Things That Matter

9 Terrifying Serial Killers You’ve Probably Never Heard of in the US, One Still Runs Free

There’s no denying that the United States has seen its fair share of shocking and insidious murders at the hands of serial killers. In fact, the U.S. has more serial killers than any other nation on Earth. But some of the most brutal and shocking serial killers have also made headlines across Latin America, leaving hundreds of bodies of children, women and men in their wake, while along the way earning grim nicknames like “monster,” “beast,” and “sadist” as the public grappled with their repulsive crimes.

As is so often the case, many of these serial killers targeted the most vulnerable in their communities: the poor, migrants and refugees, and Indigenous women and children. Law enforcement often made the horrifying situations even worse by failing to investigate the deaths of many victims.

Argentina: The Argentine Vampire

Florencio Fernández was a sex criminal who suffered from delusions and hallucinations that made him believe that he was an actual vampire. This belief led him to murdering women by biting out their jugular veins, and if the plot could get any darker, he claimed that drinking blood gave him orgasms.

To this day, however, many Argentine sources say that the story of the Argentine Vampire is nothing more than an urban legend.

Brazil: Gomes da Rocha

Over the course of four years, Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha killed 39 people. Gomes da Rocha worked as a security guard in Goiânia, a small city in central Brazil.

In his off hours he rode the streets of the city on his motorbike robbing shops, pharmacies and lottery outlets. He would pretend to mug people, shouting “robbery” at them before simply shooting them dead instead.

Brazil: Pedrinho Matador

One of Brazil’s most infamous – and prolific – serial killers was responsible for at least 70 murders, slaying his first victim at at the age of 14. Pedro Rodrigues Filho, also known as “Pedrinho Matador” is believed to have killed 10 people by his 18th birthday, including the vice-mayor of his town after he fired his father.

When Filho’s father murdered his mother, Filho exacted his revenge, killing the man, cutting out his heart and eating it. Filho was finally captured in 2003. He was convicted of murdering at least 70 people. But going to jail did not stop his crime spree – he murdered at least 40 inmates while he was in prison.

Bolivia: The Killer Actor

Ramiro Artieda was found responsible for the murders of at last eight 18-year-old women who all bared a striking resemblance to one another. The killer studied drama in the U.S. and used those skills to lure his victims disguised as a film producer, a monk and a professor.

When he was captured by the authorities, the killer confessed that his intention was to kill young women that he felt looked like an ex-girlfriend who had dumped him. He was sentenced to death on July 3, 1939.

Colombia: The Beast

Luis Garavito, also known as ‘La Bestia’ across Colombia, definitely earned his nickname. By some measures, he is the world’s most prolific serial murderer, having been found guilty of killing nearly 140 young boys – although the true number of victims may be closer to 300.

Over a brutal five-year period, from 1994 to 1999, Garavito used food, gifts and cash to lure his young victims, most between the ages of eight and 16. He would occasionally dress as a monk or street vendor to make the children feel safe as he lured them away from their homes and parents. Once he had them in a secluded spot, he would sexually assault them, often torturing them before slitting their throats and dismembering their small bodies.

Although he was sentenced to 1,853 years in prison, he’s up for release in 2023 because Colombian law doesn’t allow for imprisonment longer than 40 years. Many across Colombia are angered by the possibility he’ll soon walk free and have launched a petition demanding he remain jailed.

Colombia: The Sadist of El Charquito

Daniel Camargo Barbosa raped, murdered and dismembered over 150 young girls in Colombia and Ecuador. He earned the name of “The Sadist of El Charquito” for the brutal treatment of his victims, hacking them to pieces with a machete. While Camargo was suspected in the deaths of 80 women and girls, he was eventually arrested in Colombia for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in jail.

Colombia: The Monster of the Andes

Known as “The Monster of the Andes,” Pedro López was convicted of raping and killing 110 women, but that horrifying body count is just the beginning of his gruesome crimes. López is suspected in the deaths of more than 300 women and girls, sometimes killing two or three a week, as he traveled across South America from Peru to Ecuador to his native Colombia.

According to the Sword and Scale podcast, López was almost put to death by tribal leaders in Peru in 1978, but a missionary saved his life and he headed to Colombia where his crime spree continued. He was eventually captured in Ecuador when the bodies of four young girls were discovered.

He was sent to jail for the maximum allowed by Ecuadorian law at the time – just 16 years – but he was freed after 14 for good behavior. His whereabouts are currently unknown. 

Mexico: La Mataviejitas

You’ve heard plenty of La Llorona and El Cucuy stories over the years, but the story of La Mataviejitas is just as scary – and it’s real. Originally a pro-female wrestler, Juana Barraza took the lives of women (all of whom were over the age of 60) after gaining their trust by helping them with groceries or posing as a nurse.

According to Barraza, she killed the women as a way of releasing pent-up anger towards her mother who was an abusive alcoholic who pimped her out to men at just 12 years old.

Mexico: Las Poquianchis

The “Poquianchis” was the alias given to a group of female serial killers who were found guilty of killing hundreds of prostitutes between 1945 and 1964 in Guanajuato, Mexico. The four sisters: Delfina González Valenzuela, María de Jesús, María del Carmen, and María Luisa, owned several brothels in the region, and killed over 150 people – mostly sex workers, their children, and some of their clients. They are known as the most prolific serial killers in Mexican history.

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