Families Who Kill

Families Who Kill

New episodes come out every Tuesday for free starting 1/4. Wondery+ subscribers can binge the entire series, right now, early and ad-free. In the era of some of the most heinous serial killers of all time, one murderous family went curiously unnoticed: The McCrarys. Led by a psychopathic patriarch and his cunning son-in-law, this Texas clan roamed the country robbing, kidnapping, and killing up to 20 people, most of them taken from donut shops. “Families Who Kill: The Donut Shop Murders” recounts the wild and deeply disturbing story of an unhinged American family and the terrible brutality they unleashed. The podcast features the taped confessions of one of the killers, given when he was serving a life term in Colorado.

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December 7, 2021 2 min

In the era of some of the most heinous serial killers of all time, one murderous family went curiously unnoticed: The McCrary family. Led by a psychopathic patriarch and his cunning son-in-law, this Texas clan roamed the country and his cunning son-in-law, this Texas clan roamed the country robbing, kidnapping, and killing up to 20 people, most of them people taken from donut shops. “Families Who Kill: The Donut Shop Murders” recou...

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Lifelong petty thieves Carl Taylor and Sherman McCrary, facing heat in their hometown of Athens, Texas, gather their family and take to the highways in search of criminal opportunities in the American West. In Utah, Carl and Sherman’s small-time cons suddenly escalate when they rob and kidnap 17-year-old Sheri Martin from a Winchell’s Donut Shop, killing her in the Nevada desert. The men’s bloodthirst is awakened.

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Carl, Sherman, and the fam head to the peaceful suburban community of Lakewood, Colorado, and strike again — this time robbing, raping, and killing 20-year-old donut shop cashier Leora Looney. As police circle the McCrary family they skip town and return to their homebase of Athens, Texas. A razor-sharp young detective, Joe Fanciulli, is on their scent, but his efforts are hindered by glacially slow 1970s police forensics.

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Carl and Sherman, now accompanied by Sherman’s son Danny, kidnap a young couple, Forrest and Jena Covey, from a Mesquite grocery and ruthlessly murder them in an old barn. In harrowing testimony from Carl, we learn how Forrest was killed first as Jena was forced to look on. Jenna Covey’s niece recounts the brutalizing effects her aunt’s murder had on her father and her family in general. Meanwhile, we learn the tale of the Bloody B...

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An intriguing debate emerges: Were the McCrarys, in a technical or criminological sense, serial killers? Or were they spree killers, or something else? Experts debate the similarity of the McCrarys’ killings to those of John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, and Andrew Cunanan. The family heads to the Pacific Northwest, where Carl and Sherman kidnap and kill a bizarrely nonchalant young hippie named Cynthia Glass. The Bloody Benders story con...

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After their murder in Portland, the police probe begins to tighten like a vise around the McCrarys. They stop the killings and move to Santa Barbara, CA, to focus on armed robberies. As Sherman’s alcoholism spirals out of control, Carl attempts to rob a large supermarket on his own but screws it up and winds up shooting a patrolman at the scene. Meanwhile, Texas police issue a nationwide “Traveling Criminals Bulletin” fingering the...

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Santa Barbara cops chase Carl Taylor and his wife all the way back to Texas, where Carl and his wife are cornered and arrested. Sherman and his wife are arrested back in California. During the trial, Carl and Sherman, once close partners, turn on each other, each saying the other pulled the trigger. Carl mounts an insanity defense, claiming he was not of sound mind during the killing spree. The family’s brutal saga comes to an end.

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On May 4, 2001, Bonny Lee Bakley was found fatally shot in a car on a dark North Hollywood street. The prime suspect was her husband, famed actor Robert Blake. But Bonny, a longtime con artist, had plenty of enemies. She left behind a trail of men she’d scammed, and she had a volatile relationship with Christian Brando, the troubled son of movie star Marlon Brando. 

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