Every state offers exciting cities, beautiful parks, and historic sites. But states can also be famous for other, less favorable, attributes – like shocking crimes. Sadly, each state is home to heinous felonies – murders, rapes, kidnappings, financial fraud that destroys lives, and more.
To find the most notorious crime in every state, 24/7 Tempo culled information from the FBI website and media sources such as Readers Digest, CNN, and the BBC. Because “most notorious” is a subjective judgment, we used editorial discretion to select crimes with particularly tragic or devastating impacts, most but not all of them involving loss of life. Every state, however, has been the site of many other horrible crimes as well.
Most of the crimes on this list do involve multiple murders, many by serial killers like Ted Bundy in Washington or Jeffrey Dahmer in Wisconsin, as well as two by domestic terrorists – Timothy McVeigh, executed for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168, including 19 children, and Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, serving eight life sentences without possibility of parole for killing three people and wounding almost two dozen with explosive devices. (These are 25 of the most brutal criminals who ever lived.)
While most of the people listed here have been punished for their crimes, some have skated free, like Indiana’s Belle Gunness, aka “Hell’s Belle.” She left a trail of more than 40 victims beginning in the late 1880s, but escaped justice and was never found. Likewise, the killer of the so-called Black Dahlia in Los Angeles in 1947 was never identified. (Here are 22 famous unsolved crimes in America.)
But a crime doesn’t have to be a murder to be considered notorious. The collapse of Enron in Texas and the Ponzi scheme concocted by Bernie Madoff in New York ripped off millions of dollars from innocent investors and employees, a reminder of just how devastating financial misdeeds can be.
Although every untimely death is tragic, crimes can sometimes spur movements toward equal justice. The bombing of a church in Alabama that killed four young girls and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis highlighted the need for Civil Rights legislation. The killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay man in Wyoming, drew attention to the fight for LGBTQ rights.
Some crimes live on in movies and literature. The killing of a Kansas farm family inspired Truman Capote’s bestselling book “In Cold Blood” and the time of the same name. The lives and deaths of outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in Louisiana were the basis for an unforgettable movie as well, often considered one of the best of all time. (These are the best movies based on real events or people.)