When we think of any sort of criminal, we tend to imagine them as lonely men without any form of relationship. That might be true of some of them, but many monsters like this actually have wives and children at home.
The scariest part about it is that often, the families of these criminals have no idea what they’re really living with; all they see is a loving father and an attentive husband. Of course, sometimes the family members have an inkling that something isn’t right, but they never suspect the worst.
Finding out that someone you love is really a complete stranger is tough enough, but imagine finding out that they’re pure evil…these partners and children did, and their responses might shock you. Read on to find out what really went through their minds when they found out they were living with a criminal, and what they did about it.
15 Matthew Ridgway: Playing A Role
It would be traumatic enough to discover your beloved father had harmed innocent people, but finding out that you unknowingly played a role in the crimes is something else entirely. Matthew Ridgway’s father was Gary Ridgway, otherwise known as the Green River [Criminal]. Gary kidnapped, tortured, and took the lives of women in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and was given life in prison for taking the life of 48 women in total. But Matthew remembers his dad as ideal: he never yelled, always supported him at school concerts and soccer practice, taught him to play baseball, and even took him camping. Gary rarely even argued with his wife. Understandably, it came as a huge shock for Matthew to learn the truth. Even more traumatizing for him was Gary’s revelation to police that he showed his victims Matthew’s picture before taking them. He once even picked up a woman while Matthew was in the car, later taking her life. Thankfully, Matthew was able to have a normal life after that.
14 Judith Mawson: He Was the Perfect Husband
Children often see their parents in an idealistic light, even when there’s nothing idealistic about them in reality. Spouses, on the other hand, can usually read other adults a little better. That wasn’t the case with Matthew’s mother Judith, who like her son, never realized that her ex-husband Gary was a criminal. Though they eventually divorced, they were married happily for 13 years, during which he made her “smile every day” and was basically the “perfect husband” the whole time. They met at a bar, and he was handsome, working a good job and very polite. They even dated for two years and then lived together in the third year of their relationship, before tying the knot. Gary’s behavior at home was so opposite of a criminal that Judith didn’t believe the authorities until Gary himself confessed. After learning the truth, she had a breakdown and turned to alcohol and pills before changing her name.
13 Ekaterina Popkov: Believes He’s Innocent
To this day, Ekaterina “Katya” Popkov refuses to believe that her father, Mikhail Popkov, is one of the most notorious criminals in Russia. Mikhail was once a police officer, and is now nicknamed The Werewolf thanks to his torture and crimes against 22 women in Russia. It is thought he wanted to cleanse society of working women, though his victims were not all of that profession. Katya, who works as a math teacher, insists that she is a “daddy’s girl” and he has to be innocent. “For 25 years we were together, hand in hand,” she said of her father. “We walked together, rode bikes, went to the shops, and he met me from school. We both collect model cars, so we have the same hobby.” Though she has stopped visiting him in prison, she wants to study criminology in order to clear her dad’s name, despite the overwhelming evidence against him.
12 Jasmine: Compassion or Stupidity?
A woman who goes by the name of Jasmine* has admitted online that she didn’t suspect her husband of anything malicious until he confessed to harming a 10-year-old girl. Her life with him was happy and normal until she got a call at work to say that he’d been arrested. At the time, she was working as an elementary school teacher, which made everything worse. Not only did her husband confess to the crime on tape, but he confessed to doing it in Jasmine’s home. Finding out the truth was devastating for Jasmine, and she likened going to the trial to going to a funeral. However, the experience wasn’t traumatic enough to make her want to leave her husband: she decided to stay with him, believing he was cured of his issues, and now has two children with him. Because he was attracted to female children, and she had boys with him, she doesn’t believe there is anything to worry about.
11 Linda Yates: Not Enough Signs
Linda Yates was married to a man named Robert Yates, who took the lives of at least 16 people. Their marriage lasted for 26 years, and while it wasn’t perfect, she never suspected him of being a criminal. In hindsight, there were quite a few signs that other people might have picked up on. Robert would come home late frequently, smelling funny and covered in dirt and sweat. He became obsessed with checking the bank statements, which was Linda’s job, and drained the family’s savings with ATM withdrawals. He booked rooms at seedy motels, claiming he needed to de-stress after work, and no longer wanted to be intimate with Linda. His friends didn’t even know she existed, and he used to flirt with other women regularly. That might all point to boring old infidelity, but Robert also cut a hole in the attic to spy on neighbors, and once came home with one of his van seats soaked in blood.
10 Melissa Moore: Moving On
At only 15 years old, Melissa Moore found out that her dad, Keith Jesperson, was really the Happy Face [Criminal]. Responsible for taking the lives of eight women, Keith wrote letters to the police with smiley faces on them and bragged about his crimes. Though Melissa was relatively young when her father went to prison, she does remember life with him, and in the time she did have a relationship with him, she admits that there was something off about him. He used to openly talk about his personal life with her and used to openly flirt with women. Learning the truth was traumatic, and to help herself heal, Melissa wrote a book entitled Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter, and now supports other family members of criminals who need help. She is now married with children of her own, and worries about telling them the truth about their grandfather.
9 Carol Hoff: Never Made the Connection
Since the details of John Wayne Gacy’s crimes have come to light, his ex-wife Carol Hoff has come under scrutiny for not being able to recognize that there was something seriously wrong with her husband. For starters, when she married him, he had already been in jail for harming a young boy. Then in their area, several young men and boys started to go missing, and John had a personal connection with many of them. A horrible stench also drifted from their basement. That would be enough for most people to gather that something was going on, but Carol believed that her husband had changed his ways. Things got weirder when he started staying out late and bringing home teenage boys. He openly told Carol that he wasn’t attracted to her, and though he was cheerful around friends and strangers, at home he would be moody and unpredictable, eventually leading her to divorce him.
8 Julie Baumeister: Head in the Sand
Many people believe that Herb Baumeister gave his wife Julie plenty of reason to suspect him of being a monster, but she never did. The couple’s young son was playing in the backyard when he uncovered a human skull and pile of bones buried near the house. Herb insisted that the skull came from a classroom skeleton given to him by his father, and Julie didn’t think twice about it. Perhaps other people might have thought it strange that a school skeleton was buried in the backyard or that the bones mysteriously went missing after they were discovered…Herb later told his wife that he was being falsely accused of theft, and to not allow the police entry if they showed up. Even when they arrived and told her that he was suspected of taking the lives of a number of men, she believed her husband and denied them the right to search the house. In the end, Herb took his own life before he could be arrested.
7 Anon3: A Criminal, But Not a Monster
One woman, who goes by Anon3, admits that her husband was harming children, and she knew about it. However, despite his evil behavior, she didn’t believe he was a monster and stayed with him while the crimes continued. She tried to get him to change, but nothing worked. “I hoped that my love would fill that empty place in his heart. It didn’t. I had fasted and prayed during my entire marriage. We tried years of counseling and even an in-patient treatment center. My husband got a masters in marriage and family therapy from a Christian university,” she said in an open letter to the wives of men with the same issues. Eventually, she did decide to leave, but not because of what he had done. Rather, she decided to leave because she knew if she stayed, she would end up on the news. She also said no matter the things he’d done; she couldn’t bring herself to hate him.
6 Cathy Wilson: The “Sandpit”
Cathy Wilson married Peter Tobin in 1989, at the tender age of 16. During their time together, Peter badly hurt Cathy, and eventually, the pair divorced in 1993. Though Peter wasn’t a decent husband, she never suspected him of anything more than domestic violence. More than 10 years later, Cathy got the surprise of her life when she turned on her television and found out that Peter was a textbook psychopath and criminal who had begun serving a life sentence. She discovered that at the time they were married, Peter had taken the lives of a number of teenage girls. The most chilling discovery Cathy made was that the sandpit Peter had built in their backyard was actually a grave site for his victims. Considering Cathy was a teenage girl herself when she was married to him, she’s very lucky to have gotten away with her life.
5 Paula Rader: Should She Have Known?
The news that her husband Dennis Rader was actually the infamous BTK criminal was staggering for Paula Rader. Similar to some of the other wives on this list, Paula believed her husband was a family man, despite some strange happenings in their life. The most obvious hint Paula could have picked up on was the poem Dennis had written entitled “Shirleylocks” which was about a woman who had recently lost her life named Shirley Vian Relford. She questioned him about it, and he told her it was for a college class he was taking. Dennis regularly mailed the police notes and taunts, which were published in the local newspaper, and Paula even told Dennis that the BTK criminal's spelling was just as bad as his. His voice appeared on the news when they replayed a 911 call he’d made, and people were often reported missing after he’d spent the night out. Still, she stayed with him for 34 years, never knowing.
4 Kerri Rawson: The Aftermath of the Crimes
The world of Dennis Rader’s daughter, Kerri Rawson, crumbled to dust when she found out that her father was the BTK criminal. The news was delivered to her and Paula through an FBI agent who showed up at their house, and as if it wasn’t terrible enough to hear that her father was a monster, Kerri was also hounded by the press after the revelation. To help her cope with her new life, Kerri turned to the church and to a psychologist. She kept quiet about her father’s arrest publicly until 2014 when she spoke out against author Stephen King, who wrote a short story inspired by Dennis’s crimes. “And all of a sudden this famous writer is talking on television about my family,” she said. “I just had enough and decided to finally say something and stick up for my mom.” After finally talking about it, Kerri admitted that she felt like a weight had been lifted.
3 Mary Elizabeth Harriman: Did She Know or Didn’t She?
The wife of criminal Russell Williams, Mary Elizabeth Harriman, is thought by some to have known what her husband was. However, she maintains that for their 19-year marriage, she truly believed he was the perfect husband. Russell was a colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces, and well respected in his community, but he did leave behind a few clues at home, which it seems any wife would have picked up on. Russell kept all the newspaper clippings of his crimes, news videos, and photos of his victims in their two houses, hiding them in boxes in the basement. He also kept women’s underwear stuffed in duffle bags and boxes in the garage, leading many to believe that there’s no way Mary Elizabeth couldn’t have known that there was something up. What’s more, it’s whispered that she had a divorce application ready. But still, she claims she knew nothing the whole time.
2 Steve Hodel: The Answer to Hollywood’s Most Famous Crime
The Black Dahlia is one of the most notorious unsolved cases in Hollywood history and has been baffling investigators for more than half a century. The badly harmed body of a woman, later revealed to be aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, was found on a lot in 1947, and nobody could work out who had been responsible for her death. However, former LAPD officer Steve Hodel believes that his own father, George Hodel, took Elizabeth's life. At the time, George topped the LAPD’s list of suspects but was never charged. Now 74, Steve didn’t believe that his father could be capable of such a crime until he died in 1999. While going through George’s possessions, Steve found a picture of the Black Dahlia and has since spent over a decade gathering more evidence. The DA has officially recognized Steve’s investigation, which is detailed in his book Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story.
1 Jenn Carson: Turning Tragedy into Inspiration
Jenn Carson was only nine years old when her father, Michael Carson, went to prison. In the early 1980s, Michael and his second wife, Suzan, became addicted to substances and involved in mysticism. It’s alleged that they believed they were sent by God to destroy anybody they thought was a witch, and took the lives of three people before 1983, using their beliefs as a justification. They were eventually known as the San Francisco Witch Criminals. Nine is an incredibly impressionable age, and as Jenn entered her teen years, the effects of learning the truth about her dad took their toll on her: she developed an eating disorder and suffered from depression in high school. However, she was able to survive through the struggle and now uses her experience to help others. She works as a child and adolescent counselor, dealing with people whose parents have been sent to prison, and has reached out to the families of her dad’s victims.