For centuries, crimes have been linked to witches and witchcraft. Many times, these crimes weren’t even real, yet innocent people were tortured and killed in rather gruesome ways because of people’s belief in witchcraft.
Although many witchcraft murders are nothing more than the product of hysteria and lack of knowledge, some truly horrible crimes have been committed with odd connections to witchcraft.
Some deaths on this list are linked to Wicca, but it’s important to understand that peace is a major tenet of the Wiccan religion. Also, karma is important to Wiccans, so murder is completely against their religion. But sadly, like other religions, there are some people who are misinformed or simply misuse the religion as a justification to commit horrible crimes.
10 Wayne Hartung Sr.
On July 31, 2015, there was a blue moon, which means that there were two full moons in one month. This is an event that happens about once every three years.
On that night in Pensacola, Florida, 77-year-old Voncile Smith and her sons, 49-year-old Richard Thomas Smith and 47-year-old John William Smith, were murdered in their home. They had been beaten with a claw-tooth hammer and had their throats slit. Richard Thomas had also been shot in the head.
At the time, the police said that the bodies were positioned in such a way that it looked like they were used in some type of ritual. They later corrected themselves and said that the bodies were found in different rooms.
In October 2015, the police arrested Wayne Hartung Sr., the half brother of the victims. At the press conference, the sheriff said that a possible motive for the murder was witchcraft.
It was committed during the blue moon, which the sheriff believed to be connected to Wicca. Also, Hartung’s family said that he loosely practiced Wicca and kept a book about it in his office. As of March 2016, Hartung is awaiting trial.
9 Louise And Loy Dean Stone
Louise and Loy Dean Stone of Dimmitt, Texas, were self-proclaimed Wiccans and members of the Church of Arianhu, which is a branch of the North Carolina–based Church of Wicca.
Two weeks before Halloween 1977, the couple went on local television to say that they were witches and would be teaching a seminar on Wicca. The story caught the attention of local teenagers, who decided to venture out to the couple’s rural home on Halloween night.
Carloads of teens drove by, honking their horns and yelling at the house. The Stones called the sheriff’s department, who chased away the teenagers. After the police left, another truckload of teenagers came by the house.
The truck had five people in it and was turning around in the Stone’s gravel driveway when two shots from a shotgun came through the passenger door of the truck. Two people were injured, and 15-year-old Roxanne Casas died.
When the police interviewed the Stones, they originally claimed that they didn’t hear any shots. During the police search, however, officers found a recently fired shotgun in the Stones’ house.
The couple was arrested on November 7, the day that Casas was buried. At his trial, Loy said that he had fired one shot into the air to scare off the teenagers but didn’t aim the gun at them. In the end, both Louise and Loy were acquitted of murder.
The trial made national headlines and brought a lot of negative attention to Wicca. Other Wiccans called Louise and Loy “mail-order Wiccans” who are not real representatives of the religion.
8 David Nyberg
In late February 1975, 27-year-old Billy Glen Isley picked up a trio of young hitchhikers in Ohio who were traveling from Arlington, Virginia. The hitchhikers were 19-year-old David Nyberg, his girlfriend (18-year-old Dee Lou Davis), and 20-year-old Kenneth Robert Houston.
They traveled with Isley to a house that he had rented in Tampa, Florida. On the first night in the house, Nyberg took a knife and cut Houston’s throat as he slept. This awakened Houston, who tried to run away. But Nyberg chased him down and stabbed him about 36 times while chanting, “Die Satan, die Satan.”
Nyberg and Davis then took Houston’s body, put it in the trunk of a car, and drove off. They eventually dumped it on a rural road in Virginia, over 1,400 kilometers (900 mi) away from where Houston was murdered.
On March 6, Nyberg checked himself into a mental institute and said that he had witnessed the murder. Nyberg and Davis were arrested on March 13 near Oklahoma City and extradited to Tampa. At their extradition hearing, Nyberg and Davis said that they were a wizard and witch, respectively, and that they were married.
During Nyberg’s murder trial, his lawyers argued that he was insane and under the control of Isley. The jury didn’t see it that way. Nyberg was found guilty of first-degree murder and received a life sentence.
Davis, who was pregnant with Nyberg’s child, pled guilty to manslaughter and was given a sentence of 6 months to 10 years. Isley was also found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
7 Diana Haun And Michael Dally
On May 6, 1996, eyewitnesses saw the kidnapping of 35-year-old Sherri Dally in the parking lot of a Target store in Ventura, California. She allowed a blonde woman to handcuff her, and then Dally got in the back of a car.
Sadly, her skeletal remains were found 26 days later in a ravine. She had been beaten in the head with an axe or a blunt object and stabbed with a knife.
The police immediately investigated 35-year-old Diana Haun, a grocery store worker and former model who had been having an affair with Sherri’s husband, Michael Dally.
Evidence quickly mounted. Haun had bought a wig, handcuffs, and fake badge just days before the abduction. Blood was also found in a rental car that witnesses had identified as the car used in the kidnapping. Haun had rented the car.
However, she said that she wasn’t responsible for the murder and was forced by Michael Dally to kill his wife. At Haun’s trial, it was revealed that she dabbled in witchcraft. She had told a coworker that she was going to get her boyfriend a human sacrifice as an early birthday present.
Michael Dally’s birthday was May 21, which was 15 days after the abduction. Haun was convicted and given a life sentence. Michael Dally was also found guilty and sentenced to life without parole.
In an appeal, Haun’s lawyers argued that the prosecutors’ discussion of witchcraft was inflammatory evidence. However, it was argued that witchcraft and Sherri’s death as a human sacrifice were the motives behind the crime. The appeal was ultimately denied.
6 Cherrylle Dell
Into the early morning hours of December 29, 1995, Cherrylle Dell talked on the phone to her estranged husband, Scott Dell, while he drank alone in his home in Ottawa Valley, Canada. Cherrylle really wanted him to drink a bottle of wine that she had given him earlier.
After he drank the wine, he lapsed into a coma and died. The police investigated and concluded that Dell, whose mouth cancer had just returned after remission, had taken his own life by drinking antifreeze.
In 1997, potential new evidence emerged when Cherrylle’s girlfriend, Nancy Fillmore, broke up with Cherrylle. The two women had started dating while Cherrylle was still married to Scott.
After the breakup, Fillmore went to the police and said that Cherrylle had poisoned Scott. According to Fillmore, on the night that Scott died, Cherrylle had invited him over and given him the wine.
Cherrylle had often tried to guide Scott spiritually. That night, she told him that she had dreamed that he would have spiritual visions if he were to drink the wine.
After he left, Cherrylle took out her witchcraft books, lit some candles, and started saying prayers. When he got home, Cherrylle talked to him on the phone for nine hours, trying to get him to drink the wine.
However, Nancy Fillmore never testified to any of this in court. In August 1997, she died in a house fire that was started by 16-year-old Brent Crawford. Cherrylle had seduced Crawford and convinced him to set the deadly blaze.
Cherrylle was convicted of first-degree murder in her husband’s death and given a life sentence. She pled guilty to counseling Crawford to intimidate Fillmore, and Crawford was given a life sentence for first-degree murder in the death of Nancy Fillmore.
5 Mary Bateman
In 1768, Mary Harker was born in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire. By age 20, Mary was working as a dressmaker in Leeds. But she also claimed to have supernatural powers and worked as a fortune-teller.
She ran a number of scams to make money. Then, at age 24, she married a wheelwright named John Bateman, and they had three children. Over the years, Mary became well-known locally for being both a fortune-teller and a witch. She invented two helpers who would give her advice in writing that she could pass along for a fee.
Some of the advice included using special powders and potions. But people often got sick or died when Mary was nearby. In 1803, two of Mary’s friends died. They were sisters, and the doctor was sure that they had been poisoned. But no charges were filed against Mary.
One couple who fell victim to Mary’s witchcraft was William and Rebecca Perigo of Bramley, Leeds. Rebecca had chest pains and saw supernatural beings. A doctor suggested that she was under a spell and should seek help from a witch. So Mary was hired to “help.”
For five months in 1808, she bilked the couple out of money and personal items. Then Mary received a special honey from one of her “helpers” and made it into a pudding for the Perigos. William could only eat a little of the pudding because it tasted so bad. Rebecca ate all of hers. William became terribly sick, but Rebecca died.
Amazingly, William kept taking Mary’s advice for another year before he finally realized that he had been scammed. The police found a number of items from the Perigos’ home and the poison used to kill Rebecca in Mary’s possession.
Mary was found guilty of fraud and murder. On March 20, 1809, she was hanged in front of a crowd of 5,000 people. Afterward, parts of her body were sold as souvenirs. Today, the Yorkshire Witch’s skeleton is on display at the Leeds Medical Museum.
4 Angela Sanford
On March 22, 2010, 30-year-old Angela Sanford invited 52-year-old Joel Leyva into the mountains near Albuquerque, New Mexico, to celebrate Beltane, a Wiccan spring holiday. Sanford and Leyva had only known each other for a few days.
A few hours after venturing into the mountains, Sanford was spotted hiding behind some boulders by hikers. When they made eye contact with her, she stepped out from behind the boulders in her underwear.
She told the hikers that Leyva had tried to rape her and that she had defended herself. The hikers found Sanford’s clothes folded neatly near the body of Leyva, who had been stabbed to death.
The police were called. Sanford told them that she had met Leyva on a trail where they drank some alcohol. She admitted that she was carrying a dagger called an athame that is used in Wiccan ceremonies.
Then she claimed that Leyva had tied her arms and taken the dagger from the waistband of her pants. To avoid being raped, Sanford said that she had seduced Leyva. She managed to slip her arms from the rope and had Leyva lie on his stomach. Then she stabbed him three times in the stomach area.
None of the physical evidence supported Sanford’s story. The police believe that she lured Leyva to the mountain with the intention of killing him. While he was lying down, she straddled him and stabbed him 13 times in the head and the torso. When the police looked through her cell phone, they found that she had labeled Leyva’s number as “Sacrifice.”
Sanford pled guilty to the murder and was given 20 years in prison.
3 Clara Jane Schwartz
Like many other teenagers growing up in the late 1990s, Clara Jane Schwartz and her friends had interests that were considered dark and gothic. They enjoyed the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade, they read books about vampires, and they were involved with Wicca.
On December 8, 2001, while 20-year-old Clara was away at James Madison University, three of her friends—Michael Pfohl, Katherine Inglis, and Kyle Hulbert—went to the home of Clara’s father, Robert Schwartz, in Leesburg, Virginia. Robert was a well-respected scientist who specialized in DNA and biometrics, but Clara claimed that he had abused her for years.
According to Clara, her father was poisoning her and she was afraid that he would kill her during an upcoming vacation. Clara then convinced Hulbert, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, to kill her father.
Just as Robert was sitting down to dinner in his remote farmhouse, Hulbert entered the house with a sword that was 70 centimeters (27 in) long. Inglis and Pfohl waited in the car.
Hulbert stabbed Robert 30 times with the sword. His body was found two days later when he didn’t show up for work. A neighbor easily identified the murderous trio because their car got stuck in the mud outside Schwartz’s house on the night of the murder.
Clara and her three friends were arrested. When looking through Clara’s room, the police found a number of Wiccan objects including a rabbit skin and a book of runes.
After Hulbert was arrested, he said that he was given permission to perform the murder by otherworldly beings called Sabba, Ordog, and Nicodemus. Prosecutors believe that the lines between real life and fantasy became blurred for Hulbert, which led to the murder.
Clara was given 48 years in prison, Hulbert was given a life sentence, Pfohl was sentenced to 18 years, and Inglis was convicted on misdemeanor charges.
2 Eric Christensen
On January 5, 2010, 35-year-old Sherry Harlan didn’t show up to work in Lynnwood, Washington, so her coworkers reported her missing. When the police went to her apartment, they found traces of blood and a strong smell of bleach. On January 7, they also found her burned-out car with body parts in it.
Two days later, the police received a call from a friend of Harlan’s boyfriend, 40-year-old Eric Christensen. The man said that he had helped Christensen dispose of the body. The man led the police to body parts that were scattered around rural Snohomish County. Christensen was arrested and eventually charged with first-degree murder.
At his trial, the prosecutors said that Christensen killed Harlan because she broke a Wiccan blood oath. Before the murder, Christensen had caught Harlan cheating and made her take a blood oath that she would never see the other man again.
Christensen was found guilty of first-degree murder and laughed loudly as he was led out of the courtroom. He was sentenced to 37.5 years in prison.
1 Lawrence Douglas Harris
On January 8, 2006, the fire department in Sioux City, Iowa, was called to the home of 26-year-old Lawrence Douglas Harris. He lived there with his wife and her daughters, 10-year-old Kendra Suing and eight-year-old Alysha Suing.
When firefighters arrived, they found that the fire had only caused superficial damage in the basement. Sadly, they also found the dead bodies of Kendra and Alysha. They had been strangled and stabbed to death.
Harris was the only one home with the girls at the time, so he was taken in for questioning. He admitted that he was interested in witchcraft.
When the girls were murdered, Harris said that he was trying to cast a spell that would protect the girls’ teenage brother. But the spell supposedly reversed itself and killed the two girls.
Harris pled not guilty due to insanity. However, he was found guilty of first-degree murder and given a life sentence.