15 Notorious Female Serial Killers Throughout History

Often enough, when thinking about serial killers, the mind conjures up images of creepy men lurking in shadows. But, let’s not be sexist here.

Women can be just as cold-blooded, sneaky, and brutal. In this post, we will explore the dark, twisted tales of fifteen female serial killers who made their mark on history. If you thought women were all sugar and spice, get ready to rethink that.

Famous female killers infographic

1. Aileen Wuornos

Female famous serial killers

The “Damsel of Death,” as some might call her. Aileen Wuornos had a tragic life, starting with a horrific childhood and spiraling into a career as a prostitute.  In 1989 and 1990, Wuornos shot and killed seven men.

She claimed self-defense, saying they tried to assault her. Maybe not quite the self-defense argument you’d use for stealing someone’s parking spot, huh?

  • Victims: 7 men
  • Method: Shooting
  • Location: Florida, USA

Sentence: Wuornos was sentenced to death and was executed by lethal injection in Florida on October 9, 2002.

2. Elizabeth Báthory

The “Blood Countess.” Elizabeth Báthory was a Hungarian noblewoman in the 16th century who took sadistic pleasure to a whole new level.

Rumor has it she bathed in the blood of virgins to maintain her youthful looks. If there’s ever been a stronger argument against the beauty industry, I haven’t heard it.

  • Victims: Allegedly 650 young girls
  • Method: Torture and murder
  • Location: Hungary

Sentence: On December 30, 1609, Elizabeth Báthory and her servants were arrested. The servants, accused of helping her torture and murder, were tried in 1611 and three were executed. Báthory herself was never put on trial but was confined to Castle Csejte (now C̆achtice), reportedly held in a bricked-in room.

3. Belle Gunness

Female murderers in history

The “Black Widow of the Midwest” sure knew how to keep life insurance companies busy. Belle Gunness lured wealthy men with personal ads, married them, and then… oops, they just happened to die. How unlucky for them. She’s suspected of killing around 40 people before vanishing.

  • Victims: Estimated 40+
  • Method: Poisoning, bludgeoning
  • Location: Indiana, USA

Sentence: Gunness disappeared in 1908 after a fire at her farm, and her fate remains unknown. No trial or sentence was given as she was never captured.

4. Jane Toppan

Nurse Jane Toppan loved to experiment on her patients. She claimed her life goal was to kill more people—an aspiration we don’t see on many resumes.

She was particularly fond of poisoning, which she described as giving her sexual pleasure. Some people enjoy a good book; Jane enjoyed lethal doses of morphine.

  • Victims: At least 31
  • Method: Poisoning
  • Location: Massachusetts, USA

Sentence: Toppan was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to Taunton Insane Hospital in 1902, where she remained until her death in 1938.

5. Leonarda Cianciulli

Infamous women killers

Italy’s very own “Soap-Maker of Correggio.” Leonarda Cianciulli believed human sacrifice was the best way to keep her son safe during World War II.

Her solution? Killing women and turning their bodies into soap and teacakes.

  • Victims: 3 women
  • Method: Bludgeoning, dismemberment
  • Location: Italy

Sentence: Cianciulli was sentenced to 30 years in prison and three years in a criminal asylum. She died of cerebral apoplexy in the women’s criminal asylum in 1970.

6. Myra Hindley

Often paired with her partner-in-crime Ian Brady, Myra Hindley was part of the infamous “Moors Murders.” The duo abducted, tortured, and killed five children in the 1960s.

Known for her cold demeanor, Hindley’s mugshot is enough to send shivers down your spine.

  • Victims: 5 children
  • Method: Various forms of torture and murder
  • Location: England

Sentence: Hindley was convicted in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. She died in prison in 2002.

7. Dorothea Puente

Historical female serial killers

Running a boarding house for the elderly and mentally disabled in Sacramento, Dorothea Puente was the sweet old landlady who really, really wanted your social security checks.

She poisoned her tenants and buried them in her yard.

  • Victims: At least 9
  • Method: Poisoning
  • Location: California, USA

Sentence: Puente was convicted of three murders and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 1993. She died in prison in 2011.

8. Juana Barraza

Known as the “Old Lady Killer,” Juana Barraza was a Mexican professional wrestler who turned her skills into a darker hobby.

She targeted elderly women, strangling them and then robbing them. Barraza’s crimes were driven by a hatred for her mother, making her a prime example of misplaced mommy issues.

  • Victims: At least 42
  • Method: Strangulation
  • Location: Mexico

Sentence: Barraza was sentenced to 759 years in prison in 2008. She is currently serving her sentence in Mexico.

9. Nannie Doss

Notorious women murderers

The “Giggling Granny” sounds like a charming nickname, doesn’t it? Nannie Doss, however, was far from charming.

She poisoned four husbands, two children, her two sisters, her mother, a grandson, and a nephew over decades. She did it all with a smile, which makes her that much more terrifying.

  • Victims: 11 known, suspected of more
  • Method: Poisoning
  • Location: Various locations in the USA

Sentence: Doss was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1955. She died of leukemia in prison in 1965.

10. Mary Ann Cotton

Britain’s first known female serial killer, Mary Ann Cotton, had a knack for arsenic. She collected insurance policies after conveniently losing husbands, children, and even her own mother to mysterious illnesses.

  • Victims: Estimated 21
  • Method: Poisoning
  • Location: England

Sentence: Cotton was convicted of the murder of her stepson in 1873 and was hanged later that year.

11. Amelia Dyer

Female serial killer profiles

Baby farming—a horrific practice where women would take in unwanted infants for a fee—was Amelia Dyer’s chosen profession.

Instead of caring for them, she strangled the babies and disposed of their bodies. The Victorian era certainly had its dark side, and Dyer was one of its worst offenders.

  • Victims: Estimated 300+
  • Method: Strangulation
  • Location: England

Sentence: Dyer was found guilty of one murder and hanged in 1896. She is suspected of killing hundreds more.

12. Griselda Blanco

The “Black Widow” and the “Godmother of Cocaine,” Griselda Blanco was not your average drug lord.  Known for her brutal tactics, Blanco ordered hits on anyone who crossed her.

She ruled the Miami drug trade in the 1970s and 80s with an iron fist, amassing a body count along the way.

  • Victims: Estimated 40+
  • Method: Various methods, mostly shootings
  • Location: USA and Colombia

Sentence: Blanco served ten years in prison for drug trafficking but was not convicted for her murders. She was released and deported to Colombia, where she was killed in 2012.

13. Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova

Women in serial killing

Known as “Saltychikha,” Darya was a Russian noblewoman with a penchant for torturing and killing her serfs. From 1762 to 1801, she inflicted unimaginable horrors on her estate, showing just how dangerous a sadist with power can be.  She was eventually arrested after numerous complaints from the families of her victims, proving that sometimes justice does prevail, even if it’s a few decades late.

  • Victims: Estimated 38-147
  • Method: Beatings, torture
  • Location: Russia

Sentence: Saltykova was sentenced to life imprisonment and confined to a basement cell in the Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow. She remained there until her death in 1801.

14. Kristen Gilbert

Nurse Kristen Gilbert, also known as the “Angel of Death,” worked at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Massachusetts.  She enjoyed playing God, injecting patients with epinephrine to induce heart attacks.

She would then “heroically” attempt to resuscitate them. Too bad for her, the death toll was a bit too high to keep under wraps. Her coworkers began to notice the suspicious number of cardiac arrests coinciding with her shifts.

  • Victims: 4 confirmed, possibly more
  • Method: Injecting epinephrine
  • Location: Massachusetts, USA

Sentence: Gilbert was convicted of four murders and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 2001. She is currently serving her sentence.

15. Genene Jones

Deadliest female killers

A pediatric nurse with a seriously warped sense of job security. Genene Jones believed that creating medical emergencies would ensure she always had work.

Her method? Injecting infants with lethal doses of drugs, then stepping in to save them. Unfortunately, her attempts at heroism often failed, resulting in an alarming number of infant deaths.

  • Victims: Estimated 60+
  • Method: Injecting drugs
  • Location: Texas, USA

Sentence: Jones was originally sentenced to 99 years in prison in 1984 for killing an infant. In 2020, she was sentenced to an additional life term for another murder. She is currently serving her sentence.

Closing Thoughts

So, there you have it—fifteen women who shattered the stereotype that serial killers are always men.  Whether driven by greed, a lust for power, or plain old insanity, their stories remind us that the capacity for evil knows no gender.  Next time you hear a true crime podcast, remember the ladies can be just as lethal.