From the first cry in the delivery room, most parents realize that they’ve signed up for a significant task: To raise a productive (or at least decent) human being. Ideally, we should all be able to trust our parents to steer us in the right direction.
Sadly, some people receive a different type of parental guidance. Here’s a list of parents who not only failed to model good behavior but either aided or enlisted their kids to commit horrific acts. Talk about family bonding…
10 Rebecca Sears
March 25, 2009, started as a typical day for Laverne Parsons. She took her son to school and returned to her home in Augusta, Georgia. Unfortunately, she was unaware that an intruder was lying in wait. Authorities would eventually find Laverne’s bloody body on her garage floor. She was savagely beaten to death.
Within a week of the investigation, the police had a suspect: Laverne’s neighbor, Rebecca Sears. Sears was eventually charged with first-degree murder alongside her son, 19-year-old Christopher Bowers.
What would prompt a mother to commit such a brutal crime? Prosecutors allege that Sears was involved with Laverne’s husband, Dave Parsons. She wanted to pursue a relationship with him and asked her son to get rid of his wife. Together, they staged a burglary, and Bowers bashed the woman to death with a claw hammer and baseball bat.
A day after the crime, Bowers shot his mother in the leg. This incident turned out to be a bizarre plot by the family duo, to derail the investigation. Rebecca Sears and Christopher Bowers eventually plead guilty to the crime in 2012. They were both sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. They remain incarcerated in facilities in Georgia.
9 Sandra Jessee
Jack Jessee was described as “tender and trusting” by those who knew him. He was also a loving father to his daughters Cheryl and Chere. By 1998, he was fighting colon cancer. But it wouldn’t be the illness that led to his demise.
On the night of August 13, 1998, Cheryl walked into her father’s Orange County home and found him dead on the floor. He’d been stabbed in the chest multiple times. As authorities investigated his death, an air of suspicion surrounded one person—his wife, Sandra Jessee. She claimed to be out shopping when someone broke into the house and killed her husband. The police doubted her story, but there was no evidence tying her to the crime. As a result, the case went cold for seven years.
In 2005, investigators reviewed the evidence in the Jessee case. First, they searched one of Sandra’s old purses and found a small scrap of paper with “Schrauben” written on it. The name matched a tip they received years earlier about a man named Brett Schrauben. It would take another two years for authorities to charge Sandra Jessee and her son, Thomas Aehlert, with the murder of Jack Jessee.
Sandra was worried that Jack’s treatments would cut into their savings. She also wanted to cash in on a hefty life insurance policy. Driven by greed, she asked her son to hire a hitman. Aehlert enlisted a former friend, Brett Schrauben, to do the deed, although he reportedly had a third man actually do the killing. Schrauben was eventually acquitted for his role in the murder, serving only some 500 days.
Sandra’s first trial ended with a hung jury. Aehlert eventually pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against his mother; he was later sentenced to 15 years to life. It wasn’t until 2012, 14 years after the murder, that Sandra Jessee was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her husband.
8 Joan Shannon
When David and Joan Shannon arrived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, they appeared to be an ordinary couple. A devoted wife raising four children and an accomplished military husband. There was one other thing that aligned them with other families—rebellious teenagers. Joan had two daughters from a previous relationship, 17-year-old Daisy and 15-year-old Elizabeth. They were known around town for being party girls and were often disrespectful to their stepfather.
Aside from their two little angels, Joan and David fit well in their new surroundings. They developed a social life and befriended fellow soldier Jeffrey Wilson. Things seemed well enough until the morning of July 23, 2002, when David was found dead in bed with two gunshot wounds.
Joan told of a mysterious intruder that broke in and shot her husband. However, her story fell apart when the police received an anonymous phone call. The caller stated that the true culprits were Joan Shannon and her daughter, Elizabeth. It didn’t take long for young Elizabeth to crack and reveal that her mother coaxed her into killing David. The motive? She wanted to be with Wilson.
Further investigation revealed that the Shannons were far more salacious than your average couple. They were swingers who engaged in group sex and created amateur pornography. Jeffrey was one of their most frequent sexual partners.
In exchange for her testimony, Elizabeth was sentenced to 31½ years. Although her first parole date is in 2029, she may not be released as she has been a less-than-a-model prisoner, racking up more than 30 offenses ranging from theft and fighting to sexual acts. Joan will spend the rest of her life in prison.
7 David Brown
On the morning of March 19, 1985, 14-year old Cinnamon Brown was crouched in a doghouse behind her California residence. She sat in a pool of vomit after having consumed a large number of pills. A note in her hand read, “Dear God, please forgive me. I didn’t mean to hurt her.”
In the house, her stepmother, Linda Brown, lay dead from two gunshot wounds. Cinnamon admitted to being the shooter and even provided a motive: She simply didn’t get along with her stepmother. Her father, David Brown, also spoke of friction between the two. The case went before a judge, and the teenager was sentenced to 27 years to life.
Things would have ended there had it not been for a determined investigator. Detective Jay Newell grew suspicious of David Brown. He was able to live a luxurious lifestyle from Linda’s life insurance. He also made the shocking decision to marry Patti Bailey—his late wife’s baby sister.
Cinnamon remained silent until she realized that her father was living high on the hog while she was incarcerated. She eventually confessed that David manipulated her into shooting her stepmother. He convinced both her and Patti that Linda intended to have him murdered. Cinnamon felt that the only way to protect dear pop was to kill Linda Brown first.
Cinnamon was paroled in 1992. However, David was ultimately convicted for the murder of his fifth wife, Linda Marie Brown. He was sentenced to life in prison.
6 Rhonda Wisto
Dystiny Myers was a beautiful teenager from Santa Maria, California. Her loved ones say she was “full of life and love.” By age 15, it seems that Myers began to veer off course. She ran away from home and migrated to the city of Nipomo, where she met 47-year-old Rhonda Wisto. By her appearance, many would assume that Wisto was a harmless, middle-aged woman. In all actuality, she ran a growing drug ring out of her home.
On September 26, 2010, Myers’s remains were found in a shallow grave. Five people were subsequently charged in her death: Wisto, Frank York, Jason Greenwell, Cody Miller, and Ty Hill.
Myers had been staying with Wisto for about a week before her death. During that time, she witnessed a bevy of illegal activity. Prosecutors also allege that she was in a sexual relationship with Wisto’s 19-year-old son, Frank York.
Wisto grew concerned that the young girl would eventually expose their criminal behavior. For that, she ordered her son and three other men to torture her to death. The teenager was beaten with objects, including a bat and brass knuckles. She was also asphyxiated and injected with a toxic dose of methamphetamine. Once she was dead, her body was bound and set on fire.
It was determined that Greenwell was the least culpable in the crime. In exchange for testifying against Wisto and York, he received a sentence of 15 years. Wisto, York, Miller, and Hill were all sentenced to life in prison.
5 Shana Decree
On February 25, 2019, five bodies were discovered in a New Jersey apartment complex. They were later identified as members of the same family: Naa’irah Smith, 25, Jamilla Campbell, 42, Damon Decree, 13, and twins Imani and Erika Allen, 9. All were murdered by either asphyxia or strangulation.
Two other people were discovered at the scene—Shana Decree and her daughter, Dominique. Shana was also the mother of Naa’irah and Damon. Jamilla was her sister, and the twins were her nieces. The two women were alive but disoriented. They didn’t seem to grasp the nightmare that surrounded them.
In a twist straight from a horror movie, Shana and Dominique were soon arrested for the murders.
Authorities have been baffled by the case. There seemed to be no motive for the women to execute their family members. They admitted to their actions but gave varying stories about what happened. They were also very remorseful.
Psych evaluations have shown that both women display signs of mental illness. They eventually pleaded guilty, avoiding the possibility of a death sentence. Shana and Dominique Decree were sentenced to five life terms for the murders.
4 Tina Brown
Tina Brown had an unstable childhood. Her parents were neglectful, and she was often responsible for raising her younger brother. Decades later, her maternal instincts would fail when it came to her own child.
By 2010, Brown was living in a Florida trailer park with her 16-year-old daughter, Britnee Miller. Both mother and daughter had been in altercations with their neighbor, Audreanna Zimmerman. Their latest dispute involved Zimmerman’s husband, though the exact nature is unknown. Despite their troubled history, she went to Brown’s trailer on March 24, 2010. She believed that they were on better terms. It wasn’t until she was jolted by a taser that she realized she was wrong.
After subduing Zimmerman with the weapon, Brown, Miller, and another neighbor named Heather Lee bound Zimmerman with rope and placed her in the trunk of a car. She was driven to a wooded area, where Brown and Miller took turns beating her with a crowbar. Things escalated from there when Brown doused the woman with gasoline and burned her alive. Lee allegedly watched from the sidelines, too afraid to intervene. The three women then left the young mother for dead.
Despite her injuries, Zimmerman managed to run and get help. She was gravely injured, with burns covering 60 percent of her body. When the police arrived, she named Brown, Miller, and Lee as her attackers. Zimmerman died on April 9, 2010, 16 days after the attack.
Lee eventually agreed to testify against her co-conspirators. She was sentenced to 25 years for her part in the slaying. Miller was given a life sentence. Her mother, Tina Brown, sits on death row. She has exhausted all her appeals at the state level, and the U.S. Supreme Court has previously declined to review her case.
3 Clarisa Figueroa
In 2018, Clarisa Figueroa stunned her relatives by announcing that she was pregnant. Their shock was for a good reason. The 46-year-old had previously undergone a tubal ligation.
Overjoyed about her miracle child, Clarisa became active in a Facebook group for mothers. There, she connected with Marlen Ochoa-Lopez. The teenager was seven months pregnant, and Figueroa offered to give her some baby items.
On April 23, 2019, Figueroa placed a 911 call. She had just given birth, and the baby was in distress. Strangely, when she arrived at the hospital, she showed no signs of having just given birth. The staff admitted her son to the NICU and didn’t probe any further.
The following day, Ochoa-Lopez was reported missing by her husband. While investigating her disappearance, detectives saw that she was in contact with Figueroa. They visited her home, where they discovered the missing woman’s car. DNA testing eventually revealed that Figueroa’s newborn actually belonged to Ochoa-Lopez. The young mother’s body was later found in a trashcan at the Figueroa residence. She had been strangled, her baby torn from her womb.
What makes this grisly crime even more despicable is that Figueroa’s own daughter participated in the killing. Desiree Figueroa, 25, distracted the victim while her mother strangled her from behind. Desiree’s boyfriend, Piotr Bobak, helped cover up the murder.
The two women were charged with one count of first-degree murder. A second count was added after Ochoa-Lopez’s son died at 51 days old. He sustained a brain injury during his traumatic birth. Clarisa, Desiree, and Bobak are currently awaiting trial. In a disgusting display of irony, Desiree has since given birth to a child while incarcerated.
2 Larry McClure
Amanda McClure was adopted after her birth parents were unable to raise her. She grew up in a good family but became involved with drugs in her adulthood. Her sister, Anna Marie Choudhary, also struggled with addiction.
In 2019, the siblings reunited with their biological father, Larry McClure. Far from a sitcom dad, he was a convicted sex offender who had only recently been released from prison. The family ended up in Skygusty, West Virginia, accompanied by Amanda’s boyfriend, John McGuire.
On September 24, 2019, McGuire’s remains were unearthed from the backyard of a Skygusty residence. Authorities were led to the body by Larry McClure. He implicated himself as well as his two daughters in the murder. As details of the crime started to emerge, a twisted tale took form.
With Larry being the ringleader, McGuire was struck with a wine bottle, injected with methamphetamine, and strangled. Once he was dead, the trio buried him in Larry’s backyard. Then, in one final act of cruelty, they dug up the body, dismembered it, and buried it again.
Larry had a disturbing motive for orchestrating the crime. He wanted McGuire away from Amanda, so he could pursue a romantic relationship with her. Despite incest being illegal in West Virginia, Amanda and Larry McClure got married only a few weeks after the murder.
The trio was ultimately tried for the murder. Amanda was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the killing. Her father/husband received life in prison. The most recent trial ended with Anna Choudhary also receiving 40 years for her role in the gruesome crime.
1 Hilma Marie Witte
On September 1, 1981, Paul Witte was killed by his son, 15-year-old Eric. The boy tripped while carrying a gun and fatally shot Paul as he slept on the couch. His wife, Hilma, came home a few moments later and called the police. At least, this was the story that led authorities to rule it an accidental shooting.
After the incident, Hilma, Eric, and her youngest son, John, went to live with her late husband’s stepmother, Elaine Witte. Grandma’s life also came to a brutal end on January 8, 1984, when she was shot with a crossbow. The shooter was none other than her grandson, John. He would later tell authorities that his mother convinced him to execute the elderly woman.
Hilma wanted access to Elaine’s social security checks. She had tried to poison her on multiple occasions, but the attempts were unsuccessful. Perhaps more horrifying than the murder itself was the disposal of the corpse. First, Hilma and her boys dismembered the body. They also used various items such as acid, knives, a deep fryer, and a microwave oven to break down the remains. Finally, they drove around the outskirts of Illinois, Indiana, and California, dropping body parts along the way.
Elaine wasn’t the only victim of mommy dearest. John also revealed that Hilma asked Eric to shoot their father three years earlier as Hilma’s attempts to poison her husband had also failed. Prosecutors suspect that money was behind that murder as well.
Hilma was sentenced to 90 years for the deaths of Elaine and Jack Witte. John and Eric were released after serving 11 years.