letters to the New York City Police in November 1989, just like his hero did in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s. Seda wrote that he would murder people based on their star sign and planned to kill a dozen people, one for each sign. The police apparently thought it was a hoax and probably received scores of crank letters each year. There was nothing special or chilling about Seda’s threats; that is until he made good on his promise.

Seda’s first crime occurred on March 8, 1990, when he shot Mario Orosco in the back. Fortunately for Orosco, a Scorpio, Seda was less efficient than the Zodiac, so he survived. On March 29, 1990, the copycat shot German Montenegro, a Gemini, but again, his victim survived the attack. On March 31, 1990, he shot Joseph Proce, a Taurus, who died three weeks later. A note found near Proce contained the Zodiac signs of the first three victims with a message that said: “Zodiac – Time to Die!”

A homeless man named Larry Parham was the fourth victim, but again, he survived a shooting on June 21. He later told police that a stranger asked him his star sign a few days before the attack. Police found another note near the bench in Central Park where Parham was attacked. It showed Parham’s star sign but Seda made a crucial error; he left a fingerprint on the note which was later used to identify him.

Seda stayed under the radar for almost two years before he sprang into action again on August 10, 1992, when he stabbed Patricia Fonte to death. The victim was a Leo, and it was an especially brutal murder since the Zodiac wannabe stabbed her approximately 100 times. Once again, Seda remained quiet for an extended period until June 4, 1993, when he shot a Libra named James Weber in the leg. On July 20 he shot and killed a homeless man named John DiAcone, the victim’s sign was Virgo. Diane Ballard, a Taurus, was shot and partially paralyzed on October 2, 1993.

Police didn’t make the connection with the Zodiac Killer until Seda sent the New York Post a letter in August 1994. However, he remained at large until June 18, 1996, when he shot his half-sister Gladys in the buttocks during an altercation with her and her boyfriend. She called the police, but when they arrived, Seda greeted them with gunfire. He eventually surrendered, and the cops found bombs, weapons and a devil-worship book in his home. A member of the police worked on the Zodiac Copycat case and recognized the writing and symbols in Seda’s confession after the shootout. He ran a check of the fingerprint from the note in 1992 and the saliva in the letter from 1994 and discovered they were a match for Seda. The would-be Zodiac killer was found guilty of the murders and attacks, and on June 24, 1998, he was sentenced to 232 years imprisonment.

5 Notorious Copycat Killers In The 20Th Century
Bonnie Barrett and Derek Brown. Independent

2 – Derek Brown – Copycat of Jack the Ripper

Brown attempted to emulate the brutal murders committed by the infamous Jack the Ripper. Although he didn’t target prostitutes like his predecessor (only one of his victims was a sex worker), the slayings were exceedingly brutal and took place in Whitechapel, London, the location of the Ripper murders in the late 1880s. Xiao Mei Guo, a street vendor who sold DVDs, was Brown’s first victim in August 2007. Video footage clearly shows Guo entering a London subway with the copycat on the day of her disappearance.

The following month, Brown claimed the life of prostitute Bonnie Barrett who he picked up in Whitechapel. Unlike Jack the Ripper, Brown didn’t operate in the shadows, so his spree was mercifully short. An investigation quickly revealed his role in the disappearance of the two women, and when police searched his flat in Rotherhithe, London in October 2007, they made a grisly discovery.

They found blood from the women in the kitchen, corridor, and bathroom; the latter location is most likely where Brown dismembered his victims. He had made an attempt to hide DNA evidence by removing carpets and stripping the walls, but it was a feeble effort because there was more than enough evidence left to convict him in the absence of the bodies. Brown had borrowed the book: ‘Killers: The Most Barbaric Murderers of Our Time‘ and even had a ‘DIY Murder Kit’ consisting of a steam cleaner, bow saw, and waterproof sheeting.

After his capture, police linked Brown with six unsolved sexual assaults although he was not convicted of them. However, the father of seven had a rape conviction in 1989 and was known for his ‘voracious’ appetite for sex, especially with prostitutes. The trial was a relatively short affair as Judge Martin Stephens spoke of the frightening efficiency with which Brown disposed of his victims. The killer clearly targeted the two women because he believed they were vulnerable and wouldn’t be missed. Guo was an illegal immigrant, while Barrett was a sex worker and crack addict.

The overwhelming evidence at Brown’s flat was enough for the jury to convict him even in the absence of bodies. Judge Stephens sentenced Brown to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 30 years. To this day, Brown has shown no remorse and police are convinced he would have kept killing until he was caught. The Ripper Copycat has also refused to cooperate with police regarding the whereabouts of his victims, and it is highly unlikely that this evil man will ever reveal this secret.

5 Notorious Copycat Killers In The 20Th Century
Ilawarra Mercury

3 – Matthew Milat – Copycat of Ivan Milat

This is a particularly scary copycat story because this killer was the great-nephew of the man he imitated. Ivan Milat was one of Australia’s most feared serial killers as he hunted, tortured, and murdered seven people in the Belanglo Forest in the 1990s. After completing his dastardly deeds and satiating his sick desires, Milat buried his victims in shallow graves. It is the perfect location for such activities as the forest is an isolated area of scrub some 90 miles from Sydney. He was finally caught, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1996.

Fast forward to 2010 and history repeated itself as his great-nephew, Matthew, along with an accomplice Cohen Klein, lured their friend David Auchterlonie to Belanglo Forest with the promise of booze and cannabis. It was Auchterlonie’s 17th birthday, and he had no reason to suspect the real motives of his supposed friends. Before the murder, Matthew allegedly exclaimed: “We’re going to Belanglo, someone’s going to die.”

Matthew was apparently enchanted by the deeds of his relative and even changed his surname from Muleman to Milat in homage to the infamous killer. On the fateful day, Matthew drove to the Forest with Klein and his victim. Klein claimed he only wanted to scare Auchterlonie and didn’t know Matthew would commit murder. When they arrived at the Forest, the killer produced an ax and struck his victim repeatedly on the head until he died.

Klein recorded the audio of the killing on his mobile phone, and it reveals that Matthew repeatedly taunted his victim during the attack. He accused Auchterlonie of telling people about his affairs and told his victim to look at the ground and swear that he was innocent. Although the victim complied, it wasn’t enough to save him as he was bludgeoned to death. Police quickly arrested Matthew and the chilling recording was played in court.

Justice Matthews sentenced Matthew to 43 years in prison with no possibility of parole for 30 years. Klein was sentenced to 32 years in jail with no possibility of parole for 22 years. While in prison awaiting trial, Matthew wrote a poem called ‘Your Last Day’ which practically outlines the joy he received from committing the crime. Like his relative, Matthew has never shown remorse and will hopefully rot behind bars. Ivan Milat reportedly chuckled when told of his great-nephew’s crime.

5 Notorious Copycat Killers In The 20Th Century
Movie Pilot

4 – Thierry Jaradin – Copycat of Movie Scream

If it wasn’t bad enough that people copy the crimes of serial killers, there is also the phenomenon of evil individuals committing murder after receiving inspiration from movies and television programs. The movie Scream is the inspiration for several murders, including the slaying of Cassie Jo Stoddart by Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik in 2006. They were just 16-years-old when they killed their classmate and were sentenced to life in prison without parole.

One of the first, and most notorious, Scream copycat killings occurred in 2001. Lonely truck driver Thierry Jaradin brutally murdered 15-year-old Alisson Cambier in his home in the small Belgian town of Gerpinnes. Cambier knew Jaradin as she lived just a few doors away. The unsuspecting Cambier dropped by Jaradin’s house to exchange videotapes and chat. The truck driver made sexual advances on the girl, but she quickly rebuffed them.

The angry Jaradin excused himself and left the room only to return wearing a costume from the movie Scream. He wielded two enormous knives and stabbed his victim 30 times. Rather than attempting to cover up the crime, Jaradin laid the body on his bed, put a rose in one of her hands and phoned a colleague and his father with a confession.

When the police arrived at the scene, Jaradin confessed and admitted that the killing was premeditated and influenced by the first movie in the Scream trilogy. The killer received a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. The scary thing is that Jaradin had absolutely no history of violent behavior nor did he experience any known psychological problems up to that point.

Incidentally, the Scream trilogy is based on a murder spree in Gainesville, Florida in 1990. Over the course of a few days (August 24-27), five students were murdered on the University of Florida campus. All of the slayings were brutal in nature and after a huge manhunt, police arrested a 19-year-old student named Edward Humphrey. He was a schizophrenic who stopped taking his medication and after his arrest, the killings stopped. However, evidence from the crime scenes determined that Humphrey was not the killer, yet he remained in prison for 22 months on a trumped-up assault charge.

It turned out that the real murderer, Danny Rolling, had been arrested for burglary, which is the reason the murders stopped. Ultimately, police gathered enough evidence to convict Rolling, and he was executed in Florida on October 25, 2006.

5 Notorious Copycat Killers In The 20Th Century
Huffington Post Canada

5 – Mark Andrew Twitchell – Copycat of Dexter

Given the ultra-violent and gruesome nature of the hit television series Dexter, it is hardly a surprise to learn that it ‘inspired’ a killer copycat. As is the case with the Scream movies, the show has inadvertently been the basis for several murders. 21-year-old Mark Howe stabbed his mother to death in England in 2012. He regularly posted Facebook updates about how much he hated his mother, and the recluse was an obsessive Dexter fan. He told a friend he wished he was Dexter and even performed Internet searches such as ‘Dexter‘s Kill Knife.’

In 2009, Andrew Conley murdered his 10-year-old brother. After strangling his sibling, Conley put a plastic bag over the boy’s head in an attempt to mimic the TV killer’s ritual. There are a frightening number of cases where Dexter was supposedly the inspiration, but perhaps the most famous is the murder of John Brian Altinger by Mark Andrew Twitchell in 2008. Unlike the majority of alleged ‘Dexter related killings’ which were seemingly one-off events, police believe Twitchell was a serial killer in the making.

Altinger chatted with a woman on the dating website Plenty of Fish. He quickly fell for his online paramour and arranged to meet her. It turned out that Twitchell posed as the woman and, after luring Altinger to a garage, he murdered his quarry by bludgeoning and stabbing him to death. Twitchell dumped the body and used his victim’s computer to send emails to his friends. He explained that he was taking a long vacation in Costa Rica and also sent a resignation email to his manager at work. However, his friends were suspicious and broke into Altinger’s condo to find no indication that he was away on vacation; mainly because his passport was still there.

Before his death, Altinger emailed directions to the garage to his friends and police say they might not have caught Twitchell without this information. A quick search of the garage’s leasing history showed that Mark Twitchell rented it. The would-be serial killer’s fate was sealed when Gilles Tetreault came to the police with a story that he was lured to a garage by a woman he met on Plenty of Fish. Instead of meeting his date, he was attacked by a masked man but luckily for him; he managed to escape. The attack occurred one week before the disappearance of Altinger.

The net closed in on Twitchell and he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder on October 31, 2008. Police found a document hidden on Twitchell’s laptop outlining the failed first attempt and successful second murder attempt. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Scarily, Twitchell reportedly obsessively watches Dexter while in prison.

Some Sources and Further Reading:

UPI – Zodiac’ Suspect Charged In 4 Attacks

Monsters & Critics – Heriberto Seda Aka The Copycat Zodiac Killer Spread Terror Through 1990s NYC When He Began A Murder Spree

The New York Times – THE TRAIL OF ‘THE ZODIAC’; Tracking a Killer

The Guardian – Ripper Copycat Is Found Guilty Of Murder

NZ Herald – Life and Crimes Of Ivan Milat, Australia’s Most Notorious Serial Killer

AETV – Ivan Milat, the Backpack Murderer, Had a Great-Nephew Who Also Became a Killer

Ranker – These Teens Wanted To Kill Their Friend – And Their Plan Was Something Straight Out Of The Movies

Medium – The Loss of Cassie Stoddart

CBS News – Andrew Conley, “Dexter” Admirer, Has Life Sentence For Murder Upheld By Ind. Court

The Sun – The Terrifying True Story Of How One Aspiring Serial Killer Used Plenty Of Fish To Lure His Victims To Their Death

CBS News – Mark Twitchell: A Closer Look At The Evidence