We Rounded Up 20 Murder Mysteries For Everyone Stuck At Home In Search Of Something To Read
**Trigger warning: much of the content in this article contains stories of sexual assault and murder that might be disturbing to some readers.**
As gruesome, dark and sensationalist as they may be, we love a good murder mystery as much as the next person. And crimes of passion, incidentally, are the most interesting crimes of them all. Perhaps we feel this way because we’ve all been in a situation where we don’t feel completely in control of our emotions. But unlike violent assailants, most of us learn to control our angry impulses.
Some critics argue that their term “crime of passion” is misleading, as it relieves some of the blame from the perpetrator and trivializes brutal crimes into something as harmless-seeming as a random burst of uncontrollable emotion. This is especially problematic in situations like domestic abuse, where the intimacy of relationships makes the violence that much more dangerous and insidious. We’ve compiled a list of 20 Notorious Crimes of Passion as a way to remember that love should never hurt.
1. Murder of Selena Quintanilla by Yolanda Saldívar
In one of the most notorious and heartbreaking murders in the Latino community in the 20th century, beloved Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla was shot and killed by her friend and fan club president Yolanda Saldívar. In the lead up to the murder, the Quintanilla family had discovered that Saldivar was embezzling money from both Quintanilla’s clothing stores (which she managed) as well as her fan club. After the Quintanilla family confronted her and terminated her employment, Saldívar lured Selena to a motel room under false pretenses and shot her to death. The fan and media response to Quintanilla’s death was unprecedented for a Latin artist. Quintanilla’s death is still regarded as one of the most tragic events in Latin music.
2. Lorena Bobbitt
In a case that, at the time, captured the nation (and still does), Ecuadorian immigrant Lorena Bobbitt was put on trial in 1993 for cutting off her husband John’s penis while he was sleeping and disposing of it in a field. His penis was later surgically re-attached. The subsequent trial was a media-circus, both for its salacious subject matter and for the attention it brought to the issue of domestic abuse. Bobbitt alleged that she snapped after years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. A jury acquitted her of all charges due to insanity caused by extreme emotional duress. After the trial, Bobbitt reverted her last name back to her maiden name, Gallo, and has kept a relatively low profile ever since.
3. Laci Rocha Peterson
The murder of Laci Peterson, an expectant 27-year-old mother of mixed Mexican descent, is especially notable for the extended tabloid media coverage that surrounded her missing person’s case and subsequent murder trial. America was fascinated by the story of this beautiful young woman whose life was cut short by her psychopathic partner, Scott Peterson. The case shone a spotlight on the prevalent issue of pregnant homicide at the time. According to much-published statistics at the time, homicide causes twenty percent of pregnancy-associated deaths, making it the leading cause of death for pregnant women. Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection. His case, however, is currently on appeal.
4. Jodi Arias
27 year-old Mexican-American Jodi Arias was convicted in 2008 of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in a fit of passion after a kinky sexual encounter. He was found dead with multiple stab wounds inflicted on his body as well as a gunshot wound to his head. What made this case even more fascinating was the couple’s involvement in the Mormon Church–an organization that isn’t often seen in headlines due to violent crimes. According to Arias’s testimony, it was Alexander’s repressed sexuality that caused him to be sexually abusive towards her, causing her to fear for her life. The jury wasn’t buying it, however, and in 2015 Arias was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
5. Sylvie Cachay
Peruvian-American swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay was drowned in a bathtub by her boyfriend of the time, Nicholas Brooks a trust-fund baby and an alleged freeloader. Cachay was murdered after breaking up and reconciling with her Brooks, whom she discovered was both stealing from her and cheating on her with sex workers. She was found drowned in a bathtub in the SoHo House in New York. It was a tragic end to the life of a woman who seemed to have her whole future ahead of her. In 2013, Brooks was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
6. Debbie Flores-Narvaez
Puerto-Rican born Las Vegas burlesque dancer Debbie Flores-Narvaez made headlines when she was reported missing in 2010. Both beautiful and highly intelligent, Flores-Narvaez was an interesting personality; both beautiful and highly intelligent, she obtained both a law degree and a master’s in finance. However, she left it all behind to pursue a dancing career in Vegas. After her disappearance, police soon zeroed-in on her recent ex-boyfriend and Cirque du Soleil dancer, Jason Griffith. Griffith was found to have disposed of Flores-Narvaez’s by playing her dismembered in concrete-filled tubs and scattering them in abandoned homes. He was convicted in 2014 with 10 years to life. Flores-Narvaez’s murder transfixed the nation, and even spawned a Lifetime Original Movie entitled “Death of a Vegas Showgirl”.
7. Leonard Rojas
Like many of the assailants on this list, this convicted murderer seemed to suffer from intense paranoia. Convinced that his younger brother, David Rojas, and his common-law wife, Jo Ann Reed, were having an affair and plotting to kill him, Mexican-American Leonard Rojas shot and killed both Reed and Rojas in their shared trailer home in Alvarado, Texas in 1994. Rojas was executed by lethal injection in 2002. Before his death, Rojas expressed no remorse at the slaying of his wife and brother, insisting that they were “basically evil” and that they “just wanted [his] money…and wanted to do [him] in”.
8. Martha Freeman and Rafael DeJesus Rocha-Perez
In one of the more bizarre entries on the list, this crime of passion commenced with a woman’s extramarital lover, illegal Mexican immigrant Rafael Rocha-Perez, living in her closet for a month, unbeknownst to her current husband. According to Freeman’s testimony, when her husband discovered her sleeping with Rocha-Perez, he demanded that the young man leave. Instead, Rocha-Perez attacked him, beating him to death. It was later revealed that Martha Freeman herself aided Rocha-Perez in the murder of her husband. Freeman and Rocha-Perez were both charged with first-degree murder and convicted to 51 years each in prison.
9. Áurea Vázquez Rijos
Dubbed “The Black Widow” by the media, Áurea Vázquez Rijos, former “Miss Puerto Rico Petite” winner, orchestrated the killing of her husband Adam Anhang. Rijos hired a hitman to kill her husband while they left a restaurant together. Her motive was determined to be completely financial, as she was poised to gain more money from his death (Anhang had a net worth of $24 million) than from a divorce. After being charged with being an accessory to Anhang’s murder, the Puerto Rican beauty queen fled the country to Italy in 2006 and wasn’t found until 2015. She was convicted of being a co-conspirator in her husband’s murder in 2018 and sentenced to life in prison.
10. Irene Garza
Former Chicana beauty queen and homecoming queen Irene Garza’s body was found at the bottom of a canal in 1960. Her autopsy reported that she was raped and died of asphyxiation due to suffocation. Her death was deeply upsetting to a community that valued her as a grade-school teacher and as an active member of the local Catholic parish. What made the murder case even more unsettling was that the primary suspect was visiting priest, John Feith. Although Mr. Feith had admitted to “killing a woman” in an interview with a Catholic monk, Garza’s death had long been viewed as a cold case before the Hidalgo Country District Attorney reopened the case in 2014. Mr. Feit was finally arrested in 2016 at the age of 83. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Feit was living in a home for “troubled priests” in New Mexico, where he had been moved to by the Catholic Church. Feith was finally arrested in 2016 and convicted of murder in 2017. He was sentenced to life in prison.
11. Carlos Monzón & Alicia Muñiz
Alicia Muñiz’s death was one of the first of many in Argentina that sparked a national conversation about violence against women. Frustrated by the media minimizing domestic violence murders like this as “crimes of passion” in Argentina, feminist activists campaigned to instead to label murders like this as “femicide”. Thrown from a balcony and killed by her famous boxer husband, Carlos Monzón, Muñiz’s death enraged many Argentinian women who felt that Monzón got off easy in both the justice system and the media. Monzón was sentenced to eleven years in prison but ended up being released before serving even a quarter of his sentence. Authorities determined he threw Muñiz over the balcony in an attempt to stage her murder as an accident after murdering her beforehand.
12. Wanda Taddei
The death of Wana Taddei was significant both because it involved celebrity and former drummer Eduardo Vazquez of the rock band “Callejeros” and it brought a spotlight on another instance of Argentinean “femicide”. According to evidence, Taddei was doused with alcohol and lit on fire by her husband, Vazquez. She died of her injuries 18 days later. The death of Taddei brought to light a brutal statistic: that on average, one woman is killed every 30 hours by someone close to her because of her gender. Furthermore, feminists criticized Vazquez’s sentence which was reduced due to “emoción violenta”, a motive almost akin to temporary insanity. After much outrage, Vazquez’s sentence was finally re-determined to be life in prison.
13. Theresa Saldana
Theresa Saldana was a successful American actress of Puerto-Rican descent who was violently attacked by an obsessed fan and lived to tell the story. In 1982, stalker Arthur Richard Jackson stabbed Saldana in the torso 10 times with a 5 1/2 inch knife in the middle of the day. Saldana was saved by a delivery man named Jeff Fenn who intervened and stopped Jackson from inflicting further harm. Saldana recovered after multiple surgeries and a four-month hospital stay. Saldana became a victims’ rights activist, helping with the passage of multiple anti-stalking laws. Unfortunately, Saldana died in 2016 from pneumonia at the age of 61.
14. Clara Suarez Harris/ David Lynn Harris:
Colombian expat Clara Suarez (nicknamed “Mrs Colombia Houston” by her community) was a successful dentist in Texas who, by all outward appearances, had a stable and loving relationship with her husband, David Lynn Harris. However, Suarez became suspicious that her husband was having an affair with his former secretary and hired a private investigator to do some digging. The trail led her to the hotel her and Harris had been married in, where Suarez caught him leaving an illicit rendezvous. Enraged, Suarez ran Harris over multiple times with her car, killing him. She was found guilty of murder due to “sudden passion” and convicted of 20 years in prison. She was released in May 2018 on parole and will be on parole until 2023.
15. Lyle and Erik Menendez
Cuban-American brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez were convicted of murdering their wealthy parents in 1994 after a long and public trial. At first, the brothers weren’t suspects in the authorities’ investigation, but they quickly became persons of interests due to their lavish spending of their deceased parents’ fortune so quickly after their deaths. After being charged for the murders of their parents, the brothers alleged that they snapped after years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their father. Initially, a deadlocked jury couldn’t reach a decision on their guilt or innocence, but eventually, they settled on convicting the brothers of first-degree murder. The brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.
16. Selena Hidalgo-Calderon and son, Owen
The death of Mexican immigrant Selena Hidalgo-Calderon and her toddler son, Owen, is tragic because it highlights the lack of protection the American justice system has for undocumented female immigrants. After being reported missing in May 2018 in Sodus, New York, an extensive police search turned up the buried remains of Selena Hidalgo-Calderon. Her toddler son’s body wasn’t found until October 2018. The primary suspect in their deaths was her boyfriend Everardo Donoteo-Reyes, a fellow undocumented immigrant. Although no official motive has been made public, officials say that there had been multiple reports of domestic violence in their home. Hidalgo-Calderon had even visited a local domestic violence crisis center for help, but left after a few days. Although the double-murder made local news, it did not receive the same widespread attention as certain murder victims who are less-marginalized. Donoteo-Reyes now awaits trial.
17. Arturo Gatti & Amanda Rodrigues
This case one that authorities have officially “closed” despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding this famous boxer’s death. Shortly after Italian-Canadian boxer Arturo Gatti was found dead in a Brazilian hotel room, his 23-year-old Brazilian wife, Amanda Rodrigues, was arrested for his murder. Upon further examination and an autopsy, Brazilian authorities concluded that Gatti’s death was, in fact, a suicide and Rodrigues was released from custody. However, Gatti’s family has always refused to accept the coroner’s suicide ruling and are convinced Rodrigues killed Gatti to get her hands on his $3.4 million estate. It seems like this is a case we’ll never know the true story behind.
18. Ana Mendieta
In another tragic technically “unsolved” mystery, prolific Cuban-American sculptor, performance artist, and painter Ana Mendieta died after being pushed by her husband Carl Andre from the 34th floor of their apartment. Explaining the incident, Andre stated that “she went to the bedroom, and I went after her, and she went out the window”. In 1988, a judge acquitted him under the reasoning of “reasonable doubt”. Protests are still held at locations presenting Andres works, with the primary rallying cry being “¿Dónde está Ana Mendieta?”–a slogan which aims to illuminate the erasure of male violence in the name of “art”.
19. Murder of Joey Fischer by Dora Cisneros
Dora Cisneros became obsessed with her daughter’s ex-boyfriend to the point where she was visiting psychics to cast spells to get them back together and offering him bribes to rekindle their relationship. When none of this worked, Cisneros hired hitmen from Mexico to kill the boy. Fischer was shot at point-blank range when he was washing his mother’s car before school. Cisneros was sentenced in 1988 to life in prison by a federal court.
20. Manuela Garcia
Manuela Garcia’s story is tragic from beginning to end. Disowned by her mother and abandoned by her father before she was ever born, Garcia married Army explosives specialist Henry Anthony Garcia in an attempt to find a safe relationship. However, the Garcias’ relationship quickly became abusive, with alcoholic Garcia allegedly raping and beating his wife for years. One day in 1996, Garcia laced her husband’s beer with sleeping pills and chopped him to death with an axe. She admitted to murdering him due to extreme emotional distress. She was convicted to 16 years in prison and released in 2007.
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