unsolved murder

Do the police always get their man (or woman)? Definitely not. According to the Murder Accountability Project, more than 211,000 homicides since 1980 in the United States remain unsolved and indeed, one-third of all murder cases in this country go unsolved. Many notorious murders are still open cases.

Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman

Despite the discovery of a knife on O.J. Simpson’s old property recently, there’s still officially no closure to this case since Simpson was found not guilty in his murder trial (though he was definitely guilty in the court of public opinion). Simpson can never be retried, so unless a new suspect is found, the case will remain without a conviction.

The Zodiac Killer

San Francisco Bay Area residents were terrified during 1969 when at least five people were murdered (although the murderer claimed he killed 37) by a killer who called himself the Zodiac. The slayer called in some of the murders to the police and sent coded letters to newspapers claiming responsibility. He was never caught.

JonBenet Ramsey

The day after Christmas in 1996, six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found dead in the basement of her family’s home in Colorado. The police botched the investigation and after rampant public speculation that the parents were guilty, they were eventually cleared. No one has ever been tried for this murder.

The Tylenol murders

In 1982, seven people in Chicago died after taking Tylenol that had cyanide added to it. No one was ever arrested, even though the case was reopened for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the crime. Now all medication bottles have tamperproof seals, which has improved our collective piece of mind, but also irritated millions of people who have to navigate the extra packaging before they can get their medicine.

Lizzie Borden

“Lizzie Borden took an axe…” Despite what the popular rhyme tells us, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of killing her parents with an axe in 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts. The bloody homicide remains unsolved, but not forgotten.

The Hogan’s Heroes murder

Bob Crane , who was the star of the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes (about a German POW camp during World War II), was found dead in his Arizona apartment in 1978 with an electrical cord tied around his neck and his head bludgeoned. A friend of his was a suspect but never arrested. The case was reopened in 1992 when DNA testing was available, but results were inconclusive and there was never enough evidence to hold a trial.

The Keddie cabin murders

Three people (mother, son, and friend) were bludgeoned to death in a cabin in Keddie California in 1981 while three boys in the bedroom next door were unharmed and unaware of the brutal murder that happened on the other side of the wall while they were sleeping. One girl was also abducted from the same room—her remains were found later. The number of suspects was overwhelming (since the town was apparently a hotbed of drug runners, child molesters, serial killers, and bad cops) and no one was ever arrested.

Jack the Ripper

One of the most notorious unsolved crime sprees of all time is this one from England. Someone calling himself Jack the Ripper brutally murdered five prostitutes in London over the span of three months in 1888. The murders have been the topic of books, movies, and investigations, but no definitive culprit has ever been determined.

Villisca axe murders

Eight people (two adults and six children) were horrifically murdered in their beds with an axe in 1912 in Villisca, Iowa. The murder terrorized this tiny town and remains the stuff of legends and ghost stories. No arrests were ever made.

Interestingly, the most notorious unsolved cases occurred before the advent of DNA evidence and technology in crime solving. Perhaps the future holds fewer unsolvable cases as an increasing number of sophisticated tools become available to the police to help them solve crimes.