We have a few stock images that spring to mind when we think of serial killers. Maybe we see, when we’re inclined to think of such things, a Jeffrey Dahmer-type character-quietly savage, a misfit loner who practices his unspeakable avocation under society’s radar. Or maybe Ted Bundy is our archetype-a conscienceless charmer who leaves mutilated bodies as his peculiar calling card. We probably do not, however, associate married couples with our notions of serial killing.
But the fact is that couples do commit serial murders, and quite efficiently indeed. Though such murders have not been common enough to entrench themselves in the public psyche, they have occurred with some regularity over at least the past thirty years. Probably the most lurid of these cases is that of Paul and Karla Bernardo, an attractive young Canadian couple who, in the early nineties, gleefully kidnapped, drugged, raped and/or killed a number of women and carefully captured many of their perverse exploits on video tape. The furor over the Bernardo arrests and Paul Bernardo’s subsequent trial coincided roughly with shocking revelations coming out of Gloucester, England regarding Fred and Rosemary West. Over many years the Wests murdered several women and girls, including some of their own children, and buried the bodies in various locations in their house, garage and garden. Also in England, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley worked as a serial killer team preying upon children.
A strictly American couple was the Sunset Strip Killer Doug Clark and his girlfriend Carol Bundy, a Los Angeles strain of the same psychopathic syndrome. And even before the sensational cases of the nineties, killer couples were at work. Alvin and Judith Ann Neelley of Georgia, had they not been quite so inept, probably would have taken a greater toll than the thirteen-year-old girl and the woman they kidnapped, raped and killed in late 1982. At least as high a toll as that exacted by Gerald and Charlene Gallego. In the late seventies, the Sacramento, California couple kidnapped and killed ten people. Most of their victims were teenage girls, lured and captured in well-planned schemes, the ultimate goal of which was to provide a steady procession of disposable “love slaves.” Depending on whose story you believe, Charlene Gallego was either a reluctant facilitator of, or a willing participant in her husband Gerald’s tragic extended binge. After the couple’s apprehension, Charlene claimed that Gerald had beaten and intimidated her into helping him, but Gerald, for his part, insisted that she had taken part in the assaults and killings. “We had this sexual fantasy see, so we just carried it out,” Charlene later recounted chillingly. “I mean, like it was easy and fun and we really enjoyed it, so why shouldn’t we do it?”