In some instances, murder cases are never solved. And when this happens, the perpetrators of the heinous acts take their secrets to the grave. However, every now and then, the realization that their life is coming to an end causes some killers to confess. So, here are 20 shocking deathbed confessions which often shed light on some notorious crimes.
20. Mark “Chopper” Read
Mark “Chopper” Read was a notorious Australian gangster who spent much of his life engaged in criminal activities. His subsequent convictions were for assault, kidnap and armed robbery – though he once also claimed to have been involved in 19 murders. From his Melbourne prison cell, Read later fashioned himself into an author, and his works included a controversial children’s book called Hooky the Cripple.
The 2000 film Chopper was inspired by Read’s life story; however, his final act was perhaps stranger than fiction. While on his deathbed with liver cancer in 2013, he claimed that he had ended the lives of four people. And one of his victims was reportedly a convicted child-murderer who Read was said to have killed in jail.
19. Frank Thorogood
Guitarist Bryan Jones was a founding member of the Rolling Stones and is even credited with giving the band its name. However, he was dismissed from the Stones in 1969 and less than a month later he was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool on his property in England.
Jones’ untimely death was ruled an accident by the authorities, though many have come to believe that he may have been murdered. This theory was seemingly given credence following the deathbed confession of builder Frank Thorogood in 1993. According to Terry Rawlings’ book Who Killed Christopher Robin?, the construction worker apparently said, “It was me [who] did [Jones]. I just finally snapped.”
18. James Brewer
Jimmy Carroll was shot dead in Tennessee in 1977 at the age of 20. And his murder went unsolved for over 30 years until one of the victim’s old neighbors from Tennessee confessed to the killing. James Brewer had fled the state and changed his name after being arrested and charged with the crime shortly after it occurred.
However, Brewer re-emerged in 2009 after having a stroke. Believing he was on his last legs, he called police to his deathbed and reportedly confessed to killing Carroll – who he believed had flirted with his wife. But in a surprise twist to the tale, Brewer recovered and was subsequently charged with the murder.
17. Margaret Gibson
William Desmond Taylor was a pioneering director in the silent movie era – directing a total of 59 films over an eight-year period from 1914. However, Taylor’s career was dramatically cut short when he was shot dead in February 1922. His murder remains unsolved, though the actress Margaret Gibson reportedly confessed to the crime 42 years later.
Gibson had worked with Taylor in the early part of his career and was 27 at the time of his murder. 40 years after the crime, she reportedly confessed to a neighbor that she was Taylor’s killer after having a heart attack. Furthermore, Gibson had reportedly made similar comments in the early 1960s when she “became hysterical” after seeing a segment about Taylor’s murder on TV.
16. Ottis Toole
Convicted killer Ottis Toole was linked to 100 killings across the United States and subsequently convicted on six counts of murder. However, he made a number of confessions which he later withdrew. And this lead some to question whether he really was a serial murderer or simply a compliant interviewee.
Nevertheless, there was one killing that Toole continued to admit to even after he was sentenced to death in Florida for another crime. That was the slaying of six-year-old Adam Walsh – which the drifter could describe in vivid detail. Walsh’s body has never been located, but on two occasions Toole confessed to the boy’s murder and stated that the death was accidental.
15. Keefe D
Rapper Keefe D – real name Duane Keith Davis – reportedly witnessed one of the most famous drive-by shootings to ever rock the hip hop scene. That’s because he claimed to have been in the front passenger seat of the white Cadillac from which Tupac was shot and killed in 1996. Davis made the confession 22 years later after being diagnosed with cancer.
On account of his illness, Davis was immune from prosecution. As a result, the rapper decided to come clean about apparently witnessing Tupac’s murder in the BET documentary Death Row Chronicles. Davis claimed he was riding in the car with other members of the Southside Crips gang, but he refused to divulge who actually pulled the trigger.
14. Geraldine Kelley
Geraldine Kelley wasn’t a woman to mess with; she reportedly kept attack dogs as pets and sometimes sported a six-foot boa constrictor around her neck. However, no one really knew how cold-blooded Kelley was until she was dying from cancer in 2004. For it was then that she confessed to the killing of her husband John.
Kelley had previously claimed that her husband had died in a car accident. In reality, it turned out that Kelley had shot him in the head – before storing his body in a freezer for the best part of a decade. His body had therefore been left well-preserved when they finally located his remains. As a result, they could identify him by his appearance as well as his distinctive tattoos.
13. James Washington
Joyce Goodener’s body was found by firefighters in 1995. The 35-year-old had been stabbed and beaten before being rolled up inside a rug and set alight. The search for Goodener’s killer ultimately went cold until 2009 when a suspect in her murder confessed to the crime. His name was James Washington, and by that time he was an inmate at a Nashville prison.
Washington told prison guard James Tomlinson that he had beaten Goodener to death while he was recovering in hospital following a seizure. In 2012 the latter told a court that Washington had made the admission in an attempt to clear his conscience. He was subsequently convicted of Goodener’s murder for which he received a life sentence of at least 51 years.
12. Alice Mock
Wayman Cammile Jr. spent 12 years in jail after being convicted of raping Alice Mock. The former was a chronic alcoholic and described the victim as a drinking partner. But after he was found in her bed intoxicated in May 1975, Mock told cops that Cammile had broken into her home and forced himself upon her.
Reportedly on the advice of his lawyer, Cammile pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary and sexual assault. However, as Mock lay dying in 1986 she revealed to a neighbor that she had lied about the assault. She explained that she’d done so because she believed she’d be evicted if her landlord discovered that she had allowed a black man into her home. Mock said that she had also taken money from Cammile – who was later freed on account of Mock’s confession.
11. Joe Douglas
When Charley Ross was kidnapped in 1874, his case caused a media storm as a result of the four-year-old family’s wealth and because there was a ransom. However, as the months passed there was still no news of Ross. That was until police foiled a burglary in December 1874 involving professional criminals Bill Mosher and Joe Douglas.
While Mosher died at the scene, Douglas survived the shootout long enough to confess to the kidnap of Ross. The youngster’s brother – who was there when he was abducted – was later taken to view the two criminals’ bodies. And he confirmed that they were indeed the men who took his sibling. Unfortunately, Ross was never found, and nobody knows what happened to him.
10. Unknown man
Sixteen-year-old Emma Alice Smith disappeared in Sussex, England, in 1926. And for over 80 years it wasn’t clear what became of her. However, in 2009 a distant relative of Smith’s said that her sister Lillian had received a deathbed confession from an unknown man in the 1950s – claiming that he had killed the missing teen.
The investigation into Smith’s murder was subsequently reopened in the hopes of finding the teen’s body. But in 2011 Sussex Police dismissed the unknown man’s confession. It was their belief that Smith had not been murdered, but that she’d instead eloped to the Republic of Ireland with her married suitor Thomas Wills.
9. Roy Heath
Roy Heath admitted to murder after police located human remains beneath the patio of his flat in London, England, in 2010. At the time of his confession, Heath was terminally ill and residing at a hospice. Nevertheless, when police asked him about the skeleton, he admitted to strangling a man to death 12 years prior.
Heath named the man as Iraqi-born Mohammed Taki – who had last been seen at a doctor’s appointment in January 1998. Police located his remains beneath a layer of concrete at Heath’s home following a tip-off. Unfortunately, though, the killer was never brought to justice as he died 13 days after his confession.
Shortly after Oliver Stone directed his acclaimed 1991 political thriller JFK the filmmaker was contacted by a former government agent who allegedly gave him the inside story on John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The man in question claimed to have been part of the president’s security team at the time of his death in 1963.
The mysterious agent – who called himself “Ron” – was dying of cancer and had apparently wanted to share the truth behind Kennedy’s assassination. So, according to a 2016 story by the Daily Mail, he told Stone that “somebody from his own team… had fired on the president.” Despite the number of theories surrounding JFK’s death, Stone thought that Ron’s story was “plausible” – though we may never know the truth.
7. Tor Hepsø
Fritz Moen spent 18 years in jail accused of the rape and murder of Torunn Finstad and Sigrid Heggheim. Both crimes took place separately in Trondheim, Norway, and Moen subsequently confessed to the murders. However, he would later be exonerated for the crimes after another man called Tor Hepsø admitted that he was responsible for them.
Hepsø – who was already a convicted felon – confessed to the murders shortly before his death in December 2005. His admission came around nine months after Moen had passed. As a result, he was posthumously acquitted of the crimes he did jail time for. His case has subsequently become infamous in Norway and has been described as the country’s biggest miscarriage of justice ever.
6. Paul Branch
Amy Billig went missing in March 1974 at the age of 17. The teenager had been on her way to her father’s art gallery in the neighborhood of Coconut Grove in Miami, Florida. However, she vanished without a trace, and her mother Susan would never learn what became of her daughter.
In 1996 a Virginia woman claimed to the BBC that her husband Paul Branch had spoken about Billig’s murder on his deathbed. He reportedly told his wife that the teen had been kidnapped and gang-raped before her body was cut up and dumped in a canal. Despite the confession, however, Billig’s family never bought the story and her disappearance remains unsolved.
5. Vernon Seitz
In one particularly strange deathbed confession, in 2009 Vernon Seitz told his psychiatrist he had killed two children. The psychiatrist told the cops – who went to question Seitz but found him dead at his home. However, a subsequent search of the former barber’s property uncovered a number of disturbing items including child pornography and newspaper clippings about missing kids.
Among Seitz’s possessions police found a collection of videos and photographs of the missing boy Jacob Wetterling. As a result, it was speculated that he may have been responsible for the boy’s abduction in 1989. However, in 2015 Wetterling’s remains were located and a man called Danny Heinrich subsequently confessed to his kidnap and murder.
4. Eileen Tessier
Seven-year-old Maria Ridulph disappeared from her neighborhood in Sycamore, Illinois, in December 1957. She had last been spotted with an unidentified man who went by the name of Johnny. The search for Ridulph came to an end five months later, when two tourists discovered her remains in rural Jo Daviess County.
Ridulph’s murder has remained unsolved in the U.S. for over five decades. However, a glimmer of hope appeared after the deathbed confession of a former neighbor Eileen Tessier came to light. She reportedly claimed her son Jack McCullough had committed the crime. He was convicted of Ridulph’s murder in 2012, but the conviction was overturned in 2016 after evidence proved he was not in Sycamore when the child vanished.
3. Christopher Smith
When 26-year-old mother-of-two Joan Harrison was murdered in the English county of Lancashire in 1975, police feared that she’d fallen victim to the infamous Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe. However, 35 years after the crime, investigators successfully linked the killing to Christopher Smith – who had confessed to Harrison’s murder on his deathbed in 2008.
The day before he died of cancer, Smith – a convicted sex offender – left a note in which he seemingly identified himself as Harrison’s killer. It was found by the police later at his home. The confession read, “[To whoever] it concerns, I would like to put the record straight. I can’t go on with the guilt. I have lived with it for over 20 years.”
2. Henry Alexander
In April 1957 fishermen located the remains of Willie Edwards on the banks of the Alabama River – ten miles outside of Montgomery. He had been targeted by members of the Ku Klux Klan who claimed that he had said something derogatory to a white woman. As a result, they drove him out into the countryside and forced him to jump off a bridge at gunpoint.
But the horrific event of Edwards’ death lived on in the memory of Klansman Henry Alexander. Apparently, he was wracked with guilt for his part in the murder right up until his death – according to his widow Diane. In the weeks before Alexander’s passing in 1992, the Klansman had apparently told his wife that he had mistakenly identified Edwards as the person who’d offended the white woman. As a result, he’d felt responsible for his death.
1. Sharon Smith
In November 2008 Sharron Diane Crawford Smith admitted to killing two of her ice cream store co-workers 41 years prior. The women – Constance Smootz Hevener and Carolyn Hevener Perry – were shot dead at their place of work in Staunton, Virginia. But their murders would go unsolved for over four decades until Smith finally confessed to the crime.
Smith had been dealing with kidney and heart problems when she confessed to the murders. She told cops that she had killed her two victims because they teased her for being gay. According to a police manuscript obtained by CNN in 2009, Smith said, “I was just pushed so far.” As a result, she was subsequently charged with first-degree murder prior to her death in January 2009.