Man Who Killed His Family And Disappeared: Where Is John List Murderer Now? Why Did He Kill His Family


John List, who murdered his family and vanished, was discovered nearly eighteen years later.

A recently released mini-series titled The Watcher draws heavily from the character John Graff, inspired by the John List murders.

The Watcher is a dramatic fictional mini-series depicting a married couple’s unsettling experience as they move into their dream home, only tormented by menacing letters from a stalker who signs them as “The Watcher.”

Man Who Killed His Family And Disappeared, John List

John List murdered his family and vanished without leaving a suspect. On November 9, 1971, he brutally killed his mother, wife, and three children in their Westfield, New Jersey home.

John List with his family (Source: Sun)

He vanished from the scene so methodically that suspicion of the crime didn’t arise for nearly a month.

Using his own 9mm Steyr 1912 semi-automatic handgun and his father’s Colt .22 caliber revolver, he perpetrated the heinous act of murdering his own family.

He commenced by shooting his wife, Helen, in the back of her head, followed by his mother, Alma, above her left eye. At that time, his children were still at school.

Upon the arrival of his daughter Patricia and younger son Frederick, he proceeded to end their lives, each with a fatal shot to the back of the head.

After exterminating the four members of his family, he prepared lunch for himself, went to his bank to close his and his mother’s accounts, and attended his elder son John’s soccer game at Westfield School.

Upon John’s return home, List mercilessly shot him multiple times as the young man tried to defend himself.

Where Is John List Murderer Now?

The murderer of John List is no longer among the living. He drew his last breath on March 21, 2008, while incarcerated at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey.

John List during his sentence (Source: NJ)

He succumbed to complications from pneumonia at the age of eighty-two. Reporting on his demise, the New Jersey Star-Ledger dubbed him “The Boogeyman of Westfield.”

Following the murders of his family members, he relocated to Virginia under a new identity. He remarried and evaded justice for nearly eighteen years.

His capture finally occurred after the story of his crimes aired on the television program America’s Most Wanted.

Upon deportation to New Jersey, List was convicted on five counts of first-degree murder and received five consecutive life imprisonment sentences. This rendered him ineligible for parole for nearly seventy-five years.

When questioned about the possibility of committing suicide, he expressed his belief that doing so would prevent him from reaching Heaven, where he yearned to be reunited with his family.

Why Did John List Kill His Family?

John List cited severe financial troubles as the primary motive for killing his family. He also claimed that his family members were straying from their religious beliefs.

Believing that committing the act would secure their souls a place in Heaven, he committed the crime.

During his trial, he testified that his financial woes reached a critical point in 1971 when he was laid off due to the closure of the Jersey City bank. He pretended to maintain his job to conceal the setback from his family and avoid humiliation. He adhered to his usual routine of dressing for work each morning, leaving the house on schedule, attending job interviews, and returning home at the usual time.

As the year progressed, the family’s financial situation became increasingly strained. He also encouraged his children to seek part-time employment to instill maturity and responsibility in them.

Adding to his troubles, he had also been grappling with his wife’s alcoholism and untreated tertiary syphilis, contracted from her first husband and concealed for eighteen years. Additionally, he testified that Helen had coerced him into marriage by falsely claiming to be pregnant and insisting on getting married.

A court-appointed psychiatrist testified that List suffered from an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Consequently, he perceived only two solutions to his predicament: accepting welfare or murdering his family and sending their souls to Heaven.

He chose the latter option over the former, deeming it unacceptable as it would ridicule him and his family and contradict his father’s teachings.

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