3 Christmas Family Massacres to Kill Your Festive Spirit

Christmas is traditionally a time when people escape the trials and tribulations of every day life, put aside familial tensions and relax in the warm, safe environment of their own homes. But the season of goodwill to all men can be the point at which certain individuals snap. The daily stresses and pressures of family life become too much to bear and result in brutal outbursts of murderous violence directed at those they call their loved ones. Marital discord, financial strains or underlying mental health issues can be the root cause, but there is something doubly shocking about murders committed by family members at Christmas time. America has suffered more than its fair share of Christmas family massacres, the details of which are grim enough to quash the seasonal spirit of even the hardiest of souls.


Charlie Lawson (2nd from right) sent his son away before murdering his family

He blew his family away

The murders of his immediate family members by Charlie Lawson on Christmas Day 1929 remain shocking even by today’s standards. A tobacco farmer living in the Germanton region of North Carolina, Charlie had eight children with his wife, Fannie, one of which had tragically died aged six of an illness in 1920. On that fateful Christmas day nine years later, Charlie massacred six of his remaining children along with his wife by shotgun and bludgeoning on the farmstead where they plied their trade before retreating to the surrounding woods and shooting himself dead. Charlie had sent the surviving child, Arthur, on an errand prior to carrying out his savage crimes, which included bludgeoning to death his four-month-old baby daughter Mary Lou. Various theories were bandied about as his possible motives – such as the nasty head injury Charlie had suffered that year affecting his mental health – before rumours emanated from extended family members and friends pointing to the possibility that Charlie had incestuously impregnated his seventeen-year-old daughter, Marie. Though never categorically proven, this disturbing revelation remains the likeliest reason why Charlie Lawson carried out one of America’s most historically infamous acts of familicide.


Cleared of rape, but sentenced to death anyway

Massacre in Middletown

A disturbing case of alleged sexual abuse reached an ugly conclusion in 2002 in Middletown, Pennsylvania, as accusations of rape levelled against Ernest Wholaver Junior by his daughters Victoria and Elizabeth drove the accused to shoot them and his estranged wife Jean dead execution style around 1am on the evening of Christmas Eve. Having been evicted from the family home with no right or privilege of entry and prohibited from possessing firearms, Ernest planned his cold-blooded revenge and put it into motion at a time when most families were sound asleep in their beds. Enlisting his brother, Scott, to drive him to his former residence, Ernest proceeded to forcibly gain entry to the house before carrying out his brutal crimes. Only the couple’s nine-month-old daughter Madison was spared Ernest’s twisted wrath in an incident described by Dauphin County prosecutor Fran Chardo as ‘one of the most awful, awful crimes I’ve ever encountered’. Arrested within 48 hours of the murders, Wholaver Junior was eventually acquitted of the sexual offenses charges but convicted and handed three death sentences for the murders of Jean, Elizabeth and Victoria. He remains on Death Row to this day.


He watched TV while his family lay dead

Six Days of Terror

For fourteen members of the Simmons clan of Dover, Arkansas, the Christmas holiday period in 1987 was to be their last. Between 22 and 28 December, Ronald Gene Simmons Senior brutally murdered his kin as well as two other unrelated people in a spree killing that shocked America. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Simmons Senior had relocated the family from New Mexico in 1981 while under investigation for fathering a child with his then seventeen-year-old daughter, Sheila. On 22 December at the secluded family ‘compound’ on ‘Mockingbird Hill’, Simmons Senior killed his wife, Rebecca, three of his sons, three of his daughters and his three-year-old granddaughter Barbara by gunshot, strangulation and drowning. On Boxing Day, when the rest of the Simmons’ arrived for a visit, the cracked paterfamilias clinically dispatched seven more family members by the same methods, including his daughter and granddaughter. Having laid out all the corpses in rows in the lounge, Simmons Senior spent the rest of the evening drinking and watching television. Two days later, Simmons Senior drove to nearby Russellville and killed two more people before calmly handing over his gun to police and surrendering without resistance. Given sixteen death sentences, Simmons Senior was executed by lethal injection on 25 June 1990.


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