American Murder Houses II
Would you buy a house that was the scene of a grisly murder? Here are 10 sites of some of the nation's most terrifying true crimes
Would you buy a house that was the scene of a grisly murder? Truth is, you might never come to know your home's dark history, since only about half of the states in the U.S. have formal seller disclosure laws. That means agents don't have to fill you in on a property's past unless you ask outright. Why? Well, selling houses is hard enough these days. But don't worry. TOH has your back with another list of what the National Board of Realtors calls "stigmatized properties."
Meantime, if you're in the market for a new home and you'd rather not live where someone once died, do your homework. Make sure you explore the neighborhood and chat with locals—and ask your agent about the house's history, especially if the property is particularly grand with a suspiciously low price tag. (Amityville 101, people!)
This home on the corner of Beachcomber Lane and Sea Lark Road in Houston is where Andrea Yates drowned her children—6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John, and 7-year-old Noah—in the bathtub in 2001. In a trial that would shed light on postpartum depression, Yates was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, a judgment that was later overturned. In her second trial, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has since been committed to a minimum-security mental hospital.
The three-bedroom, 1620-square-foot property has since been renovated and currently serves as a rental property. Neighbors report that, for a time, the Spanish-style home was quite an attraction, but interest has waned in recent years.
After a messy divorce and claims of "white-collar domestic violence" and "legalized emotional terrorism," Betty Broderick took matters into her own hands. In a tale retold in books and made-for-TV movies, Betty opened the door to her ex-husband's Colonial-Revival mansion in Marston Hills (using her daughter's key) on a November night in 1989, walked up to the master bedroom, and fatally shot Daniel T. Broderick and his new wife, Linda Kolkena-Broderick. Betty Broderick was convicted of second-degree murder in 1991 and sentenced to 32-years-to-life. More recently, Broderick was denied parole, with officials noting her lack of remorse. The 3,312-square-foot home was built in 1935 and, after a complete exterior makeover, sold for about $2.4 million back in 2006.
Chris Coleman, once a bodyguard to well-known televangelist Joyce Meyer, was convicted for the 2009 killings of his wife Sheri Coleman and two sons, Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9, in their sprawling lakeside home. The house on Robert Drive sat vacant with cryptic messages still scrawled on the walls in red—allegedly a move by Coleman to make it seem as though a religious fanatic committed the murders—until May 2010, when Wells Fargo Bank bought it for north of $250,000. According to Trulia, where the house is listed as a "distressed property," a foreclosure auction led to a sale of the home for about $180,000.
This Jacobean-style estate was built in 1905 by Minnesota captain of industry Chester Congdon. And it was the opulent scene of a double murder in 1977. Congon's daughter Elisabeth eventually inherited the place and grew old there, in the company of her adopted daughter, Marjorie Mannering Congdon, and nurse, Velma Pietila. It was Marjorie, eager for her inheritance, who conspired with her second husband, Roger Caldwell, to smother the elder Congdon to death as she slept. When the nurse tried to stop the crime in progress, she was also killed.
Caldwell was convicted for the murders, but his sentence was overturned on appeal. Before he could be retried, he confessed to the killings and committed suicide in 1988. Marjorie Congdon was acquitted on all counts and went on to live a life of crime, including charges for bigamy, arson, the alleged murder of her third husband, and more recently in 2005, theft, computer tampering, and forgery. The house is now open to the public for tours, on which you walk through the landing and bedrooms where the murders took place.
The body of 6-year-old beauty-pageant princess JonBenet Ramsey was discovered in the wine cellar of her family's Tudor-style home back in 1996. She would have turned 21 this year. John and Patsy Ramsey were the prime suspects in the high-profile case, until new DNA evidence cleared them of any wrongdoing in 2008. The murder remains unsolved.
After an address change in 2001 and extensive remodeling, the 5-bedroom, 6-bath house is currently valued at a cool $2.3 million. It was last sold in 2004 for about $1 million.
This modest 879-square-foot Cape has been the setting for two unrelated homocides. In 1990, 69-year-old Joyce C. Crandall was shot and stabbed multiple times, and later discovered by a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer. Timothy Granderson, a neighbor's son who did odd-jobs around the house for Crandall, was charged with the murder. Then in 2009 homeowner Barnell Amos and 9-year-old houseguest Devin Elliot were shot during a late-night robbery. These latter murders remain unsolved, and the 3-bedroom house sits vacant. If it is someday listed for sale, Michigan state property disclosure laws do not require agents to share the home's history with buyers.
The 1957 murder of hair stylist Peter Fabiano was like something out of a Hollywood movie. Fabiano's estranged wife, Betty, convinced her alleged lover, Joan Rabel, to arrange a Halloween hit on her husband after Betty lodged bitter complaints of abuse at his hand. Rabel recruited Goldyne Pizer to pull the trigger. On Halloween night, Pizer donned a mask, rang Peter Fabiano's doorbell on Community Street, and shot him in the chest just as he answered. Rabel and Pizer were both charged with second-degree murder in 1958. Betty Fabiano was never charged and went on to live a full life in Riverside County until she died in 1999. The 7,650-square-foot L.A. home on Community Street still stands, and last sold in 1980 for just $112,000.
Famed fashion designer Gianni Versace was shot on the steps of his Miami home, the last victim in a 3-month, 5-victim killing spree by Andrew Cunanaan back in 1997. The house at 1116 Ocean Drive was built in 1930 and modeled after the 1510 estate of Christopher Columbus' family in the Dominican Republic. After it fell into a state of disrepair, Versace bought the place for about $2.9 million in 1992, and refurbished the property, making it the 26,000-square-foot estate is today.
A telecommunications mogul now holds the deed, which serves as a luxury hotel. You can stay in one of Versace's suites for off-season nightly rates of $1,200 and peak-season nightly rates of $3,995. You can also tour the property for about $65.
Meet Ed Gein, the killer who inspired the serial killer Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs and Norman Bates from Psycho. After the disappearance of hardware store owner Bernice Worden, local authorities discovered that Gein had been loitering near the shop just before she vanished. Following the lead, sheriff Arthur Schley searched Gein's farmhouse and discovered a death farm. The mutilated bodies of Bernice Worden (1957) and tavern owner Mary Hogan (1954) were found, as well as the remains of countless bodies that Gein exhumed from local cemeteries to create disturbing paraphernalia. He was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1968 and sentenced to life in a mental hospital. Gein's house was scheduled for auction in 1958 but the property was destroyed in a mystery fire three days before it was to be sold.
Eccentric music producer Phil Spector's Gothic-style, 33-room mansion is where B-list movie actress Lana Clarkson spent her last hours on February 3, 2003. Spector—the inventor of the "Wall of Sound" music-producing technique and the force behind songs by the Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner, and more—invited Clarkson to his 8,686-square-foot mansion, known as Pyrenes Castle, after the two met at a club. After a trial that would reveal Spector's wild history of gunplay, misogyny, and child abuse, the music mogul was convicted of Clarkson's murder. Spector is currently serving a sentence of 19 years to life and will be 88 years old before becoming eligible for parole. The house at 1700 South Grandview Drive is currently valued at about $2.2 million.