The case of 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante, who last week was charged as an adult with the brutal and premediated murder of a 9-year-old neighboring girl, has made national headlines. (Watch a report about Alyssa Bustamante.) The Cole County, Missouri teen allegedly dug two graves in advance, then strangled and stabbed her young victim simply to "know what it felt like" to kill. (It's unclear whether Bustamante had chosen a second victim.) As possible explanations surface, media observers and members of the community remain shocked that a young girl would commit such senseless violence. But the Bustamante incident is hardly unprecedented. Here are 8 more cases of young female thrill killers:
The "Heavenly Creatures" Killers (1954)
One summer morning, 16-year-old Pauline Parker and her best friend Juliet Hulme, 15, lured Parker’s mother into a wooded park in Christchurch, New Zealand, then bashed the woman in the head with a half-a-brick stuffed into an stocking. The girls claimed their victim had fallen and hit her head, but their story disintegrated after the murder weapon was found. Following a “sensationalist” trial in which the girls were alleged to be lovers, both were sentenced to five years in prison. The story inspired the 1994 film, “Heavenly Creatures,” starring Kate Winslet. Today, Hulme is a successful crime novelist who writes under the name Anne Perry.
Mary Bell (1968)
At only 11 years old, Mary Bell strangled two local boys—aged 3 and 4—in her hometown of Newcastle, England. After killing the second child, she carved the letter "M" into his body with a razor. Her stated motive was the "pleasure and excitement" of killing (though Bell said later that, as the child of a prostitute, she had been sexually abused from a young age). She was released from prison in 1980 and today lives under a new identity.
Brenda Spencer (1979)
"I just don't like Mondays," 16-year old Brenda Spencer notoriously replied when asked why she attacked an elementary school near her San Diego home. Shooting sniper-style with a semi-automatic rifle her father had given her for Christmas, she wounded eight children and a police officer and killed two adults. Her stated dislike of Mondays inspired a hit song penned by Bob Geldof for his band, The Boomtown Rats.
Diana Zamora (1995)
As a first-year student at the prestigious Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, Diana Zamora was arrested for killing 16-year old Adrienne Jones, a romantic rival, during her senior year of highschool. With help from her then-boyfriend, Zamora had lured Jones into a car and brutally attacked her with a metal weight to "appease" Zomora's jealousy. Zamora is now serving a life sentence.
Wendy Gardner (1994)
When she was 13, Wendy Gardner and her 15-year old boyfriend plotted to murder Gardner’s grandmother by strangling her with a yo-yo string. After perpetrating the unlikely crime, the couple celebrated with "a three-day orgy of sex and junk food." Both were later convicted for the murder, and Gardner — who lived in Ulster county, NY, at the time of the crime — received a sentence of seven years to life.
The "Vampire Clan" killings (1996)
A Eustice, Florida couple were the unlucky victims of teen vampire enthusiasts. Chastity Keesee, 17, and Dana Cooper, 20 — led by their “Vampire Clan” cult “sire,” 17-year-old Rod Ferrell — participated in the murder of the couple, the parents of another cult devotee’s parents. In keeping with the vampire cult's rituals (which also required members to drink each other's blood), the victims were beaten to death with a crowbar. Ferrell was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death (later commuted to life without parole). Keesee and Cooper were both found guilty of third-degree murder.
“Collie Killers” (2006)
Australians were shocked by the case of two 16-year-old girls who decided they “felt like” brutally murdering one of their friends by stuffing her mouth with a chemical-soaked cloth and strangling her with a wire in the remote coal-mining town of Collie, Western Australia. While testifying, the girls — whose names have never been publicly released — recalled that their struggling victim called them "freaks" as she died, but neither expressed remorse. In 2007, both girls were sentenced to life in prison.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2014
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- Are hedge funds doomed?
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
Subscribe to the Week