The “Monster of the Andes” just might be the world’s most prolific serial killer. Lopez was the son of a Colombian prostitute who tossed him out in the streets at age 8, where he reportedly suffered sexual assaults from a man who took him in. Lopez vowed to do to girls what had been done to him. In the 1970s, he turned into an international predator, roaming across Colombia, Ecuador and Peru in search of vulnerable pre-pubescent girls [sources: Wilson and Seaman, Biography].

In 1980, after a river overflowed its banks near the mountain town of Ambato in central Ecuador, four makeshift graves were uncovered, and the bodies of some of Lopez’s victims floated free. Not long afterward, Lopez was cornered by a street vendor and her neighbors as he tried to abduct yet another potential victim, the vendor’s 11-year-old daughter [sources: Biography, Wilson and Seaman].

In prison, Lopez confessed to an undercover investigator posing as an inmate and provided details about where victims were buried. That enabled police to unearth 57 bodies. The actual death toll may have been much higher. According to Colin Wilson’s and Donald Seaman’s book “The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence,” while in custody Lopez admitted to having killed about 360 girls.

In 1981, Lopez pled guilty to 57 murders, but because of Ecuador’s laws, he only received a 16-year sentence, which provoked public outrage. Eventually, he was released after just 14 years and deported to Colombia, where authorities tried to prosecute him for a murder from two decades before. Instead, though, he was declared insane and spent several years in a Colombian mental institution before being released in 1998. Soon after, he vanished, and his current whereabouts are unknown [sources: Biography, Locker].

Sidenote: Grisly Notoriety

Some killers have become notorious not necessarily because of the number of people that they murdered, but because of the horrific details of their crimes or macabre personal quirks — or in a few instances, because they deliberately sought attention. Some of these include:

  • Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed 17 boys and men between 1978 and 1991, became infamous for committing necrophilia and cannibalism as well. Dahmer was beaten to death in prison in 1994 [sources: Jenkins, Wood].
  • John Wayne Gacy, who murdered at least 33 young males, became known as the “Killer Clown” because of his hobby of performing in clown costume and makeup at children’s parties, charity fundraisers and other events. Gacy was executed in 1994 [sources: Biography, ABC News].
  • Dennis Rader, the infamous BTK Killer — initials that stood for Bind, Torture and Kill — committed 10 murders in the Wichita, Kansas, area over several decades, but he became even more infamous because of his apparent eagerness for publicity. The killer sent messages to local news media and even suggested nicknames for himself. Police eventually caught him by analyzing metadata on a computer disk he sent them. Rader, who was also a family man, Cub Scout leader and church elder, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms in 2005 (sources: Biography, nolasco, Sylvester, AP).
  • The Zodiac Killer, one of the most infamous serial killers of all time, killed five people and wounded two others in the San Francisco Bay area between December 1968 and October 1969, but was never caught. Zodiac became notorious because he stalked and surprised his victims, shooting or stabbing them and then running away, which left little evidence for police to work with. He also sent taunting letters to local newspapers. After more than 50 years, his identity remains an unsolved mystery [source: Dowd].

Originally Published: Nov 4, 2016

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