Motive for Florida family’s massacre may never be known
Kimberly C. Moore/The Ledger via AP
Quadruple murder suspect Bryan Riley is led from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Lakeland, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, by Deputy Steve Neil, left, Captain Bart Davis and Detective Brett Bulman.
Polk County Sheriff's Office via AP
This booking photo provided by the Polk County, Fla. Sheriff's Office shows, Bryan Riley, who was arrested Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in the shooting of four people in Lakeland, Fla.
Michael Wilson/The Ledger via AP
Polk County, Fla., Sheriff's officials work the scene of a multiple fatality shooting Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Lakeland, Fla. Four people are dead including a mother who was still cradling her now deceased baby in what Florida sheriff's deputies are calling a massive gun battle with a suspect.
Samuel Little claims to have killed more than 90 women across the country between 1970-2005. The FBI said that federal crime analysts believe all of his confessions are credible, and officials have been able to verify 50 confessions so far. He says he strangled his 93 victims, nearly all of them women.
Little has been behind bars since 2012 and is serving multiple life sentences in California.
Juan Corona was convicted of murdering 25 farm workers whose bodies were found buried near Yuba City in northern California. Local authorities believe he may be responsible for several other murders.
Corona died in prison in March 2019.
John Wayne Gacy killed 33 young men and boys in suburban Chicago from 1972-1978. He was known as the "Killer Clown" because he often performed as a clown at fundraisers and children's parties.
Gacy was sentenced to death for 12 of the murders and was executed in 1994.
Dennis Rader, who called himself BTK for "bind, torture and kill," killed 10 people in Wichita, Kansas from 1974-1991. He sent letters describing his crimes to police and the media, which eventually led to his arrest in 2005.
Rader is currently serving 10 consecutive life sentences at a Kansas prison.
Robert L. Yates Jr. was convicted of 13 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder in Spokane County, Washington, as well as two additional murders in Pierce County. The 13 women he killed in Spokane, were sex workers on the city's E. Sprague Avenue.
Yates's original death sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2018 after Washington abolished the death penalty.
David Berkowitz, also known as the "Son of Sam," killed six people and wounded seven others in New York City. He sent several taunting letters to police before he was caught in 1977. Initially, he claimed to be carrying out the orders of a demon that took the form of his neighbor's dog.
Berkowitz is serving six consecutive 25-years-to-life sentences.
Joseph James DeAngelo, a former police officer in Auburn, California, is suspected of being the so-called Golden State Killer. He has been arrested on four murder charges but is suspected of 170 crimes, including a dozen murders and 45 rapes between 1976 and 1986. He cannot be charged for the rape or burglaries due to statute of limitation laws.
Cousins Angelo Buono Jr. (pictured) and Kenneth A. Bianchi, known as the "Hillside Stranglers" killed 10 young women in California in the late 70s. Bianchi also killed two other women in Washington state. The pair would often pretend to be undercover police officers to lure their victims into their vehicle.
Buono was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He died in prison in 2002.
Bianchi agreed to testify against Buono in exchange for leniency. He is currently serving life in prison and is also a suspect in three murders in Rochester, New York.
Ted Bundy was convicted of three Florida murders that occured after he had escaped from a Colorado jail. He eventually confessed to more than 30 murders in seven states, but the number of actual victims is unknown.
He was executed in 1989.
Jeffrey Dahmer, also called the "Milwaukee Cannibal" or the "Milwaukee Monster," killed 17 men and boys from 1978-1992. Sixteen of the murders took place in Wisconsin, with one occurring in Ohio.
He was sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms. Dahmer was killed in prison in 1994.
Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the "Unabomber," carried out a series of mail bombings that killed three people and injured 23. He is serving a life sentence in Colorado.
Wayne B. Williams was convicted and sentenced to two life terms for killing two men in Atlanta in 1981. Police believed he may have been responsible for the deaths of at least 23 of the 30 children who were murdered in Atlanta between 1979-1981. He was never tried for any of those crimes.
Authorities announced in early 2019 that they would re-test some of the evidence related to the Atlanta Child Murders.
Wayne is currently serving a life sentence at Telfair State Prison.
Henry Lee Lucas was arrested on murder charges and confessed to police that he killed hundreds of people. He later recanted. Lucas was convicted of 11 murders. He was sentenced to at 10 life terms and one death sentence. Then-Gov. George W. Bush commuted that to life in prison, his only commutation as governor.
Lucas died in prison in 2001.
Richard Ramirez, also known as the "Night Stalker" was convicted of killing 13 people during break-ins in the Los Angeles area. He was also convicted of five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries. A fourteenth victim who was also killed in 1984 was connected to Ramirez in 2009.
Ramirez died in prison in 2013.
Charles Ng and Leonard Lake are suspected of raping, torturing and murdering between 11 and 25 victims at a cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Ng was convicted of 11 of the murders and is on death row in California. Shortly after his arrest, Lake killed himself with cyanide pills that were sewn into his clothing.
Lonnie David Franklin Jr., known as the "Grim Sleeper," was convicted in the deaths of nine women and a teenage girl in Los Angeles. Franklin was linked at trial to 14 slayings, including four women he wasn't charged with killing. Police have said he may have had as many as 25 victims.
He is on death row in California.
Aileen Wuornos, a rare female serial killer, was convicted of murdering six men while working as a sex worker along highways in central Florida. She claimed the murders were committed in self-defense and that the men either raped or attempted to rape her.
She was executed in 2002.
Joel Rifkin is believed to have killed up to 17 women in New York City and Long Island. He was sentenced to 203 years in prison for the murders of nine women between 1989 and 1993.
His first victim, Heidi "Susie" Balch, was killed in 1989 but went unidentified until 2013. The identities of two of his suspected victims are still unknown.
Heriberto Seda, also known as the "New York Zodiac Killer," killed three people and wounded four in New York City. He also sent cryptic messages to police and claimed to kill people based on their zodiac signs.
Seda was caught in 1996 after an unrelated shootout with police and is currently serving a 232-year sentence.
DAVID J. PHILLIP
Ángel Maturino Reséndiz, nicknamed the "Railroad Killer" (also "The Railway Killer"), was convicted of murdering Claudia Benton, but was linked by confessions and evidence to at least 15 other killings nationwide. He also confessed to killing seven people in Mexico. Reséndiz was executed in 2006.
Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad randomly killed 10 people in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland as they pumped gas and went about their business during a three-week period in 2002. Malvo is serving several life sentences at a Virginia prison; Muhammad was executed in Virginia in 2009.
Mark Goudeau, a former construction worker who was also known as the "Baseline Killer," was convicted of killing eight women and a man in Phoenix, Arizona. He was sentenced to death in 2011 and remains on death row.
Anthony Sowell, known as the "Cleveland Strangler," was convicted of killing 11 women and hiding the remains in and around his home in Cleveland, Ohio. He is on death row in Ohio.
Lake County Sheriff's Office
Also known as the "Gary Strangler," Darren Deon Vann was arrested in the killing of a 19-year-old woman at a motel in Indiana and later confessed to the murders of six other women. He was sentenced to seven concurrent life sentences in May 2018.
Investigators say that when they captured Marine veteran Bryan Riley outside the Lakeland, Florida, home where he allegedly killed a couple, their 3-month-old son and the boy’s grandmother, he told them, “You know why I did this.”
But they say they don’t and, in fact, may never know why Riley launched an attack against a family he had no known connection with, except that he may have been mentally ill. Riley’s girlfriend told investigators that he had been saying he could communicate directly with God.
“The big question that all of us has is, ‘Why?'” local prosecutor Brian Haas said after Sunday’s slayings. “We will not know today or maybe ever.”
Riley, 33, is being held without bond after Sunday’s massacre on four counts of first-degree murder. During his first court appearance Monday, he said he intended to hire a lawyer but a public defender was appointed to represent him until he does.
Riley, who served as a sharpshooter in Iraq and Afghanistan, surrendered Sunday morning after a furious gun battle with authorities. After it was over, a deputy rushed into the home and rescued an 11-year-old girl, who was still conscious despite being shot seven times. She was in stable condition on Tuesday morning, the sheriff’s office said.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, Riley told interrogators that the victims “begged for their lives, and I killed them anyway.”
“He is evil in the flesh,” Judd said. “Just because you have mental health issues, does not mean you are not criminally liable.”
Judd identified Justice Gleason, 40, as one of the victims. Citing a state privacy law, Judd only identified the other victims as a 33-year-old woman, her infant son and the boy’s 62-year-old grandmother. Facebook posts and public records show Gleason was in a relationship with Theresa Lanham and they had a baby boy, Jody, in May. Lanham’s mother, Catherine Delgado, owned the property and lived there. Gleason also had an 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
According to Judd and court records, on Saturday evening, about nine hours before the attack, Riley stopped his truck and confronted Gleason as he mowed his lawn. Riley, who lives 30 miles away in Tampa (50 kilometers), told Gleason that God had sent him to prevent a suicide by someone named Amber.
Gleason and one of the other victims told Riley no one by that name lived there and asked him to leave. They called 911, but when authorities arrived, Riley was gone. A deputy searched the area, but didn’t find Riley. Judd said given the circumstances, there wasn’t much more that could be done.
“We get thousands of reports of suspicious people,” Judd said. “To suggest that we’ve got time to stop and do an investigation of every suspicious vehicle is not possible. He made zero threats. He was just a guy that was saying some really goofy stuff.”
Riley returned around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, arranging glowsticks to create a path leading to the house in what Judd said may have been an attempt to draw officers “into an ambush.”
Shooting soon began — and when a deputy in the area heard popping noises, he sounded the alarm, bringing state and local law enforcement officers to the scene. When they arrived, they found an apparently unarmed Riley outside, dressed in camouflage, and his truck ablaze.
But Riley ran back into the house, where authorities heard more gunfire, “a woman scream and a baby whimper,” Judd said.
Officers tried to enter the house, but the front door was barricaded. Judd said when they went to the back, they saw Riley, who appeared to have donned full body armor.
Riley and the officers exchanged heavy gunfire, with dozens “if not hundreds of rounds” fired, before Riley retreated back into the home, Judd said.
Everything fell silent, until a helicopter unit noticed that Riley was coming out, the sheriff said. He had been shot once and was ready to surrender.
Officers heard cries for help inside but were unsure whether there were additional shooters and feared the home was booby-trapped. Still, one officer rushed in and grabbed the wounded girl, who told authorities there were three dead people inside.
The sheriff’s office said they all had been huddling in fear, with the boy dying in his mother’s arms. Even the family dog was shot dead.
“I will never be able to unsee that mother with that deceased infant in her arms,” Judd said. “It is a horror of the utmost magnitude.”
Family friend Pansy Mincey Smith told The Ledger she last saw Gleason at the hospital shortly after his son was born.
“You were smiling from ear to ear about your new little baby boy, you had that big teddy bear for him. This is so heartbreaking,” Smith wrote on Facebook.
Authorities said Riley’s girlfriend told investigators he was never violent but had become increasingly erratic. She said he claimed to be on mission from God, stockpiling supplies for Hurricane Ida victims including $1,000 worth of cigars.
Riley’s vehicle had also been stocked with bleeding control kits and other supplies for a gunfight, authorities said.
He worked as a private security guard and had no criminal history, the sheriff said.
Officers took Riley to jail in a white jumpsuit later Sunday. He appeared downcast, hanging his head and hardly opening his eyes, as reporters asked why he killed the family.
“This guy was a war hero. He fought for his country,” Judd said. Now, “he’s a cold-blooded killer.”