Over the years we have seen a slew of crime cases that have been absolutely bizarre. These headline grabbing incidents have always been popular fodder for onlookers and have only grown with the internet and streaming platforms. The incidents mentioned below have garnered a wide amount of media attention because of the peculiarity of the investigation, the nature of the crime itself and also due to the people involved in the case.
While some have become better known than others on the list, especially Netflix's hit Tiger King documentary series, there are still some that have fallen through the cracks. But they all have that odd, tabloid commanding aura to them that people cannot avoid.
So from Joe Exotic to O.J. Simpson to the more recent cult mom situation Lori Vallow. What do you think is the strangest crime case of all time? And what will be the next big true crime sensation to grab viewers?
The Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer and the investigation around catching the mysterious killer has arguably been one of the most bizarre crime cases in U.S. history. In the late 1960s, the criminal known only as "Zodiac" was directly linked to at least five murders in Northern California and countless copycat or false accusations in the years that followed.
The elusive criminal enhanced the terror by penning threatening letters to taunt the police and the media in newspapers from the San Francisco area from 1969 to 1974. He or she would also outline potential attacks and include ciphers alleged to contain the killer's identity.
The notes verified to be legitimate Zodiac letters contained information that only the killer could have known about each murder and wasn't reported in the newspaper. And each of the letters was signed with a symbol that consisted of a circle with a cross through it, similar to the logo for Zodiac watches.
The investigation into the killer went on for years, but no one was ever arrested for the crimes and the case still remains open to this day. The mystery revolving around the investigation spawned a slew of books and claims that someone has identified the Zodiac as their father or relative, while others treat him or her like a modern Jack the Ripper.
Zodiac has had a strange history in Hollywood. The initial slayings and threats played a part in the original Dirty Harry film with Clint Eastwood. The in 2007, acclaimed director David Fincher made a film titled Zodiac based on the case and book by Robert Graysmith. The movie starred Jake Gyllenhaal as Graysmith, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo in the role of Dirty Harry inspiration Dave Toschi.
O.J. Simpson Murder Trial
Quite possibly one of the most highly publicized crimes of the century was the O.J. Simpson murder trial. The former NFL star, Heisman Trophy winner and actor was investigated for the brutal murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson has always claimed his innocence in the crime but was later found liable for the slayings in a civil trial that followed the high-profile murder trial.
The victims were killed on June 12, 1994. Simpson and Goldman's bodies were found outside her home. Simpson's ex-wife was stabbed multiple times in the head and neck, enough that her head had almost been removed from her body. Goldman did not fare much better and the crime shocked many, but not as much as the investigation and trial that followed.
Simpson was questioned by police soon after and then ordered to turn himself in on the morning of June 17, 1994. The Naked Gun actor failed to do so, which led to one of the most memorable police car chases in history, with the white Ford Bronco trailed by a crowd of police at low speeds. At the same time, Simpson's lawyer and friend Robert Kardashian, former husband of Kris Jenner and father to Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian, read what sounded to many like a suicide note to the media.
"Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life, great friends," the note read. "Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person. Thanks for making my life special. I hope I helped yours. Peace and love. O.J."
Simpson eventually was returned home by friend Al Cowlings amid a swarm of media and police, leading to his eventual arrest and trial. The 8-month trial captured the attention of the nation and was broadcast as part of Court TV's daily programming, sharing every detail of the trial and turning everybody into an instant celebrity. This includes defense attorney Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, Prosecuter Marcia Clark, and ever Judge Lance Ito.
The trial is infamous for several details from the crime, including Simpson trying on a dark glove discovered at the murder scene, with the other glove being found at Simpson's house. The prosecution found DNA from Simpson as well as both victims. However, when Simpson attempted to put on the glove during the trial, it was far too small for his hand. This mixed with enough doubt placed on DNA evidence at the time helped Simpson avoid charges. On October 3, 1995, a jury found him not guilty after an eight-month trial.
Even though Simpson was found not guilty, he later ended up in jail in 2008 on charges related to a gunpoint robbery. He has since been released from prison and can be found on Twitter, TikTok, and had been on Cameo for a while before taking down his acount. The crime itself spawned an FX series titled The People v O.J. Simpson – American Crime Story. It also became a prime example of the high-profile trial that played out on TV for viewers at home.
The 2011 Casey Anthony murder trial was one of the most controversial cases in recent years, grabbing headlines and television time like O.J. Simpson, but with far more devastating details. Anthony was accused of killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008, allegedly suffocating the child with duct tape and placing her in the trunk of her car. Cindy Anthony, Casey's mother, was the first person to report that Caylee was missing.
The day after, Casey Anthony was arrested for child neglect and the search was on for her missing daughter.
On June 17, 2008, police investigators took cadaver dogs to Casey's car. They picked up the scent of human decomposition, with garbage thrown into the truck in an attempt to cover up the smell. Casey blamed her daughter's disappearance on a babysitter named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, but it became on of many details that were thrown in doubt due to Anthony's answers.
When a grand jury indicted Casey on capital murder and other charges, she pleaded not guilty. Caylee Anthony's body was finally discovered in December of 2008 in a wooded area near the Anthony home. But nothing could firmly tie Anthony to the slaying, leaving plenty of holes for the juror to fall through.
The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated for 10 hours and 40 minutes and finally came back to announce that they found Casey not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child.
While she got off on the murder charges, Casey was found guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement, according to CNN. No killer has officially been identified in the case but many have not stopped believing that Anthony was behind the murder.
Bank Robbery Bomber
Those who have seen Evil Genius on Netflix know that the death of Brian Wells is something out of a Coen Brothers film, and actually inspired the Aziz Ansari and Jessie Eisenberg action comedy 30 Minutes or Less. But the actual story is far more tragic than the media it inspired.
Wells was allegedly wrapped up in some sort of scheme with a group looking to rob a bank according to federal investigators, but the actual details of his involvement are unclear. What is clear is that Wells had a bomb strapped around his neck while on a pizza delivery and ended up walking in to demand money from the bank in order to save his life.
Sadly, Wells did not make it and was killed at the end of a standoff with police after the device on his person exploded. The Netflix docuseries claims that Wells may have been involved in the planning of the crime but was unaware that the explosive device was active.
Worse yet, the explosion was caught on live television and broadcast repeatedly. In the aftermath, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Kenneth Barnes were arrested and charged for the crime, facing a life sentence and 45-year sentence respectively. William "Bill" Rothstein had already passed, but his roommate was key in testifying against the other two in exchange for immunity.
Sherri Papini Abduction
On November 2, 2016, California mom Sherri Papini was went out for a jog. While out, she was allegedly abducted by two women, and was badly beaten while held against her will. Three weeks later, Papini was released on Thanksgiving morning.
She was discovered battered and bound on the side of the road 150 miles away from her home in Redding, California. Her hair had been cut off, and she weighed only 87 pounds.
One of the details of the case that continues to confound the investigators is that the assailants branded Sherri. Joyce Travis, Sherri's friend, said it was "almost like they didn't want her to be beautiful anymore." Papini's husband, Keith, issued a statement after his wife was found.
“We don’t know what the motive or the reason for the abduction was,” he said. “We don’t know if this was a targeted abduction or a random abduction or [if] she was the specific target. We don’t have the reason as of yet of why she was abducted. We don’t have details on where she was being held during this period of time.”
While many speculated that Papini was abducted as part of a sex trafficking-related incident, this theory offers no explanation as to why she was released.
"Every one wants to know why," Sherri's friend, Joyce Travis said. "Everyone wants the answers. I am sure Sherri doesn't know either. I am sure she is just as confused today."
There may not be a definitive answer for the reasoning behind the abduction, but fortunately Sherri is now safe and sound. Law enforcement officials are still working to identify the assailants and bring them to justice.
Twenty years removed from the case, one of the most bizarre crimes is still the murder of child beauty pageant contestant JonBenet Ramsey. On the morning after Christmas in 1996, 6-year-old JonBenet was found dead in the basement of her family's home. She was wearing pajamas when she was located, and the authorities discovered that she was beaten and strangled. The crime shocked the nation and many instantly pointed fingers inside the home.
JonBenet's parents, John and Pat Ramsey, as well as her brother, Burke Ramsey, have been the subject of media speculation for years. They were the only people in the home at the time JonBenet was killed. However, the original DNA tests cleared their names, and they were thus never treated as suspects by the authorities. The same can't be said for the court of public opinion.
One of the theories developed by the investigators pointed to an intruder breaking into the house and killing JonBenet Ramsey. The other theory suggested that a family member murdered her and the others attempted to cover up the murder to avoid prison time.
In recent years, law enforcement officials in Boulder, Colorado explained that the investigators will be using a new DNA testing that could help solve the crime.
"As part of the ongoing investigation into the death of JonBenét Ramsey, the Boulder Police Department continues to discuss and evaluate evidence with the Boulder District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation," the police department said, according to PEOPLE. "With the emergence of new DNA testing technology, the Boulder Police Department is working with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations to determine if this new technology could further this investigation."
Most recently, several TV specials have aired on the investigation. One of the programs titled The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey crafted a theory that JonBenet's brother, Burke Ramsey, accidentally killed her. Burke Ramsey has since filed a $150 million defamation suit. To this day, the murder mystery has not been solved. However, it's possible the new DNA testing can bring all new details to light and bring the authorities one step closer to finding justice for JonBenet Ramsey.
The case of Lori Vallow and her missing children, JJ and Tylee, has held the attention of many true crime addicts in recent months. Before the pandemic brought the United States to a crawl, the case and its strange details brought out fans to follow every new detail.
The Idaho resident landed on the radar of police in November after they attempted to conduct a welfare check. The New York Times reported the couple told police the children were living in Arizona, and when authorities arrived the next day with a search warrant, Vallow and her new husband Chad Daybell had fled and eventually were found in Hawaii. That's where Vallow was arrested after ignoring court ordered-deadlines to bring the children to authorities, later being extradited to Idaho.
But apart from the mysterious disappearance of the children, the background beliefs and actions of Vallow and Daybell have given many pause. Daybell is a published author and according to FOX 10, Vallow read Daybell's books for years before eventually meeting him, leading them to email each other and allegedly make plans. One email caried a subject line in January 2019 that read, "Seven missions to accomplish together." The email allegedly detailed translating ancient records, writing a book about it, identifying locations in Arizona for "white camps," the presidency of the Church of Firstborn, establishing food distribution when the tribulations started, and ordaining individuals to translation and provide supplies to righteous members of families.
Everybody has likely watched Tiger King at this point. The knot of deception, violence and law-breaking captured viewers from the very beginning, with plenty of help from the quarantine due to the coronavirus. But what was featured on the streaming series was a crime-filled battle between a homosexual polygamist lion breeder from Oklahoma standing against a Florida wildcat sanctuary owner.
The supporting cast of characters would be just as colorful and shady as main focus Joe Exotic and his alleged victim Carole Baskin. Across 7 episodes and a special aftershow, viewers were taken on a trip into the world of illegal animal breeding, wild animal hoarding and ownership in small town America, fraud, broken partnerships, and finally an attempted murder-for-hire that ends in disaster for Exotic.
The former Oklahoma zoo owner is sitting behind bars currently, serving over 20 years for his role in the plot to kill Carole Baskin. He lost his two husbands, lost his singing goals and even lost his hair once in prison.0comments
But past exotic, Baskin is also accused of killing her first husband and then feeding him to lions. Doc Antle's harem of women sidekicks and his alleged treatment of his big cats. And several other colorful characters with questionable backgrounds and loyalties. It's a wild true crime journey that landed on Netflix at the right time. It's also one of the weirdest true crime stories out there.
Now the rush is on to turn the real-life story into a television series. Nicolas Cage is set to play Joe Exotic, while SNL standout Kate McKinnon will play Carole Baskin.