Serial killers are master manipulators and experts at hiding in plain sight, and many have the ability to live double lives for years without getting caught. Some even settle down with partners and have children, all while continuing to commit unspeakable crimes under the facade of having a “normal” family.
Usually, the people who end up marrying serial killers have no idea they’re sleeping next to monsters, and their partners’ sadistic behavior can go completely unnoticed. Even for many of the wives of history’s grisliest murderers, their husbands’ arrests came as a total shock. Here are five women who unknowingly married serial killers:
1. Paula Rader
Paula Rader was married to her husband Dennis for 34 years before she found out he was a serial killer. Dennis, known as the BTK killer for his method of “bind, torture, kill,” murdered at least 10 women from 1974 to 1991. He was finally apprehended in the winter of 2005 after he accidentally incriminated himself while sending taunting letters to the police.
Following his arrest, Paula was granted an emergency divorce, and Dennis did not contest the separation. Though Paula has never made an official statement, her daughter Kerri Rawson came forward in 2014 and contended the family never knew Dennis was responsible for the murders.
“No way could she have known,” Rawson said. “She wouldn’t have raised us with him.”
Kelly Otis, a detective who was on the BTK task force, agreed, saying, “It’s absolutely true; they never knew about it.”
2. Linda Yates
When police arrested Robert L. Yates Jr. in connection with the murder of 13 people, his wife, Linda Yates, was in utter disbelief.
“How could you not see the signs?” Linda told "Dateline" after his 2000 arrest. "But, see, you’re so close to somebody you don’t see it."
Looking back, Linda said her husband did exhibit some suspicious behavior, but she had no idea he was a serial killer who preyed on sex workers. She simply believed he was engaging in extramarital affairs.
She told "Dateline,” "Especially when he said he was going hunting, and he was dressed up nice and had cologne on. You don’t go out hunting with cologne on."
When she found credit card statements detailing charges from an hourly-rate motel, Linda accused Robert of cheating on her. Robert denied having an affair and said he liked using the motel’s hot tub after a long day of work.
"He always had answers to everything," Linda said. "Already prepared in his mind, I think."
During his incarceration, Robert confessed to the killings in exchange for a plea deal. Linda later visited her husband in jail, asking him, “Do you know why you killed these women? [...] I want to know why, like anybody else. And how you could have done this, and still be married to me?"
3. Julie Baumeister
In the fall of 1994, Julie Baumeister’s 13-year-old son found human remains on the family’s $1 million estate, Fox Hollow Farm. When Julie asked Herb Baumeister, her husband of 23 years, about the bones, he told her they were from his anesthesiologist father’s medical school skeleton. Herb didn’t explain why they were in the woods behind their home, and a few days later, they were gone. Julie said she didn’t think twice about the discovery.
“It wasn’t like I was sitting at home with nothing else to think about,” she told People.
Two years later, police were searching the estate to build a case against Herb in connection with the multiple disappearances of gay men in the Indianapolis area. They found the remains of seven men on the Baumeister property. Herb went missing the day after the search started, and authorities found his body eight days later lying beside his car in a park. He had shot himself and left a three-page suicide note, but he did not mention the murders he was believed to have committed.
Of her late husband’s alleged killings, Julie told People, “Our biggest question now is how he could have loved us and done this. Happiness as we knew it is never going to return.”
4. Judith Mawson
When police showed up a Judith Mawson’s house in late 2001 and informed her that her husband Gary Ridgway had been arrested in connection with the Green River Killer case, she was in complete shock.
“I was crying,” she told People, “saying, ‘No, it can’t be him.'”
While Ridgway was incarcerated, he maintained his innocence and told Mawson that the police had captured the wrong person.
“We were trying to touch each other through the glass,” said Mawson. “I’d cry.”
Ridgway later confessed to killing 48 young women as part of a plea deal, but he admitted the total murders could be as many as 71. According to People, Mawson is still coming to terms with the fact that her ex-husband is one of history’s most prolific serial killers: “He made me smile every day. I had the perfect husband. Perfect life. And he was the perfect killer.”
5. Carole Hoff
Carole Hoff was the second wife of John Wayne Gacy, Jr., the serial killer who confessed to sexually molesting and murdering more than 30 boys and young men. Hoff married Gacy in 1972, and they were together for only four years. According to the Associated Press, Hoff said Gacy “started bringing home a lot of pictures of naked men" just before they separated, and one time, she found the wallets of several teenage men in his car.
Hoff told The New York Times that when she asked Gacy about the wallets, he became furious.
“He would throw furniture,” she said. “He broke a lot of my furniture.”
Along with her mother and two daughters from a previous marriage, Hoff lived in the Illinois home where Gacy committed many of his murders.
“I think now, if there were murders, some must have taken place when I was in that house,” Hoff said.
Hoff's mother also told the Associated Press that the house always smelled "like dead rats." The couple divorced in 1976 “on grounds that he was seeing other women.” After his arrest in 1978, police found 27 bodies buried in a crawl space underneath his home.
To find out about more unions that ended in tragedy, watch "A Wedding and A Murder," premiering Monday, Sept. 9 at 9/8c.