Not every monster suffers for their crime. Sometimes, even when a criminal gets caught and is found undeniably guilty, they can still be released back into society and their normal lives. Within our legal systems, there are a whole series of loopholes, technicalities, and strange standards that are ripe for catastrophes. And when the system goes wrong, some sick and twisted people walk free.
10 Carl Tanzler
Carl Tanzler fell in love with one of his patients, Elena de Hoyos, right before she died. Tanzler didn’t let a little thing like death stop his budding romance. He paid for de Hoyos’s burial so that he could keep the key to her tomb. Then he snuck her out of her grave and moved her into his house.
With plaster, wires, and wax, Tanzler propped Elena’s dead body up like a taxidermied animal. He kept her in his bed and slept with her every night. He replaced the decaying parts of her body as they fell off, bought her new clothes, and even put a paper tube between her legs as a makeshift vagina.
It took seven years until he was caught, spotted dancing with Elena’s body in front of his window. By then, though, the statute of limitations on his crimes had expired, and the courts couldn’t do anything to him. Tanzler was let go and never faced a single charge for his necrophiliac romance.
He even had the gall to ask the family to give him Elena’s body back. They refused, of course—but that didn’t stop Tanzler. He made a life-sized effigy of her anyway and lived the rest of his life as a free man, sharing a home with a model of a dead woman.
9 Rick Gibson
Rick Gibson is an artist of sorts, although he doesn’t exactly paint pictures. Instead, he’s the sort of artist who stands in the middle of public places and eats human flesh.
In 1988, Gibson bought his friend’s tonsils, took them into the middle of a busy market, and ate them, wearing a placard advertising that he was a cannibal. A year after that, he topped it by taking human testicles, slicing them, and swallowing them in front of the Lewisham Clock Tower.
Cannibalism, in England, isn’t specifically illegal, and since Gibson had bought the human body parts within the law, he couldn’t be stopped. The worst the law could ever throw at him was a £500 fine, handed out for indecency when he made earrings out of human fetuses.
Other people, though, have taken the law into their hands. In 1989, Gibson tried to publicly squash a live rat and use the splatter to make a painting. Again, he wasn’t technically breaking a law—but this time, a vigilante mob ran him off the streets and rescued the animal before he could pull off his stunt.
8 Father Mario Cimmarrusti
In the 1960s and 1970s, Father Mario Cimmarrusti sexually abused more than 250 boys, most between the ages of 13 and 18. He confessed to every one—and he never spent a day in jail.
Cimmarrusti was one of the worst abusers in the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandals. He would pull pubescent boys aside and tell them that he needed to examine their genitalia. He would spank them and then press their faces into his groin, and he would threaten and humiliate them to keep them quiet.
People in the Church knew about it, too. Some of the boys who were abused by Father Cimmarrusti said that other priests would walk in on him while he sexually assaulted young boys and just walk away without saying a word.
In 1992, people started to come forward against Father Cimmarrusti. He didn’t deny their accusations. During a psychological examination, he openly admitted to having abused 250 boys. But since the statute of limitations had passed, he was let go.
Cimmarrusti lived a free man for the rest of life. He died of old age, passing away peacefully in his sleep in 2013, at 82 years old.
7 James Sligo Jameson
In 1890, the heir to the Jameson Whiskey fortune did something the company usually doesn’t talk about: He bought a ten-year-old girl as a slave so that he could watch cannibals eat her.
Jameson signed up for an expedition into the Congo, ostensibly to help out with a relief effort. According to the people who knew him, though, the only thing he was really interested in was cannibalism. He was fascinated by it and would talk about it at every opportunity.
As soon as he got the chance, Jameson paid a tribe six handkerchiefs to buy a ten-year-old girl as a slave. Then he brought her to the hut of a cannibal tribe, where, through an interpreter, he declared, “This is a present from a white man, who wishes to see her eaten.”
The little girl was tied to a tree, had her belly gouged with a knife, and was left to die of blood loss before she was chopped into pieces and eaten. The whole time it was happening, Jameson watched, sketching the whole thing out in watercolors.
When word got out, Jameson wrote up his side of the story and sent it to the press—but he didn’t dispute any of the main points. He openly admitted to paying six handkerchiefs to see a girl get cannibalized. The only thing he wanted to clear up was that he drew up the sketches afterward from memory.
6 Vince Li
In 2008, Vince Li stabbed and beheaded Tim McLean, a man he’d never met before, on a Greyhound bus. While the other passengers fled in terror, Li severed parts of McLean’s body and cannibalized his flesh. It was a horrific crime that rocked the world—and yet, a little over eight years later, Vince Li was released back into the public. As of 2017, he had been completely and unconditionally discharged.
The reason Li got out so early was because he was criminally insane. Instead of prison, he was sent to a mental institution, which, in Canada, meant that he was entitled to a complete and total release as soon as he stopped being a threat to others.
By 2016, he was allowed to live on his own, with the only requirement being that monitors had to come by every day to make sure he was taking his medication. As of February 2017, though, Li no longer even had to check in. He is completely free and independent, and nobody’s even watching to make sure he’s taking the pills that are supposed to keep him from killing again.
When Tim McLean’s mother learned that her son’s killer was completely free, all she could say was, “I have no comment today. I have no words.”
5 Mitchell Johnson And Andrew Golden
In 1998, Mitch Johnson and Andrew Golden stole nine guns and a crate full of bullets and set themselves up in a forest outside a middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Golden sneaked in and set off the fire alarm before rushing back out to their hiding spot. As the children swept out, Johnson and Golden opened fire, killing four children and one adult before they were stopped.
The school shooting wasn’t Johnson’s first crime. Just one year earlier, he’d been caught molesting a two-year-old girl. He was brought to police and didn’t deny doing it, but he was let go. And for murdering five people, he only got seven years in jail.
The reason they were untouchable was their age. Johnson was 13 years old, and Golden was 11, so their only sentence was to stay in juvenile hall until they turned 21. It’s a law that, in theory, was meant to protect young offenders, although, ironically, it meant that Golden spent two more years in prison than Johnson purely because he was younger.
Since his release, Johnson (pictured above in 2007) has been in constant trouble with the law. He’s in and out of prison regularly. Currently, though, both boys are on the outside and are the only school shooters in the United States who were allowed to walk free.
4 William Seabrook
Writer William Seabrook was fascinated with the occult. In particular, he loved the idea of voodoo zombies. In fact, his writing is part of the reason zombies became the staple of popular culture they are today.
In the 1920s, Seabrook decided he wanted to try human flesh himself. He went to West Africa and begged a tribal chief to let him join in on a cannibalistic ritual. The chief tricked him and only gave him gorilla meat, but Seabrook wasn’t about to give up. If he couldn’t get human flesh in Africa, he would get it his own way.
Seabrook had a friend who worked in a hospital smuggle out human remains. Then he held a dinner party for all of his friends, where he invited people to watch while he ate human flesh. Technically, doing so wasn’t a crime, so he simply continued living free, even describing the taste of human flesh in one of his books.
His whole life was full of unnerving behavior that wasn’t quite illegal. In his private life, he liked to keep his wives and mistresses chained up for days, where he’d whip them and make them eat off the floor like animals.
Coming from a man who’d eaten human flesh, it seemed like more than just a harmless fetish. Still, it wasn’t really illegal. Nothing Seabrook did was a crime, technically speaking—so he lived his whole life a free man.
3 Pedro Lopez
Pedro Lopez spent 14 years in prison. He didn’t get off completely free, and for a lot of people, that would seem like a harsh sentence, but Lopez was no petty criminal. He’d raped and murdered more than 300 people.
Lopez liked to target little girls, especially between the ages of nine and 12 years old. He would abduct them, rape them, strangle them, and bury them in a mass grave—and he did so for years before he got caught. When he was arrested in Ecuador in 1980, Lopez confessed to more than 300 murders, and shortly afterward, police found a mass grave that backed up his story. He was sent to prison for 16 years but let out early for good behavior.
After being set free, Lopez was sent to Colombia, where he was put in a mental health hospital. He was only there for three years, though, before they let him go, deeming him fit to reenter society.
Nearly the second he was free, Lopez bailed out of the country, and it’s believed that he killed again. He’s now wanted for a new murder committed after his release, but nobody has seen him since.
2 Karla Homolka
Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo are two of Canada’s most notorious serial killers. The pair confessed to raping and murdering and least three women, but it’s widely believed that they killed far more people than that.
Their crimes are unimaginably awful. Homolka started her killing spree by drugging her own teenage sister and presenting her to Bernardo as a wedding present. She joined her fiance in raping and murdering her own sister, filmed the whole thing, and went on to do the same thing to many more young girls. Bernardo was sent to jail for life—but Homolka worked out a plea deal, and after confessing to raping, torturing, and murdering three people, she only spent 12 years in prison. She was released in 2005.
Since then, Homolka has gotten married and had three kids. Canada’s most hated serial killer now lives in a town in Quebec. Most troubling of all, her three kids are going to the local public school, surrounded by teachers and parents who know exactly who their mother is and what she’s done. They, more than anyone, will pay the cost for their mother’s crimes.
1 Issei Sagawa
Issei Sagawa committed one of the worst crimes in recent memory—and purely on a technicality, he got off completely free.
In 1981, after years of repressing cannibalistic desires, Sagawa lured a classmate to his apartment in Paris and shot her in the neck. He used a carving knife to slice off pieces of her buttocks and thigh, ate them, and then raped her dead, partially eaten body. He was caught carrying her dismembered body out in suitcases to dispose of it in a lake. When the police arrested him, he admitted to everything he’d done, telling them, “I killed her to eat her flesh.”
The French courts found him insane and unfit to stand trial, so he was expedited home to Japan. Once Sagawa was in Japan, though, the French courts refused to share their documents, feeling that the case was closed and sealed. With nothing to use against him, the Japanese courts had to let him go.
Not only did Sagawa go free, but he became a minor celebrity, conducting interviews and writing books that glorify his crime. And he openly admits that he plans on killing again.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I want to eat human flesh again,” Sagawa said in an interview. “It’s delicious stuff.”