Female serial killers are rare compared to male serial killers. Women make up only 15% of serial killers while men fulfill the other 85%. Compared to males who mostly kill for sexual gratification, females usually take a more pragmatic approach to killing people off. They usually kill for profit and power. This kind of motivation is mostly due to the degrading circumstances of being dominated in a man’s world. This kind of abuse pushes them to commit crimes against the opposite sex to assert power over them and, in a sense, get their vengeance.
Sometimes due to severe cases of mental and physical abuse, a woman without any criminal tendencies might misplace her anger and commit a crime, killing a male figure to release a tension. In most cases, sexuality is used as a primary tool. Women skew their sexual drive into darker territory, using their bodies to trap and control men. Sex and murder are intertwined. Then of course, there’s the innate desire for destruction and pain. Just like men, some women are born with rage and a passion for violence. This is where the strongest mystery lies, and most of the time the source of that darkness can’t be traced. People like that are broken beyond repair.
The behavioral science unit allows criminals to express themselves. Conducting this research used to be considered wasteful. No one cared about the psychological reasons behind a killer’s murders. They stuck to the theory that their crimes were committed in service of an abnormal psychological gratification and that for that reason, they should be thrown in jail or be put on death row. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that police and academic experts started studying the biography of offenders and the causes of their behavior. While some of them agree to cooperate and provide valuable insight, others often refuse to do so, keeping things to themselves until the day they die.
One of most baffling cases was a sadomasochistic case involving a married couple; two equally violent individual who inflicted all kinds of mental and physical abuse on each other which led to the murder of one of them. However, the motivations and what led to the actual murder got the whole city talking.
We received a 911 call around midnight. On the phone, a hysterical man named Marc repetitively said his wife shot herself in the head. When we arrived at the scene, we found him hyperventilating on the floor, by the doorway. He seemed to be having flashbacks that further triggered his heightened panic attack. His undershirt was covered in blood, and he had cuts on his arms and legs we found questionable.
Even though the call suggested a possible suicide, we had to be neutral and refrain from jumping to conclusions. People from the medical office were ordered to stay outside while we fully covered the crime scene and wrote a detailed report of what led to the woman’s death.
We found Norma Hayworth slumped over in the basement. There was a clear hole in the back of her head and blood splatters on the wall behind her. Close to her right hand, a .38 caliber revolver lied. Around it was one shell casing suggesting only one shot was fired. Overall, the room seemed to be in good shape. There were no signs of struggle, no broken or misplaced furniture. The rest of the house seemed intact as well. It was disorganized and dirty in some places, but that wasn’t necessarily due to violence. In the washing machine, we found a handy-cam wrapped in a pile of clothes. It was wet which meant someone was trying to destroy it. We confronted Marc about it, and he denied having put it there. The camera was severely damaged but not the SD card. We put it into an evidence bag and sent it in to try and recover the files. We took the gun out and inspected it. We concluded only one bullet was loaded into it. We didn’t make much of it at first, since one bullet to the head was guaranteed to finish you off.
Marc was taken to the police station where he took his clothes off, revealing a body covered in dark bruises, whip marks and what looked like cigarettes burns — even his crotch area was scalded and burned by some kind of chemical. We questioned him about them but he was too shaken and embarrassed to talk, so we guessed they must’ve been self-inflicted. David and Harrison questioned him while we analyzed the blood splatters on his shirt. One of the pattern analysts brought up the possibility the pattern of blood flecks could’ve come from high velocity from the gunshot rather than blood that got on him as he attempted to provide his wife with medical assistance. However, Jared hotly disputed that conclusion as he was convinced the bloodstains were consistent with medical aid. Both the victim and Marc’s fingerprints were on the gun, but that didn’t really mean he shot her. When we took his alibi into account, we found a three-hour gap. The insurance company Marc works for provided surveillance footage showing him exiting the building around 5:45 P.M. The 911 call was made at 9:30 P.M. Norma’s death happened approximately half an hour before that. Marc kept claiming he was watching TV in their bedroom when she shot herself. We remained doubtful and extremely suspicious.
So, what exactly happened?
Marc and Norma were both self-destructive. The couple met in the winter of 2013, at a mutual friend’s funeral. Marc recalled how he felt when he first laid eyes on her, as if he’s seen the most beautiful woman in the world. It was love at first sight. He didn’t hesitate to ask her out and she accepted. They dated for a few months before he proposed to her. He recalls making that move wasn’t easy for him because although he was excited to spend the rest of his life with her, something about her made him a little apprehensive. There was something about her he couldn’t quite figure out. Something mysterious. He wasn’t able to identify whether it was positive or negative. Only time would tell, he thought.
It didn’t take long for Norma to unravel. Only a week after their honeymoon, he found her agitated and tense when he returned home from work one night. He tried to console her and ask her what was bothering her, and without any warning she punched him straight in the face. Although her reaction startled him, he remained calm and refrained from provoking her. Instead, he left her alone. The next morning, she apologized and he agreed to forget the incident ever happened even though he wasn’t able to figure out the truth of what was bothering her. Little did he know it wouldn’t be the first and last time she’d lay her hands on him.
The abuse continued throughout the years. Sometimes it was mild, other times it was extremely violent. Holding on to his secret, Marc felt alienated and scared of speaking up. Being a man — a bigger man — he knew no one would believe him. They remained together for nineteen years — nineteen years of being punched, kicked, getting his hair pulled, his body stabbed with pens and other sharp objects. In his head, though, he was hoping for the day he’d finally get the courage to call the police on her.
Five years into their marriage, another fight ensued. It was a simple disagreement that quickly escalated into something way more violent. Norma ragefully lunged at him with a kitchen knife and threatened to kill him over and over again. He had to tackle her and wrestle her down as she screamed and cursed at him in order to defend himself. When she calmed down, he gathered his belongings and moved into the guest bedroom, then moved out a week later. He moved back into his parents’ home to escape the violence. Norma’s relentless attempts to get in touch with him and apologize eventually convinced him she might be truly regretful, so he decided to give their relationship another chance. Deep inside, he was still enthralled by her. Every time he thought of her, he remembered the pretty girl lost between the crowd at the funeral. The girl who was eloquently dressed and soft-spoken. He couldn’t stand the idea of letting her go, knowing he wouldn’t be able to find someone else he could share his life with. That’s why when she drove to the house a few days later and relentlessly apologized, he decided to forgive her. He packed his bags, loaded them inside the trunk of her car and got in. By the time they reached the stop at the end of the street, she was already screaming at him and accusing him of being the problem, all while hitting him with one arm and holding the steering wheel with the other. To escape the hitting, he had to push the car into park and rush out of the vehicle. As he took one of his bags from the backseat, he caught her angrily glaring at him, and before he even knew it, the car was back in drive mode. Norma didn’t hesitate to back up and run over his foot which caused him to collapse backward. She rolled him down the block until he begged her to stop.
Their story didn’t end there.
The violence lasted for many years. He developed severe anxiety and became semi-agoraphobic. However, he tried to remain in control and not succumb to her abusive behavior. After the police got involved one night and didn’t believe his story of ongoing physical and emotional abuse, he knew he had to take matters into his own hands. The only way to deal with her was to be on her level, so he channeled his fear and anxiety and transformed them into righteous anger. The shocking part is that she liked him more when he abused her back. She’d take it, inflect more on him and never threaten or try to call the police. They constantly fought until their bodies gave out. Eventually, as their fights became more intense, they also became more passionate, and so they often reconciled through rough animalistic sex. It was around this point in their relationship that Marc’s psychotic inclinations really started to develop.
Something that bothered Marc throughout the interrogation, was the click of the interrogation room’s closing door and a traumatic memory that seemed to have been feeding his underlying urge for violence. The long murder investigation and questioning by both David and Harrison took a toll on him, and knowing there was a big possibility he could be convicted and jailed, he took advantage of the situation to vent. After all, it was the only time the police was willing to listen to him. Prior to that, when he called the police on his wife, the officers never bought his version of the story. To them, he was a typical man picking on his wife. They discredited him, mocked him and made him feel so helpless. His severe trust issues, however, stemmed from his childhood.
Ever since he was a child, Marc had a niggling sense of feeling like the odd one out compared to his siblings. He wasn’t as attractive as his brothers, had an awkward personality, and wasn’t the brightest at school. When his brothers turned into teenagers, he was excluded from anything they did, mainly due to age difference. They were seven years older than him. When their father took them hunting, he was treated like the third wheel — a scapegoat. Deemed too young to use a rifle, he simply watched as the three of them bonded. When he stayed at home, his mom didn’t pay any attention to him. As he got older, he felt a tremendous amount of guilt when he realized he was unwanted — that his mother got pregnant with him by accident. Many factors supported that theory. His brothers shared a bedroom. Each one of them had his own bed while he slept on a mattress, on the floor. He wasn’t allowed any privacy and was never provided with his own toys and clothes. He simply inherited whatever his brothers had and no longer needed. In school, they barely acknowledged him. They hung out with their peers and their girlfriends and ignored him whenever he came to talk to them. Seeing how he was neglected, bullies didn’t hesitate to torment him whenever they had the chance, knowing his brothers wouldn’t interfere to save him. Sometimes, they’d join in and give him a few beatings, then walk away.
The incident that broke Marc indefinitely was when he got raped in a bathroom stall back in 1994. He recalls seeing his brothers talking to a man outside the food court of the local department store, in the small town where they lived. The man was tall and broody-looking, and possessed weird personality traits and subtle feminine habits. He’d heard some rumors about him being a homosexual, yet no one really confronted or questioned him about his sexuality because, for the most part, he looked and acted very masculine. The conservative environment that prevailed at the time, disallowed anyone from discussing anything taboo or out of the ordinary. People seemed to ignore anything that didn’t fit into their own social norms.
Marc remembers sitting down on a bench, watching them talk. Eventually, the man handed the brothers some cash and they proceeded in exiting the building. Marc got up and followed them but was interrupted by the man who asked him if he wanted to go to the candy shop. Intimated but also seduced by his offer, he went along with him. When they were done, they headed toward the exit door, then stopped. The man seemed to reconsider his next move. Instead, he asked him to walk with him to the restrooms. Inside, Marc waited while he used the urinal. Once he was done, he made sure no one else was inside the room before locking the door. He turned to Marc, his demeanor shifting to threatening, grabbed him inside one of the stalls, ripped his clothes off and raped him. Then, he threatened Marc to keep quiet with a knife held to his throat. Marc limped his way back home, traumatized, blood spreading down from his rectum. He made it home to the sight of his mother severely reprimanding his brothers for losing him since they were the ones responsible for watching him. Up in their bedroom, they beat him up for putting them in trouble.
When you hear someone go on and on with their stories of mental and physical abuse, there’s only so much you can assimilate. Many times, you wonder why they wouldn’t put an end to it by speaking up, but in Marc’s case, it was a hopeless case. Each time his parents took him to the emergency room after his brothers beat him and the ER doctor would ask them what happened, his father would say, “boys will be be boys.” For the rest of his life at home, violence continued to be normalized by his family. As for the raping incident, he never managed to report it — until now.
It’s been medically proven over the years, that genetics are partially responsible for the creation of a murderer. A gene known as MAOA-L is linked to aggression and antisocial behavior, and plays a big part in the shaping of a psychopath. That said, environmental factors are the defining element of whether a monster is eventually formed or not. If the brain is exposed to good upbringing, there’s a higher chance the person will turn out to be relatively normal. If they grow up in a hostile world, they will respond accordingly. That said, monsters aren’t formed overnight. Their unraveling is a slow burn, and something has to eventually trigger them to flip the switch. They’re rarely blatantly psychotic or completely evil.
After putting together Marc’s profile, it was time for us to make one for Norma; try to understand what kind of person she was. Marc himself couldn’t understand how she turned out to be the way she did. According to him, they never really discussed her childhood, and she always avoided talking about her estranged parents.
“She had a moral vacuity in her”, he mentioned. “Something I can’t quite explain.”
We reached out to her twin sister, Nancy, who now lives in Toronto with her husband. When she came down to the station, she didn’t seem too eager to talk to us, mainly due to her not wanting to delve back into what we eventually found out to be a disturbing and dark childhood.
The girls grew up around a mother with a terrorizing fear factor and a father who struggled with anger management issues and had an overall bad temper. Of course, the porous energy and abusive behavior only manifested behind closed doors. In the outside world, both parents were idolized and appreciated by the community they lived in which left the girls feeling betrayed and confused. When they became teenagers, Nancy talked about witnessing her sister being shoved into furniture and whipped with kitchen utensils. It was their parents’ way of punishing her for being a rebel. Norma came across as the stronger twin who refused to submit to her parents no matter what the cost. Nancy, on the other hand, didn’t seem to see the point in fighting with them because they were too powerful and always had the upper hand. The only time she interfered was when Norma was being kicked in the stomach which resulted in her being violently pushed, her head hitting the door post which knocked her out momentarily. For the rest of their lives in their parents’ home, both girls were constantly grilled with insults and gaslit whenever they spoke up.
“My father referred to both of us as, bitches”, Nancy revealed.
In cases like these, I always wonder how one child is able to lead a normal life while the other drives himself into a self-destructive path. It was clear to us Norma had it worse, though, and her constant bickering with her parents certainly didn’t do her any good. Nancy eventually started sensing an undercurrent jealousy between her and her sister, as their relationship took a bad turn around their adult years.
Next, we spoke to Cathy, one of Norma’s best friends from school who described her as girly and bossy, with a high IQ. She revealed that during their middle school years, Norma developed a deep fascination with witchcraft, satanism, the occult and true crime. She recalled a book about satanic abuse being one of her favorites. When Norma briefly volunteered at a veterinary clinic, she sent her strange keepsakes as a sick joke; one bag contained the claws of a cat and another, the severed tail of a puppy. She claimed the cat had been declawed and the puppy, cosmetically altered. We took a look at her photo album and noticed how Norma seemed to have soulless eyes with a devilish glint. She also pointed out her online blog where she published semi-fictional erotic stories involving BDSM and sadistic orgies. We could only read small tidbits as the full versions required a password only provided to paid members. We asked Marc to give us access and he hesitated for a while. We gave him no choice.
People exited the room one by one the more we dug into the archives and watched more footage involving Norma and Marc engaging in the most disturbing and dehumanizing perversive sexual acts I’ve personally have ever seen in my entire life. Calling the couple “sick” or “fucked up” would be an understatement. The video that got every man in the room gasping, was the one where Norma had Marc lying in a surgical bed in what seemed to be a sex dungeon. Both of their faces were covered with a black leather mask. Using a small kit resembling a hydraulic press, Norma slowly but viciously flattened Marc’s testicles until he started vomiting. My own balls hurt just by looking at the gruesome footage.
It only took the tech specialist a couple of hours to recover the files from the SD card, but little did we know that one specific video would turn the entire investigation around. In what looked like a cabin or a rundown woodshed, Marc deliberately and systemically tortured and disfigured a young woman, causing her utmost pain and distress. This prompted us to bring in their shared computer and dig through it for more snuff videos. Looking through the files, we found none. But after sending the hardrive to a computer expert, he managed to track down a hidden file that contained all the incriminating evidence we needed. The number came down to a total of ten tortured and murdered female teenagers, all executed by Marc.
Suddenly we felt fooled and manipulated having spent more than five hours sympathizing with Marc’s upbringing and chaotic marriage. David barged into the interrogation room with a still shot of the video causing Marc to instantly panic and break down in tears.
“It wasn’t my idea. Norma made me do it”, Marc yelled.
“Bullshit”, David yelled back.
“You’re the only person seen in that video. That’s why you tried to destroy it.”
“No! Norma was there too! She was watching me do it. I swear!”, Marc added. “It was her idea. She’d put me through hell if I didn’t do what she wanted.”
“You didn’t hesitate, Marc! You looked like you were having fun!
“Please, you have to believe me!”, Marc pleaded.
“You know what I think? I think you’re both wrenched and demented, but that you also hated her so much that you decided to kill her. You’re a killer and I intend, so far as it is in my power, that you will kill no more innocent girls.”, David concluded as he walked out, leaving both Harrison and I alone with him.
“What happened to Norma?”, Harrison asked quietly.
“She — killed herself.”
“Is that the truth?”, he asked again.
“Yes. I swear.”
The very next day, we drove Marc up to New Haven where the cabin where all the torture and killings took place was. We used bolt cutters to cut the chains locking the gate of the woodshed. Inside, we found the surgical table and various torture equipments and instruments that resembled ones used in Medieval times. There was a knee splitter, head crusher, tongue tearer and thumbscrews among many other things we’ve never seen before. A foul and ripe smell led us to a trap door covered with a heavy jute rug. We broke it open and found nine shallow graves containing the bodies of all the girls Marc and Norma had killed in the past two years. Each one had been cut and dismembered differently, according to the method of torture used. The place was completely ransacked and we ended up recovering hundreds of pieces of evidence, most notably, a polaroid photo album.
Victim #1: Marc poured boiling water on her face before proceeding in stabbing her with a butcher knife.
Victim #2- Marc performed partial scalping then stabbed her with several small knives, forks and scissors.
Victim #3: Marc applied hot iron on different body parts, causing severe scalding and death.
Victim #4: Marc injected her with morphine before cutting all of her toes and fingers using pruning shears. Once the drug wore off, the girl is seen in extreme agony. She was stabbed with a spade in the abdomen.
Victim #5: Marc crushed both of her hands, broke her arms then hammered a stake straight into her heart.
Victim #6: Marc mutilated her ears, nose, mouth, breasts and genitals and finished by slashing her throat.
Victim #7: Marc gouged her eyes out, then sawed her in half.
Victim #8: Marc attached a heretic’s fork to her neck and ripped her breasts with a breast ripper.
Victim #9: Marc put her in a rack and tied her ankles and wrists before slowly pulling her limbs in opposite directions until they were fully dismembered.
Marc was taken to court the following week, where he kept denying being solely responsible for the murders, claiming Norma would taunt him and put him through hell winding him up and challenging him to commit the gruesome acts. Due to the amount of evidence proving he was indeed tortured by her, not to mention his testimony, we had to give his side of the story some credibility. However, being the only person seen in the videos, we weren’t able to prove Norma was in on it. At the investigations bureau, we tried to place her at the crime scene while also trying to figure out how she died. Speculating wasn’t a problem, but until we had strong proof — something we can show — there wasn’t much we could do. Rewatching the snuff videos, I noticed a reflection in one of them. It was indiscernible and hard to identify, so I took another look at the photo album and caught a glimpse of Marc’s hairy forearm in the lower right corner of one of the photos, which proved he wasn’t the one who took it. I went through the rest of the photo album and found a photo of one of the victims, still alive and looking straight into the camera. By enhancing certain features in the photo, I caught a reflection in the victim’s cornea. The photo seemed to have been taken at chest level using a powerful flash activated at close range. I cranked up the overall brightness of the photo and enlarged the eye of the victim. I could see a subtle silhouette, so I drew a rough outline around it and showed it to David who told me there was no way of proving the silhouette isn’t part of my imagination, that my approach was purely subjective with no scientific proof to pull it off. Before he could completely discredit me, I showed him the picture showing Marc’s forearm, and we decided to ignore my matrixing theory and only present the one suggesting Norma’s involvement. We also checked the computer’s internet history and found a dozen of searches on Russian roulette. We connected that to one of the books we found in the woodshed that had a bookmark in a chapter dedicated to the same topic. We finally concluded Norma had shot herself playing the game with Marc, their own twisted way of finding out whose life fate would be taking first.
Back on trial, Marc cracked under all the incriminating evidence against him and admitted to it. He said Norma eventually got bored and he became both emotionally and mentally spent. Their relationship was a uniquely fierce psychological pull of obsessive and tormenting love. They loved each other so much that they hated each other. But it wasn’t really hate. The insane amount of violence provided the thrill Norma seemed to long for, and although Marc initially struggled to cope with it, he allowed to be manipulated and brainwashed until she fully consumed him. A consultant psychiatric told the court that Marc’s traumatizing childhood was severely triggered by his wife’s sickening violence and mind control which further distorted his reality and corrupted his brain. She also described to the jury that toxic relationships are very common, especially between two individuals who suffered the way Marc and Norma did. She described their childhood as a “war zone.”
“A toxic relationship can only survive through continuous violence”, the psychiatrist said. “Any time the relationship is stable, one or both parties can feel bored, like their relationship is lacking. Oftentimes, they engage in perversive sexual acts or do something illicit or illegal in order to feel excitement and alleviate their unhappiness. Domestic violence, rape fantasies, risky behavior and murder are what make these unions thrive. Even though they’re fully capable of acknowledging that what they’re doing is self-destructive and morally wrong, it provides them with the sense of relief they’re looking for. As for Norma’s suggestion to play Russian roulette, she mentioned that although people with antisocial personality disorder are emotionally deficient to experience the despair necessary to suicide, life to them, is very much a game. They go through it looking for a constant thrill, and since they’re very prone to boredom, they often contemplate checking out when it becomes insolubly inconvenient.
Crime cases are never simple. For the most part, we’ve always expected the hardest part to be the one where we catch the killer, but it’s not always that; sometimes, they’re beyond our comprehension. Neither the killer, the murder weapon or the victim themselves mean anything to us in those types of situation. Sure, there’s always a satisfaction in solving the basics of a murder but with a crime like this one, things really are beyond our understanding we can’t help but feel empty and dissatisfied after it’s over. The absurdity of the human mind is limitless and oftentimes so troubling we can’t ever completely shake it.
This case reminded me of a previous one I covered months ago. Police were investigating the mysterious death of eleven members of a deeply religious cult in the suburbs of Long Island, ten of whom were women found dead in the backyard where a ritual had taken place the night before. The eleventh member was a large bearded man with curly hair, also dead and positioned by what we concluded was an altar. Post-mortem reports and testimonies from neighbors and relatives of the deceased were analyzed and it didn’t take long for police to rule out murder as a cause of death and conclude the incident was some sort of a mass suicide resulting from the ritual. Notes were found at the residence that had details about how the ceremony was executed and where every member was positioned during it. Autopsies indicated all of them were intoxicated, red wine being the primary source of alcohol as well as opioid drugs (methadone and suboxone). The main cause of death, however, was cyanide poisoning via red wine.
A police press release was out the day following the investigation, after a Greek Mythology professor identified both the statue located in the backyard as well as the large painting found in the house’s living room as representing Dionysos, the god of wine and ritual madness. He’s considered to be the protector of those who do not feel like they belong to conventional societies thus symbolizing the chaotic, dangerous and unexpected. The big bearded man served as the leader of the cult; his close physical appearance to the god itself allowed us to conclude he was also representing him physically. The other women were portraying his female followers, the Maenads. It is believed they all engaged in an orgy while in a complete state of ecstatic frenzy.
Every once in a while, we show up at a crime scene and realize things are not what they seem to be. This realization takes time depending on the circumstances. Those types of murder situations are the ones that stay with you forever due to their mystery and uniqueness. Our inability to wrap our mind around them makes them so thrilling and captivating it’s hard for us to let them go. Who knew murder could have so many layers beside rage, hatred, jealousy and greed?