Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John List


The officers made their way through the empty dining room and into the pantry, where they noticed dark stains on the walls. In the kitchen, the checkerboard floor was stained with dark streaks. So was the hallway beyond, and they noticed that a terrible smell was getting stronger from down that direction. They knew that something terrible had happened. It appeared as if someone had tried unsuccessfully to clean up blood. They followed the stains down the hallway toward the ballroom. In one area near the fireplace, there appeared to be mounds of clothing stacked up, and the odor in there was heavy. When their eyes adjusted to the dark, they looked at four corpses placed side by side on Boy Scout sleeping bags. There were rags over their faces. Trails of blood up to where they lay indicated that they had been dragged there from other rooms. The drama coach immediately identified them as Helen List and her three children.

The sleeping bags
The sleeping bags

The three children lay side by side, and Helen was placed at a T angle beyond their heads. Clearly they had been there for some time.

The officers checked the rest of the house while the eerie organ music continued to play, and soon found John List's mother, Alma, murdered in the attic. She had been closed into a storage hall off the kitchen, and a dishtowel was placed on her face. Her body had been oddly positioned on her back, knees spread and her calves under her, as if she had fallen to her knees and then gone over backwards. They lifted the towel and saw an expression of horror on her face. She had been shot above the left eye.

Helen List, mid 1960's
Helen List, mid 1960's

More police arrived and lights were brought in to reveal the killer's MO. Helen had been shot in the left side of the head in the kitchen and dragged by the feet down the hall to the ballroom. Her arms were heavily streaked with blood. The killer had left her with her nightgown ridden up, exposing her thighs. Her stomach was badly distended.

Patty lay on her left side. She was wearing a coat, as if she had just come in. She too had been shot in the head and then dragged to where she lay. Fred was on his stomach, also wearing a jacket. There was a pool of blood under his head. Brother and sister appeared to be merely asleep.

John Jr. and Fred List
John Jr. and Fred List

John Jr. was another matter. His winter jacket was unzipped, showing that he had been shot repeatedly, in the chest and face, an attack more savage than the others had suffered.

The house was searched to determine the killing pattern. Walls and floors were streaked with blood and efforts had been made to clean up. Blood-soaked towels and newspapers, now hardened, were found in paper bags in the ballroom and kitchen. It looked as if the killer had expected to take them out with the rest of the trash. Bullet holes in several walls indicated that many shots were fired.

It was Westfield's first murder in eight years, and it was a slaughter.

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