Shocking and Tragic Last Photos of Murder Victims
From the beginning of recorded history — and even prior to that — crime has fascinated humankind. The success of countless books, films and other platforms devoted to chronicling / portraying criminal acts attest to the keen interest we have for the subject.
One crime, above all others, never fails to attract curiosity; the act of murder, the ultimate crime. The intense curiosity this heinous act creates can’t be easily explained despite extensive studies attempting to determine the psychology / reasoning behind it. Trying to understand the mind of the murderer (in particular serial killers); their motivation and methods, is even more of a curiosity, specifically the subject of “last photos of murder victims.” Following are examples of this not-as-rare-as-you-might-think practice of taking last photos of murder victims as trophies.
Rodney Alcala – The “Dating Game Killer”
One of the more well-known examples of killers taking last photos of their victims is Rodney Alcala, who claims to have killed 50-100 victims over a decade-plus span. In addition to being a convicted serial killer, Alcala is notorious for his “winning” appearance on the TV gameshow “The Dating Game” in 1978. He was somehow picked to be on the show despite having previously served a three-year prison sentence for brutally raping and beating an eight year-old girl. Alcala is currently on death row in California, convicted of killing eight young women, while suspected of killing as many as 130.
The following are just a few of Rodney Alcala’s suspected victims. This is a small sampling of hundreds of photographs of unidentified women and children found in Alcala’s Seattle, Washington storage locker after his arrest. Authorities believe that these may be last photos of his victims, taken by Alcala as trophies.
If you recognize any of the above persons or have information as to their identities or whereabouts, please contact Huntington Beach, California Police Department at 714-375-5066.
Robert Berdella – The “Kansas City Butcher”
Between 1984-88, Robert Berdella murdered six men, memorializing his crimes by keeping a grisly, detailed “torture log” and taking Polaroid snapshots (investigators confiscated hundreds of them) of his activities. Along with the murder photos, Berdella also kept “souvenirs,” body parts of his murder victims. The victims were all 18-22 year-old Caucasian males who were lured to his residence, drugged and then tortured to death, either overnight or over several weeks. He was caught after a potential seventh victim managed to escape and call police from a nearby neighbor’s home. Berdella died in prison in 1992.
William Richard Bradford
Not surprisingly, given the subject matter, the next addition in this collection of last photos of murder victims posed as a photographer to befriend his victims before murdering them. The “photographer” was William Richard Bradford, an otherwise nondescript Californian who was sentenced to death in 1988 for the brutal murders of two females, one of them his 15-year-old neighbor.
Bradford became a suspect in additional disappearances / possible murders following the discovery of more than 50 photographs of young females in his apartment. At his trial, Bradford dropped hints that he’d murdered many others. Unfortunately, he died while incarcerated in 2008 without giving any further information on the other possible victims.
In 1988, William Richard “Bill” Bradford was sentenced to death by the state of California for the rape and murder of his 15-year-old neighbor, Tracy Campbell, and 21-year-old barmaid, Shari Miller. After Bradford had served 18 years on death row in San Quentin State Prison, a detective in the Los Angeles police department rediscovered 50+ photographs of “aspiring models” that had been used against Bradford in his original trial for the deaths of Campbell and Miller. These 54 photographs were released to the public in poster-size in July of 2006. Since the poster went up, Donnalee Campbell Duhamel, or “#28” on the poster, has been identified as deceased at 31 years of age, her decapitated body found in a canyon near Malibu, California in 1978. Woman #3 has been identified as alive, and the sister of actress Eva LaRue. As of today, Los Angeles police say that 31 of the women from this poster have been identified (most of them still living). With these discoveries, that still leaves 21 potential victims to be identified.
Alfonso Basterra and Rosario Porto
In a 2015 trial that mesmerized and appalled Spain, divorced husband-and-wife Basterra and Porto were convicted of murdering their adopted 12 year-old daughter by drugging and strangling her two years earlier. A post-mortem autopsy on the girl, Asunta Basterra, revealed dangerous amounts of lorazepam, a powerful tranquilizer that Porto, an attorney, had a prescription for. As if this situation could seem any worse, risqué photos of the young Asunta were found on a computer belonging to her adopted father, Alfonso Basterra.
In a slight reversal, the death of Filipino politician Reynaldo Dagsa was captured in a photograph seconds before his assassination — with the photo taken by Dagsa himself. This once-in-a-lifetime occurrence took place on New Year’s Day, 2011 as the respected councilman was attempting to take a photo of his family outside of their residence in Manila. Thanks to the photo, the gunman and an accomplice were arrested within days.
Harvey Glatman – “The Lonely Hearts Killer” or “The Glamour Girl Slayer”
Another serial killer who lured his murder victims by posing as a photographer, Harvey Glatman preyed on young females who aspired to become fashion models. Glatman committed his crimes over an 11-month period spanning 1957-58. There are three known Glatman victims and strong suspicions of a fourth.
In constant trouble as a teenager, Harvey Glatman served four years in prison for stalking and mugging. Once out on parole in 1957, he moved to Los Angeles, joined a photography club, purchased costly equipment, and embarked on his new “career” as a professional photographer.
As a photographer, Glatman began trolling Los Angeles’s famously seedy underbelly for young women to model for what he called “detective magazine” shoots. This term was an understood euphemism for taking illicit bondage pics. This ploy not only enabled Glatman to get his victims to willingly and easily put themselves at his mercy, but it also enabled him to take their pictures as trophies before killing them.
19 year-old Judith ‘Judy’ Ann Dull became Harvey Glatman’s first victim. Glatman raped and murdered Dull by strangulation, then dumped her body in the desert. Victim number two was Shirley Bridgeford, whom Glatman met through a “Lonely Hearts Club.” She was taken to the desert, photographed, raped and then murdered. Glatman’s third victim was another aspiring model, Ruth Mercado. Glatman stuck to his now well developed pattern: find a young woman willing to pose in bondage shoots, rape and murder by strangulation, while taking photos for trophies.
Glatman’s “luck” ran out however, when yet another prospective model, Lorraine Vigil, was able to fight off Glatman’s advances in his car, drawing the attention of the police. The incident led to arrest. Under questioning, Glatman confessed to the murders of his three victims. He was arrested, convicted, and finally executed in 1959.
The Haunting Polaroid
For nearly 30 years, professional criminologists from such esteemed organizations as Scotland Yard and the FBI have been stymied in their attempts to solve the mystery of the Polaroid snapshot found in a Florida parking lot in 1989. The color photograph shows a young boy and (presumed) teenage girl bound and gagged, lying on what appears to be either a bed or in the back of a van. Upon widespread circulation of the photo, several leads were developed, one of the most promising coming from the family of Tara Calico, a 19 year-old female from New Mexico who had gone missing nearly a year earlier. Investigative findings turned out to be inconclusive, leaving the identities of the pair a mystery almost three decades later.
On October 8, 2009, the Jamison family of Eufala, Oklahoma were in the southeastern region of the state to view property they were considering purchasing. The family, husband and wife Bobby and Sherilyn, along with six year-old daughter Madyson and the family dog, were last seen alive by a local man. Eight days later, hunters discovered their locked, abandoned truck with the still-alive dog and several items inside.
Items recovered from the truck included Bobby’s cellphone and wallet, Sherilyn’s purse, and a bank bag containing $32,000 stuffed under the driver’s seat. Also puzzling was a photo of Madyson found on her father’s cellphone, presumably taken the day prior to the family’s disappearance — no doubt one of the last photos taken of the six-year-old. Despite exhaustive detective work, the case appeared to be a lost cause until four years later (2013) when hunters, less than three miles from where the truck was found, came across human skeletal remains that were subsequently identified to be the Jamisons. Due to decomposition, examiners were unable to determine either the time and/or cause of death, leaving this baffling mystery exactly that — a mystery.
Robert Ben Rhoades – “The Truck Stop Killer”
When Arizona state trooper Mike Miller stopped to investigate a semi truck on the side of Interstate 10 with its hazard lights on in April, 1990, what he discovered signaled the beginning of the end of the murderous terror spree of truck driver Robert Ben Rhoades. Inside of the truck was a nude, handcuffed woman who fortunately avoided becoming Rhoades’ final murder victim.
After being arrested and questioned, investigators executed a search warrant on Rhoades residence, where they discovered nude photos of other women whom he’d abducted, tortured and eventually murdered. A full-blown investigation ensued, resulting in multiple murder convictions, with additional evidence possibly linking Rhoades to as many as 50 as-yet-unsolved murders across the U.S. between 1963-1990.
One particularly disturbing incident involved then-14-year old Regina Walters, a runaway from Houston who, along with her boyfriend, had hitched a ride in Rhoades truck in early 1990. After killing the boyfriend and dumping the body in Mississippi, Rhoades kept Walters in his truck for an unknown period of time, regularly torturing the teenager until finally strangling her. A terrifying last photo of Ms. Walters, taken moments before her death, was discovered in Rhoades’s grisly collection of murder photos of his victims. Robert Ben Rhoades is currently incarcerated in Illinois.