HLN’s Original Series Very Scary People, a six-episode HLN Original Series that takes a closer look at some of the most frightening killers in recent history. Why do they kill? How did they get away with their crimes for so long? And what clues or evidence led to their ultimate capture?

The Ken and Barbie Killers

It was one of North America’s most haunting and horrific crime sprees.  From 1987 to 1992, there were a series of rapes, abductions, and murders of young women just north of the U.S. – Canadian border. Authorities from Ontario and FBI profilers from the United States joined forces to try and capture the monster responsible, but for more than 5 years they came up empty. Then, cops caught a break, a tip that led them to an unlikely suspect.  A blond, blue-eyed accountant who lived with his beautiful wife in a quaint pink house in the suburbs. They were sure they had their man, but the saga was far from over.  Disturbing videotapes were discovered, and the public learned the sordid details of the crimes – and who else was involved. It sent shockwaves throughout the country… and the world.

The Back To School Killer

When college-aged women in Charlottesville Virginia started disappearing, the community was shaken to the core.  The search for answers led authorities to an unlikely suspect, a local star athlete, Jesse Matthew Jr.  In a story filled with twists and turns, the viewer goes behind the investigation of how at least two young women were violently killed and how a third cheated death and became the key to bringing a murderer to justice.  For the first time, you’ll hear explosive and heart wrenching details from victims’ families and friends as Very Scary People trails the investigation of The Back To School Killer.

Sammy The Bull Gravano

Sammy The Bull Gravano was one of the most feared mobsters in history.   As the right-hand man to mafia kingpin, John Gotti, he carried out multiple murders on behalf of the crime family. But after his arrest, he committed the ultimate mafia sin: he broke the sacred oath of silence and cut a deal with the government– agreeing to testify against his former boss.  In shocking testimony, Gravano described the cold-blooded murders of close friends and business partners and the secret world of La Cosa Nostra.  As the highest ranking mobster ever to defect, his testimony helped put Gotti and dozens of others behind bars and devastated the hierarchy of organized crime.  After the trial, Gravano was supposed to slip away quietly under the Witness Protection Program with a new name and a new face.  But the notorious gangster was not about to live a normal life.  Despite a bounty on his head, he abandoned the Witness Protection Program and drifted back into the criminal world again. Sammy Gravano is one of the last mobsters of a bygone era and his story from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn to the mafia’s inner circle, to government informant, and then, prison, is a tale of murder, betrayal, and survival.

The Hillside Stranglers

In the fall of 1977, the bodies of young women begin piling up in Los Angeles.  Almost all of the victims are nude, discarded on hillsides and show signs of torture.  Overnight, the city is gripped with terror, as the press dubs the perpetrator “The Hillside Strangler.”  As the killings escalate, though, police receive reports that two suspicious men have been spotted flashing badges and asking women to pull over.  Suddenly, detectives realize that they are facing a rare phenomenon: not a single serial killer but a pair working in tandem.  Even more terrifying: the perpetrators may be members of law enforcement.  A large task force is formed, but every lead goes nowhere.  Then, in late February 1978, after ten women have been slaughtered, the killings inexplicably stop.  It is a nearly a year before two murders more 1,200 miles away open the door to a bizarre family saga that ultimately uncovers the identity of the Hillside Stranglers.

The Cross Country Killer

It was just a normal night for 18-year-old Samantha Koenig. She was closing the coffee kiosk where she worked in Anchorage, Alaska like she had done many times before. But when one last customer came up to the window Samantha could never have imagined what was about to happen. That customer was a man known in the Anchorage community as a local business owner and caring father. But that wasn’t who he really was… he was a rapist and a ruthless killer.  He was pure evil! He would strike all over the United States randomly picking his victims but planning for them years in advance. It was only when he kidnapped Samantha Koenig that this vicious killer was put to a stop…but that was after an intense manhunt where he took authorities on a cross country investigation.

John Gotti

He was one of the biggest celebrities of the 1980’s. His expensive suits and swagger earned him the nickname Dapper Don. But, in reality, John Gotti was a man to be feared. A ruthless, dangerous gangster who ordered hits on his enemies, his friends, and anyone who crossed him.  

In the 70’s, Gotti worked his way up the ranks of the Gambino crime family as a solid earner and vicious capo – determined to not let anything or anyone stand in his way.  And then in 1985- he led the brutal murder of mafia boss, Paul Castellano and took the throne as the Gambino’s godfather- becoming public enemy #1. Law enforcement, and even other goodfellas, considered Gotti dangerous and unpredictable. And for many years he seemed unstoppable. This special episode of “Very Scary People” explores how this common street thug end up ruling one of the most powerful crime families in the world, and goes in depth on the secret FBI operation that finally brought him down.