John List, who killed his family & disappeared, was found nearly after eighteen years.
A mini-series named The Watcher has been recently released whose much of the character John Graff is borrowed from the John List murders.
The Watcher is a dramatic fictional mini-series where a married couple moving into their dream home is threatened by threatening letters from a stalker signed-“The Watcher.”
Man Who Killed His Family And Disappeared, John List
John List killed his family and disappeared without leaving a suspect. On November 9, 1971, he killed his mother, wife, and three children in his Westfield, New Jersey home.
He disappeared from the place so meticulously that anyone could not suspect the crime had occurred for nearly a month.
He murdered his own family using his own 9mm Steyr 1912 semi-automatic handgun and his Father’s Colt .22 caliber revolver.
He first shot his wife, Helen, in the back of her head and then his mother, Alma, above the left eye. His children were at school at that time.
After his daughter Patricia and younger son Frederick arrived home, he killed each of them in the back of the head.
Killing the four members of his family, he made himself lunch, drove to his bank to close his and his mother’s bank accounts, and went to Westfield school to watch his elder son, John, play in a soccer game.
After John arrived home, List shot him repeatedly as his son attempted to defend himself.
Where Is John List Murderer Now?
John List’s murderer is not in this world now. He took his last breath on March 21, 2008, while imprisoned at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey.
He died of complications from pneumonia at the age of eighty-two. Reporting his death, the New Jersey Stra-Ledger accounted him as “The Boogeyman of Westfield.”
After killing his family members, he relocated to Virginia with a new identity. He also remarried and eluded justice for nearly eighteen years.
He was finally arrested after the story of his murders got broadcasted on the television program America’s Most Wanted.
After the deportation to New Jersey, List was convicted on five counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to five consecutive terms of life imprisonment. The sentence made him ineligible for parole for nearly seventy-five years.
When asked about committing suicide, he said he believed that suicide would have prevented him from going to Heaven, where he hoped to be reunited with his family.
Why Did John List Kill His Family?
John List made critical financial problems the major reason for killing his family. He also added that his family members were straying from their religious faiths.
Believing in the action that killing his family would assure their souls a place in Heaven, he committed the crime.
At trial, he testified that his financial difficulties reached a crisis level in 1971 when he was laid off with the closure of the Jersey City bank. To avoid humiliating development with his family, he pretended to be in the job. He engaged in the same dressing routine, leaving some each morning on schedule, spending the day at job interviews, and returning home when it was time.
The family’s financial problems became more strained as the year passed. He also encouraged his children to seek part-time work to teach them maturity and responsibility.
Adding to the problems, he had also been dealing with his wife’s alcoholism and untreated tertiary syphilis, contaminated by her first husband and concealed for eighteen years. He also testified that Helen had pressured John into marriage by falsely claiming to be pregnant and insisting on marrying.
A psychiatrist appointed by the court testified that List had an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Thus, he saw only two solutions for his situation: accepting welfare or killing his family and sending their souls to Heaven.
He selected the second option among the two, as he said the first was unacceptable as it would expose him and his family to ridicule and violate his Father’s teaching.
I am Pratiksha Dhungana. I have completed my Master's in Geology. I love reading books and exploring nature. Besides that, I love spending time in nature and keeping updated about ongoing issues in the world.