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8 Cold Cases We Never Thought Would Be Solved

8 Cold Cases We Never Thought Would Be Solved

Unsolved mysteries: they're the stuff of the cop shows we watch late at night, the suspense novels we guiltily read, the blockbuster thrillers we see in theaters. But while we love watching police solve tough-to-crack cases in neat narratives, criminal justice is rarely served in such short order.

The truth is that cases go "cold" for years, even decades, before new evidence and testimony allow authorities to try and convict a culprit, no matter how abominable the crimes may be.

Here, we've partnered with TNT's "Cold Justice" to tell the unbelievable stories of criminals who got away with murder for years before being brought to justice. For more true stories, featuring two experts solving real crimes, tune in to TNT on Fridays at 9/8c.

Jeffrey Dahmer
Milwaukee County
The Crime: He brutally murdered 17 men and boys over the course of 13 years. But the gruesomeness didn’t stop once they were dead: he had sex with the corpses, ate the bodies, and stashed the remains in his home.

The Capture: In 1991, Dahmer lured a man back to his apartment in Milwaukee. The victim managed to escape and flag down the police, who arrested Dahmer in his apartment.

Years Cold: 1978-1991 (13 years). Dahmer attempted an insanity plea but was convicted of 15 of 16 murders he committed in Wisconsin.

Where are They Now: In 1994, a fellow inmate beat him to death.
Ariel Castro
Cuyahoga County Jail
The Crime: Between 2003 and 2004, Castro kidnapped Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. He held them prisoner in his cellar in Cleveland, Ohio -- only a few blocks from their own homes. He subjected them to relentless physical and sexual abuse, impregnating them and then beating them to induce miscarriages.

The Capture: In 2013, Berry got the attention of neighbors Angel Cordero and Charles Ramsay, who called 911. Police quickly came to rescue the women and arrest Castro.

Years Cold: 2002-2013 (11 years).

Where are They Now: Castro hanged himself after only a month in prison.
Ted Kaczynski
Colorado Supermax Prison
The Crime: Kaczynski spent 17 years sending bombs to universities and airlines, which led to the FBI's "Unabomber" ("UNiversity & Airline BOMber") moniker. His handiwork killed three people and injured 23. He wrote numerous critiques of modern technology, including a 35,000-word manifesto he sent to the New York Times in 1995; he threatened further violence if they did not publish it in its entirety.

The Capture: The New York Times published his manifesto in September 1995 in the hopes that the public could identify the Unabomber. David Kaczynski came across the published piece and recognized his brother's writing. He cooperated with investigators, and the Unabomber was arrested in 1996.

Years Cold: 1978-1996 (18 years)

Where are They Now: He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Dennis Rader
Wichita County Jail
The Crime: Over 17 years, Rader brutally murdered at least 10 people in Kansas. He nicknamed himself "BTK" in keeping with his method of binding, torturing and killing his victims. Between 1974 and 1979, he taunted investigators and news outlets with letters that detailed his crimes.

The Capture: By 2004, the BTK case had gone cold, but Rader returned to his letter-writing ways. In his correspondence with Wichita police and media, he revealed details about his life and crimes. Believing it was untraceable, Rader then sent a floppy disk to police; they were able to extract a deleted file that connected him back to his church. This evidence, combined with DNA corroboration, was enough for police to arrest him. He pled guilty to the murders.

Years Cold: 1974-1995 (21 years)

Where are They Now: He was sentenced tolife imprisonment with no parole for 175 years (10 consecutive life sentences)
John Wayne Gacy
Des Moines Police
The Crime: Gacy was first arrested for sexually assaulting teenage boys in 1968. After being sentenced to 10 years in jail, he was released within two years for good conduct. He began working as a clown at local community events and became a beloved figure in his town. Later, police discovered that he had killed 33 men and boys and stashed their bodies on his land.

The Capture: In 1978, police tied Gacy to the disappearance of a 15-year-old boy and surveilled him closely in the week following the incident. An initial search turned up suspicious materials in Gacy’s home, and they received a confession in a few days. After a second search of his home turned up human remains, the authorities were able to charge him with murder.

Years Cold: 1972-1978 (6 years)

Where are They Now: He was executed in 1994 via lethal injection.
Josef Fritzl
Austrian Police
The Crime: This grotesque father-daughter relationship is cringe-worthy, to say the least. Fritzl locked his daughter in a basement for 24 years and raped her repeatedly. She had seven children by her while she was in confinement. Fritzl convinced his wife that their daughter had run away and joined a cult and that the children had been left on their doorstep. They raised three of the children.

The Capture: One of the children was admitted to the hospital for respiratory issues, but doctors said they needed to speak with her mother. Fritzl decided to release his daughter and their children. Police arrested him after his daughter revealed what had been happening.

Years Cold: 1984-2008 (24 years)

Where are They Now: In prison
Chester Turner
The Crime: To date, Turner is known to have strangled and killed 15 women in the Los Angeles area between 1987 and 1998. He was one of three serial killers who was targeting LA-area women during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and '90s.

The Capture: Turner was in and out of jail between 1995 and 2002 for various offenses, and a 2002 sexual assault put him in state prison for eight years. Once prosecutors got a hold of his DNA, they were able to match him with previously unsolved murders. He was sentenced to death in 2007 and has since been matched to additional unsolved cases.

Years Cold: 1987-2007 (20 years)

Where are They Now: Awaiting his death on Death Row
Henry Lee Lucas
Texas Department of Corrections
The Crime: Lucas was once known as America’s most prolific serial killer, with an estimated 350 deaths to his name -- although he has claimed 3,000 at one point. He was first jailed for burglary at age 18; by this time, he had already murdered a girl for resisting rape. He later killed his mother and his 15-year-old love, the niece of his accomplice.

The Capture: He was arrested in 1983 for the possession of a deadly weapon, after which he began confessing to hundreds of previously unsolved murders. Authorities eventually questioned the veracity of his claims, as many of his "confessions" were seemingly used to curry favor while he was in prison.

Years Cold: Over 20 years, starting in the 1960s. Again, the exact death toll is still unknown.

Where are They Now: Died in prison in 2001 from heart failure. He was 64 years old.

An earlier version of this story misidentified the identity of Lucas' love.

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