Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Women Who Kill: Part Two

A Thirst for Violence

Roy Hazelwood
Roy Hazelwood

Former FBI Special Agent Roy Hazelwood, an expert on sexual sadists and author of Dark Dreams, believes that couples like Karla and Paul are not like the team killers Bonnie and Clyde. "Let's take Bonnie and Clyde, or Susan Smith in South Carolina who murdered her kids to gain access to a male," he says. "Wives and girlfriends of sexual sadists are quite different. I interviewed 20 women, and four of them had participated in the murder of another person. You can't excuse that. They are legally, morally, and ethically responsible for what they've done. But I believe the man had reshaped their sexual norms." After having spoken to these women, he tended to see them as compliant accomplices with weak self-esteem who had been isolated and made to believe that the man in their lives was the center of the universe. They had to do what he wanted or their world would fall apart.

Book cover: Dark Dreams by Roy Hazelwood
Book cover: Dark Dreams by
Roy Hazelwood

Yet those psychiatrists who have evaluated Karla Homolka — or Karla Teale, as she is now known — believe that even without Paul, she has the propensity for irresponsibility and violence against others that make them fear her release. They don't think it's just "team chemistry," they think it's something about Karla. The families of her victims are relieved to know that she will remain in prison for a while longer.

Another woman similar to Karla, who could not be confused with a compliant accomplice, is Judith Ann Neelley. At age 15, she married Alvin Neelley, and the next year, 1980, she robbed a woman at gunpoint. Together they thought of themselves as outlaws, 'Boney and Claude,' and turned from theft to random violence. They lured a 13-year-old girl into their car and in front of their own children, they molested her and then killed the girl. Judith injected her with liquid drain cleaner and then shot her. She also shot a man who survived the attack and fingered her, and killed his girlfriend. When this team was arrested, Alvin claimed that Judith had instigated the crimes, being responsible for eight murders, and he had just gone along with her. She liked to have power over others, he said.

Judith Ann Neelley
Judith Ann Neelley

Yet when Judith was arrested, she blamed Alvin and said she was a victim of domestic abuse. She tried to claim she was insane and could not help what she had done. While the jury convicted her of murder in 1983, they gave her life. The judge then sentenced her to death, but after an appeal, her sentence was commuted in 1999 to life in prison. A kidnap victim later said that Judith was the one with the gun, and that she had bragged of numerous murders, but no evidence ever linked her to any unsolved cases. Nevertheless, she clearly had a thirst for violence and power. That she was young and attractive gave her an advantage, in that many people feel that women are not — and cannot be — as dangerous as men. She was just a girl, after all. Yet let's have a look at the facts about female serial killers.

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