Killers as Cult Heroes: Photos
Joanne Chesimard currently lives outside the United States, hiding out in Cuba.FBI
Having spent 34 years on the lam before being added to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of most wanted terrorists, the first woman to achieve that level of notoriety, Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, makes for an unlikely idol. But the fugitive is something of a cult hero, prompting the FBI to reiterate last week the danger the Chesimard poses.
Even before the FBI called attention to Chesimard with her addition to its list, Chesimard had some measure of fame as the godmother of rap legend Tupac Shakur. Supporters of Chesimard allege that there is little evidence she was responsible for the murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster, and that she is instead a government scapegoat for her association with radical groups like the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army.
Chesimard isn't the only convicted murderer to gain a cult following. Felons can attract support from a fringe of the public eager to take up a killer's cause, no matter how brutal the crime.
Chris Dorner was killed by police after an interstate manhunt.Corbis Images
A former police officer turned cop killer, Chris Dorner was a high-profile fugitive and subject of a multi-state manhunt after he shot and killed three people in a homicidal rampage that he attributed to his treatment as an employee of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and his later termination from the organization. Dorner even attempted to justify his actions in an 11-page manifesto he published online.
Despite the violence with which Dorner came to fame, he garnered something of an online following of supporters who believed he was the target of a conspiracy to silence him. Portrayed as an "outlaw hero," Dorner received sympathetic tweets, tribute videos and a song in his honor. The LAPD didn't improve the situation when it fired dozens of shots at a pickup truck that was a different make, model and color than Dorner's vehicle and carried two innocent civilians.
Authorities eventually caught up with Dorner at a cabin near Angelus Oaks, Calif., where a fire inadvertently started by a tear gas grenade killed Dorner.
Joran Van Der Sloot confessed to the murder and robbery of Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramírez, and was sentenced in court in Peru to 28 years in behind bars.Wikimedia Commons
Considering he's been confirmed responsible for the death of at least one woman who got too close to him, you'd think Joran Van Der Sloot would have lost any appeal he might have had with the opposite sex. But according to an interview with the Dutch Newspaper De Telegraaf in 2010, Van Der Sloot receives love letters and marriage proposals in prison. One woman even asked that Van Der Sloot get her pregnant.
James Holmes is currently on trial for the shooting that took place at a theater in Aurora, Colo.Corbis Images
A theater full of people bore witness to the violent crimes committed by James Holmes in Aurora, Colo., during a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." His actions left 12 people dead and 58 injured.
But a group of Internet conspiracy theorists support Holmes' innocence, and even claim that the police department has the wrong man. They believe that there are serious discrepancies between the photos of Holmes that appear on his Facebook profile and those taken of Holmes in the courtroom in the aftermath of the massacre, according to the International Business Times.
Though on death row, Scott Peterson is appealing his conviction and maintains his innocence.Corbis Images
In 2005, Scott Peterson was sentenced to die for the murder of his wife, Laci, and unborn child in a case that drew national attention. Despite being a convicted murderer and admitted adulterer, Peterson has received numerous calls, letter and even marriage proposals, according to a San Quentin prison spokesperson.
Robert Chamber served just 15 years for murder, but is now back in prison serving time for drug charges.Corbis Images
Robert Chambers is a drug addict who lived at home with his mother before committing murder, being dubbed the "Preppie Killer" and going to prison for a 15-year sentence. Upon arriving in prison, Chambers began receiving the affections of his admirers. At one point, he even had so many potentials girlfriends smuggling contraband to him that he had to be transferred to a new prison. Once he left jail after serving out the entirety of his sentence, he was met outside of prison by his girlfriend.
Chambers, however, might have a new batch of admirers now that he's back in prison. He was arrested in 2007 with his girlfriend for selling half pound of cocaine to undercover police, and sentenced in 19 years in 2008.
Richard Ramirez has been on California's death row since 1989.Corbis Images
As far as killers go, they don't get much more brutal than Richard Ramirez. Known as "the Night Stalker" prior to his arrest, Ramirez was behind a violent crime spree that led him to be charged and convicted of 13 counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and 11 counts of sexual assault, among other charges.
Ramirez not only received letters from fans once behind bars; he even had prospective girlfriends competing for him and even managed to get married in 1996. Convicted in 1988, Ramirez has been on death row ever since and his wife has threatened to kill herself if he is executed.
Security video shows Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in the cafeteria of Columbine High School on the day of the massacre.Corbis Images
Whenever a mass shooting occurs at a school in the United States, the names Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two teenagers responsible for the 1999 massacre of 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado, frequently come up.
Ever since Harris and Klebold committed that gruesome act of mass murder, they have been idolized by potential copycats. Some of whom, like Virginia Tech student student Seung-Hui Cho, have succeeded in replicating the crimes committed by Harrie and Klebold.
As one psychologist told the Associated Press on the two-year anniversary of the massacre: "Dylan and Eric set out to become cultural icons for angry, disaffected youth who sought revenge against the nastiness of exclusionary youth culture."
Charles Manson is not just a cult hero; he's a pop culture icon.Corbis Images
Given that he was the leader of a murder spree that claimed seven lives and has a swastika tattooed on his head, you'd think Charles Manson would have lost any supporters once he got behind bars. A cultural fascination since his crimes and violent, bizarre ideology came into the public eye, Manson receives letters and occasionally gifts from supporters from in prison. There are websites dedicated to spreading Manson's ideology and even a petition calling for his immediate release from prison.
One of his most ardent supporters, Craig Carlisle Hammond, goes by the name Gray Wolf, a monicker given to him by Manson, and even moved to a home near Corcoran State Prison to be closer to Manson. Hammond was even arrested earlier this year for trying to smuggle a phone into Manson.