While watching Mindhunter, I took a quick little break from being horrified by all of the terrifying things serial killers say when my roommate paused the show while Son of Sam was speaking. “Didn’t this guy get caught because of like, a parking ticket, or something?” she asked. Obviously, this sent me into a Google frenzy and I quickly learned that plenty of murderers have been caught for the most ridiculous reasons.
It’s pretty insane to think that the people who have committed some of the most atrocious crimes of all time were taken down by something as random as a ticket, floppy disk, or ancestry DNA test. I guess that’s just
showbiz the justice system, baby. Here are the most unbelievable (or, em, easily believable?) ways real killers have been caught.
Son of Sam: Parking Ticket
Yep, Son of Sam, whose real name was David Berkowitz, got busted over a GD parking ticket. He was the killer known for trolling police after his murders because he loved to leave creepy letters all over the place.
Police eventually received a tip from a woman named Cacilia Davis who noticed that a guy with a weird vibe had walked strangely past her, “like a cat.” Moments later, she heard shots. Cacilia also noticed that around that same time, cops were giving a ticket at a car that had been illegally parked in front of a fire hydrant. It turned out that this car belonged to Son of Sam (he didn’t even have fake plates), and this is the detail that got him caught.
BTK Killer: Floppy Disk
You know that terrible moment when you tell someone something, but only if they promise “not to get mad?” But then…they get mad anyway? Well, that’s kind of what happened with BTK, the killer known for binding, torturing, and killing his victims.
20 years after the murders, BTK (Dennis Raid) was caught when he left a mysterious box at a Home Depot, containing documents detailing the murders. One of the documents asked if it would be “secure” to communicate with police through the use of a floppy disk. Of course, the police said yes, but still used it to track him down and arrest him.
The Co-Ed Killer: Phonecall
Ed Kemper, who was known as the “Co-Ed Killer,” was a necrophiliac who murdered 10 people. He even killed his own mother and grandparents.
He fully just called the police and turned himself in, which was so unbelievable that they actually thought it was a prank.
Ted Bundy: Stolen Car
Ted Bundy, the ’70s serial killer and rapist, successfully escaped prison enough times that it truly seemed like he would never be caught. However, after his last escape, Bundy was caught driving a stolen car in Florida. The officer who pulled him over did not initially know who he was, but after the two had a brutal struggle, Bundy was finally arrested.
The Golden State Killer: Ancestry Test
The Golden State Killer (Joseph James DeAngelo) was connected to 12 murders and 45 sexual assaults in the ’70s and ’80s, but the case remained cold until 2018. Investigator Paul Holes was able to use DNA to track the killer’s great-great-great grandparents. He then used a tool called GEDMatch (it’s kind of like 23andMe or Ancestry), to search the branches of the family tree to find the Golden State Killer.