Most of the time, Nebraska really does offer up some of the best living in the country. That doesn’t mean we’ve been untouched by evil and tragedy, however. These seven criminals left a permanent mark on our great state.
1) Nikko Jenkins
Nikko Jenkins had been in and out of the criminal justice system since the age of seven. By the time he reached adulthood he had been imprisoned many times for violent crimes. In August 2013, less than a month after being paroled from a ten-year sentence for robbery and assault, Jenkins went on a killing spree that would claim four lives in the span of 10 days. Although Jenkins confessed to all four murders, his sentencing posed a problem for the judge. Jenkins had been declared competent to stand trial - and even to represent himself - but the judge was not confident that Jenkins, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was capable of understanding the death penalty charges against him.
2) Robert Hawkins
The world was shocked on December 5, 2007 when 19-year-old Robert Hawkins walked into the Von Maur store in Omaha's Westroads Mall and opened fire on employees and shoppers. In this short but devastating attack, Hawkins killed eight people and wounded four others before killing himself with a gunshot to the head.
3) Charles Starkweather and 4) Caril Ann Fugate
Charlie Starkweather and his teenage girlfriend Caril Fugate are arguably the state's most well-known killers. In late 1957, Starkweather robbed and killed a service station attendant on his own. Two months later, Starkweather killed Fugate's parents and sister before the couple set off on an eight-day killing spree that would claim seven additional lives. Charles Starkweather was executed in 1959. Caril Ann Fugate has always maintained that she was a captive and not a willing participant in any of the murders. She served 17 1/2 years of a life sentence and was paroled in 1976.
5) Jorge Galindo
6) Gabriel Rodriguez
7) Jose Sandoval
8) Erick Vela
On September 26, 2002, three armed men walked into the U.S. Bank in Norfolk and immediately opened fire. The men, Galindo, Sandoval, and Vega, murdered one bank customer and four employees in less than a minute. Their intended getaway driver, Gabriel Rodriguez, drove off and left the men there. No money was taken in the incident, leading some experts to believe it was a thrill kill and not an attempted robbery. The men were apprehended, tried, and convicted of multiple counts, including murder. All four have exhausted their appeals and will be spending the rest of their lives in prison.
9) Frank Carter
Irish immigrant Frank Carter (birth name Patrick Murphy) was known as the Omaha Sniper. In February 1926, Carter went on a mayhem spree in and around Omaha. He murdered at least two people and indiscriminately fired his gun into residential windows and businesses. Omahans were urged to stay home and keep their lights out at night since Carter was known to shoot people as they stood in their homes near lighted windows. After his arrest, Carter claimed to have taken 43 lives, but he was only tried and convicted for two murders. He was executed on June 24, 1927.
7) Michael Ryan
The small town of Rulo in the far southeastern corner of Nebraska was the setting for Michael Ryan's horrific acts. He led a small white supremacist, anti-government survivalist group called Christian Identity in the early 1980s. Ryan abused and tortured Luke Stice, the five-year-old son of one of his followers; the child died of acute injuries after enduring unimaginable suffering for several months. Ryan later performed unspeakable acts of torture on follower James Thimm, drawing out his pain for two weeks before finally killing him. Ryan was sentenced to death in 1985; he died on Nebraska's death row on May 4, 2015.
The crimes committed by these Nebraskans were truly senseless and tragic. We will never forget those affected by their terrible acts. Let us know in the comments below: what other Nebraskans have left a permanent dark spot on the state’s history?