Macabre true crime tales of shear terror.
Sure, scissors aren’t the most imaginative weapon ever used to end a human being’s mortal journey. It may not seem odd that this simple household tool has been dispatched to do some dirty deeds, but what is peculiar is the frequency with which they have been employed in life-ending endeavors. The following list is by no means complete, but rather a frightening example of how many instances of shear homicide you can dig up in just a half dozen search pages.
Marlene Lehnberg — Cape Town, South Africa — 1974
At the age of 18, Lehnberg, the child of a domineering and repressive father, had been in a relationship with Christiaan van der Linde for a year. The 47 year old was her coworker at the orthopedic workshop of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in the Capetown suburb of Rondebosch. She was young and naive, and he was charming but already married. After confronting the older man’s wife, who was permissive of the affair but unwilling to divorce, Lehnberg hatched a plan to kill the mother of her lover’s children.
Her strategy included turning a patient into an accomplice. Not only did Lehnberg promise Marthinus Charles Choegoe a car and sex in exchange for his assassination services, she promised the wounded man a prosthetic leg that he might otherwise never be able to afford. His first attempt was abandoned when the intended victim, Susanna van der Linde, recognized the man as a frequent recent stalker, and called police on him. On the second attempt Lehnberg and Choegoe worked together towards their duplicitous task, and the lovesick youngster handed the amputee the scissors which took the life of Susanna.
The story is a full of tragic acts and characters, and eventually led to a law preventing criminals from selling the stories of their crimes. However today I think things may have played out much differently. Lehnberg was only 16 when she met van der Linde, and a very naive and inexperienced 16 year old at that. The older man spent a year grooming the gullible teenager before the two began having an intimate relationship. Because of their age and the difference in professional and social power, today we might see Lehnberg as the victim of a sexual predator, driven to murder as a byproduct of the coercive experiences which had been thrust upon her. The fact that Christiaan identified the body of his deceased wife by rolling her over with his foot and then casually confirming it was her with no emotion or surprise speaks to the questionable character of a man whose lust destroyed several lives.
Aaron Laconsello — Muskogee, Oklahoma — 2010
Although we cannot condone crimes of passion, such as the one above, on some level we can understand them. There is a clear motive steeped in the depths of romantic attachment most of us have acted regrettably from in some way or another. But when a brutal homicide happens for no discernible reason, that is much harder to understand. Especially when the victim is a small child.
In the late hours of night in the fall of of 2010, after a day of binge drinking, Laconsello entered the home of a neighbor and stabbed four-year-old Dakota Lane 36 times with a pair of scissors. When his pregnant mother tried to defend her son, who had been sleeping when the attack occurred, she was also assaulted by Laconsello. Fortunately she and her unborn child lived, and a six year old sibling sleeping near Dakota was thankfully unharmed.
Laconsello entered a guilty plea, and was sentenced to life-without-parole. When the judge asked him why he had done what he had done, his response was, “I don’t know.” It is reported that about 40% of people who commit homicide had been drinking in the hours before their crime.
Anthony Jay Haukos — St Paul, Minnesota — 2011
Somewhere between passion and the inexplicable lies a motivation even more tragic, where the afflicted becomes attacker. 10% of all homicides in the United States are committed by a person suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Mental health issues create a tragic ripple effect that harm not just the affected, but those around them as well.
Thomas Stein called police just a few days before Halloween, complaining that a fellow group home resident from a complex across the street was harassing him in his home and causing a disturbance. When police arrived at the scene they saw Stein through a window, dressed as a woman and covered in blood, being spoon cuddled by a delusional Haukos. The unstable man held a pair of scissors and told his victim, “Look what you made me do. You made me do this.” When police advised him to drop the weapon, he plunged the scissors into Stein’s neck twice, leaving wounds which led to a fatal loss of blood.
During his arrest Haukos claimed to be Satan and Tony Montana, made nonsensical religious statements, claimed Stein was a witch, and even sang a few tunes on the ride to jail. A year later he was held competent for trial, convicted, and then sentenced to 25 years in prison. As if madness is not punishment enough, a system bent on vengeance and punishment rather than restoration and rehabilitation is charging taxpayers to lock up a sick man, rather than spend that money seeking treatments which would prevent the tragedy of mental illness destroying the lives of its sufferers and those they harm.
Todd Winkler — Cameron Park, California — 2012
Perhaps the most symbolically significant murders are those committed by the affluent. In their violence we see the arrogance which drives privilege and inequality, boiled down into the ultimate act of entitlement, the murder of those who would dare displease them.
Winkler, a wealthy pharmaceutical executive whose previous wife died under mysterious circumstances, is a perfectly wicked example of privilege killing. Not only did Winkler stab his wife to death with scissors, he then tried to assassinate her character in the courtroom to exonerate himself, painting her as an impossibly difficult, drunken philanderer whom he was forced to defend himself against.
Fortunately a jury didn’t buy into his lies, and Winkler was sentenced to 26 years-to-life for the murder of his 37 year old wife, Rachel. Unfortunately the couples three young children will have to grow up without either parent in their lives, left to be raised by the victims grieving relatives. This act of ultimate selfishness left an entire family devastated, and is emblematic of the superior, self-righteous attitudes of those near the top of the socioeconomic order.
Joseph Badiali — Hayward, California — 2014
Whatever it is that drives people to kill with scissors isn’t necessarily restricted to human victims. In the case of Joseph Badiali, not only did the college student murder his mother in her home, he mangled her three chihuahuas to death as well.
After his grisly deeds, Badiali’s grandmother walked to the neighbors to report the murders. He joined her and calmly confirmed her claim, then sat in the middle of the street covered in blood waiting for police to arrive. When asked by law enforcement about the state of his mother he simply said, “She’s gone,” and when asked to clarify he maintained a policy of brevity by responding, “She’s dead.”
Another strange aspect of this incident is that after the initial reports of Badiali being charged with the killings, there were no further publicized updates to provide details or legal outcomes in the case. Was the incident swept under the rug by some unknown, powerful forces? Perhaps shadowy accomplices who were involved in driving the young man to murder his mother and her beloved canine companions, either intentionally or as an unexpected consequence of their misdeeds? Or did the death of these four beings mean so little that the media just forgot to follow it up in their lust for peak sensationalism and sales?
Rita Narcissa Sanders-Campfield — Rockville, Maryland — 2014
Insanity often forces people to clutch so tightly to normality, that when they snap, it usually contains elements of the dominant belief systems in their culture. Given that U.S. culture is a mix of religion and science, and the common scapegoat of both is magic and witchcraft, mentally ill people often see their atrocities as heroic because they believe their victims were witches, as we saw with Anthony Jay Haukos above and will explore again with Sanders-Campfield below.
Rita lived in an apartment with Chung Park, a setting that had been designed to help reintegrate people who had been confined for mental health issues. For almost a year the two lived together peacefully, but then Sanders-Campfield stopped taking her medications, and things took a terrible turn. The final straw was added one evening when Rita’s attempt to convince Park’s daughter to consider her religious ideology failed. This convinced her that there was evil afoot, so when Chung returned home later that night, Rita became an avenging angel, punishing her roommate for committing sacrilege. Chung Park was stabbed and slashed dozens of times with scissors and two knives, one that Sanders-Campfield left lodged in Park’s backbone.
For her service to the Lord, Sanders-Campfield was found mentally incompetent and given an indefinite sentence in a psychiatric hospital. She claims not to recall any of the events that took place, nor understand her reasoning at the time. Park’s daughters have struggled to avoid vilifying their mother’s killer, trying to blame the illness and not the person, as they had also had to do with Chung as she wrestled with her mental illness.
Kimberlie Rayburn — Galveston, Texas — 2016
There always has to be that one person who has to outdo everyone else on the list, and in this case Kimberlie Rayburn is that person. Claiming that her victim asked to be killed during a meth-fueled sexual liaison, Kimberlie used two pairs of scissors to dispatch Steven Terence Ryan.
Rayburn also tried gouging his eyes out with her fingers and beat him in the head with a baseball bat, but Ryan was too high and horny to go down easily. A final good ol’ fashioned scissor-throat-slicing finally got the job done. Neighbors called in a welfare concern and Kimberlie was found shortly afterwards by police outside of the apartment dressed only in a bloody sheet. They found Ryan inside, rapidly succumbing to his wounds, and barely able to give an account of what had happened.
Rayburn maintains that Ryan asked to be killed, and though she tried to do it humanely as possible, botched the job with chemically-boosted incompetence. She was sentenced to 42 years in prison and continues to deny that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide.
Kimberly Kessler — Yulee, Florida — 2018
I really hate to say it, but this one kinda makes sense, in a weird sort of way. Not because of the motive, but because of the means. Scissors.
Kimberlie Kessler worked for Joleen Cummings in a hair salon. The two began having disagreements, and Kessler’s unprofessional conduct spurred Cummings into doing some background research. Given that Kessler had used 17 different names over the past 22 years, it is likely that Cummings discovered some discrepancies and confronted Kessler about it. Video footage reveals Kimberly loading and then unloading two heavy garbage bags from Cumming’s vehicle, and placing them into a dumpster, right around the time Joleen went missing. Nonetheless her body has never been found, despite an extensive search at the dump and other locations. Kessler was found shortly after her boss had been reported missing, still driving the other woman’s car. But the smoking gun that led to an arrest was a bloody pair of scissors containing both women’s DNA.
Kessler was initially found incompetent to stand trial. However back in March, after years in a psychiatric hospital, a judge ruled that she was now competent enough to do so. The case has taken many bizarre turns, and it seems like some kind of cosmic irony that the hair salon where it all happened was called Tangles.
Ioan Campeanu — Neasden, London — 2018
After killing his girlfriend with multiple scissor stab wounds, Campeanu went for a drive and then returned home a few hours later and calmly called the authorities and then casually led them to the crime scene. He treated the entire affair as though it was no big deal. It was a pretty simple issue really. Andra Hilitanu was pregnant with his child and he was adamant about not wanting any more children. So he did what must have seemed sensible to him at the time and killed them both. Problem solved.
Misogyny is often a double-edged sword. Where it sometimes denies women the right to abort unwanted children, other times it makes the decision for them. Often leaving a woman dead as collateral damage in some arrogant man’s need to dismiss the self-ownership and autonomy of women in exchange for his own wants and whims. Crimes like these make me wonder why anybody would question the existence of toxic masculinity. As a writer of true crime articles, I see it constantly.
Perhaps the saddest part is that all 40 of Andra’s wounds were survivable. Had Ioan called authorities immediately she might have been saved. Instead he was wandering around in a crack cocaine induced haze wondering if he should visit Buckingham Palace and request medical treatment from the Queen herself. *cue Dave Chapelle punchline*
Benjamin DiCristina — Acton, Massachusetts — 2018
We once again find ourselves in a tale of domestic violence turned deadly, however the ultimate victim of the abuse was the killer’s own father, stabbed to death with scissors as he tried preventing his son from strangling his girlfriend. It has been claimed, and appears likely, that Benjamin was also suffering from prolonged, untreated mental health issues. The combination of domineering aggression with cognitive disturbances is a deadly mixture.
In the melee that ensued which pitted Benjamin against his girlfriend and parents, all three were wounded by scissors. His father died of his injuries later in the hospital. No updates have been posted since Benjamin was ordered to have a mental evaluation, meaning he is likely receiving psychiatric care in order to be made competent to eventually stand trial.
Does anyone else find it disturbing that we expend time and resources making people whole — only so we can then punish them for what they did while they were broken? Or that we are opposed to spending up front to prevent people from becoming broken, but are okay spending massive amounts of money on performative justice displays and the world’s most populated industrial prison complex…which is used to provide slave labor to corporations? No? Just me? Dangit.
Chaumon Wayan Tyner — Pomona, California — 2019
It really is kind of odd how in just 14 incidents, so many themes and specifics repeat themselves. Mental illness, misogyny and romance are no-brainers. And now, unfortunately, the killing of humankind’s best friend — the dog. But until Tyner, none of the other entries have included an act of arson alongside a scissoring soiree.
The 50 year old Tyner had briefly dated 58 year old Ronnie Sue Wall. Apparently the repeat criminal and the senior living center resident were not the best match. In the spring of 2019 Tyner entered Wall’s apartment and killed her Yorkshire terrier, stabbed her to death with scissors and then set fire to the apartment.
Luckily the fire was dealt with quickly and nobody else in the apartment was hurt. Tyner himself was arrested nine days later and is now awaiting trial. The Association of Yorkshire Terriers responded to the incident by running in circles for twenty minutes and barking at absolutely nothing.
Crystal Gutierrez — Grafton, Wisconsin — 2019
Brent Fitch was murdered with scissors by the 18 year old Gutierrez, who was 16 years younger than him, and had been living in his home. The exact nature of their relationship is unclear.
Gutierrez texted her mother late at night pleading for help, along with the Fitch’s address. That led to police being dispatched to the scene where they found the young woman screaming, distraught, bloody and dressed only in a t-shirt. She claimed that she had woken up to see “the family standing around her” and then proceeded to stab Fitch to death with a knife and scissors. She was taken into custody and is awaiting psychiatric evaluation to determine her ability to stand trial, and plans to plead insanity.
A strange side note in the original article I found regarding this incident claims that the last murder in the community of Grafton took place in 2012 when a man was beaten with a bong and stabbed repeatedly. That led me to immediately see if there were enough murder-by-bong cases to write a similar article based upon, but fortunately there were not.
Brandon Ganskow — San Diego, California — 2019
This next one is a story of friendship gone awry. Of forgiveness and second chances that turned into a heartbreaking homicide.
Kevin Crosthwaite had been stabbed by Ganskow back in 2018. Not only did the victim forgive his dangerous friend, he assisted him in legal matters and welcomed Brandon and his mother to continue living in his home. But whatever trauma had twisted his friend towards violence had not gone away, and a year later Kevin found himself being stabbed in the chest with a pair of scissors. The stabbing itself might not have been fatal, but it triggered a number of other health issues which led to his demise — including diabetes, hypertension and ultimately cardiac arrest.
Though it is easy to reduce this episode to tragic and seemingly predictable, there is also a compelling warmth. There are worse things than death. When we set aside friendship, forgiveness, understanding and hope — we give away a part of our humanity. It is not hard to imagine that Crosthwaite understood how risky his friend was, but also took the time to understand and sympathize with whatever circumstances has taken him to that place, and knowing that nobody else was going to ever be in Ganskow’s corner, made a very courageous choice to take the risk in order to make the difference in the life of another person. It is when we take risks, rather than cower in fear and illusions of safety, that we really find the core of our humanity.
Cheryl Greaux — Pine Hills, Florida — 2020
Given the events of 2020 so far, and an apparent incline in the prevalence of shear slayings, it is no wonder that our annual tally was up and running by April. With scissors. You know I had to, right?
Jerry Greaux checked on his elderly mother Rosetta Lennards in her home every day, but on this particularly gruesome day he discovered her dead body, as well as his mentally ill sister, who was holding the bloody scissors she had used to dispatch the woman who gave birth to her. At the police station she claimed that she was singer Mariah Carey and made other delusional, indecipherable rants. She denied that she had killed her mother, and said the body was a woman named Yolanda, who had been murdered by two men. Her story was tossed out when experts determined that Cheryl’s vocal range excluded her from being Mariah Carey.
Check it out, ya’all —don’t we have enough going on right now! Can we please stop killing each other? Besides, you’re going to want to save those scissors for the murder hornets.
There was no mention anywhere regarding the right or left hand dominant orientation of the scissors used in any of the above crimes, despite claims being made in the comments by southpaw conspiracy theorists.
Header Photo: Murder scissors used by Rita Narcissa Sanders-Campfield (photo from Montgomery County court records)