Murder, at its core, is relatively uncomplicated. One person, either out of anger or the promise of some kind of personal gain, decides to kill another person, and does so, usually pretty sloppily and in an immediately incriminating manner. That said, there are some people who sit around and concoct murder schemes so circuitous, intricate, or just-so-crazy-it-might-work that they seem less like real crimes and more like discarded plots from a John Grisham novel starring Rube Goldberg and his gang of drunk helper monkeys.
6. A Mobster Convinces A Stranger To Shoot His Victim (By Telling Her The Gun Is A Camera)
When gangster Alphonse Rocco needed his ex-wife, Olga, bumped off, he devised a crazy sinister way of getting someone else to pull the trigger for him without winding up as a suspect — he tricked a random stranger into doing it.
After tracking Olga down to Times Square, Alphonse approached an anonymous passerby and asked for her assistance. He told the unsuspecting woman that he was a police detective tracking a dangerous jewel thief (who just so happened to be Olga) and handed her a decidedly odd-looking camera, asking if she would mind pointing it at the thief and snapping a quick picture so as to not blow his cover. Because people in the 1940s were apparently as gullible as blind kittens, the woman agreed, pointing the camera at Olga and taking the shot. As you may have guessed, the “camera” was just a bizarrely disguised gun, and it didn’t take Olga’s picture so much as shoot her in the f*****g back.
The amateur photographer adorably thought that some unseen gunman had shot Olga at the exact same moment she took the picture but eventually realized what had happened when Alphonse was nowhere to be found. Luckily, Olga wasn’t killed, although she lost her leg as a result of the shooting. Meanwhile, Alphonse hauled ass to the Catskills, where he was promptly killed in a shootout with police.
5. Israel Gives A Bomber’s Old College Roommate’s Uncle An Exploding Cellphone
Yahya Ayyash was the real-life equivalent of The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight. Nicknamed “The Engineer,” he was responsible for organizing a major suicide-bomb campaign in Israel that left 60 people dead and hundreds injured.
Killing or capturing Ayyash was a major priority for Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent of the FBI. In 1996, Shin Bet elected for a plan that was one-fifth solid intelligence work, one-fifth stage misdirection, and three-fifths explosives. After keeping watch on Yahya, they learned that he regularly stayed with his old college roommate, Osama Hamad.
The key to their plan, however, was learning that Ayyash didn’t own a cellphone: Rather than buy one of his own, he’d simply borrow Hamad’s if he needed to make a call.
Shin Bet were able to persuade Osama’s uncle Kamal Hamad to give his nephew a new cellphone, one that would allow them to listen in on any calls that were made by, say, any wanted terrorists that should happen to use it. But the phone wasn’t just bugged — when Ayyash borrowed the phone on his visit, they remotely detonated a wad of high explosives hidden inside, taking his head clean off. We cannot say with certainty what Osama’s precise reaction was when his ex-roommate’s head suddenly exploded, but we assume it was somewhere between surprise and extreme surprise.
4. A Woman Hires Entirely Too Many Hitmen To Kill Her Husband
Depending on how you look at it, Mary Ellen Samuels’ plot to kill her husband tumbled into the realm of a Coen Brothers movie when she decided to hire a small army of hitmen to get the job done.
The motive wasn’t complex: She stood to receive $500,000 in the event of his death. After spending two years waiting for the guy to be hit by a passing meteorite, she decided the universe was taking way too long to reward her with her fortune and hired a hitman to kill her unsuspecting husband. Unfortunately, the hitman she hired, James Bernstein, just couldn’t manage to get it done. After three failed attempts to snuff the dude out, Bernstein did what any stressed-out freelancer would do — he outsourced the job. Meaning, he hired another guy to do the murdering for him.
Either the second hitman was a savant or Bernstein was a complete moron, because he managed to get the job done with slightly more than zero effort — he simply walked into the Samuels’ home and shot Mary Ellen’s husband.
With her husband (finally) out of the way, Mary Ellen got her money and embarked on a post-murder shopping spree, splurging on, as the L.A. Times reported, “fake fur coats, trips to Las Vegas, and custom-made outfits from a store called Trashy Lingerie” (all the while failing to pay for her dead husband’s headstone). When the cops inevitably came knocking, Mary Ellen hired two more hitmen to kill Bernstein, to get rid of all the loose ends tying her to her husband’s murder. As zany as her plan was, it might have actually worked, had she been able to resist keeping Bernstein’s wallet as a trophy. (You may recognize hanging on to an incriminating piece of evidence as a “loose end.” Congratulations! You’re better at murder than Mary Ellen Samuels was.)
Before she could hire even more hitmen to take out the last two (and presumably add to her collection of wallets), the police arrested her. After what must have been one of the easiest wins in legal history, Mary Ellen was given the death penalty for her Inception murder spree.
3. Two Hundred Women Kill A Serial Rapist In The Middle Of A Courtroom
For more than a decade, Akku Yadav and his gang of thugs waged a campaign of terror against the residents of Kasturba Nagar, India. Murder, rape, kidnapping, beating people just for the hell of it — if it was a violent felony, Akku was into it. It’s not as if his victims could ask the police for help, either, thanks to the massive bribes that Akku regularly ferried to them. If someone did try to report Akku, the police would simply go straight to him and tell him the name of the snitch.
However, there comes a time when subjugated people, terrified or not, will simply not suffer one more ounce of bullshit. In 2004, after a mob of his victims descended upon his house and demolished it with their bare hands, Akku was forced to hand himself over to police custody for protection. When the day of his hearing arrived, a revenge squad of 200 of his female victims stormed the courtroom and hacked Akku to death in full view of the legal system. In a rather telling move, nobody did anything to stop them — the women took Akku to Pound Town for a full 15 minutes before anyone tried to intervene.
In response, the police arrested just five people for the murder. And that’s when the beauty of their plan revealed itself: In a moment ripped straight from Spartacus, every single member of the attacking mob claimed they had dealt the killing blow.
As if that wasn’t enough, the few arrests that the police had made triggered riots across the area, forcing judges and lawyers alike to admit that yeah, Akku kind of had this s**t coming. With no way out of this legal mess, the courts dropped the matter entirely.
2. A Fake Doctor Robs A Bank By Giving Everyone Poisoned Vaccines
In January 1948, the employees of the Imperial Bank in Tokyo were closing up for the day when a doctor working with the occupying forces arrived. Warning of an outbreak of dysentery in the region, he asked everyone in the building to drink a vaccine mixture that he had conveniently brought with him. Eager not to s**t themselves to death, all 16 people in the bank (including two children) drank the mixture. Within minutes, 12 of them were dead and four were unconscious, because the “vaccine” was actually a cyanide solution. Meanwhile, the villainous doctor gathered up a paltry sum of money and disappeared.
Amazingly, this wasn’t the first time that someone had tried to rob a bank in this manner, and after narrowing down their pool of suspects by talking to various eyewitnesses, the police arrested Sadamichi Hirasawa, a young artist. Hirasawa was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death. However, no minister of justice would ever agree to sign his final execution orders. This was because, to say the least, the evidence linking Hirasawa was pretty damn thin.
For instance, of the 40 eyewitnesses interviewed by police, only two were able to identify Hirasawa. This, coupled with doubt about whether he could have obtained the correct poison (as well as a popular conspiracy that this was the work of a rogue member of Unit 731, a secret biological warfare research team), meant that Hirasawa’s execution kept getting delayed until he eventually died in prison. It might seem like a bit much to murder a dozen people for basically a few months’ rent, unless you’ve ever tried to make a living as an artist, in which case you would probably kill even more people for less money.
1. The Rajneesh Cult Poisons Salad Bars To Rig A Local Election
In 1981, the Rajneesh were a prosperous cult living on a 60,000-acre ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, under the leadership of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian mystic who encouraged his followers to do all of the drugs in the world and have sex with everything, and also to provide him with a literal fleet of Rolls-Royces as well as a private jet and a helicopter. The Rajneesh eventually grew so large that they took political control of the nearby town of Antelope and renamed it Rajneesh, because apparently that was the only f*****g name they could think of for anything. However, the group started to think bigger than Antelope, which had been little more than a retirement community. They wanted control of the entirety of Wasco County.
There was only one problem: The Rajneesh weren’t too popular with the vast majority of the people in the area. If a Rajneesh candidate went up for election, that candidate would be outvoted into oblivion. If only there were some way to remove the electoral population, the Rajneesh would have a real shot. As it happens, there was.
By pure coincidence, a major outbreak of salmonella suddenly struck Wasco County. In total, more than 700 people became seriously ill, resulting in the local hospitals being overwhelmed. Fearing a full-on vomitpocalyse, the CDC quickly rushed to the scene and traced the outbreak to the salad bars of several local restaurants. Federal investigators were unable to figure out what had caused the outbreak until a year later, when Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh himself told them that his followers had deliberately poisoned the county to try to whittle down the pool of potential voters so that Rajneesh candidates could win seats in various local offices. Bhagwan was apparently angry with some of his lieutenants and had had enough of Oregon, because he immediately took off for India, presumably in his helicopter.
During a raid on the Rajneesh compound, investigators found a state-of-the-art biological research lab containing samples of salmonella that the group had purchased from a nearby medical research supplier. In addition to spiking local salad bars (including a Shakey’s Pizza), the group had planned to dump their salmonella into the local water supply like the League Of Shadows. They also planned to get their hands on some HIV and shoot a federal prosecutor, neither of which would have resulted in anything good for the people of Oregon.