Anyone who has barely breached the surface of the history of serial killers in the U.S. knows who Jeffrey Dahmer is. The man who mutilated, and occasionally cannibalized, 17 men and boys was a trained medical specialist in the Army. From a long-stemming bout with alcoholism, Dahmer became unable to continue his service. He was eventually discharged for performance decreases resulting from the addiction. Dahmer was beaten to death in prison after being sentenced to a total of 16 life sentences at Columbia Correctional Institution, Wisconsin.
Known as Bind Torture Kill (BTK), Dennis Rader is also a former member of the U.S. military. Rader was enlisted with the Air Force as a mechanic for only four years before leaving, with his service being regarded as “unremarkable.” Rader was charged with the murder of 10 individuals and is still alive. He is serving out 10 life sentences at El Dorado Correctional Facility, Kansas.
The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, confessed to killing 71 people in the late 1990s, and was charged with a total of 49 counts of murder. Ridgway targeted mostly sex workers and runaways, an affinity which was apparently developed during his time serving in the U.S. Navy. In the military, the eventual serial killer was stationed in Vietnam aboard a supply ship and even saw combat. Ridgway is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at Washington State Penitentiary, Washington.
The key perpetrator of a series of killings and attacks between 1976 and 1977, the Son of Sam killer, David Berkowitz, was enlisted in the U.S. Army for a period of three years. Berkowitz served at Fort Knox, as well as with an infantry division in South Korea. The Son of Sam was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences, one for each murder conviction, and is currently serving those at Shawangunk Correctional Facility, Wallkill, New York. Recently, debate over other peoples’ involvement in the Son of Sam slayings has become a hot topic, partly because of the 2021 Netflix documentary, The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness
Israel Keyes is less known than the others on this list, but the calculated way in which he chose his victims is why he is considered equally despicable. Keyes served in the United States Army from 1998 to 2001 at Fort Lewis, Fort Hood, and even spent time in Egypt. While at Fort Lewis, he served on a mortar team in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. During the span of his murder spree, from around 1996 to 2012, Keyes chose victims randomly based on whether or not they were near “kill kits” that he had planted in different locations across the country. He was convicted of three murders, while many believe the actual number is closer to around 12. Keyes committed suicide by cutting his wrists with a razor he managed to conceal in 2012, at Anchorage Correctional Complex, Alaska.
Prior to the September 11 attacks of 2001, Timothy McVeigh was the sole perpetrator of the largest terrorist attack on American soil. McVeigh’s attack may not be considered as “serial killing,” but his actions nonetheless did just as much, if not more, harm than the others on this list. Three years before committing the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and injured 680 others, McVeigh was a decorated Gulf War veteran. His accolades included: a Bronze Star Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Southwest Asia Service Medal, an Army Service Ribbon, and the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal. By the time he was discharged, McVeigh had reached the rank of sergeant. McVeigh was sentenced to lethal injection for his crimes. He died on June 11, 2001 at United States Penitentiary, Indiana.
David Russel Williams
The only one on this list not from the United States, David Russell Williams, was the commander of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton. He was involved with the Royal Canadian Air Force as a pilot before rising to the rank of Colonel, and even flew some notable figures, such as Queen Elizabeth II and the Canadian Prime Minister. Williams was convicted of murdering two people, and breaking into the houses of over 80 more, which yielded him two consecutive life sentences. Following his conviction, Williams was stripped of his commission, rank, and awards, and all of his military apparel items were burned. He is currently serving his sentences concurrently at Port-Cartier Institution, Port-Cartier, Quebec. Williams will be eligible for parole in 2035, which he is unlikely to get.