Redheads and Serial Killers

Several killing sprees have targeted women with red hair.

Posted May 05, 2018

K. Ramsland
Source: K. Ramsland

Last week came news that police in Texas and Louisiana are investigating whether a serial killer is killing and decapitating redheaded women. The heads were discovered in plastic bags, tossed near lakes 150 miles apart. On March 1, one was found in undergrowth near Lake Calcasieu, and the other turned up three weeks later near Lake Houston. There, a witness described a man who got out of a pick-up truck and stood on a bridge to toss a trash bag over the rail. Investigators hope to track him down.

If it turns out that the same person is responsible for both, the case might be similar to a few others, like trucker Charles Floyd. On July 1, 1948, he broke into an apartment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, attacking a woman and her two teenage daughters. He raped her, but a neighbor interrupted, so he fled before he killed anyone. Down the street, Floyd cut a hole into the door of another home, entered and bludgeoned a woman to death. The victims all had red hair.

A witness outside the second house described Floyd to police and they traced him to where he worked at a trucking company. Under arrest, he admitted that redheaded women triggered an overwhelming lust in him. In fact, he said, he’d killed before. Six years earlier, Floyd had murdered the redheaded pregnant wife of a fellow trucker. Later that year, he’d raped and murdered a mother and daughter, both redheads. Two and a half years later, he’d killed a redhead he’d seen undressing in her apartment. Due to Floyd’s low IQ, a judge sentenced him to a mental institution for life.

Glen Edward Rodgers also seemed to have a thing for redheads. The “Cross Country Killer” traveled from state to state between 1993 and 1995. He’d cozy up to women and ask for favors. He even moved in with one, briefly. He was convicted of five murders, but bragged that he’d murdered more than 70 people, including Nicole Brown Simpson. Four of his victims were women with reddish hair. It turns out that his mother was a redhead and Roger’s brother says that she’d rejected and abused him.

Then there’s a series of incidents known as “the Redhead Murders.” You’ll find different ideas about who should be counted among the victims, but according to one source, this set of murders started in 1978 and possibly continued until 1992. Some people identify three victims, but others say there are more (between 6 and 11). Most were strangled and their bodies dumped along major highways, as if they’d been hitchhiking or offering services to truckers. One young mother who disappeared from her home and is sometimes included on the list was found years later in a river. Most of the victims remain unidentified.

Many believe that a serial killer is responsible, and some have suggested links to Glen Rogers. Two truckers were investigated, but both were cleared.

The FBI got involved in 1985 to investigate possible links among victims found in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Linkage analysis turned up significant inconsistencies, such as the state of dress and evidence of sexual activity. Looking at other cases, the FBI ruled out a victim in Ohio and four in Texas. This work did not solve the core cases.

Jane Carlisle self-published a brief e-short, The Redhead Murders. She believed that the killer targeted victims whom he knew had no one who might come looking for them. This would suggest that the killer picked up redheads, queried them, and then decided to kill based on satisfactory responses. Carlisle starts with a body discovery in 1983 in Virginia. The next one was in Arkansas. Several turned up in Tennessee in 1985. Only a few of the victims she lists have been identified.

The murder in Tennessee in 1992 that some believe is linked involved a nun. An arrest was made, which undermined any link to the other redhead murders. Since most of the “Redhead Murders” remain unsolved, it’s not possible to know if a serial killer with a preference for redheads committed them, but it’s an intriguing mystery.