The holidays are that special time of year where you are supposed to celebrate one of the few constants in life: Family. Each year, people endure endless traffic, flight delays and all manners of stress to drink eggnog, enjoy cookies, wear ugly sweaters and unwrap gifts.
But the prescense of family is the real present, right?
Let’s face it, not all family members are gifts. Some are more like lumps of coal, reminding us why we only see them once a year.
So when that one uncle starts bellowing about government conspiracy theories and your weird, thrice-divorced aunt wants to know why you’re still single, remember, things could always be worse; after all, you could be related to some of the folks on the list below.
These cases deal with people that this year were accused or convicted of committing heinous crimes against their own blood. They demonstrate that family isn’t always what we hope it to be — or in other words, that blood is definitely not always thicker than water.
1. Ohio Family Massacre
Although the victims of this particular case were killed in 2016, another entire family was arrested this year in connection with their massacre. In 2016, eight members of a family were brutally slaughtered: Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., and 19-year-old Hanna; Clarence Rhoden's fiancée, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden, were all found murdered at an Ohio farm.
In November, police arrested a family of four in the slayings of the Rhoden family. George "Billy" Wagner III, 47; his wife, 48-year-old Angela Wagner; and their sons, 27-year-old George Wagner and 26-year-old Edward Wagner, face aggravated murder charges and other counts that carry the possibility of a death sentence if they're convicted.
Earlier this year, investigators released the chilling details of the slayings.
Christopher Rhoden Sr., had been shot nine times and was in a back bedroom of a trailer, the Chillicothe Gazette reported at the time. Gary Rhoden was found in the same trailer. Dana Rhoden was killed in the same trailer as her children, Chris and Hanna. She had been shot four times in the right side of her head and a fifth time under her chin, the newspaper reports. Hanna Rhoden was found shot twice in the head laying next to her 5-day-old daughter, who was not hurt. In another trailer, Frankie Rhoden and his fiancée, Hannah Gilley, were shot in their bed, while their 6-month-old son slept between them. The baby and Rhoden's other 4-year-old son were not hurt. Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s older brother Kenneth Rhoden was also found shot once in the head in another camper.
A motive for the massacre has not yet been released.
2. Chris Watts Murders His Entire Family
The nation was mystified this year after a Colorado man named Christopher Watts admitted to killing his entire family after cheating on his wife with his coworker. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in November for killing Shanann Watts, 34, and their children, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant.
Shanann and her little girls seemingly vanished from their home in Frederick, Colorado, a small town north of Denver, in August. In the days after reporting them missing, Watts played the role of distraught husband and father pleading for their safe return in several emotional media appearances. He told police he last saw his wife and two girls at about 5:15 a.m. the day they vanished, when he left for work.
However, Watts was soon being scrutinized as the main suspect in their disappearance. On Aug. 16, three days after they vanished, police recovered the body of Shannan in a shallow grave on a property owned by Anadarko Petroleum. That same day, Watts was charged with three counts of murder and one count of obstruction of justice. Then, just hours later, the bodies of Bella and Celeste were found hidden inside of oil and gas tanks, not far from where the body of their mother was discovered. At first, Watts even blamed his wife for some of the deaths, claiming that she killed their daughters after he confessed to an affair. Later, he admitted to killing them all himself.
He spoke about how Watts’ wife Shanann texted him over and over trying to save their marriage, how she bought relationship books for him, one of which was found in the trash. Instead, he shopped for jewelry and vacation spots for his new girlfriend.
Prosecutor Michael Rourke said Watts killed his family not out of rage, but in a calculated manner.
“Why did this have to happen? [Watts]' motive was simple, your honor,” Rourke said. “He had a desire for a fresh start.”
3. Journalist Allegedly Killed By Uncle In Murder-Suicide
A popular Cleveland culture reporter who was found dead alongside her uncle inside a trailer home in November was killed by that uncle in a murder-suicide, investigators say.
Nikki Delamotte, 30, and her uncle, 67-year-old Robert J. Delamotte, were found dead on Nov. 12 in Perrysburg Township, Ohio. While she died of multiple gunshot wounds, police said her uncle suffered only a single shot, according to NBC News. Police have determined that Robert Delamotte shot Nikki Delamotte several times before he committed suicide, Cleveland.com reports. She worked as a culture reporter for the news outlet.
A possible motive has not been released.
Nikki Delamotte had only recently gotten back in contact with her father's brother after the death of her maternal grandmother.
"Nikki was trying to reconnect with the small family left and did detective work to find her Uncle Bob on her father's side. [...] Neither of us had seen him in about 20 years. They connected Oct. 13 after a memorial lunch for my mother," Joann Ullman, the reporter’s mother, told NBC News.
Her former employer described her as a “journalist with heart,” while Poynter, a site specializing in media-related coverage, spoke to some of her former colleagues, who all commented on her tenacity and professionalism as a reporter.
“Nikki Delamotte was the new friend you'd known forever. She was that warm, that giving, that caring — and that much fun to be around,” Cleveland.com wrote in an editorial. “And how could anyone kill someone so good, so kind, who uplifted all of us through her writing and celebrated all that was good, quirky and delicious about Cleveland?”
4. Another Conviction in the 'Mommy Dead and Dearest' Case
A Wisconsin man was convicted on November 16 in the stabbing death of a Missouri woman who forced her daughter for years to pretend to be disabled as part of a fraud scheme. The case was the subject of the HBO documentary “Mommy Dead And Dearest.”
Nicholas Godejohn, 29, of Big Bend, Wisconsin,was found guilty of first-degree murder. He will be sentenced in February.
Prosecutors and Godejohn's attorneys agreed that he killed Clauddine "Dee Dee" Blanchard, 48, at her home near Springfield, Missouri, in June 2015. The trial centered on whether he committed first-degree murder or a lesser crime. Gypsy, the daughter of Blanchard, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for her role as the mastermind in her mother's murder. Blanchard was found dead in her Missouri home on June 14, 2015, face down on her mattress in a puddle of blood.
Defense attorneys argued that Blanchard's daughter, Gypsy, manipulated Godejohn into killing her mother in order to escape from an abusive home life. It's suspected that Blanchard had Munchausen by proxy, a condition wherein a caregiver fabricates health problems of the person they are caring for with the intent to gain sympathy and attention. Blanchard had been lying about her daughter’s ailments since she was a baby, fabricating a reality in which she couldn't walk and required a wheelchair, subjecting her to unnecessary surgery and medications, and falsely claiming she suffered from leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and mental retardation, amongst other ailments. In addition to sympathy, Blanchard garnered donations, free trips, and even a house.
5. Mother Allegedly Tries To Kill All Her Kids As They Slept
Amy Hall, a 39-year-old mother from Oklahoma, is accused of trying to shoot and kill all three of her children while they slept at their Nuyaka home on November 1.
Kayson Toliver, 18, was fatally shot to death in the home as he slept. His sister, 16-year-old Kloee Toliver, died of her injuries less than a week after the shooting.
It could have been three victims, but Hall's 14-year-old daughter was able to wrestle the gun away from her mother after a bullet grazed her, police said. That teen, whose name hasn’t been disclosed, was treated for injuries at a hospital and later released, according to KTUL in Tulsa.
Hall allegedly admitted to police that she shot her children and said her youngest daughter "interrupted the plan," according to an affidavit cited by Tulsa World.
Hall allegedly told police she wanted to save her children from their abusive father and had intended to kill herself after their deaths. After her 14-year-old daughter took her gun, she fled the scene and was apprehended soon after, according to police.
6. Grandma Allegedly Baked Baby In Oven
Royalty Marie Floyd, who was just 20 months old, was found dead in October inside an oven in Shaw, Mississippi. Her grandmother Carolyn Jones, 48, was charged with first-degree murder for Floyd’s death. The child was living with Jones at the time of the murder, police said.
An autopsy conducted there revealed the child was still alive when she was placed in the oven, according to WMC in Memphis Tennessee.
7. Family Arrested For Keeping Woman With Decomposing Legs
Multiple family members were arrested in March after a local fire department was dispatched to a home in Sugar Hill, Georgia, only to find a woman with decomposing legs covered in maggots and cockroaches. She was still alive.
According to an incident report written by the Gwinnett County Police Department, obtained by Oxygen.com, that woman was found unconscious, partially decomposed, and turned black from rot.
The woman’s husband, Terry Sorrell, 54, and their son, Christian Sorrell, 18, were supposed to be the woman’s caretakers. Both have been charged with neglect of a disabled or elderly person.
“When I first walked through the front door, I was overwhelmed with the smell of human feces and garbage,” the incident report states. “The patient’s bed was in the living room covered in plastic and feces and unknown liquid. Garbage lined the floor all the way to the kitchen. Inside of the kitchen was garbage piled from floor to almost ceiling. Roaches were crawling in every single room on the walls and ceiling.
8. Woman Allegedly Killed Family, Staged it As Murder-Suicide
A woman allegedly killed two of her own family members, her own mother and sister, and then staged it as a murder-suicide. On November 9, more than a year after two Virginia women were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide, authorities arrested another member of the family and have charged her with staging the grisly crime scene to cover up her own killings.
When 23-year-old Helen Hargan and her mother, 63-year-old Pamela Hargan, were found dead in a house in McLean, a community in Fairfax County, in July 2017, police initially reported the murder-suicide theory — it was thought that Helen shot Pamela and then herself.
Fairfax County Police said detectives eventually determined that Helen’s sister, Meghan Hargan, was responsible for murdering the pair, according to WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C. She has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Hargan, 35, allegedly tried to obtain money from her mother's bank account fraudulently on both the day of the slayings and the day before.
"I’ve known that it was coming, and now it's here. It was like it all blew up in your face," Tammy North, Pamela Hagan’s sister, told WUSA-TV in November. She added that she believes both money and jealousy were a motive behind the deaths, adding that the women’s mother had bought Helen Hargan a house before both of the women were killed; Meghan Hargan was living at her mother’s home at the time of the killings.
9. Dad Kills Baby, Lets Maggots Infest His Body
An Iowa dad was sentenced to life in prison on November 6 for letting his 4-month old baby rot in a mechanical baby swing, covered with maggots.
Zachary Koehn was found guilty of murder and child endangerment after prosecutors said he left the small boy to die alone in a room wearing a diaper filled with feces, that would eat through his skin and allow E. coli to enter the baby's bloodstream and cause an infection, according to the Des Moines Register.
The baby's body had been discovered on August 30, 2017 at the family's home in Alta Vista after Koehn called police to alert them his child had died from SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The corpse was found in a decrepit swing and covered in bugs. A coroner's report later concluded, however, that the baby had died of of malnutrition, dehydration, and infection.
10. Chainsaw/Lawnmower Family Drama
An elderly man who was allegedly trying to kill his own son with a chainsaw was run over by that son with a lawn mower and had to have his leg amputated over the summer. Even though the bloody incident occurred in June, Douglas Ferguson, 76, was not arrested until October because of the severity of his injuries.
On June 28, police were called to a house in Bristol, Tennessee where they found Ferguson bleeding from his leg and head, according to the Bristol Herald Courier. A preliminary investigation indicated he had tried to attack his son with a running chainsaw while his son mowed the yard on a zero-turn mower, the Associated Press reports. Then, things took a turn for the worse.
“The son defended himself against the attack by running over the suspect with the lawn mower,” police said at the time, as reported by the Kingsport News Times. “The injuries that the suspect (Ferguson) sustained were as a result of the lawn mower striking and running over him.”
Detectives said the father and son had an ongoing feud.
[Photo Credits: Associated Press (Chris Watts); Facebook (Nikki Delamotte); Chickasaw County Sheriff's Office via AP (Zachary Koehn)]
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