50 American Serial Killers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Volume 1

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Howard Arthur Allen

Serial killers, by their nature, prey on the weak and defenseless. Women and children are commonly targeted, but among the most heartless of killers are those who attack the frail and elderly. Howard Arthur Allen was one such creature, a heinous thug who savagely beat, stabbed and strangled at least three elderly victims to death.

Allen’s first known murder was committed in August 1974, when he was 24 years old. On that occasion, he broke into the home of 85-year-old Opal Cooper, beating her to death in the course of a petty robbery. He was soon arrested for that murder, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter, and the sentence was a mere two to twenty-one years.

Allen would serve roughly half the maximum sentence before being paroled in January 1985. He returned to Indianapolis, where he found work at a car wash. For a while, he seemed to stay out of trouble. But the rage inside Howard Arthur Allen had not been extinguished. Before long, it flared up and he was hunting again.

On May 18, 1987, a 73-year-old Indianapolis woman narrowly escaped death after being choked and beaten by a prowler who broke into her home. Two days later another senior, 87-year-old Laverne Hale, was attacked, dying from her injuries on May 29.

On June 2, a burglar ransacked the home of an elderly man, just five blocks from the scene of the Hale murder. Fortunately for the tenant, he was not home. The killer vented his rage instead on the residence, setting it on fire.

Less than two weeks later, on July 14, 73-year-old Ernestine Griffin was murdered in her home near 57th and Keystone in Indianapolis. In the most brutal attack yet, the killer repeatedly plunged a ten-inch butcher knife into the frail woman, then caved in her skull with a toaster. His take from this carnage was a paltry fifteen dollars and a cheap camera belonging to the victim.

But Allen had made a crucial mistake. Days before the attack, he had called on Mrs. Griffin to enquire about a car her neighbor had for sale. Griffin had asked him to leave a number for her to pass on to the neighbor and Allen had done so. Now, as police processed the crime scene, they found that note, sitting on a kitchen counter.

Pulled in for questioning, Allen initially denied writing the note (a handwriting expert would later verify the handwriting as his) but after several hours of questioning, he finally admitted that he had been to Griffin’s home. He even admitted punching her after (he said) she cussed him.

Finally, he all but admitted to the murder, saying, “I didn't stab the old lady, but if I did, I need help.”

Then one of Allen’s co-workers at the car wash came forward with a vital piece of evidence. He told investigators that on the day after the murder, Allen had given him a camera to stash in his locker. The camera was linked to Ernestine Griffin by its serial number and the film still in the camera belonged to Griffin.

Allen was indicted on charges of battery, burglary, and unlawful confinement. He was also charged with arson and burglary relating to the June 2 incident, as well as the murder of Ernestine Griffin.

A number of trials followed. In the spring of 1988, Allen was sentenced to 88 years for burglary and felony battery. In June of that year, he was sentenced to death for the murder of Ernestine Griffin.

Allen is currently incarcerated on death row in Indiana. He remains the prime suspect in eleven other murders of elderly victims, all of them attacked in their homes in and around Indianapolis.

50 American Serial Killers You've Probably Never Heard Of Volume One includes another 49 riveting stories of America's lesser known serial killers