Teachers are charged with molding young minds, protecting our children, and serving as role models, but some of them have actually been charged with crimes. Getting caught was probably not in their lesson plan, and some quit their careers as teachers before becoming psychopathic murderers, but the kind of wrong-doers sometimes found in our education system is just frightening. You’ll want to get background checks on your professors or kids’ teachers after reading about these 10 teachers who became criminals.
Known in Russia as the Rovstov Ripper, Andrei Chikatilo was convicted for murdering 52 victims, though he confessed to 56 killings. But before his homicidal spree from 1978 to 1990, Chikatilo got a degree in Russian literature and then started an unsuccessful career as a teacher. Complaints of indecent assaults seemed to follow him, so he had to move from school to school. He committed his first murder while still teaching, but soon after that killing, he went to work at a factory. Chikatilo’s method of killing involved luring women and children to remote areas where he would stab them to death for sexual release. He was executed for his crimes in 1994.
A story about a middle-school teacher who kills and eats a local teenager sounds like the stuff of fiction, but it happened in 1979. Albert Fentress, an educator in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., murdered 18-year-old Paul Masters when the young man wandered into his yard. Fentress somehow got Masters to come down to his basement where he tied him to a post, mutilated him, and then shot him in the head. After Masters was dead, Fentress cooked and ate some of his body parts. The former teacher confessed to the killing and was found innocent by reason of insanity. He lived for years in a non-secure psychiatric hospital until he admitted that he had sexually abused some young boys, at which point he was moved to a secured mental ward.
The name Mary Kay Letourneau has become synonymous withinappropriate teacher-student relationships. Letourneau, a married mother of four, was a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher who began an affair with one of her students in 1995. What started out as a mentor relationship with Vili Fualaau quickly became romantic. She described the 12-year-old boy as her "soul mate" to a close friend and eventually became pregnant with his child. Letourneau was charged and convicted of statutory rape, and was to receive probation after three months in prison if she never had any contact with her underage lover again. But when she was released, she was caught with Fualaau and sentenced to seven and half years in prison. She later gave birth to their second child. Now that Letourneau is out of prison and Fualaau is in his 20s, the two are married.
Just last year, details were still emerging about the technical drawing teacher who confessed to murdering three people in Belgium. Ronald Janssen’s latest crime had been the shooting of his neighbor and her fiance, but he had been suspected in the death of another girl, a crime so perfect that authorities couldn’t pin it on him until he admitted his guilt in 2010. Many Europeans fear that he may have a much longer list of victims if he was able to carry out that murder without leaving any evidence behind. Janssen is still making his way through the Belgian legal system and authorities are re-opening many previously unsolved abductions and murders to see if Janssen might be the culprit.
When three prostitutes in Dallas were found dead in the early ’90s, the connection between them wasn’t obvious until medical examiners looked at their eyes — or their lack of eyes. Each victim’s eyeballs had been surgically removed neatly without cutting the eyelids. This "Texas Eyeball Killer" turned out to be Charles Albright, a former high school science teacher with a background in taxidermy. He had a past filled with fraud, sexual assault, and theft, and an obsession with eyeballs. And though he’d only landed his teaching job with falsified documents, he was actually pretty good at it. In 1991, Albright was convicted of the three murders and received eight life sentences.
Exciting enough to be the subject of a made-for-TV movie (starring Helen Hunt, no less), Pamela Smart’s tale of forbidden love, murder, and passion centers around her role as a school aide in New Hampshire. She met 15-year-old Billy Flynn at her job and seduced him. She allegedly told Flynn that she would stop her sexual relationship with him unless he killed her husband, though she denies involvement in her husband’s death. Flynn and some of his friends went to her house and shot her husband in the head in 1990. Smart was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and witness tampering and is now serving a life sentence.
Former sixth-grade teacher Carolyn Warmus is often compared to the obsessive character in the movie Fatal Attraction. While having an affair with married colleague Paul Solomon, Warmus became fixated with the man and his relationship with his wife. One night when Warmus and Solomon had arranged to meet, Warmus went to Solomon’s house where his wife was alone and shot her to death, then met up with Solomon for drinks and sex afterward. Solomon had no idea his wife had just been murdered. Warmus will be eligible for parole in 2017, but it’s doubtful that she’ll find another job as a teacher anywhere. Maybe she can find comfort in watching the two television movies that have been made about her case.
The case known as the Main Line Murders made everyone take a step back and look at the teachers in their own community’s schools. A teacher named Susan Reinert (and presumably her two children, though they were never found) was murdered, and all clues pointed to her fellow teacher, lover, and beneficiary of her life insurance policy, Willam Bradfield. The school’s principal is also assumed to be involved by many, but after years on death row, his conviction was overturned because of misconduct by the prosecution. Bradfield, who was living with another woman at the time of his affair with Reinert, convinced Reinert to take out the life insurance policy and then teamed up with the principal to carry out the murders, after which Reinert was stuffed in her car trunk. Bradfield was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and died in prison.
As an information technology teacher at Burnage Media Arts College in England, Mohammed Sarwar was respected by students and coworkers alike, but in the criminal world, the man known as "The Teacher" was earning a far less respectable living. Sarwar was discovered to be the head of a gang that sold cocaine to drug dealers throughout the city of Manchester. In 2009, police bugged Sarwar’s car and trailed him around the city, uncovering his drug-baron activities and seeing him take a student to a probable drug deal. One of his gang members also ratted him out. Earlier this year, Sarwar received a sentence of 21 years in prison for his large-scale cocaine operation.
Technically Melissa Petro’s crime happened before she became a teacher in the Bronx, but she definitely attained a level of infamy for it. Petro revealed on The Huffington Post in 2010 that while in graduate school, she was a prostitute offering her services through Craigslist. To the dismay of the New York City Department of Education, Petro was one of their own elementary school art teachers at the time of her confession. She says she only sold sex for a few months and that she had quit before becoming a teacher, but unsurprisingly, that wasn’t very comforting for parents and the administration. After pressure from the education department, Petro resigned her position. She still lives in New York.