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Holiday Horror: 5 Infamous Christmastime Killings

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Source: Covina police; MEGA

Dec. 22 2023, Published 1:27 p.m. ET

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Christmas is a joyous time for many families and people. It's a time to both give and receive presents. It's also a chance to spend time with loved ones and friends, away from the pressure of work and school.

But there are also Christmas horror stories of people committing unspeakable crimes during the holiday celebration. Here are five stories of Christmas tragedies. They include tales of murder and, perhaps, the most infamous cold case in history.

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On Christmas afternoon 1929, North Carolina tobacco farmer Charlie Lawson came home and killed six of his seven children and his wife. Then he went to the woods and turned the gun on himself.

According to the Greensboro News and Record, Lawson killed his 12-year-old and 7-year-old daughter near the barn and then went inside the cabin and shot his wife. He then killed his 17-year-old daughter and bludgeoned his sons, aged 4 and 2. He then murdered his 3-month-old daughter.

Lawson went to the woods, where he washed his bloody hands in the water before shooting himself.

Relatives found the body when they stopped by to wish the family Merry Christmas, according to the News and Record. But the question is, why did Lawson kill his family? Some reported he was ashamed for impregnating his oldest daughter, according to the News and Record. But, with the killer taking his own life more than 90 years, the exact reason will likely never be known.

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On Christmas Eve 2008, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo dressed as Santa Claus and went on a shooting rampage that left nine people dead at a party, according to CNN. Police said Pardo committed suicide hours after the rampage and set fire to the home.

Investigators said Pardo targeted his former wife and her family at the party. The two squabbled over a son from his previous marriage. Prado’s claimed the child as a tax dependent in secret, which led to the couple’s divorce, according to CNN and the Los Angeles Times.

Source: Covina police
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There were about 25 people in the home when Pardo opened fire when an 8-year-old answered the door. Pardo then unwrapped a package containing gasoline, sprayed it in the home and set it on fire. Three other people were injured in the ambush.


On Christmas Eve 1945, the Sodder family, which included two parents and 10 children, was asleep in their West Virginia home.

The family was waiting for Christmas morning, but then some family members started to smell smoke in the home, according to a previous story from FrontPageDetectives. Mom, Jennie, yelled for her kids in the attic but never heard a response. The smoke forced her out of the house.

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Four of the kids exited the house. One was away fighting in World War 2. But the other five children never made it out…or did they?

The Sodder children went missing after the fire as their remains were not found in the rubble. While death certificates were issued about a year later, some believe the children made it out of the house and went elsewhere. The Sodder family spent roughly $250,000 over the years to find the children, but to this day, the definitive answer on what happened remains a mystery.

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Around Christmas 1992, four young people went on a shooting rampage that left six people dead and two other hurts in Dayton, Ohio, according to the Dayton Daily News.

The killings started as petty robberies that escalated into murder, according to the Daily News. The killings were random, and police said there was no motive. The shootings started on Christmas Eve and went through Dec. 26, 1992.

Marvallous Keene, Heather Matthews, Demarcus Smith and Laura Taylor were all arrested and later convicted for their roles in the spree, according to the Daily News. Keene was executed, while the other three are serving life sentences.

“They were just killing people randomly for nothing, literally nothing,” Dayton homicide Det. Doyle Burke told the Daily News in 2019. “There was not even a motive in these cases. It was just for fun.”

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Perhaps the most famous Christmas killing is the 1996 death of JonBenet Ramsey in Colorado. FrontPageDetectives recently did a three-part look at what may be the most famous cold case in American history.

Ramsey, 6, was asleep in the family’s Boulder, Colorado, home on Christmas. The following day a ransom note was found in the home. The family reported her missing and JonBenet Ramsey was found dead in the basement hours later.

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The child beauty queen had a broken skull and a garrote around her neck.

Many accused her parents of being involved in the killing, but prosecutors have not charged either Patsy or John in connection to the case. Numerous people blame the police and family for messing up the investigation and contaminating evidence. Now, decades later, authorities have yet to arrest to find JonBenet’s killer.


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