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Crime News Buried in the Backyard

Bones, Bodies, And More — The Scariest Discoveries Made In The Backyard

As "Buried In The Backyard," airing on Thursday, November 18 at 8/7c on Oxygen, proves, chilling discoveries can be made right where you live. 

By Becca van Sambeck
Backyard 1 G

Most bodies are buried in a cemetery. But sometimes, they're uncovered in less secluded locations: a home's basement. The backyard. The idea of finding a body that's been hidden in your own home, makes the thought of finding a murder victim even more terrifying.

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It's cases like these that are explored in the Oxygen series "Buried In The Backyard." In advance of Season 4 of the show, premiering Thursday, November 18 at 8/7c on Oxygen, we're recounting some of the most disturbing discoveries made around someone's home, from serial killers who turned houses into burial grounds to unsuspecting homeowners who made shocking discoveries in their new crawlspaces.

1. The Body Of Lisa Fein, Found In Her Own Backyard

A mother of two from Galien Township, Michigan, Lisa Fein vanished from her home in the early morning hours of June 30, 2000. Her son had woken to hear his mother screaming and fighting with a man in a black helmet, and he escaped with his brother. Fein was gone when authorities arrived.

But was eventually found dead in a shallow grave in a field behind her own home, her face covered in duct tape. The killer was eventually identified as the father of one of her sons, Frank Spagnola. The case was featured in a 2018 episode of "Buried In The Backyard."

2. John Wayne Gacy Hides Bodies In His Crawl Space

John Wayne Gacy, often known as the Killer Clown thanks to his gig as a clown for children's birthday parties, murdered at least 33 boys and young men during the 1970s. He lured his victims to his home in the Chicago area, and then raped and tortured them before killing them. 

Gacy was eventually caught after he was connected to the murder of a man named Robert Piest. The notorious serial killer confessed to his crimes, and ultimately, 26 victims were found decomposing in a crawl space under his house. Three other bodies were found buried elsewhere on the property. 

3. Christopher Denoyer's Remains Found By Unsuspecting Couple

On January 13, 1984, Dale Villarta left her home for a day trip to California. When she came back, she realized one of her teenage sons, Christopher Denoyer, was missing. Villarta was understandably worried, but the family soon received a telegram, seemingly from Chris, stating he had run away to Los Angeles.

But Denoyer had never actually left the home at all. In January 1998, the new owners of the home were renovating when they made a horrifying discovery in the crawlspace: the body of Christopher Denoyer. He had been been shot to death by Jackson Villarta, his stepfather, and buried directly underneath the home. The case was featured in a 2020 episode of "Buried In the Backyard."

4. Body Uncovered In A Farmhouse Well

Alkenyatta “Al” Wilson, a father and a mobile home salesman living in Alabama vanished one night in July 2001 after showing a mobile home, The Ledger-Enquirer reported in 2011. When his body resurfaced years later, it was found in a horrific spot: the bottom of a well in someone's yard. 

It soon emerged Wilson had been murdered by a trio of brothers who wanted to stop him from testifying against one of them, the outlet reported.

5. A Boarding Home Turned Into A House Of Horrors

Dorothea Puente may have looked like a sweet and caring order lady who took in disabled people while running a Sacramento boarding house in the 1980s. But her tenants had a way of disappearing — and in 1988, police discovered the remains of nine people buried around her home. 

"The Death House Landlady," as she was soon nicknamed, was actually drugging her tenants, killing them, burying them in her yard, and then cashing their Social Security and disability checks. 

“Puente preyed on what investigators called ‘shadow people’ — the elderly, alcoholics and the disabled,” The Los Angeles Times reported in her obituary. “Though there were no witnesses to the slayings, prosecutors said Puente was one of the most ‘cold, calculating’ female serial killers the country had ever seen.”

6. A Missing Woman Found Dead In An Unlikely Spot

In January 1995, 19-year-old Erica Miller vanished from York, Pennsylvania. Her family and investigators worked tirelessly to locate the missing teenager, and two moths later, a young couple made a stunning and gruesome discovery in their backyard: the remains of a young woman, gagged and nude. She had been shot to death.

Witnesses soon came forward, saying that Miller had claimed she'd been offered a top-secret government job guarding a safe house, according to court documents. But the job was a scam – it was merely a ruse to lure her out to the yard, where she was shot in the head by James Begley, an ex-boyfriend of her mother's, who then fooled his friend into allowing him to bury the body on the property. The case was featured in a past episode of "Buried In The Backyard."

For more stories about shocking discoveries made in people's backyards, watch "Buried In The Backyard," premiering Thursday, November 18 at 8/7c on Oxygen.

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