Earle Nelson

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Earle Leonard Nelson
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Other namesThe Gorilla Killer, The Dark Strangler
Criminal penaltyDeath
Span of crimes
1926–June, 1927
CountryUnited States
Date apprehended
June, 1927

Earle Leonard Nelson aka The Gorilla Killer (died January 13, 1928) was an American serial killer.

Nelson often studied his worn Bible, using it to keep his victim at ease and off-guard around him. Once he gained their trust, he would kill them and engage in necrophilia with their corpse.[citation needed]

Nelson was barely out of his teens when he tried to strangle a young girl and was hospitalized in a mental institution in 1921. He was released from the Napa mental institution in 1925 and started on his killing spree early in 1926. Nelson's victims were mostly landladies, whom he would approach on the premise of renting a room and then quickly attack and kill, often leaving their corpses under the nearest bed. By using false names and moving on quickly after he committed the murders, Nelson easily avoided capture during his eighteen-month-long murder spree.

Nelson claimed victims in several West Coast cities, throughout the upper Midwest, and finally in Canada, where he was captured in June 1927 after two killings in Winnipeg. By that time he had murdered at least 20 women and one eight-month-old baby, and was a very highly sought criminal. He was tried and found guilty of the Winnipeg slaying of Emily Patterson, found strangled underneath her own bed by her husband; who had knelt by the bed to pray for her safe return after finding her missing on the afternoon of June 9. Patterson had been Nelson's fifth victim in just 10 days.

Later, Nelson was spotted by a shopkeeper 300 miles southwest of Winnipeg, in Wakopa, Manitoba. The police were notified and they were able to capture Nelson and place him in a prison cell in Killarney, Manitoba. While authorities waited for police from Winnipeg to come to Killarney and escort him back to Winnipeg, Nelson escaped. However, Nelson made the mistake of hopping the same train that was transporting members of the Winnipeg police, and was recaptured.

Nelson was hanged at the Vaughan Street Jail, Winnipeg on January 13, 1928.


  • Crime Library Earle Leonard Nelson: The Dark Strangler By Mark Gribben