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Crime News Snapped

The River Valley Killer, Ted Bundy, And More Serial Killers Who Terrorized The South

While many of the most notorious serial killers have been based on the West Coast, there are many who made the Southern part of the United States their hunting grounds.

By Becca van Sambeck
Pee Wee Gaskins Charles Ray Vine Donald Harvey Ap

The southern part of the United States is known for many things: the warm and humid weather, the abundance of alligators, the striking natural beauty, and, of course, the concept of southern hospitality. But not all people in the south adhere to that concept of kindness toward strangers. In fact, some of them have gone out of their way to murder them.

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Consider Charles Ray Vine, know in the media by the nickname "The River Valley Killer." In 2001, the Arkansas man was sentenced to life in prison for killing two elderly women and then raping a teenage girl. His shocking and disturbing crime spree is the center of "Snapped Notorious: The River Valley Killer," airing Saturday, October 9 at 9/8c on Oxygen.

And he's not the only serial killer who lurked in the South. Here are some of the other most famous serial killers from the area.

1. Ted Bundy

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Yes, Ted Bundy primarily operated in the western part of the United States, raping and murdering girls and young women in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. But the end of his killing spree occurred in Florida, after he fled a Colorado prison (for the second time) in 1977. He then made his way down to the Sunshine State, where he attacked a Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University. He brutally beat two college students and killed another two. He then attacked another FSU student before killing his final victim, a 12-year-old girl, in Jacksonville, Florida in February 1978.

Bundy was ultimately sentenced to death in the state and was executed in 1989. He's thought to have murdered at least 30 women.

2. Donald "Pee Wee" Henry Gaskins

Pee Wee Gaskins in walks with police in handcuffs

Despite the silly-sounding nickname – given to him because of his small stature – Donald Henry Gaskins was one of the most prolific serial killers in the south. He murdered 13 people in South Carolina in the 1970s, although he would later claim he killed more than 100. In an unusual move for a serial killer, he used many different killing methods: stabbing, shooting, and poisoning his victims, ABC 15 News reported in 2001. He was ultimately caught in 1975 when eight bodies in shallow graves were discovered near his home. 

Gaskins was sentenced to life in prison, but ultimately received death by electric chair after he was paid to blow up a prisoner on death row. Gaskins was executed in 1991, according to the local station.

3. Donald Harvey

Donald Harvey Ap

Donald Harvey is sometimes known as "the Angel of Death." He worked as a nurse's aide in Kentucky as well as Ohio during the 1970s and '80s, and was ultimately convicted of killing 37 patients, although the number might be as high as 57. He put poisons like arsenic and cyanide into patients' feeding tubes and their meals, while he suffocated others with pillows or refused to refill their oxygen tanks, according to local station Fox 19. He later claimed he did it to end their suffering.

However, a prosecutor later reminded the court room, "He’s no mercy killer. He killed because he liked to kill," The New York Times reported in 2017. Harvey was murdered that year by a fellow inmate.

4. Nannie Doss

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Sweet, friendly grandmothers couldn't possibly kill anyone, right? Well, Nannie Doss proved appearances can truly be deceiving when the 49-year-old grandma, nicknamed "the Giggling Granny" by the press for her jolly demeanor in public, confessed in 1954 to murdering four of her husbands with poison.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma woman would later say she killed one husband "because he got on [her] nervers," Tulsa World reported in 2015. She received life insurance payouts from the deaths of all her husbands. She's also suspected of killing her mother and two daughters from her first marriage, accusations which she firmly denied.

5. Dean Corll 

Dean Corll Cabin Ap

Dean Corll is one of the most notorious murders in Texas history. He abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered at least 28 boys and young men in the Houston area from 1970 to 1973. He would typically lure his victims in with an invite to a party or an offer of a ride, and would then bring them to a secluded residence to kill them, Texas Monthly reported in 2001. He later earned the nicknames "The Candy Man" and "The Pied Piper" because his owned a candy factory and gave out free sweets.

Corll didn't act alone — he had two teen accomplices, David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley. His reign of terror ended in August 1973 when Henley shot and killed him during a confrontation, according to Texas Monthly.

Charles Ray Vine

Charles Ray Vine River Valley Killer 2

Known as "The River Valley Killer," Charles Ray Vine murdered two elderly women in the River Valley, Arkansas area:  Juanita Wofford in 1993, and Ruth Henderson in 1995. He was caught in 2000 when he attempted to rape and kill a 16-year-old girl in her house. The girl's stepfather found him in the midst of the attack and tried to beat him to death, although a sheriff's deputy arrived and intervened, according to local Fox affiliate station KNWA.

DNA evidence matched him to the other murders.

But why did he do it? Was he suspected in other murders? To learn more, watch "Snapped Notorious: The River Valley Killer," airing Saturday, October 9 at 9/8c on Oxygen.

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