They were seemingly the perfect families living the American dream. Friends and neighbors envied their storybook romances, well-behaved children, or outwardly happy lifestyles. But when murder hit these families, everyone realized all was not as it seemed.When murder hit these families, everyone realized all was not as it seemed
Andrea Yates Drowns Her 5 Children
Andrea Yates was a 36-year-old mother of five young children: Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months. When her husband went to work on June 20, 2001, Yates methodically drowned all five children in the bathtub of their Houston-area home. Then she called 911. “I just killed my kids,” she told police when they arrived at her house.
In her 2006 trial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a state mental hospital, where she remains today. There is no end date for Yates’ commitment to the state hospital, and there are no open requests to have her released at this time.
Hart Family's Car Plunges off California Cliff
Jennifer and Sarah Hart seemed to have a happy life with their six adoptive children, posting smiling pictures on their social media accounts. But acquaintances saw a different side of the family, reporting them to child welfare investigators multiple times for abuse and neglect.
According to records obtained by PEOPLE, the couple was investigated for administering cruel punishments and withholding food from the children. After a teacher found bruises on then 6-year-old Abigail’s body in 2010, Jennifer was charged with domestic assault and malicious punishment, and later pleaded guilty to an abuse charge.
The family’s life ended in tragedy on March 24, when Jennifer Hart drove a SUV off a 100-foot cliff on the Northern California coast, killing the entire family of eight.
Julie Powers Schenecker Murders Her Teen Children
Julie Powers Schenecker was a former military linguist who lived in Tampa Florida with her husband, U.S. Army Colonel Parker Schenecker, and their two children, Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13. On January 27, 2011, while her husband was deployed, Schenecker, 50, shot and killed her children. Although Schenecker told police that she had shot her kids because they were “mouthy,” the children’s relatives and teachers maintained that they were well-behaved kids with no history of behavioral problems. Schenecker claimed insanity at her 2014 trial, but was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The Powell Family Tragedy
Josh and Susan Powell lived a quiet life with their young sons — Charles, 4, and Braden, 2 — in West Valley City, Utah. On December 6, 2009, Susan, 28, vanished and Josh,33, was named as a person of interest in her disappearance. For three years, police investigated the disappearance, but were unable to solve the case.
In January 2012, police discovered approximately 400 images of simulated child pornography on Josh’s computer. About a week later, on February 5, Powell and the two boys were in his home when it exploded, killing them all. Police soon determined that the explosion had been deliberately planned, but the coroner noted that Joshua had attacked both children with a hatchet before their deaths.
Scott Peterson Murders Pregnant Wife Laci
Laci Peterson, 27, was looking forward to giving birth to her first son, Conner, when she disappeared from her Modesto, California, home on December 24, 2002. Her husband Scott initially cooperated with police and gave interviews with local TV stations. Soon, however, Scott’s lies began to unravel.
A mistress came forward, prompting police to investigate the 30-year-old salesman. After Laci and Conner’s remains were found the following April, Scott was arrested and convicted of first- and second-degree murder counts. He sits on death row in California.
Chris Watts Allegedly Murders Wife, 2 Daughters
Chris and Shanann Watts lived a seemingly picture-perfect life with their young daughters, Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4. Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant with her third child. That apparent happiness turned to tragedy on on Aug. 13, 2018, when Shanann, 34, and her children went missing from their Colorado home.
After the disappearance, Shanann’s husband, Chris, gave multiple media interviews pleading for their safe return. Days later, Shanann’s body was found buried in a “shallow grave” on property belonging to Chris’ former employer. The girls’ bodies were found nearby.
Chris was later convicted of killing Shanann. Prosecutors said he was having an affair with a mistress and wanted to get out of his marriage.